Friday: Hili dialogue

January 3, 2020 • 6:30 am

It’s Friday, January 3, 2020: the first Friday of 2020. It’s National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day, but why only one—why not “Cherries”? It’s also J. R. R. Tolkien Day, commemorating his birth in 1892 (see below), Humiliation Day (misnamed: it’s a day to be humble, not humiliated, and is much beloved of theologians), and National Drinking Straw Day, marking the day in 1888 when the first drinking straw was patented. As you’ll know, there is a movement in the U.S. to ban plastic straws as they aren’t biodegradable.

A bit of the holiday’s history:

Marvin Chester Stone of Washington D.C. had been drinking a mint julep when his natural straw, a rye reed, began shedding into his drink. Instead of accepting this common occurrence like everyone else, he decided to do something about it. First he created a straw by winding paper around a pencil and holding it together with glue. He improved this by making a straw out of paraffin-coated manila paper, and this is the drinking straw he patented.

It’s also Memento Mori Day, described this way:  “Memento Mori, also known as Remember You Die Day, is a day when people focus on their mortality, and how much time they have left to live.”  But for me that’s every day! Finally, it’s the Tenth Day of Christmas (lords a-leaping).

News of the day: Yesterday, on the orders of “President” Trump, a U.S. drone strike at the Baghdad International Airport killed a powerful leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Major General Qassim Suleimani, as well as several Iran-backed military personnel. (You can read a New Yorker profile of Suleimani here.) This is a serious escalation of our continuing conflict with Iran, and will certainly invite retaliation against the U.S. and possibly against Israel. Is this the beginning of a war? Who knows? The strike seems to me a very bad idea (but see a defense of the assassination here.) Do listen in the tweet below, as Trump follows a strategy for which he castigated Obama (h/t: Matthew):

Stuff that happened on January 3 include:

  • 1521 – Pope Leo X excommunicates Martin Luther in the papal bull Decet Romanum Pontificem.
  • 1777 – American General George Washington defeats British General Lord Cornwallis at the Battle of Princeton.
  • 1833 – The United Kingdom claims sovereignty over the Falkland Islands.
  • 1919 – At the Paris Peace Conference, Emir Faisal I of Iraq signs an agreement with Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann on the development of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
  • 1925 – Benito Mussolini announces he is taking dictatorial powers over Italy.
  • 1947 – Proceedings of the U.S. Congress are televised for the first time.
  • 1959 – Alaska is admitted as the 49th U.S. state
  • 1977 – Apple Computer is incorporated.
  • 2000 – Final daily edition of the Peanuts comic strip.
  • 2009 – The first block of the blockchain of the decentralized payment system Bitcoin, called the Genesis block, was established by the creator of the system, Satoshi Nakamoto.

Here is the last daily Peanuts strip, created when artist Charles Schulz was dying of colon cancer. He passed away on February 12, 2000:

Notables born on this day include:

  • 106 BC – Cicero, Roman philosopher, lawyer, and politician (d. 43 BC)
  • 1840 – Father Damien, Flemish priest and missionary (d. 1889)
  • 1883 – Clement Attlee, English soldier, lawyer, and politician, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1967)
  • 1892 – J.R.R. Tolkien, English writer, poet, and philologist (d. 1973)
  • 1926 – George Martin, English composer, conductor, and producer (d. 2016)
  • 1939 – Bobby Hull, Canadian ice hockey player
  • 1945 – Stephen Stills, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer

Stills, 75 today(oy!), is one of my favorite rock musicians, and if I could change places with any male rock star over history, it would be him (or Paul McCartney). Stills was not only a great singer and great songwriter, but also talented on many instruments—not just guitar (on which he was underrated), but drums, bass, keyboards, and so on (he was called “Captain Manyhands” by his bandmates). And he was wickedly handsome.

Here he is performing one of my favorite of his solo songs, “4 + 20,” which refers to an 84 year old man, not one who’s 24. Stills muffs the first verse, leaving out the line “And he wasn’t into selling door to door.” Note Joni Mitchell and David Crosby sitting to Stills’s left. The song appeared on the CSN&Y album Déjà Vu in  1970.

Stills’s group Manassas was short lived (two years), but was full of talent, including Chris Hillman of the Byrds on rhythm guitar.  This song, “It Doesn’t Matter,” appeared on the group’s great eponymous double album in 1972.

Below is “Do for the others”, a song from Stills’s first solo album that was called simply “Stephen Stills” (1970). It’s worth noting that every vocal and every instrument on this track, including drums, was performed by Stills alone, though Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton played on some of the album’s other songs. I like to think that this is about a priest.

  • 1956 – Mel Gibson, American-Australian actor, director, producer, and screenwriter
  • 1975 – Danica McKellar, American actress, writer, and mathematician
  • 2003 – Greta Thunberg, Swedish environmental activist

Here’s Tolkien as a mature scholar (I recently saw the movie Tolkien 

Those who expired on January 3 include:

  • 1795 – Josiah Wedgwood, English potter, founded the Wedgwood Company (b. 1730)
  • 1903 – Alois Hitler, Austrian civil servant (b. 1837)

Here’s Alois, Adolf’s dad. I don’t think he looks much like Hitler, and there have been rumors that another man was Hitler’s dad by his mother Klara.

  • 1945 – Edgar Cayce, American psychic and author (b. 1877)
  • 1967 – Jack Ruby, American businessman and murderer (b. 1911)
  • 2014 – Phil Everly, American singer and guitarist (b. 1939)

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is out at twilight:

A: What are you looking at?
Hili: At the invasion of darkness.
In Polish:
Ja: Czemu się tak przyglądasz?
Hili: Inwazji ciemności.

From Diana MacPherson:

From Power of Cute on Facebook:


From reader Pliny the in Between’s Far Corner Cafe:


I retweeted a ridiculous tweet from the jerk Dennis Prager, who is taking out after Anne Frank, and for the wrong reasons. Listen to what comes out of his piehole:

From Simon: Larry the Cat’s New Year’s resolutions (he is, you know, the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office, and lives at 10 Downing Street):

Two tweets from Heather Hastie:

Otter gets a tummy wash!:

Sunday morning coming down—marsupial version:

Tweets from Matthew Cobb. The first one is the exact felid equivalent of the tweet just above:

DUCK THERAPY! Muscovies, like the ones shown (not descended from mallards) are particularly good for cuddling (sound up):

Physics experiment! (You don’t need sound; there isn’t any):

Finally, did you know that this creature existed?

106 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

    1. No wonder the hobbits couldn’t save a lot of time and just hop on some eagles and fly around. (As good a theory as any haha.)

      1. “I still haven’t forgiven C.S. Lewis for going on all those long walks with J.R.R. Tolkien and failing to strangle him, thus saving us from hundreds of pages dripping with the wizardly wisdom of Gandalf and from the kind of movie in which Orlando Bloom defiantly flexes his delicate jaw at thousands of computer-generated orcs. In fact it would have been ever better if C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien could have strangled each other, so that we could also have been saved from the Chronicles of Narnia.”

        — Clive James

          1. The great Clive James died shortly before the end of 2019. A very witty commentator on popular culture who will be sadly missed.

          1. It’s just saying that Clive wishes two overrated authors had done away with each other before inflicting their work on western civilization. As usual he said it with wit and style, and those of us who agree with the message are happy to quote it.

            1. I must not understand what wit has to do with wishing that people murder each other.

              I also don’t think Clive James understands that people aren’t required to read books they don’t like.

              1. I’m sure Swift, Twain, and Bierce would be amused by the idea that malice and exaggeration have no place in humor.

                James isn’t complaining about people being force to read those books. He’s complaining about those books becoming an inescapable presence in our culture, in the same way that Star Wars and superhero films have.

              1. As far as I’m concerned, both Tolkien and Lewis enjoy a cultural presence far beyond their actual worth.

              2. “I’m sure Swift, Twain, and Bierce would be amused by the idea that malice and exaggeration have no place in humor.”

                The quote explicitly wishes two people murdered each other. I find that a vile suggestion in any case. Just because great writing can describe murder does not mean Clive James’ suggestion that two people murder each other is great.

                “James isn’t complaining about people being force to read those books. He’s complaining about those books becoming an inescapable presence in our culture, in the same way that Star Wars and superhero films have.”

                It’s too bad that point is not clear from the quote. I suppose anyone responsible for any successful entertainment could also join Tolkien and Lewis on their imagined stroll, in that case. It’s quite pathetic to seriously relish such ideas, and chilling to evoke murder as a solution to the problem.

              3. ThyroidPlanet, were you also grievously offended when Mark Twain said that everytime he read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ he wanted to dig up Jane Austen and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone?

                In both James and Twain’s cases, they’re expressing irritation through malice that is comically exaggerated and not to be taken seriously, except by those with no sense of humor.

              4. I never said I was “offended”. But I get the feeling it doesn’t matter.

                you can take the last word.

              5. While I have little use for Clive’s claim of equivalence between Lewis and Tolkien, it strikes me as a bit bizarre to be upset about references to violence in humor (or humour, in this case).

              6. I am compelled to – by insinuation- defend myself – but not add anything more if possible:

                1. I don’t see how the 88 words of the Clive James quote – which in my opinion is dull and miserable – is a litmus test for either wit or humor. Not do I see how it is on par with the greatest satirists and writers of all time.

                2. I see a distinction between comic violence and *murder*

                3. I find it unfair to label someone as witless or humorless if they fail to find humor in particular pieces of writing, and again in this case is an uninteresting improvisation of less than 90 words.

                4. There is an important difference between taking things seriously and otherwise. This of course is the basis of a successful hoax or troll. I am erring on the safe side of serious, especially because I think there’s a difference between comic violence and murder.

    2. I don’t think it’s sad – so what if it is? The writing and stories are not functioning as Christian apologia. At best, Christian myth is only one myth that is drawn from… and come to think of it, I don’t know on the spot an example of it from Tolkien… of course, I could compose a small essay from Google results, if I was really fast at doing that….

      1. It is much more impregnated with pre-Christian themes. Which is what he was trying to “recover”… a lost mythology that preceded Beowulf.

        1. That was my impression as well -but I wonder if there are Christian themes here or there. I can’t think of anything *religious*… the stories have wizardry and magic, but to the characters in the story, I think that was not magic, but how things go… this is very interesting… but I can’t dive into this now…

          1. Given the extent of how Christian mythology appropriated prior stories, it all becomes rather a muddle. But Tolkien never gets “preachy” and you don’t come away from his books with the sense that Jesus has been thrust in your face. (As opposed to Lewis’s manipulative propaganda.)

          2. I can’t think of anything *religious*

            The Silmarillion draws heavily from the Finnish Kalevala, while both it and LOTR draw from Norse mythology; Tolkein even admitted this. As an example, Gandalf is a stand-in for Odin, who in Norse mythology wanders around looking like an old guy, helping people.

            Maybe Dominic is referring to Morgoth = the devil? I certainly don’t see much Catholicism in it though; Morgoth was one of of a Pantheon of, what, 8-9 gods? I can’t remember. He certainly wasn’t some first-helper-spirit created by a monotheistic God. Sure, the idea of an evil being rebelling against good beings is in there, but that’s not uniquely Catholic either. Loki springs to mind, and, hey look! Another Norse reference.

            I don’t think there’s much comparison between Tolkein and Lewis as it pertains to injecting religion into their stories. Lewis obviously had a theology he was pushing. Tolkien seems to have wanted it as a backdrop without trying to get anyone to accept it as real or anything more than part of his fictional world. The main ‘moral of the story’ of Tolkein’s work seems to be that the little guy can matter. Which I always thought was more a reflection of his commanding (what would be considered now) ‘blue collar’ types in WWI, and not anything to do with any theology at all.

  1. “1795 – Josiah Wedgwood, English potter, founded the Wedgwood Company (b. 1730)”

    And grandfather to both Emma and Charles Darwin.

  2. Hitchens provided a better description of Mel Gibson: “Australian fascist and ham actor named Mel Gibson”

  3. I can see the resemblance of Adolf to Alois – maybe rectangular countenance, straight brow, perhaps the grumpy expression too, FWIW.

  4. Yesterday, on the orders of “President” Trump, a U.S. drone strike at the Baghdad International Airport killed a powerful leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Major General Qassim Suleimani, as well as several Iran-backed military personnel.

    Seven months ago, I offered to bet good green money here that, were Donald Trump to be impeached by the House of Representatives (or to fall more than six points behind the Democratic frontrunner) he would conduct a military strike against another country, likely Iran.

    I wasn’t able to get a bet down, and our erstwhile Trumpist troll (rustybrown, you remember him, doncha?) told me I was all wet (as he was wont to do in nearly every comment here) because Trump was a peace-loving isolationist.

    Donald Trump withdrew from the multilateral (7 countries, plus the EU and UN) Iranian nuclear treaty, for no damn good reason, even though Iran was indisputably in compliance with it, just because the US had entered the deal under Trump’s bête noire, Barack Obama. Worse, Trump had no strategy for dealing with Iran afterward, except to put it in an intolerable box by cranking down sanctions ever more harshly.

    Worse still, in so doing, Trump empowered the Iran hardliners, who had opposed the the nuclear deal in the first place on the basis that the US couldn’t be counted on to live up to its end of the bargain. I’m sure the centrifuges are whirring away at an even faster pace today in an effort to make weapons-grade fissile material, and that Iranians are thinking that, if they already had The Bomb, Trump would be giving them summits and sending them Kim-Jong-un-like love letters, instead of taking out their most esteemed military leader.

    Iran will undoubtedly strike back in one way or another. People are waking up deservedly nervous today, including, I should think, in Israel or those lodging in Trump hotels in places like Istanbul and Dubai. Also, though there has never been an attack on the US homeland sponsored by Iran (or any other Shia group, to my knowledge), that doesn’t seem beyond the pale at this point.

    Worst of all, Iran is likely no more than a year or two (or maybe three or four) away from developing nuclear weapons (and likely already has the capacity to put together “dirty bombs.”) Iran is a place where memories are long, and revenge is a dish served both hot and cold.

    1. I remember. I agree.

      Several times over the past 20 + years we’ve had chances to improve relations with Iran and every single time a Republican administration has given them the finger and trashed the opportunity. Trump’s turn at it may not be the stupidest, Bush Jr’s ranks high on that list, but it is pretty damn stupid.

    2. Trump’s claim to like peace always struck me as “fake news”. He only wanted to pull out of conflicts his administration inherited because it allowed him to heap dirt on his predecessors and they cost money he’d rather take for himself or to line the pockets of his cronies. As far as getting into new battles, he’s a bully with no impulse control in charge of the world’s most powerful armed forces. Enough said.

      1. All Trump’s jibber-jabber since his 2015 ride down his gilded escalator into our presidential politics about not starting “stupid wars” in the Mideast was merely his way of branding himself the “un-Bush” during the Republican primary campaign.

        His claim that he opposed the 2003 Iraq invasion before it occurred is as bogus as his bone spurs.

      2. And today’s news is that another 3500 US troops are on their way to Iraq. So much for disengagement in ME conflicts.

    3. I wonder if rustybrown is still drinking the Kool-Aid. The fact that he disappeared some months ago made me think he abandoned Trump, and saved face by shutting up.

      Either way, I agree that this kind of ignorant, impulsive and dangerous act was inevitable. Especially after impeachment and the fact that there are no longer any serious people in Trump’s orbit- just yes men who think the king can do no wrong. I’m sure Bolton is pleased. But a war with Iran will look nothing like the war with Iraq. A full on war with Iran will probably mean a US draft. That should help his reelection prospects, right?

      1. I hope you are right about rustybrown. If so, we should let his or her mind heal in silence. My fear is that people like them will double down on their bad ideas if their identity is challenged too often or they are forced to submit to many “I told you so” events. Let them suffer their shame in silence to emerge a better person when the time is right. That’s the theory anyway.

    4. You’re spot on. He’s been out to destroy Iran from the get-go. And as always, it’s all about him, feeding his insatiable ego, a diversion from impeachment, saving his skin. But beyond all that, he thrives on creating discord and chaos, fucking over people, fucking things up just for the heck of it so he doesn’t really need any external precipitating reason. And if this latest act doesn’t precipitate the kind of big war he wants by this escalation, maybe he’ll send a drone to kill Ruhani or Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or somebody like that.

        1. Though some dismiss psychological analyses of Trump’s behavior, including his words, this could arguably be seen as a clear case of projection, just delayed.

          1. “Delayed” only in the sense that the opportunity for Trump to do what he claimed others would do only happened now.

            The thief says “watch out, he’ll steal from you!”. Lo and behold, the next time he’s in the candy store…

      1. … he thrives on creating discord and chaos …

        Indeed. In the words of Shakespeare’s Mark Antony: “Cry ‘Havoc!,’ and let slip the dogs of war.”

    5. You’re bang on, Ken. I had the same thought, that this goon would do anything to stay out of jail, even start a war. It’s one helluva diversion. He cares only for himself.

    6. Maybe, now tRump has established the precedent, the Iranians might be able to do what the Democrats have so far been unable to achieve, and get rid of the orange shitgibbon once and for all.

      Should they achieve this, I’d nominate Rouhani for the Nobel Peace Prize, for ridding the world of the (current) greatest menace to peace and stability.

      I admit the chances are slim, but one can always hope…


  5. This is a serious escalation of our continuing conflict with Iran, and will certainly invite retaliation against the U.S. and possibly against Israel.

    If we are to believe the official statement, it says the opposite:

    This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.

    It’s interesting how commentators, a few I’ve seen, all offer a similar opinion as Jerry, saying it will lead to escalations. Also interesting how they cautiously avoid putting attention on this obvious mismatch in assessments. Another striking thing is the clarity with which US authorities declare how they would do whatever they deem necessary, and “around the world”.

    1. “Another striking thing is the clarity with which US authorities declare how they would do whatever they deem necessary, and “around the world”.”

      Though it is nothing new. I don’t know of any US administration in the 20th and 21st centuries that hasn’t said the same thing, many times. I’m sure the authorities of many other nations have made similar statements.

      1. I had the impression the US styled itself as the Good Guy World Police who fight villains and terrorists to further democracy and peace. Of course, reality was always a bit different than the image, but I found it unusual that a country — any — would go on record and say outright they do whatever they want around the globe to further their own interests.

      2. Your first statement is correct, this is nothing new. But the US is somewhat unique amongst our peer nations in practicing “strategic ambiguity” (i.e. saying we will do whatever we deem necessary, but not saying what that will be). Most other nations at least give lip service to red lines. No (nuclear) first strike is a good example.

        It’s a difference in philosophy; most of our allies try to use clear signaling to discourage adversaries from the really bad stuff that might cross their stated red lines. OTOH we subscribe to the idea that ambiguous signaling discourages adversaries from even approaching the bad stuff, since they can never be sure what exactly might trigger a huge US response.

        1. “they can never be sure what exactly might trigger a huge US response.”

          With the current orange cretin in charge, that is more true than ever.


          1. I’m sure that’s tRump’s strategy, or rather his instinct. He knows if he acts crazy he’s seen as unpredictable, which keeps competitors off guard. He’s street-smart that way. You never know what your gonna get.

    2. If we are to believe the official statement …

      Disbelief — or at the least a profound, abiding skepticism — are the wages of sin for Trump’s constantly lying (and for his compelling his lackeys constantly to lie) to the American people.

      An international crisis was inevitable. And now that one is upon us, it’s just as inevitable that there will be widespread distrust of anything said by the Trump administration — by our allies, by our enemies, and by ourselves.

    3. Trump has spent three years attempting to shred the credibility of US intelligence. No one in Trumpland can justify leaning on US intelligence claims of preventative action. They have earned the public’s complete distrust in all things, because they actively sought it out when it was convenient to them.

    1. That’s a great video! At the beginning, Joe Pesci’s voice came to mind: “Who you looking at? You wanna piece of me?”. I certainly wouldn’t want to test its resolve and risk getting gored by those sharp little horns.

      1. It struck me that the animal wasn’t at all skittish — indeed it did do a ““Who you looking at? You wanna piece of me?” I watched another video and again, the serow seemed both curious and bold; nothing like the stereotype of the skittish antelope.

        The nostrils appear somewhat reminiscent of saigas.

  6. I just learned something perhaps worth sharing with readers. Someone on pointed out that we should write dates this year fully, as in 1/3/2020, to avoid potential fraud. If one writes it as 1/3/20 then someone can come along and add a year to the end, as in 1/3/2017, thereby backdating the document.

  7. Professor, I understand your respect for Stephen Stills, as in he was a multi-talented musician. But wickedly handsome? In 1965 he was already losing his hair and his teeth were crooked, so the producers considered him not camera attractive. However, they asked him if he knew any other musician who looked like him, but with better hair and teeth. And this is why Peter Tork became a Monkee, not Stephen Stills. As Tork said, Stills had to settle for CSNY.

    Apparently Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson didn’t think Stills was attractive enough for TV and the rest is history!

    1. Forced to wonder, were you to change places with Stills or McCartney, whether you think they would excel at sorting flies?

  8. IMO, Trump’s greatest strength was avoiding the middle east wars of his predecessors.

    I think we needed to respond to the embassy attack but, from a pragmatic point of view, I think assassination was a mistake. I would have chosen an economic target (oil field) with a military target (airbase) my second choice.

    Assassinating another a member of leadership of another country is not normally an acceptable action. Does attacking an embassy change this? I am not sure but if he was responsible for the embassy attack, I do not morally disapprove but I imagine it is still not legal.

    On a related note, I thought the restraint we showed at the embassy was admirable. We could have killed the attacked but chose not to. It seems odd to show restraint and then assassination.

    1. Anyone who actually thought that Trump’s mild overtures against mideast conflict were based on any sort of principled or intellectual position can disabuse themselves of that notion.

      Trump ran to the left of Hillary on foreign policy because some people were gullible enough to believe it. In reality everyone who’d ever paid any attention to the guy knew that would go out the window at when it was convenient. See also idiot Trump supporters praising Trump’s firing of Bolton, notorious war hawk, for being a notorious war hawk, without ever taking the moment to rub both their brain cells together and ask “Hey why did he ever hire a notorious war hawk in the first place if he’s so anti-war?”

      1. He has, so far, avoided the disasters of Bush and Obama. If he avoids war, I don’t care why. Our middle east “experts” have been shown to be incompetent morons who greatly overestimate American power.

        Trump is bully who likes grand gestures without risking anything. That is a huge improvement. I feel more comfortable with him leading the US efforts in the middle east. Ignorant? Yes. Incompetent? Yes. Supremely confident and rash with American troop? Not so far and that is a huge improvement.

        1. So you agree that Trump is ignorant and incompetent but on this one thing, committing troops to the Middle East, you trust him? I think a better explanation is that his policy random walk has not yet led him to start a war.

          Remember, this is a guy who said on camera that a President whose re-election campaign is struggling should start a war in the Middle East. Of course, this theory is not original with Trump but, if we know anything about him, his ability to take bad ideas and run with them is top-notch.

          1. Of course, I do not trust him but but I distrust him less than Bush, Cheney, Obama, Hillary and the entire state department.
            Hubris leads to disasters. Buffoonery is not as dangerous.

            1. “Buffoonery is not as dangerous.”

              Only because the football is being sequestered by adults at the White House.

              His doing Putin’s bidding in undermining the EU and NATO may impact your hypothesis.

              1. My points are solely about the greater middle east. If he gets us involved in another war or helps destroy a moderately stable country, I will be shown to be wrong but it’s hard to imagine the middle east being worse than it was in 2015.

                The Russian invasions of Crimea and Ukraine show that Obama failed with Russian as well but that is an argument for another day.

        2. Your argument in this thread has been very tendentious. These are complex processes, yet you defend yourself rather than your argument when the complexity is called out.

          Some examples:

          – “it’s hard to imagine the middle east being worse than it was in 2015.”

          The Arab Spring began in the early 10s [ ].

          “The Russian invasions of Crimea and Ukraine show that Obama failed with Russian as well but that is an argument for another day.”

          No, it is pertinent: UN, EU and US agreed on Crimea, the specifics had little if anything to do with the then president [,_since_2014) , ].

          There is similarly nothing to indicate that the current “drunkard’s walk” of US is an improvement from having political will and control in international affairs.

          But we all recognize, I hope, that the openly shown incompetence, ignorance and corruption are risks.

          1. Of course things are more complex than I say in a post. My basic point is that US policy in the middle east has been misguided for decades. From propping up the Shah to putting marines in Beirut and Somalia to invading Iraq twice nothing we have done has worked well because our “experts” do not understand the cultures and centuries of rivalries in the region. It has been bad for the US and disastrous for the countries.

            Specifically, during the the presidencies of W Bush and Obama things went from bad to absolutely horrible. Under Trump, things have gone from absolutely horrible to bad.

            Do you dispute any of this?

    2. IMO, Trump’s greatest strength was avoiding the middle east wars of his predecessors.

      Huh? When did he do that? I must have missed it with all the news of “defeating” ISIS, and drone strikes and sending more troops to Iraq, and supplying Saudi Arabia with billions of dollars of arms, and bowing to Erdogan so he could slaughter our allies the Kurds. Not much avoidance in these actions, sorry to say. And now this. Trump never had any firm ideas of avoiding this type of escalation…I don’t think he has any firm ideas at all except that he needs to “win” at all costs, even if he doesn’t know what “winning” really is.

      I agree that it was admirable to show restraint at the embassy, even as Trump was tweeting “Anti-Benghazi” to agitate.

      1. Look at the developments in Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Turkey and Syria over the past 20 years. Bush and Obama’s actions took human disaster to a new level. The middle east is looking less bleak under Trump than Obama and Bush – admittedly that is an incredibly low bar. He has made lots of mistakes but none disastrous.

        Let’s look at your points. ISIS came to power under Obama as a result of Bush’s war. Obama started the drone strategy also in response to Bush’s disaster. Obama participated in the overthrow of Gaddafi leading to the Benghazi disaster. Obama’s response to the Turkish coup attempt ensured that we had no influence with Erdogan. Bush and Obama shoveled money to Saudi Arabia.

        Trump has not been as bad as his predecessors. This may change but, for now, he gets a grade of a C while his predecessors’ deserve an F-.

        1. And you’re completely overlooking the fact that Trump pulled the US out of the Iran deal. That’s a lynchpin in this entire debacle. Clinton wouldn’t have pulled us out of the Iran deal, and the world would have been a much safer place than it is today. Clinton would not have sided with Putin and cooled our relationship with historical allies. Clinton would not have the distrust of our intelligence agencies, or the media. Not to mention everything Trump is doing in the Middle East is in the interest of himself and his transactional relationships with Putin and Erdogan and the Prince.

          1. You are using Hillary Clinton as an example of someone who handled the greater middle east well? She was the secretary of state who bungled the Arab Spring and oversaw the disintegration of Iraq, Syria and Libya leading to the European refugee crisis rise of ISIS and Boko Haram (and the rise of populism in Europe and the US.)

            Obama’s (post Clinton) incompetence in response to the Turkish coup attempt are the cause of 99% of our problems with Erdogan. Trump, like all US presidents (and secretaries of states), has bowed down to the Saudis.

            1. Typical American hubris to assume that a US Secretary of State could control (or fail to control) something as large and complex as the Arab Spring to the extent that she could be blamed for how it turned out. Same for the European refugee crisis.

              1. I call for less involvement and am accused of hubris. Amazing.

                For decades, the US has tried to improve the situation in the middle east and failed every time.

                Is the US solely to blame for the human tragedy in the middle east? No, but we have made it worse. Is Clinton the worst western hubristic fool? No, but she is certainly one of them.

    3. “It seems odd to show restraint and then assassination.”

      The restraint was shown by the people on the ground, who are mostly not idiots.

      The assassination was apparently ordered by tRump, who is deranged.


  9. Never mind what Larry the Cat is up to, the great unanswered question is how he is going to get on with Dilyn, the dog belonging to Boris’s current squeeze. There could be blood on the carpets of No 10 before the month is out.

  10. One thing that all are missing in the recent attack by Trump on Iran. This step is essentially an act of war. His justification for doing it is currently without proof. Unless he can provide the intelligence (proof)the act is not legal. Congress should take action to hold him accountable (fat chance). His only claim for taking this step is that America was in imminent danger of attack. So congress should be demanding – put up or shut up. Just another article of impeachment. And can you do an impeachment during a war. Trump probably thinks not.

    1. If they try that angle, that effectively removes all the pressure from Pelosi to send the Articles over to a Senate that has already vowed to make a farce of the proceedings and speedily exonerate the president. Trump then remains impeached but not exonerated.

      Not a smart plan, so it’s entirely plausible as a Trumpian strategy.

      1. Trump is not saying that, did not say that. The attack or drone strike on the Iranian by our military was said to be required because he was planning attacks on Americans. And since he did not go to congress for any approval for this attack (assassination) proof of his claim should be demanded. Otherwise he has incited a potential war without any congressional consideration or approval.

        If you think war with Iraq has been a great success for America, just stand by. Better yet, instead of words, join up and go to war yourself.

        1. Perhaps you missed but in comment 12, I said “IMO, Trump’s greatest strength was avoiding the middle east wars of his predecessors.” When I was young and foolish, I supported US military actions in the middle east but that was long ago.

          Our continued military presence is guaranteed to cause unsolvable issues like this. Since we are there, we are attacked. Since we are attacked, we need to respond. It’s an inevitable vicious cycle.

          Leaving followed by harsh tit for tat seems to be the best strategy but I could be wrong.

          1. We could say the trajectory we are on was all started by Bush after 9/11. He used lies and misinformation to get into Iraq. He also had no idea what he was doing in Afghanistan. Since then it has been one mistake after another. But this deal with Trump takes the cake. With his lies there is no one in the world who can or will trust him. The only reasonable thing to do is get him out of the job he has. All said, America is getting what they deserve. Our downfall will be the incompetence of Congress because Trump has no competence.

            1. First of all, most of the problems in the greater middle east are due to the actions of the people who live there. However, the US and other foreign nations have done a lot to make things worse.

              When W Bush entered office, Iraq and the middle east were a mess (partly due his father and Bill Clinton.) W helped make the problems worse with his foolish and inept invasion of Iraq. Obama continued the US incompetence helping create an incredible human disaster that spread to Syria, Libya and other places. I agree that the Iran accord was a tiny bright spot during 16 years of middle east misery.

              During Trump’s time, the middle east has improved a lot mostly because it was so bad in 2016. He is incompetent but has made limited mistakes (ending the Iran accord and this assassination) – nothing compared the W’s invasion and Obama’s incompetence in Syria and Libya.

              In the last several decades, the US middle east policy has been absolutely disastrous. So far, Trump has been less awful than his predecessors.

    2. Agreed.

      tRump probably can’t see the difference between killing Osama and assassinating the General. There is a vast difference. Osama was not an official of any legitimate country. The General was a senior official of a sovereign country. Iran would be entirely justified to assassinate tRump, or possibly the director of the CIA, by exactly the same logic tRump used.


    3. I *hope* it is an act of defensive war action, else the murder would be the crime it should be. The problem is that it was preemptive … so maybe Trump is just a murderous coward.

      But you bring up another interesting point: Since Trump dismiss intelligence, can he hide behind it in front of Congress/impeachment?

      1. It’s not like he hasn’t attempted killings before – remember the acceptance of superstition that removed health aid if it involved sex health? I’m not sure other nations covered the bill, else Trump was estimated to risk about a million females deaths.

        But this time it was double personal: he pushed the kill button.

  11. Maajid Nawaz about reactions on assasination of Qassam Suleimani:

    Maajid Nawaz
    10 signs to watch for by people posting who know nothing about the Middle East but will now talk as if they do:

    1) before yesterday they’d never heard of #Soleimani & still struggle to remember what his first name was

    2) they’ll proactively and without invitation, condemn “America in the region” without saying anything at all about “Iran in the region”, thinking this wins them brownie points from brown people from the region.

    It doesn’t.

    3) at some stage, they’ll either accidentally tweet out or otherwise approve of official Iranian state propaganda & voices sent by the theocratic regime, without realising, because they have absolutely *no idea* how to recognise Iranian proxy propaganda voices

    4) their narcissistic obsession with hating Trump will be what really guides their Middle East “analysis”, not what’s objectively happening on the ground even at the expense of hundreds of thousands of dead Arab civilians caused by Iran’s militias, and the medieval theocratic oppression of millions of Iranians inside Iran

    5) just as they’ll struggle to recall #Soleimani’s first name, they think watching Aziz Ansari on Netflix (no offence my bro 👍🏽) qualifies as “knowing a Muslim voice” in order to then pronounce their emotionally charged “hot takes” on Middle East politics in “defence of Muslims”

    6) they will be unable to recognise or even name Iran’s terrorist militias everywhere in the world (responsible for war crimes that were often on par with or worse, than ISIS in Syria & elsewhere) and all the wars Iran has interfered in

    7) they will be unable to tell you which is Soleimanis largest & most effective terror group, who leads it and which country it practically runs entire regions in.

    8 ) they’ve never heard the word “Hashd” and cannot tell you what it means

    9) nor could they name the entire Arab countries & populations who absolutely despised & hated Soleimani as a genocidal maniac & who will be dancing in the streets with joy right now

    10) they will read the above thread and turn very binary on me, by accusing me of being pro-Trump or pro-Saudi rather than understanding the mixed picture I’m painting, without ever having had a relationship with anything in the Middle East, beyond Facebook.

  12. Are you sure that 4+20 refers to a man who is 84 years old and not one who is 24? To me it makes more sense if it is 24 (which also makes more sense arithmetically). In the first verse the song’s protagonist (who came into this world ‘four and twenty years ago’) refers to the poverty of his father (who’s age we don’t know) but solely to set up the contrast with the main subject of the song which is the different kind of poverty he himself is currently experiencing, namely the loneliness of not having a woman.

    1. 4+20: In the notes for the CSN boxed set, Stills said:

      “It’s about an 84-year-old poverty stricken man who started and finished with nothing”

      The man in this song is 84 years old, but Stills sings that he was born “Sixty -Four and twenty years ago,” leaving out the “sixty”, because it didn’t fit the metre [meter].

      1. If that’s what Stephen Stills wrote in the sleeve notes then I guess we have to accept that that’s what the song is about but I’d defy anyone to take that from just listening to the song or reading the lyrics.

        ‘Four and twenty’ is a a slightly archaic but perfectly familiar way of saying twenty four but I can’t say I have ever heard someone formulate 84 as ‘sixty-four and twenty’! If he wanted something that fit the metre why not ‘four and eighty’?

        1. As to the lyrical inconsistency, at the time [1969?] he was experimenting with entering a period of mourning/pining about Judy Collins for four years [while dating others of course] – a productive songwriting tactic he used a few times throughout his intensely naval-gazing career, so who knows? I imagine the song lyrics morphed as they developed before being put down on Déjà Vu vinyl in mid-to-late ’69. It is possible his memories are completely unreliable [McCartney & Lennon for example had different memories about the development of their collab. tunes].

          He might have been attracted to 4&20 because of the nursery rhyme connection or he mashed together a song about himself [one of his favourite subjects] & an old man meaning to go from one to the other lyrically, but didn’t develop it. In the early ’70s Stills took a mental health break in the UK buying Ringo Starr’s palatial house [who bought it from Peter Sellers]. It came with a gardener called Johnny & that became the source of his song Johnny’s Garden which is mostly about Stills of course & I don’t think Johnny got a cut.

          P.S. It is said that Sellers based his character interpretation of Chance the gardener in “Being There” [movie not book obviously] on this gardener – could be myth. Nice if true.

          1. Thanks for filling in the details of Stills’ song-writing history! As you say it is possible his memories were unreliable -either deliberately or not. In any case once a song (or poem, novel or other creative work) is put out there it may be interpreted in ways that the artist did not intend!

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