Friday, September 2, 2016

POPCORN

By Jim Szantor

Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric and whimsical observations 
about the absurdities of contemporary life
  • "Nalt8st," "lan5kl," and "tiff3lr."  (Those were just the latest "verification words" I had to type in to e-mail news stories and columns to family and friends.  Do not adjust your computer. Thank you.)
  • Hey, Larry King:  Maybe marriage No. 8 will be the charm!  (Name all seven of Larry's wives and win valuable prizes!)
  • Morning in America: Larry is doing infomercials, Burt Reynolds is reportedly broke and wasting away and an Olympic Gold Medal swimmer makes up a cockamamie story about being robbed at gunpoint.  Donald Trump in the White House?  Fits right in!
  • I’m having trouble mastering the art of stir-frying.  I can talk the talk, but I can’t wok the wok.
  • More food for thought:
  • You know you've ordered some bad Chinese takeout when the fortune cookie contains a coupon for Pepto-Bismol!   (Best fortune cookie seen in quite some time:  "You always have the right answers; they just sometimes ask the wrong questions.")
  • There has been a lot in the news lately about the alleged discovery of Col. Sanders' secret "11 herbs and spices" recipe.   Which reminds me of my college days:  I was so poor, I used to go to Kentucky Fried Chicken to lick other people's fingers!"
  • I have no problem with Walmart greeters, but they should call them what they mostly resemble: Cardboard cutouts.  
  • jimjustsaying's Party Ice-Breaker of the Week:  "Say [actual partygoer's name here], did you know that Richard NIxon played the lead role in a school producton of 'The Aeneid'?"
  • Best health-related news of the summer:  Flossing doesn't do much good, if any.   Dentists will now have to lecture us about--what?--earwax, perhaps.  (Don't worry--they'll find something.)
  • Rumors that Rush Limbaugh once played professional volleyball are just that--rumors.  
  • You can tell a lot about a person by his or her ringtone, their choice of socks and how they eat corn on the cob.
  • Some people love to point out that even the best baseball players--those who hit about .300--succeed only 3 times out of 10.  Meaning, they always love to add, that they fail 7 times out of 10.
  • A good thing, don't you think?  You think the games are long now? Think how long they'd last if they succeeded 7 times out of 10! 
  • (Wife:  "Jim, do you think we can go pretty soon--it's the 43rd inning!" Jim:  "Aw--let's stay just two more times through the batting order.  I wanna see if they can score 30 runs this inning. Could be a record!")
  • Speaking of baseball, I really had self-esteem problems growing up. I mean, I used to fantasize about striking out with the bases loaded in the ninth inning!
  • People who use a credit card for a $3 fastfood purchase are in need of counseling but probably can't afford it.
  • They've had poker tournaments on TV for some time now.  Chances of bridge, canasta and bid whist popping up on the airwaves?  Not good.
  • I wonder:  Do they have Casual Friday at the U.S. Supreme Court?   
  • Seventy-fifth Wisconsin Town I Didn't Know Existed Until I Saw It Mentioned in a Green Bay Press-Gazette Obituary: Rio Creek, Wis.. (R.I.P., Ronald B. Wendricks, Green Bay Press-Gazette obituary, April 1, 2016).  Previous entries: Athelstane, Walhain, Duck Creek, Breed, Anston, Sobieski, Amberg, Osseo, Angelica, Brazeau, Waukechon, Sugar Camp, Kossuth, Lessor, Kunesh, Pulcifer, Cato, Florence, Greenleaf, Eaton, Poygan, Hofa Park, Hilbert, Hollandtown, Beaufort, Glennie, Harshaw, Bessemer, Crooked Lake, Tigerton, Goodman, Readstown, Dousman, Butternut, Montpelier, Cecil, Red River, Gillet, King, Laona, Kelly Lake, Glenmore, Tonet, Stiles, Morrison, Dunbar, Askeaton, Wild Rose. Neopit, Ellisville, Pickett, Flintville,  Forest Junction, Thiry Daems, Black Creek,  Mountain, Ledgeview, Lunds, Suring, Lakewood, Beaver, Cloverleaf Lakes, Krakow,  Pella, Townsend, Vandenbroek, Coleman,  Spruce, Armstrong Creek, Lake Gogebic, North Chase, Navarino, Pequot Lakes and Buchanan.
  • Newspaper Obituary Headline Nickname of the Month: Dancing Bob. As in Robert "Dancing Bob" Lehnert,, Green Bay Press-Gazette, June 25, 2016.  R.I.P., Mr. Lehnert.
  • jimjustsaying's Words That Don't Exist But Should of the Month (courtesy of "More Sniglets" by Rich Hall & Friends): 
  •  --Malibugaloo: n. A dance that affects barefoot beachgoers on hot summer days. 
  • --Magnagram: n. Any sign that takes on new meaning when a magnetic letter falls off.
  • --Kawashock. n. Pulling into the last remaining parking spot only to discover a motorcycle there
  • I'm firmly against the death penalty except for fraudulent users of handicapped parking spaces, wealthy defaulters on student loans and people who leave huge puddles of water in front of their gym lockers.
  • Is there some kind of rule that says every protest group's chant has to begin with "Hey-hey, ho-ho . . ."?  
  • Three words you commonly see in print but never hear anyone actually use: "Cavort,"  "nimble" and "splendid."
  • Today's Latin Lesson:  Ego sententia nos erant in haud dico album! ("Hey, I thought we were on the no-call list!")

Thursday, September 1, 2016

THE QUOTE RACK

Imagining a left-wing Trump
Republicans face an excruciating choice in 2016.  Get behind their own party’s mortifying nominee or cede the White House to a deeply despised rival.   What if Democrats were confronted with that same dilemma, and a left-wing wackadoo like, say, Sean Penn had managed to win the nomination with his fiery rhetoric and sympathy for the oppressed working class?

 Let’s further posit that his opponent was conservative ideologue Ted Cruz.  Would most Democrats willingly cede the White House to, say, Ted Cruz if it meant keeping Sean Penn away from the levers of power?  Or would they find a way to justify voting for Penn, even if he’s clearly unfit for the presidency by experience and temperament?

 I’ve asked Democratic friends to put themselves in this scenario, and they make the exact same excuses that Republicans have been making for supporting Trump: Penn would at least surround himself with "good people," they say, and fill Supreme Court vacancies with justices who share their views.  If Penn were running, most Democrats and the Democratic National Committee would undoubtedly back him out of sheer partisanship.  So, my Democratic friends,  don’t be so contemptuous of Republicans who reluctantly support Donald Trump.
--Seth Stevenson, Slate.com

An opening for third-party candidates
Donald Trump is the best thing that ever happened to the Libertarian Party.  In destroying the Republican Party from within, Trump is showing that it’s possible for national candidates to defy the political establishment  and is blazing a new trail for third-party candidates like Libertarian Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein.

In recent decades, the number of Americans who identify closely with either the Democratic or Republican party has continued to dwindle, with more than 40 percent now identifying as independents; the old coalitions on which the parties once depended--such as socially conservative Christians and Wall Street bankers--have crumbled.  Yet  the ideologies and policy platforms  of both parties remain stuck in the past, serving fewer and fewer people.

The incoherent, backward-looking Trump  is not the future of anything, but in expressing the frustration of millions of Americans, he has revealed the bankruptcy of the mainstream GOP.  Bernie Sanders came very close to doing the same to the Democratic Party.  The lesson of 2016 is that we need a new operating system for politics in the 21st Century.  Now it’s up to us Libertarians to put forth candidates who can actually win elections.
--Nick Gillespie, Reason.com

Putin’s next cyberattack on democracy
Warning: Russia isn’t done trying to influence our presidential election.  U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that hackers working for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government were behind the release of embarrassing emails from the Democratic National Committee, and have also broken into the computer systems of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Clearly, Putin intends to disrupt the very core of our democratic proces--and our election systems and our voting machines could be vulnerable to a similar attack.  Many states now use electronic voting machines connected to the internet; sophisticated hackers could gain entry to these machines and change vote tallies.

To sow chaos before or on Election Day, hackers could also delete electronic voter records and paralyze polling places.   "October surprises" of leaked emails or personal information may also be coming.  The federal government and the states had better take this threat seriously, ramp up their cyberdefenses, and back up all electronic records with paper audit trails.  We also have to make it clear to Putin that we will not tolerate this kind of interference.  The integrity of our presidential election may depend on it.
--Bruce Schneier, Washington Post

Why aren’t  . . .
Hillary Clinton just became the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major party. So why is the response so oddly muted? Young women take Clinton for granted. For them, the struggle for women to be taken seriously in a male--dominated world, and to get elected to public office, is ancient history, like World War I.  They can’t appreciate what it took for Clinton to escape her husband’s shadow and--after he’d humiliated her--forge her own political career. Many older women also don’t like Hillary, viewing her as an entitled opportunist who cuts corners and gets away with it.  Maybe the transformative nature of Clinton’s achievement won’t sink in until Inauguration Day, when a woman "=will stand alone, her hand on the Bible, as the new leader of the Western world.
--Eleanor Clift, TheDailyBeast.com

. . . more women  . . . 
Eight years of the first black president has killed off hopes for transformative change. Barack Obama’s fervent supporters were certain his election would be a mark of racial healing, a sign of how far we have come as a country. Instead, we’ve seen the further rise of identity politics and tribalism, and the perception that race relations are worse than they have been in more than two decades.  No wonder Hillary’s nomination isn’t raising Obamian expectations about gender.  Besides, her nomination will have a negligible effect on the lives of American women. It’s not news that women can seek high office--see Sarah Palin and Carly Fiorina--or run a major corporation like IBM, GM, or PepsiCo.  In 2016, it shouldn’t be necessary for a dreadful politician to take the next step in her dreadful career for little girls to realize they can live their dreams.
--BenDomenech, TheFederalist.com

 . . . excited about Hillary?
Every time I say, "Wow, this is meaningful," some sour Republican or Sanders supporter tells me not to get excited about Clinton’s nomination. These naysayers then complain about something Clinton did wrong in 1998, or call her a warmonger or complain about her emails for the 500th time. By no means do I approve of everything Hillary has ever done. But because of her grit, intelligence, and determination, a woman is now poised to step into a job held by men for more than two centuries. Regardless of how you feel about her, recognize the significance of this moment. It will not come again.
--Melissa Batchelor Warnke, Los Angeles Times

Alcohol may cause cancer
A daily glass of red wine may lower heart disease risk, but new research presents stronger evidence that alcohol is a direct cause of at least seven forms of cancer.  Promotion of health benefits from drinking at moderate levels is seen increasingly as disingenuous or irrelevant in comparison to the increase in risk of a range of cancers.  An analysis of recent research found that alcohol might cause cancers of the mouth and throat, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon, bowel, and breast.  The more people drink, the worse the odds, reports HuffingtonPost.com.  Even small amounts of alcohol aren’t risk-free, the analysis reveals.  Exactly how alcohol causes cancer remains unclear.  Researchers suspect a compound called acetaldehyde, which forms when alcohol is digested, might damage cellular DNA.  Alcohol could also increase the body’s vulnerability to carcinogens and raise estrogen levels in women, increasing their risk for breast cancer.
--Study author Jennie Connor, University of Otago (New Zealand)

A map of the human brain
Neuroscientists have been forced to rely on a relatively rough diagram of the human brain to perform delicate surgeries or research treatments for debilitating disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.  But a new map created at Washington University in St. Louis is being hailed as a milestone, providing the most detailed picture yet of the cerebral cortex--the brain’s outermost layer involved in language, consciousness, and problem solving.  The brilliantly colored image reveals 180 distinct areas within this wrinkled mass of gray matter, including 97 that were previously unknown, CNN.com reports.

The map was created using MRI scans of 210 healthy adult brains at rest and brains performing simple tasks.  Researchers drew lines around specific regions of the cerebral cortex based on their structure, function, and connectivity with other parts of the brain.  The map provides neuroscientists with a "typical" brain template that could shed light on how the mind is affected by disorders like dementia, autism, and epilepsy.  "You know what maps of the world looked like in 1500 and you know what they looked like in 1950?" asks National Institute of Mental Health’s Dr. Greg Farber. "I think, in terms of resolution and quality, we moved from 1500 to 1950."
--The Week

Why the millennials . . .
Sam Wei, a 26-year-old financial analyst in Chicago, has not had sex since her last relationship ended 18 months ago.  She now prefers cuddling to sex.  Noah Patterson, 18, is a virgin.  He likes watching porn, but isn’t interested in actual sex.  From what he’s seen, he says, "there isn’t really anything magical about it, right?" Wei and Patterson aren’t as unusual as they sound. A surprising new study published by the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that about 15 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds have not had sex since turning 18--way up from 6 percent in the early 1990s.  These younger Millennials also reported fewer sexual partners than any group since the 1960s--an average of eight, compared with 11 for the Baby Boomers.  It turns out Generation Hookup may not be hooking up as much as people thought.
--Tara Bahrampour, Washington Post

 . . . aren't  . . .
Blame the internet.  Many Millennials say they don’t want to compete in the "swipe right" culture of dating apps like Tinder, where potential sexual partners are pursued or dismissed on the basis of a single photo.  At the same time, young males have also allowed themselves to be virtually emasculated by porn and video games.  Many play video games for up to 30 hours a week, while ubiquitous porn has rewired their brains to respond only to kinky images they summon at will, so they’re intimidated or bored by real-life women.  A lot of Millennials are also too poor to hook up, said Samantha Allen in TheDailyBeast.com. Nearly one-third still live at home to save costs. While parents’ basements might be rent-free, they "do not make for great boom boom rooms."
--Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, TheWeek.com

 . . . having sex
Every new generation, it seems, is blamed for getting sex wrong.  In the 1960s, parents panicked over the "rowdy sexual revolution"; in the 1980s, there was legitimate alarm over AIDS.  Now we’re worried 20-somethings aren’t having enough sex.  But what’s wrong with resisting the social pressure to have sex if you don’t really want to?  Millennials also deserve credit for practicing safer sex than their predecessors, and having a much firmer grasp of the principle of consent.  If anything, we should spend less time worrying about Millennials’ sex lives and more time following the models they seem to be pioneering.
--Stephanie Coontz, Washington Post

Can 'Obamacare'  . . . 
 Obamacare does have real problems,  but nothing that couldn’t be fairly easily fixed with a bit of bipartisan cooperation.  Raising subsidies, for instance, would entice more customers onto the exchanges.  So would raising the penalties for going without insurance. Republicans, however, want the program to fail.  Perhaps it’s time for Democrats to bring back the public option,  which was dropped during the Obamacare negotiations to appease purple-state Democrats and insurers. If insurers are going to abandon the exchanges anyway, why not let the government step in?
--Paul Krugman, New York Times

 . . . be fixed?
That possibility is just one of the reasons Republicans shouldn’t be gloating over Obamacare’s struggles.  Another is that  they offer no replacement plan that comes anywhere close  to the 20 million people who’ve gained coverage through Obamacare, including its Medicaid expansion provision.  After this presidential election, Republicans need to stop seizing on every minor setback to declare Obamacare doomed. Meanwhile, Democrats have to  stop pretending everything’s fine and offer some very concrete fixes--or watch their  signature legislative achievement fall apart.
--Jim Newell, Slate​.com

The dilemma  . . .
The world finds itself transfixed by the haunting image of a Syrian child brutalized by war.  After an airstrike [recently] leveled his home in rebel-held Aleppo, Omran Daqneesh, 5, was pulled from the rubble, caked in blood and dust, gazing at the camera with the numbness of a combat veteran.   He instantly became the face of a five-year civil war that has killed 500,000 Syrians--and a symbol of America’s paralysis in the face of evil.  Three years ago, President Obama failed to honor a vow to punish Syria’s war criminal president, Bashar al-Assad, for gassing civilians.  Since then, the nightmares have multiplied: ISIS established a caliphate in Syria that has exported terrorism worldwide; millions of Syrian refugees have shattered European unity; and Assad, backed by Russian warplanes, barrel-bombs Aleppo with horrifying regularity.  Now we shed empty tears for Omran while the Obama administration and the rest of the West do nothing to stem  the worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st Century.
--Noah Rothman, Commentary​Magazine.com

 . . . regarding Syria
But what can we do?  Many critics of U.S. policy insist that we should back  moderate, secular rebels and attempt to overthrow Assad.  But that premise is based on an illusion.  In reality, the major anti-Assad forces are all anti-American Islamists.  Al Qaida runs Jaish al-Fatah (Army of Conquest); Fatah Halab (Aleppo Conquest) is riddled with jihadists; and the Free Syrian Army has been co-opted by the Muslim Brotherhood, which advocates a totalitarian sharia government.  I am far from an isolationist  but intervening to put Islamists in power would be foolish.
--Andrew McCarthy, NationalReview.com.