Remember, “Literally” Means “Figuratively” Now

I had a feeling that particular change was going to come back and bite us.

Cultural appropriation

Cass asked a very important question

"Do chickens have lips."
Well, much like with the question for the ages answered over at Villainous Company (do cats have elbows), I posed this question to my veterinarian friends.  And one of them has kindly answered:

"As a doctor of veterinary medicine as well as a proud Avian Biology degree holder...

..... Nah."
So there you have it, Cassandra.  From as expert a source as I personally know.

Not Benghazi

And all the President tweeted was a flag.

A Study in Adjectives

Reason is worried about the spread of populism, which one of its sources defines as 'autocratization.' ("Autocratization" is defined by V-Dem as: "any substantial and significant worsening on the scale of liberal democracy. It is a matter of degree and a phenomenon that can occur both in democracies and autocracies….Semantically, it signals the opposite of democratization, describing any move away from [full] democracy.")

But wait a minute. "Populism" has its root in the Latin for 'people' just as "Democracy" has its roots in "Demos," Greek for 'people.' The first "populist" party in the United States was a late 19th century party of farmers and workers, just as the Democratic party transitioned into being during the 20th century. The article specifies that populists divide 'the true people' from another group who is exploiting or oppressing them, but just tune into one of the innumerable Democratic debates: they're all about how 'the people' are being exploited by various enemy groups -- the rich, billionaires, Republicans, white people or male people or privileged people of whatever sort. The rhetoric of the Democratic party has long been that it is the party of the honest, hard-working underdogs unfairly oppressed by the powerful; it only differs from moment to moment as to whether the system of power is racism, capitalism, sexism, or whatever else. Aside from the fact that one uses a Latin root and the other a Greek root, what's the difference?

Reason itself goes on to state that these populists aren't likely to go away soon because "People feel locked out of decision-making, and until that sense of democratic responsibility is restored, there's going to be one messy Brexit after another." If that's true, though, why would you describe "people" successfully contesting "being locked out of decision-making" as autocratization rather than democratizing? The Demos is capturing power; the system is becoming more responsive to the people who make it up, rather than whatever powers that had ruled it heretofore.

It may be that we are witnessing in America and Brazil a division of a nation into two "peoples," each of which has a democratic/populist mode of organizing. If so, both here and there it may be that division of the single nation into at least two nations is the only way to enable a democratic system to function in the healthy way, i.e., defending the interests of the people rather than imposing the will of one people onto another. Failing that, what you have isn't autocracy -- autocracy is what is ending. What you have are two different demos engaged in a struggle for dominance.

That's a serious problem, but it's not the problem these think tanks believe that they're experiencing. They are trapped in their adjectives, and unable to see the truth beyond their words.

Fake News Today

BB: Hillary Clinton Slams Trump for not Taking a More “Hands-Off” Approach to Embassy Attack

Forecast for 2020

Happy New Year, 2020

This was the year after “Blade Runner” (1982), and the year of 1989’s “Cyberpunk 2020.” I have heard that there will be a video game based on the latter coming out this year, except the year in the title is now 2077.

Yet we do have a kind of cyborg capacity in these smart phones with internet access almost anywhere. It’s transformed how we think and what about, not always for the better. Hip and knee replacements have gotten better: I often compete alongside guys with one or both, and they seem to perform just fine. I read that the Olympics have had to bar some prosthetic legs because they give too big an advantage to runners. Chemicals are frequently banned for the same reason.

So it’s not quite what we had imagined from the 1980s, but it’s not completely different either. I open the floor for further discussion along this line.


The great Scottish New Year fire festival is tonight.


A laid back, scholarly discussion. Sections include "Redding the House," "First Footing," and "Setting Things on Fire." The Protestants are the bad guys. The Edinburgh fireworks are impressive.

More of a small-town approach:


So this post has two proximate causes, neither of which I had intended to have anything to do with the other, but together, they made it irresistible for me to post this.  First, back in October, in my Facebook memories there was a post where I had asked two of my veterinarian friends if cats had knees, elbows, or something else entirely.  I received back the technical answer (two knees, and two elbows, but the knees are officially called "stifles"), but for the life of me, I could not recall what in the world prompted me to ever ask such a thing.

Second, in following a link from Grim's post on the Feast of the Holy Family, I found myself reading other old posts.  In the course of doing so, I ran across a story that linked back to Cassandra's blog Villainous Company.  And from there, I started going through the archives.  In there, I found this post.  And suddenly, I remembered the whole discussion from five years in the past.

I had forgotten exactly how much I missed Cass' blog.  It wasn't that the discourse was "better" than it is in the Hall, it was just different.  The discussions there were wide ranging, mostly due to Cass' choices in topic selection, and there was a funny, friendly banter to it all.  I still miss it.

Maybe I'm getting maudlin in my age.  I don't know.  But if you're still lurking Cass, I think the world could use more of your wit and wisdom.  Anyhow... back to getting all misty eyed in the archives.

Elliptical orbits

Salena Zito is generally worth reading, though I'll warn you that if (like my husband) you dislike the "pithy comments from the man on the street" style of political analysis, you should skip the first half-dozen paragraphs.

Zito sees the political landscape as undergoing a tectonic shift.  First there is a long build-up of tension, as voters increasingly conclude they are being lied to by unserious people, then there is a catastrophic realignment.  The 2020 outcome perhaps depends on the resolution of a deep ambivalence in the suburbs.  Right-centrist voters long for dependability and civility, without always troubling themselves much about pure policy, but at some point they rebel against outright socialism even in its more pastel tones.

In the meantime, populist voters from both the left and right are an unpredictable disruptive force:
Democratic populists seek to copy Trump's success but not to win back the same populist voters who flipped margins by 32 points from 2012 to 2016 in places like Ashtabula, Ohio, or 18 points in Erie, Pennsylvania, both of which we profiled in "The Great Revolt." Democrats such as Warren and Sanders have given up on winning those places--and those Obama voters.
Instead, Sanders and Warren hope to emulate Trump's success with their party's version of the voters we called Perotistas, those whose participation in elections is irregular, even elliptical, and who pass into voting booths every decade or so like comets crashing into an otherwise orderly solar system, only to disappear just as abruptly.

Brilliant idea

We're starting to believe we have the last kitchen built since about 1990 that isn't an integral part of a great room, separated at most by an island.  As usual, however, we're finding that our fuddy-duddy ways will put us on the cutting edge with enough patience.  If ever we sell this house (instead of being carried out feet-first, my current ambition), we will market it as featuring the newest trend, a "discrete kitchen."
Rather than combining living, dining and kitchen in one open space, Beckford’s more traditional floor plans have created a new amenity, in addition to the development’s rooftop terrace, yoga rooms and private piano bar and lounge—the discrete kitchen. 
“People like that you’re not looking at your kitchens from other rooms,” Ms. Russo said. “So many of these open kitchens, I think people are tiring of them and they are going back to the old school, the old architecture.”
It goes along with another hot trend we saw developing a few years back: "away rooms" for people who originally thought they needed unobstructed sightlines from one end of the house to the other, so that their young children could be under constant surveillance. One of the few things I'd do differently if I were building this house again is pay more attention to the need for soundproofing at least one room. Either that or I need to develop some control over my dogs' barking when I'm trying to talk on the phone.

Anything I don't like is cruel and unusual

This is only a county court, so I'm not going to get too excited about it, but that doesn't mean I'll miss a chance to make fun of the mindset.  A Denver local court struck down the city's ban on "urban camping" on the ground that it violates the 8th Amendment, because it would be cruel (and maybe unusual?) to criminalize camping on the street by people who have "nowhere else to go."

There's no limit to this approach, which focuses not on the particular punishment enacted by a callous public, but instead on the whole question whether it's a good idea to criminalize something.

Denver and San Francisco are providing a valuable public service as petri dishes.

Feast of the Holy Family

Do all these continual feasts seem, er, 'problematic'? The early Medieval church thought so as well.

Sure, If You Work in Sherwood Forest

Question:  Why not wear leggings (meaning yoga pants, I suppose) to work?
I don’t remember what specific combo of frustration and busyness led me to wear leggings to the office one day recently, but I do remember it felt magical. With nothing but a stretchy band and Nulu(™) fabric holding me in, I felt freer, like I was dancing through my duties, rather than trudging through them encased in polyester and wool. My computer seemed to run more quickly; my sources were more responsive; the PR people were less angry....

Most everyone at my office is nicely dressed, from the occasional TV-ready suit-wearer to our fashion-conscious female editors. Occasionally, some mayor or other VIP stops by. Leggings are not part of this world. In fact, when I told my colleagues I was working on this article, several of them came to my desk, in their traditional slacks, and registered their complaints. “Tights are not pants,” people told me....

The other place where leggings are deemed unacceptable today: church.
Why not? It's appropriately gender-neutral, right?

Everything's A Problem, Ph.D.

For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow

“Liberal miserablism is a turn-off.”

Scary Scary Less Likely

But you should still be scared, says The Atlantic.
“It might not happen,” Fricker said. “But if there’s a chance that it could happen, then shouldn’t you involve that in your planning? If you’re hosting a picnic and it might rain, you don’t necessarily move the whole event, but you probably do make a Plan B. If you’re planning a city … you might as well keep this in the back of your mind.”
OK. I'll pencil in a contingency plan for massive sea-level rise, like moving to a mountaintop in western North Carolina.

A Church Shooting in White Settlement, Texas

Attacks on religious celebrations continue to be in the news.  After yesterday's stabbing spree at an Orthodox Jewish Hanukkah celebration (during a week in NYC that featured near-daily attacks on Orthodox Jews), today the attack was on a Church of Christ celebration.
A witness told CBS 11 News the gunman walked up to a server during communion with a shotgun and then opened fire. According to the witness, another church member shot the suspect....

During the incident, two men died from their injuries and another man was critically injured. Authorities believe the gunman is among the three but it’s unknown if he was killed or is injured.
It is better, all the way around, for a religious community to be able to defend itself from these attacks. The attacks may not stop; hatred for the religion or simply for the religious may be too broad and too deep in our culture today. This is not new. Raymond Lull wrote about it in the Middle Ages.
Then if a knight use not his office, he is contrary to his order and to the beginning of chivalry. *** The office of a knight is to maintain and defend the holy catholic faith by which God the Father sent his Son into the world to take human flesh in the glorious Virgin, our Lady Saint Mary; and for to honor and multiply the faith, suffered in this world many travails, despites, and anguishous death. Then in like wise as our Lord God hath chosen the clerks for to maintain the holy catholic faith with scripture and reasons against the miscreaunts and unbelievers, in like wise God of glory hath chosen knights because that by force of arms they vanquish the miscreaunts, which daily labor for to destroy holy church, and such knights God holdeth them for his friends honored in the world and in that other when they keep and maintain the faith by the which we intend to be saved....
There are some for whom such service is the most meaningful and proper way of expressing their faith. To deny them the right to do it is to deny them the expression of faith for which they are best fit, and which their soul finds its deepest and most worthy calling. Both the first and the second amendments should apply to the defenders of the faith, then; no government should stand between them and their sacred duty.

UPDATE: Some analysis and advice for those who would do likewise.

The Feast of Thomas a’ Beckett

The dispute over which he was killed makes King Henry seem like the good guy, especially given our own experience with the Church protecting violators in the clergy. Assassination was the wrong remedy, but the king was on the right side.

Pronouncing Written Irish

A rough guide.