Gen. Wesley Clark: Was Trump blackmailed into pulling out of Syria?

220x125’During a CNN appearance on December 24, Clark stressed that “there doesn’t seem to be any strategic rational for the decision. And if there is no strategic rational, then you have to ask, ‘Why was the decision made? I can tell you that people around the world are asking this. And some of our friends and our allies in the Middle East are asking, ‘Well, did Erdogan blackmail the president? Was there a payoff or something? Why would a guy make a decision like this?’”…’

Via Salon.com

Gigantic Poster Features Every Product the Fictional ACME Corporation Ever Produced

567190 fringefocus robloukotka‘If the ACME Corporation were a real company, its R&D department would have been pretty busy. The fake manufacturer, featured in the Looney Tunes’s Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons, seemingly made every type of product in the Looney Tunes universe, from explosives to refrigerators to trampolines to instructional karate manuals.

Chicago-based artist Rob Loukotka knows them all. His studio, Fringe Focus, has put them all on one 24-inch by 36-inch poster, creating an exhaustive illustrated compendium of all of the ACME-brand products that fueled the endless coyote-on-bird rivalry.

First designed as part of a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign—it vastly overshot its $3000 goal, raising more than $105,000 in less than a month—the poster features all 126 ACME products (the full list is here) that appear in the Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner sketches.

To come up with the design, Loukotka watched 43 Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner cartoons that aired between 1949 and 1994, spending more than 100 hours creating intricate renderings of products like the ACME Bird Seed, ACME Glue, the ACME Instant Icicle Maker, the book Birds and Their Habitat, and more.

Spend enough time with the poster and you’ll no doubt start wishing you could buy some of the whimsical inventions for yourself, forgetting that most of them ended up spectacularly backfiring on the poor coyote.…’

Via Mental Floss

Study: modern masters like Jackson Pollock were “intuitive physicists”

Art2 800x515Collective Suicide (1936), by Mexican muralist David A. Siqueiros, is an example of the “accidental painting” technique developed by the artist.

’In the 1930s, a small group of New York City artists began experimenting with novel painting techniques and materials, including Mexican muralist David A. Siqueiros and Jackson Pollock. For the last few years, a team of Mexican physicists has been studying the physics of fluids at work in those techniques, concluding that the artists were “intuitive physicists,” using science to create timeless art.

“One of the things I have come to realize is that painters have a deep understanding of fluid mechanics as they manipulate their materials,” said Roberto Zenit, a physicist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico who is leading the research. “This is what fluid mechanicians do. The objective is different, but the manipulation of these materials that flow is the same. So it is not a surprise that fluid mechanics has a lot to say about how artists paint.”

Zenit is not the first physicist to be fascinated by Pollock’s work in particular. Back in 2001, for instance, physicist Richard Taylor found evidence of fractal patterns in Pollock’s seemingly random drip patterns. His hypothesis met with considerable controversy, both from art historians and a few fellow physicists. In a 2006 paper published in Nature, for instance, Case University physicists Katherine Jones-Smith and Harsh Mathur claimed Taylor’s work was “seriously flawed” and “lacked the range of scales needed to be considered fractal.” (To prove the point, Jones-Smith created her own version of a fractal painting—using Taylor’s criteria—in about five minutes using Photoshop.)

Then, in 2011, Boston College physicist Andrzej Herczynski^ and Harvard mathematician Lakshminarayanan Mahadevan collaborated with art historian Claude Cernuschi on an article for Physics Today examining Pollock’s use of a coiling instability in his paintings. It’s basically a mathematical description for how a viscous fluid folds onto itself like a coiling rope—just like pouring maple syrup on pancakes. The patterns that form depend on how thick the fluid is (its viscosity) and how fast it’s moving. Thick fluids form straight lines when being spread rapidly across a canvas, but will form loops and squiggles and figure eights if poured slowly.…’

Via Ars Technica

How Opioids Hijack the Brain

’To understand what goes through the minds and bodies of opioid users, The New York Times spent months interviewing users, family members and addiction experts. Using their insights, we created a visual representation of how the strong lure of these powerful drugs can hijack the brain.

Dr. Pedro Mateu-Gelabert, one of the nation’s top opioid researchers, said this work brings “an emotional understanding” to the epidemic but “without glamorizing or oversimplifying.”…’

Via The New York Times

The ‘visual representation’ is hokey and adds nothing but glitz to the narrative. Nevertheless, it is insightful. However, it is hard to understand why it took the Times months of interviewing, when the reporters could have interviewed Dr Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse, or read one of her review papers on the neurobiology of addiction, deriving the same sophisticated understanding in thirty minutes or less.

Regardless, it is important to understand that addiction is not just a weakness of will and that recovery is not just a matter of determination. Motivation and commitment are necessary but far from sufficient in the face of the powerful neurobiological changes precipitated by a period of consistent use of an addictive drug. And this is true not only with respect to opioids (so fashionable to think about given the nationwide ‘epidemic’) but but any class of addictive drug. (And, for that matter, we speculate that non-drug-related ‘addictive’ behaviors such as gambling may involve similar mechanisms.). Essentially, the machinery of pleasure, reward and satisfaction have been hijacked by the substance use. With abstinence, such changes do not reverse for months or even years. 

‘The good Earth’

Earthrise

’It’s the 50th anniversary of perhaps the most remarkable photograph ever taken, Earthrise… In what was at that time the biggest television broadcast in terms of audience ever, the crew described the moon as they orbited it, and then ended the broadcast with a reading from Genesis and, finally, with this:

“And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.”

The crew fired their engine to leave lunar orbit and return to Earth on Christmas Day from behind the moon, out of radio contact with the rest of humanity. When they finally saw the Earth again, Jim Lovell broke radio silence to declare, “Please be informed there is a Santa Claus.”…’

Via Six Colors

The history of Jews, Chinese food, and Christmas

GettyImages 514694012 0As explained by a rabbi:

’For over a century, American Jews have eaten American Chinese food on Christmas. This pastime has evolved to a near-holy tradition, parodied on Saturday Night Live, analyzed in academic papers, and reaffirmed by Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.

Perhaps the foremost expert on the practice is Rabbi Joshua Eli Plaut, PhD, executive director of American Friends of Rabin Medical Center, rabbi of Metropolitan Synagogue in New York, and author of A Kosher Christmas, the premier (and only?) comprehensive study of what Jews do at Christmastime.

I spoke to Plaut about Chinese food on Christmas, and why he used to sit on Santa Claus’s lap.…’

Via Vox

Dear Anonymous Inside the Trump Administration


Merlin 148364211 7fe0fe18 ffcc 46fb 89b8 3624cecf4aa3 superJumbo’Dear Anonymous,

It’s time we revisit that famous op-ed of yours.

In September, you acknowledged that you were a member of the “quiet resistance” within Donald Trump’s administration. You told us that you and others were “working diligently” to “frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.” You said that while you agreed with many of the president’s policies, you were appalled by the president’s amorality, his chaotic management, his “repetitive rants,” his fondness for dictators.

You also believed that your efforts to resist Trump were often successful. On foreign policy, you noted, the administration’s policies were far more sober and serious than the president’s reckless rhetoric.

You were wrong. This week proves it. Assuming you haven’t departed the administration already, now would be the time for you to go. Ditto for all of your fellow “resisters.”

This is the central lesson of James Mattis’s stunning resignation on Thursday. Secretaries of defense come and go — we’ve had five in the last eight years — and some of them run afoul of the president they serve.
But Mattis is the highest-ranking cabinet member to resign over differences of policy and principle since Cyrus Vance quit the State Department in 1980 after Jimmy Carter’s Desert One fiasco. He is the only defense secretary to leave this way since the position was created in 1947.

Mattis resigned because he no longer shares your analysis. He no longer believes he can be a steadying or blocking force in the councils of government because it isn’t clear there are “councils of government.” Donald Trump made a snap decision to remove U.S. troops from Syria following a phone call with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He did so over the unanimous objections of his national-security team. He did so after leading members of that team had said publicly and recently that the U.S. would not withdraw.

A president who sticks it to his own team while sticking with a foreign strongman is not worth sticking by.

Mattis also resigned because he has concluded that the problem with Trump isn’t that he’s an empty vessel. It’s that he’s a malignant one.

Here was the fundamental mistake in your view of Trump: You thought he could be handled. You thought of him as a child who simply needed to be kept away from dangerous toys, as former economic adviser Gary Cohn did when he removed a letter from the president’s desk ordering the end of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement.
But our Commodus-in-Chief isn’t just an irascible buffoon whose worst impulses can be confined to Twitter but whose policy instincts largely align with yours. Trump thinks of himself as a man of ideas. Withdrawal from Syria, along with partial withdrawal from Afghanistan, is consonant with the quasi-isolationism he’s preached for decades. He is sympathetic to Erdogan, as he is to other tyrants, because he is indifferent to considerations of human rights and civil liberties.…’

Via The New York Times Opinion