Rick Steves Wants to Save the World

One vacation at a time. Lengthy profile of the travel guru, but really well written and well worth the time. In the spirt of Steves, I’m off on a two-week vacation, during which I’ll be pressing pause on Pressing Pause.

I’m agnostic on marijuana. Apart from that difference, I’m down with damn near every other aspect of Steves’s worldview. At the same time, I get tired just reading about his frenetic pace. I’m far too slothful to aspire to be Steves-like, but his non-materialism and associated generosity are definitely inspiring.

I’ll post pics to Twitter, @PressingPause, of my travels. First person to guess the correct country wins an all expense trip to North Korea.

Who To Believe?

Could a Republican please explain why we should believe the Tweeter-in-Chief instead of The Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Chris Wray, and Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel.

From yesterday’s Wall Street Journal:

“U.S. intelligence officials warned Tuesday of increased threats to national security from tighter cooperation between China and Russia, while also differing with President Trump in their analysis of North Korea’s nuclear intentions and the current danger posed by Islamic State.

The warnings were contained in an annual threat assessment that accompanied testimony by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Chris Wray, Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel and other leaders of the U.S. intelligence community, who appeared Tuesday before a Senate panel. The annual exercise affords the public a look at imminent challenges facing the country, such as cyberattacks, nuclear proliferation and terrorism.

The assessment cautioned that Beijing and Moscow are pouring resources into a “race for technological and military superiority” that will define the 21st century. It said the two countries are more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s.”

The report didn’t make any mention of a new and improved border wall, but did say:

“China . . . could disable U.S. critical infrastructure ‘such as disruption of a natural gas pipeline for days to weeks.'”

And the intelligence leaders’ assessment also differed with President Trump in its analysis of North Korea, Syria, Iraq and other hot spots:

“On North Korea, the assessment raised questions about President Trump’s predictions that he will be able to persuade Pyongyang to give up all of its nuclear weapons. While North Korea ‘has reversibly dismantled portions of its [weapons of mass destruction] infrastructure,’ the report said, U.S. intelligence ‘continues to assess that it is unlikely to give up all of its WMD stockpiles, delivery systems, and production capabilities. North Korean leaders view nuclear arms as critical to regime survival.’. . .

On Iran, Mr. Coats said U.S. intelligence officials didn’t believe the nation was developing a nuclear weapon, challenging assertions from Mr. Trump that the nuclear pact he withdrew the U.S. from last year was ineffective.’

Mr. Trump has also justified plans to withdraw troops from Syria by arguing that Islamic State was defeated. But the intelligence assessment said the terror group would ‘very likely continue to pursue external attacks from Iraq and Syria against regional and western adversaries, including the United States.'”

In response, we got this “intelligence”. Read from bottom to top:

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Granted, at times, US intelligence has proven seriously flawed, but when asked to decide between our top intelligence officials who lead thousands of people who work tirelessly at home and abroad to provide the best possible intelligence and a man who watches cable news and does not read, is there any reason to side with the Tweeter-in-Chief? I wish at least one of the 60-63k people who “liked” the T-i-C’s tweets could explain the flaw in my thinking.

In response to those tweets, Former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell said in an interview that Mr. Trump’s disparagement of the intelligence agencies risks demoralizing the spy agencies’ work forces, tarnishes their credibility with allied security services, and rattles foreigners who spy for the U.S.

Again from the Wall Street Journal:

“’This is a big deal,’” said Mr. Morell, who served both Republican and Democratic presidents and now hosts the ‘Intelligence Matters’ podcast.

‘Presidents have the right to disagree with the analysis that’s put in front of them. Presidents have the right to take their policies in a different direction than suggested by the intelligence they receive. Never should a president critique his intelligence community publicly. It’s dangerous.’

Republican Rep. Michael Gallagher of Wisconsin said the Trump administration shouldn’t see the spy agencies’ assessments as an attempt to undermine the president.

‘Obviously, the intelligence community is not omniscient,’ Mr. Gallagher said. ‘But they are doing a very difficult job, and they are actually trying to advance the president’s priorities.’

Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted: ‘It is a credit to our intelligence agencies that they continue to provide rigorous and realistic analyses of the threats we face. It’s deeply dangerous that the White House isn’t listening.'”

Add the Tweeter-in-Chief’s ego to the things I fear.

More Evidence Emotions Trump Facts?

Pun intended. Great piece by Daniel Dale, the Washington correspondent for the Toronto Star. Glad Dale was allowed in the country.

What is the arc of Trump’s lying?

“. . . Trump is getting worse and worse. In 2017, he averaged three false claims per day. In 2018, it is about nine per day. In the month leading up to the midterms: a staggering 26 per day. By my count, he’s now at 3,749 false claims since his inauguration. The Post, which tracks both false and misleading claims, has tallied up to 6,420.

Meanwhile, the press continues to blast out the lies unnoted. Two weeks ago, Axios and the AP uncritically tweeted his nonsense about the United States being the only nation to grant birthright citizenship. (They updated after they were criticized.) It happened again Monday, when Trump earned credulous tweets and headlines from ABC, NBC and others for his groundless assertion about “massively infected” ballots in Florida.

There’s nothing especially strategic about much of Trump’s lying; he does it because that is what he has always done. But the president also knows the lies will be broadcast unfiltered to tens of millions of people — by some of the very outlets he disparages as ‘fake news.'”

How does Dale fact-check Trump?

“Many of Trump’s false claims are so transparently wrong that I can fact-check them with a Google search. It’s the comically trivial ones that stand out. I’ll never forget when the Boy Scouts of America got back to me to say that the president of the United States had made up a nonexistent phone call in which the Scouts’ chief executive supposedly told him he had given “the greatest speech that was ever made” to a Scout Jamboree.”

No wonder he gets along so well with North Korea’s Supreme Leader. I’m glad Dale, who earnestly believes facts still mater, is not nearly as jaded as me.

Journalism Lives

Two lengthy, extremely well written profiles worth your time if you’re the least bit interested in (1) North Korea and/or (2) marketing.

1. The Untold Story of Otto Warmbier, American Hostage. Unfunny throughout.

2. How Goop’s Haters Made Gwyneth Paltrow’s Company Worth $250 Million. Very funny in places.

The Only Constant Is Change

Dig this beautiful essay on selfishness, selflessness, and love titled “Nobody Tells You How Long a Marriage Is” by Lauren Doyle Owens.

At the end, she writes:

“Nobody tells you how long marriage is. When you fall in love, when you have fun with somebody, when you enjoy the way they see the world, nobody ever says, “This person will change. And so you will be married to two, three, four, five or 10 people throughout the course of your life, as you live out your vows.” Nobody warns you.”

Tru ‘dat.

Same as when I married three decades ago, I have no interest in military history, plant nomenclature, or jazz; now though, I am interested in lots of new things like cooking, food, endurance athletics, North Korea, and Stoicism. When I married I was a pauper public school teacher who was oblivious to the stock market. Now I identify in part as an investor. When I married, I was a conventional Christian, today I am more open to and interested in other religious traditions and forms of spirituality. When I married, I used a lot of product in my (amazing) hair; now, not so much.

When I married I was agnostic about the natural world; today, my well-being depends upon it. When I married I was a son; now, I am not. When I married, I was Lauren’s husband, preferring the suburbs; now I’m Lauren, preferring anywhere else.

Life is fragile and mysterious, meaning best case scenario, the Good Wife and I are in the middle of our life together, meaning she’s been married to four or five Rons* with maybe another four or five to go. Here’s hoping she continues adjusting to my continuing evolution.

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*As a result of this recent Janos tweet, I’ve decided my Witness Protection name is going to be Rondo not LeRon. What, you don’t get to pick your WP name?!

Written while the Celts were losing their last game, “we are need rondos.  I am say all day all night for lots time  but is no rondos.  i  am frustrate.”

Friday Assorted Links

1. A Teacher’s Struggle With Student Anxiety.

“Anxiety has become the most significant obstacle to learning among my adolescent students. In a teaching career spanning more than 30 years, I have watched as it has usurped attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which itself displaced “dyslexia,” as the diagnosis I encounter most often among struggling students. In contrast to dyslexia or ADHD, for which I have developed effective teaching strategies, anxiety in students leaves me feeling powerless. As a new school year kicks off, I am left wondering how anxiety has become so prevalent so quickly. What can I do about it? Might my teaching actually contribute to it?”

It doesn’t appear as if Doyle is familiar with Twenge’s recent work on how smart phones contribute to adolescents’ anxiety.

2. There’s nothing more addictively soothing than watching someone flipping homes on HGTV.

“HGTV was the third-most-popular network on cable television in 2016, a 24/7 testament to the powers of Target chic, the open-plan kitchen, and social conservatism. It unspools with the same bland cheerfulness as Leave It to Beaver, and its heart is in the same place. Many viewers — in red states and blue cities, in rent-controlled studio apartments and 6,000-square-foot McMansions — confess it’s a bedtime ritual, prelude to a night spent dreaming of ceramic-tile backsplashes and double-sink vanities. Over the past two years, it has become such a ratings and advertising sensation that it is largely responsible for the recent sale, this summer, of its parent company, Scripps Networks Interactive, to Discovery Communications for $11.9 billion.”

I confess, I’m an HGTV-er.

3. A university president held a dinner for black students—and set the table with cotton stalks and collard greens. I propose a term for this. . . macro aggression.

4. Even jellyfish sleep.

5. Evan Osnos’s take-aways from a trip to North Korea. Long time Pressing Pausers will know I’ve been a long time observer of North Korea. Osnos’s report is interesting throughout. He reports that if Kim Jong Un’s picture appears in a newspaper, North Koreans must avoid creasing his face. And being in a wheelchair disqualifies you from living in Pyonyang, the capital. Monitors on the city’s perimeter limit movement in and out of the capital. Most importantly, Osnos’s reporting strongly suggests North Korea wants better relations with the U.S. Which makes Trump’s approach—increasingly provocative threats—the exact wrong one at the wrong time. Heaven help us, and especially, the South Koreans.

 

 

North Korea’s Abduction Project

From :

Kim Il-sung, in his 1946 decree “On Transporting Intellectuals from South Korea,” explained his desire to bring five hundred thousand people to the North to compensate for the mass exodus in the years leading up to the war. He envisioned an ambitious abduction project that would serve his regime while destabilizing other countries. It began with the South. An estimated eighty-four thousand South Koreans were kidnapped during the Korean War. For the first two decades after the 1953 armistice, the abductees were primarily South Korean fishermen whose boats had drifted too far up the coast. . . .

Kim Jong-il, who would go on to take over his father’s position, expanded the program outside the Koreas. He diversified and expanded intelligence operations, abducting native teachers to train North Korean spies to navigate the languages and cultures of Malaysia, Thailand, Romania, Lebanon, France, and Holland. Japanese nationals were especially sought after, because their identities could be used to create fake passports. . . .

People began to disappear from Japan in 1977. A security guard vacationing at a seaside resort two hundred miles northwest of Tokyo vanished in mid-September. A thirteen-year-old girl named Megumi Yokota, walking home from badminton practice in the port city of Niigata, was last seen eight hundred feet from her family’s front door. Dozens more went missing from other parts of Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. A Thai woman living in Macau was grabbed on her way to a beauty salon. Four Lebanese women were brought from Beirut. A Romanian artist, having been promised an exhibition, was abducted. Some were lured onto airplanes by the prospect of jobs abroad; others were simply gagged, thrown into bags, and transported by boat to North Korea. Their families spent years searching for the missing, checking mortuaries, hiring private detectives and soothsayers. Only five of the Japanese abductees were ever seen again.