Sunday, May 14, 2017

La La Land's bittersweet ending: 2 reactions

I enjoyed La La Land (2016). It's well-crafted entertainment, a love letter to Los Angeles, and an homage to the classic Hollywood dream. The music is like comfort food that sticks to your ribs and tastes just as good on seconds and thirds.

Sebastian and Mia's love story touched my romantic idealist heart. But the depiction of their dyadic love as true and empowering yet fragile instead of resilient troubles me. If their love was true, Sebastian and Mia should not have broken up for the reasons shown.

La La Land reminded me some of Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge, which is also a musical, with its bittersweet love story about talented, poor, ambitious artists in love who are denied a happily ever after. Where the jaded courtesan Satine introduces herself to Christian in Moulin Rouge with a comically bawdy come-on, lithe, winsome, sassy Mia introduces herself to Sebastian in an utterly charming way. I couldn't resist that and Sebastian doesn't. The lyrics of "I Ran (So Far Away)" describes Sebastian's hypnotized view of Mia and foreshadows Mia capturing and then breaking his heart. Mia doesn't die like Satine, but like she lip syncs the lyrics, she does run so far away. And Sebastian couldn't get away. He's still in love with her in the epilogue.

The opening scene (described here as an overture, ground rules, and primer) forewarns right away they don't make it with the foreshadowing by the girl on the freeway who sings about leaving her first love west of Santa Fe at the Greyhound station when they were 17, though "it was true" ("it" was her love? his love? their love?), because she chose to pursue stardom in Hollywood, instead. That's like Mia; on the other hand, the song can refer to Sebastian. He succeeds in his jazz club ambition and his song to Mia in the epilogue expresses sorrow, and possibly remorse, for not following Mia and instead pursuing his dream on his own.

The bittersweet ending bothers me because the movie tells me their love was true and they inspired each other in their respective jazz and Hollywood pursuits. If their love was both strong and empowering, then why was it so fragile? Why wasn't it more resilient? Couples have doubts, misunderstandings, and conflicts, and argue about them sometimes. That's normal. If their love was as true and empowering as the movie says, then none of the depicted doubts, misunderstandings, and conflicts should have been big enough to break their relationship. Their love should have been resilient.

The premise of the movie's denouement is they had to choose between love and ambition,
and their break-up sets up the epilogue. The problem is it doesn't make sense because the movie establishes a particular relationship for Sebastian and Mia that contradicts the love versus ambition premise. The lovers bonded over their artistic ambitions. They understood, encouraged, and zealously defended each other's jazz and Hollywood dreams, which should have been a cornerstone of their relationship. They improved each other. Mia adopted a measure of Sebastian's conscientiousness, which led directly to her big break, while Sebastian learned to be more flexible from Mia.

In other words, Sebastian and Mia's ambition is the last thing that should have caused their love to fail. Their jazz and Hollywood dreams should have been a core strength for their love, not the thing that tore apart their relationship. The proof of the benefit of their love to their ambition was plain in front of them their last time together - Mia's big break had just materialized due to Sebastian's career advice and tenacious support. Before Sebastian fought to save Mia's dream when she had given up on it, Mia had pushed back hard against Sebastian compromising his artistic standards, even for her sake. The bittersweet ending asks the audience to accept that their strongest battle-tested bond - their dreams - is the same thing that broke up their relationship, which makes their break-up look like an arbitrary decision by the characters or an unearned plot device by the director.

Although the movie shows Sebastian and Mia's fight precipitated their break-up, on the face of the story, their argument should not have separated them permanently. Neither of them cheated. Heck, their fight was over Sebastian staying true to his dream, and Sebastian essentially admitted his error when he refused to allow Mia to accept his notion of settling. Sebastian, dismayed by her criticism of his compromise for her sake, accused Mia of only valuing him for his suffering for his dream to assuage her suffering for her dream. But that's not right. The movie shows Mia sincerely wanted Sebastian to succeed. The priority was their dreams, not their struggle.

Sebastian and Mia shared a special chemistry that should have enabled them to clear up the misunderstanding in short order. They spoke their minds to each other from the start. He was extra-sensitively tuned to her. Sebastian remembered everything Mia said and she heeded everything he said. It seems out of character that they couldn't talk out their differences in the 4+ hours driving from Boulder City to Los Angeles or in the days that followed her audition. Sebastian could have easily explained overhearing Mia's phone conversation with her mom and reaffirmed to her he was saving his band earnings to open his own jazz club. To resolve their argument over Sebastian becoming sidetracked from his jazz club ambition, Mia should have only needed to reassure him that she wanted him to succeed, which is what she wanted, and she appreciated his compromise with Keith's band for her sake, while Sebastian should have only needed to reassure her his dream was intact and Keith's band was a means to an end. In fact, in their last time together, Sebastian responded to Mia's "What will you do" with "Get my own thing going", which is left ambiguous, but we can infer from the epilogue he meant his jazz club ambition.

Sebastian compounded the argument by missing Mia's one-woman play without apparently giving her a heads-up he might be late, but she was more upset about the show's seeming failure than his lateness. His act of love in pulling her back to LA for her audition with Amy Brandt, thus saving Mia's acting career, should have more than made up for his mistake and healed their breach. At that point, if their love was as true as they expressed, then their relationship should have been tempered and become stronger. She should have come home to him.

La La Land doesn't show a logistical obstacle that was insurmountable. While the time apart compelled by Sebastian's band commitments was a source of strain, it's normal for a young couple in love to miss each other while separated. Notably, Mia was happy for Sebastian's success with Keith's band until she realized he had compromised his artistic standards. Their argument was about Sebastian settling for Keith's band, not their physical separation as such. While they likely would have had a hard time being physically together for extended periods for, say, 2-3 years before turning the corner to their success shown at the 5-year mark, they should have been able to endure short, even medium-term work-related separations given their professed love and mutual support. Periodic and prolonged time apart due to work, school, etc, is unusual and difficult, but not altogether abnormal for a couple. Sebastian was already carving out time from his touring schedule to be with Mia. Until their careers settled in, they would have found days, weekends, or even weeks to be physically together.

With some patience and a little communication and planning, Sebastian and Mia could have achieved their career goals and stayed together. In the end scene with their careers stabilized, Mia and Sebastian still work and I assume live in the LA area at the 5-year mark. That's not unreasonable. If their love was as true and mutually supportive of their goals as the movie says, then they should have been able to endure some years of being separated a lot - not all the time - while they established their careers. It's not shown what David does for a living, but the movie hints that Mia and her husband aren't together all the time. Mia knew the work demands on Sebastian from Keith's band. If he was sidetracked from his goal of opening his own jazz club, then Mia should have reminded Sebastian to stay on course. Which she did. That was the subject of their argument.

In the vision of their life together that Sebastian shows to Mia in the epilogue, it's clear that Sebastian's path would have been different had they stayed together. It's less clear from the end scene that Mia's path would have changed had they stayed together. It's possible, if Sebastian had followed her to Paris, she would have been distracted by him there and flubbed her big break. But Mia became a movie star, married David, and had a daughter who appears to be 2-3 years old, not necessarily in that order, so it's apparent Mia did not need to be solely focused on acting for her career to take off. In contrast, Sebastian is shown living alone, so perhaps his parting advice to Mia really only applied to him, and he needed to be solely focused for his career to succeed. Or Sebastian was alone before Mia and alone after her because she was his one chance for dyadic love.

We can surmise Sebastian opened his jazz club with his band earnings. If Sebastian had followed Mia to Paris per the counter-factual vision, he likely would not have built up the capital needed to start his business. I assume the fame and reputation that Sebastian gained from Keith's band was also instrumental to his club's success from investors to attracting customers. He likely would have had neither the reputation nor capital to open his own jazz club if he had followed Mia to Paris. However, although the counter-factual vision implies Sebastian's decision not to follow Mia to Paris was pivotal, the physical separation by itself shouldn't have been fatal for their relationship had they stayed a couple, even if Sebastian didn't visit Mia in Paris at all. Mia only filmed a movie there, which usually takes a few weeks to maybe a few months; she wasn't moving to Paris permanently.

By my count, if their love was true, then the only convincing reason shown for Sebastian and Mia to break up is a realization by Sebastian that his love for Mia could replace - and perhaps was already replacing - his love of jazz. The counter-factual vision shows Sebastian understood that if he had followed Mia to Paris, his passion for her and their family together would have distracted him from his jazz club ambition, and he would have been happy and content as Mia's husband in David's place. If the issue was his overpowering love for Mia and not work-related physical separation, then it wouldn't have mattered whether Sebastian remained in LA or followed Mia to Paris. Sebastian had already made Mia his priority by taking the job with Keith for her sake and he's still deeply in love with her in the epilogue. It's plausible that Sebastian believed that if they stayed a couple, his love for Mia would have inevitably replaced his love of jazz, so before it was too late, Sebastian chose a life of jazz over a life with the girl he loves. That's not Mia's fault. She only encouraged Sebastian with his dream.

Wariness of his love for Mia could explain why Sebastian - the same Sebastian who snuck onto the Warner Brothers lot and found Mia in Boulder City - apparently broke off contact with her completely in spite of their amicable parting, if he knew he couldn't resist the power of his love for her with any contact. Five years later, the shock of seeing Mia in Seb's overwhelms Sebastian like Rick's reaction to Ilsa stumbling into Rick's in Casablanca. He loves her. Of course, Sebastian doesn't need to ask Sam - Sebastian can play it again himself. He plays their theme song to show Mia he loves her in the truest way he can.

From his parting advice that she needed to pour everything into her big break, it appears Sebastian believed he would have distracted Mia from her Hollywood dream like she was distracting him from his jazz club ambition. His song to her in the epilogue shows that had he followed her to Paris, Mia's love for him would have replaced her love of acting. Paris would have become the final act of both her Hollywood dream and his jazz club ambition. After they dance by the river Seine under the stars, they start a family and are blissfully happy and content, but there's no sign of Hollywood stardom for her or a jazz club for him.

I don't like that reason. I cried for Sebastian's loss. There shouldn't have been an either love or ambition dilemma for them. The girl in the opening scene foreshadowed, "I did what I had to do", but Sebastian shouldn't have had to choose for them. Sebastian initially settling for Keith's band for Mia's sake shouldn't mean he couldn't correct course and keep Mia. Their dyadic love if true should have been tempered, not split, by the events that ended their relationship. They unwaveringly believed in each other even when they doubted themselves. They understood, encouraged, and zealously defended each other's dreams. They should have been each other's artistic muse, not a distraction. Mia loves jazz now because of Sebastian and adamantly supported his jazz club ambition. Sebastian named his jazz club Seb's with the logo Mia designed for him, which shows she was his muse even after they broke up.

In their final spoken exchange at Griffith Park, Sebastian's answer, "I don't think we can do anything", to Mia's question, "What are we going to do", is blatantly wrong. He said that to Mia after drastically changing the course of her acting career and having just pulled her onto the path to stardom. After everything that had happened, the door wasn't closed on their love. He had saved it. In the fateful moment, they could have started a new chapter together. For Mia, she and he were still we. But Sebastian separated we into you and I. Sebastian should have answered Mia's "Where are we" with 'Here together' and her "What are we going to do" with 'Love each other'. Those were the answers he needed to give her for them to come home.

Sebastian and Mia should have fulfilled their love and art, both made stronger by the other, together. That's my romantic idealistic percept of La La Land's bittersweet love story.



Alternatively, Sebastian's song to Mia in the epilogue is not a what-if prediction. The sequence in his vision leading up to his following her to Paris is very different from their actual history. He's still deeply in love with her, but rather than a lament over an opportunity lost from regretful choices, the epilogue depicts a revisionist idealized fantasy of their relationship. Sebastian honored his love for Mia by saving her acting career, but it was a concluding act on his part, not a second chance for them. Their relationship was over by that point, ended when Mia broke faith with Sebastian by leaving him abruptly, lumped together with "all of this" of the disappointment of her Hollywood dream. She didn't even give him any way to contact her except inadvertently with her childhood story.

Mia leaving Sebastian like she did implies their love was, in fact, fragile.

The counter-factual vision shows a perfect sequence by Sebastian securing Mia's love. In it, Sebastian completely prioritizes Mia from the start, they have no friction between them, and there's no discouragement from her one-woman play to push her to run away from LA and him. But such perfection is unrealistic and shouldn't be necessary for dyadic love to establish; if anything, dyadic love is supposed to be the aspect of life that's the most resilient and the strongest bulwark against the trials of life. The discouraging audience for Mia's play was out of Sebastian's control altogether, and while he was late, he was there to pick her up. Sebastian wasn't perfect, but he did plenty enough to carry his part of their relationship.

Moreover, the movie showed that Sebastian and Mia didn't need to be perfect and walk on eggshells with each other. Their relationship was fortified with special chemistry. Sebastian was extra-sensitively tuned to Mia and remembered everything she said. She heeded everything he said. Their chemistry accommodated their foibles, such as Sebastian pressing his car horn to call for Mia as a rehabilitation of their first encounter on the freeway where he had angrily honked his horn at her and she had flipped him off.

Yet at a pressure point where Sebastian and Mia's pair bond should have been resilient, it collapsed under tension. Their love was passionate with special chemistry, but it also proved to be fundamentally defective. Her abandonment reminds me of the disillusionment of my romantic idealism when my straining efforts weren't reciprocated. It seemed the harder I tried, the more my leeway shrank and the path to dyadic love constricted to a dissolving tightrope, then dropped me into the void. Sebastian tried his hardest for Mia, even setting aside his jazz club ambition for her, yet he was given little leeway from her. After just an argument and a mistake, she abandoned him.

Sebastian and Mia were not on the same page in their relationship.

Notably in their argument, the discontent was one-sided from Mia. Sebastian was satisfied with loving her and had settled for Keith's band in order to care for her. Likely sensing she was unhappy, he had made the side trip home to be with her. But simply being with each other didn't satisfy her because, while she missed him, their physical separation wasn't the problem. Mia was happy for Sebastian's success with Keith's band until she realized Sebastian had compromised his artistic standards.

The fight revealed Mia didn't accept him as is. The argument blindsided him and Sebastian reacted angrily to her criticism of his compromise for her sake and interpreted it as Mia upset that he was no longer suffering for his art like her. But that's not right; Mia was upset that he was sidetracked from his dream.

Their fight was about ambition versus love more than a disagreement between two well-bonded lovers. On one hand, Mia was defending Sebastian's dream. On the other hand, upholding Sebastian's dream was as much about upholding her dream. Sebastian settled for Keith's band for her sake, yet Mia wouldn't leave LA to visit him on tour like he later didn't follow her to Paris. Whereas Sebastian prioritized their relationship, Mia cajoled Sebastian to refocus on his jazz club ambition because she chiefly valued - loved - him for his dream that mirrored her dream.

We're led to assume Sebastian callously neglected to give Mia a heads-up about the band's photoshoot and that precipitated her leaving him. But we don't know he didn't inform her that he might be late, and that kind of neglect towards Mia doesn't sound like Sebastian. He tried to make it to her play in time to at least be there when the lights came on, and he was there to pick her up. Whether or not he neglected to give Mia a heads-up that night, Sebastian made a mistake that he needed to make up to her. But it wasn't a mistake that should have caused them to break up. While hurtful, it was neither a betrayal nor an abandonment. His dedication to her never wavered. Mia didn't focus on his mistake when explaining her anger in any case. Rather, when Mia's dream was dashed with the seeming failure of her play, she left "all of this" behind in LA with no distinction between Sebastian's tie to her Hollywood dream and Sebastian for himself.

Sebastian wasn't right when he accused Mia of wanting to be with him only to assuage her suffering with his suffering, but her abrupt departure shows his insight wasn't far off the mark. She valued him only as far as she could identify his dream with her dream. When she gave up her dream, she gave him up in the same breath. There was no independent loyalty to Sebastian - Mia's angry rejection of "all of this" referring to her Hollywood dream was the same as her rejection of him.

In their interaction when Sebastian came out to Boulder City to pull her back to Los Angeles to meet with Amy Brandt, there was no sign from Mia that she felt hurt or regret for leaving him. It didn't seem like she missed him at all. It seemed like she had put him firmly behind her. She was cold to him, asking, "Why did you come here" and "How did you find me". Mia could have salvaged their relationship on the spot by reacting with love to Sebastian's act of love. Instead, she was displeased to see him, which forced him to justify his action with "Because I have good news" when the loving merit should have been implicit with no need for further explanation. Mia's tacit message to Sebastian in Boulder City was that his love was not welcome. She wouldn't even invite him into her home despite that he had traveled 4 or more hours to find her. (Where did Sebastian sleep that night in order to pick up Mia at 8 the next morning?)

It's a heart-wrenching feeling when you put your heart on your sleeve and go the extra (277.3) mile(s) for the girl you're in love with, like Sebastian did for Mia, only for her to respond to your impassioned effort with distaste. I know the feeling - it hurts.

When she asks him, "where are we", and he responds, "I don't know", in their last spoken exchange, the tone is not hopeful and passionate. Although their words seem to leave the door open for a reunion - "I'm always going to love you" (now that her dream is restored) and "I guess we're just going to have to wait and see" - the tone of their exchange is an ending. They've returned to the place they fell in love on a magical night, but in the stark light of day, they can see their pair bond is broken. They're not a couple anymore and there's no coming home for them.

Sebastian is extra-sensitively tuned to Mia, so his judgement, "I don't think we can do anything", should be regarded. The epilogue shows Sebastian still loves Mia deeply, and his song to her is a revelation for Mia that Sebastian had (and still) loved her for her, not just for her dream. But after their fight and the way she left him, Sebastian understood Mia had loved him chiefly for his function as a kindred dreamer, not him for him.

The fact is they did not reunite after that scene. More tellingly, they apparently severed relations completely after Mia left for Paris. Looking back from that fact, the friction that built up for Mia while Sebastian toured looks more like a sign that if Mia had left for Paris as Sebastian's girlfriend, the separation would have ended their relationship. If Sebastian had followed Mia to Paris instead of parting ways in LA, his insight from their fight that she valued him only as a fellow suffering artist might have been realized in a different way. If she evaluated their relationship according to the compatibility of their jazz and Hollywood dreams, then her dream changing shape with her success in Paris, while he continued to struggle with his dream, might have led her to break up with him. Or as Sebastian accused Mia in their argument, he might have resented her success. (I doubt it - Sebastian accepting Keith's job offer for Mia's sake and his song to her in the epilogue argue against the latter notion.)

A sign that the epilogue is an epitaph rather than a regretful what-might-have-been is that Mia's husband appears to be the same type as Greg, the boyfriend Mia left for Sebastian, the kind of nondescript steady provider Mia's mom wanted for her which had convinced Sebastian to agree to Keith's job offer. Moreover, Sebastian is similar to David as Mia's husband in the counter-factual vision, which implies that Sebastian as is was not Mia's type for a life partner, which further implies he was always a fleeting love affair for her. That piece of the counter-factual vision might also imply Sebastian was willing to become more like Greg or David for Mia's sake, like he had joined Keith's band for her sake - a change Mia might have accepted. Or not accepted, if Mia's love for Sebastian's dream did not synchronously evolve into the dyadic love depicted in his song.

Consistent with the movie's either/or premise, Mia leaving Sebastian taught him to re-prioritize his jazz club ambition. If their love for each other had been true, I still contend they should have achieved their dreams together. I don't uncritically accept the ambition versus love premise for their break-up; their love if true should have empowered their ambition with each other's muse and intimate support. The reason their relationship failed that I can identify with is that despite Sebastian's love for Mia was empowering and true, Mia's love for Sebastian was empowering but not true.

My cynical disillusioned percept is Sebastian's song in the epilogue is a beautiful dream of true dyadic love that was a fantasy only because Mia didn't love him for him. For Mia, Sebastian was not a love for all seasons but merely a passionate summer love affair between kindred dreamers striving and suffering for their art.



Well done, Damien Chazelle and Justin Hurwitz. Harvard isn't usually considered an elite film and music school, but apparently it's that, too.

La La Land is a loving tribute to movie musical history, purposefully thick with references that are readily recognizable to film buffs and an invitation for casual movie watchers like me to look back at the classics.

There's some debate whether the counter-factual vision in the epilogue comes from Sebastian, Mia, both of them, or neither of them - which is to say, the audience but not the characters share the vision. According to Chazelle, a core concept of La La Land is film's potential to tell a story with sound and image as an expansive musical language, particularly with movie musicals, that's not limited to words. Along that theme, I believe the vision is conveyed from Sebastian to Mia with their theme song consistently with the notion established earlier in the movie that true soulful music is a language that communicates beyond words. Sebastian plays their theme song to Mia at Seb's to show his love for her in the truest way he can. (Stretch that notion further and a fantastical explanation for Sebastian's marked similarity to David at the end of the vision is that while the vision started from Sebastian, by the end of their theme song at Seb's, he and Mia are both communicating the vision across their soul connection that was first established with their theme song at Lipton's.)

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have solid chemistry as an on-screen couple, which is the main qualification needed for the leads. Neither actor is conventionally handsome or pretty. Rather, they're both distinctive looking and attractive, which is a better combination. Their looks are relatable, and both actors know how to work their distinctive features for effect. In the triple-threat areas demanded by the musical format, Gosling and Stone acted well, as expected. Stone sang well enough to befit her lead role. Gosling more talk-sang than sing-talked. His singing slid along the border of pass/fail. They both danced competently and hit their marks like proficient actors who've been trained to dance for a role, technically adequate but markedly less than professional dancers. They're not worthy successors to Astaire and Rogers in that aspect, and La La Land would have been better if Gosling and Stone were expert singers and dancers, too. Nonetheless, the leads delivered well on the most important aspects, their acting and on-screen chemistry.

Like Ewan McGregor owned Christian in Moulin Rouge, it's hard to picture an actress other than Emma Stone as Mia. Ryan Gosling's performance is more akin to Nicole Kidman's Satine in that Gosling was capable as the other lead, but it's not hard to picture another actor playing Sebastian. Like McGregor sang much better than Kidman, Stone sang noticeably better than Gosling. To be fair, Gosling acted Sebastian better than Kidman acted Satine.

Will La La Land be a classic? Hard to say. Key parts of the movie, the opening scene and epilogue foremost, stand out as good and memorable enough for classic status. A core part of the movie's appeal, its purposeful call back to classic films, might also suppress its long-term status as a stand-alone film due to pegged comparative evaluation. If Gosling sang better and Gosling and Stone danced better, I'd compare La La Land's likely long-term status to Little Shop of Horrors. I'll compare La La land's long-term status to Moulin Rouge for now. I have to wait for some of its glitter to wear off and then watch La La Land again to test how well the movie holds up beyond its first impression.

Post-script notes from 2nd viewing:
- After Seb and Mia dance and she answers the call from Greg, Mia holds the fob to her chin again despite her earlier banter with Seb about it - she heeds him - and her car beeps.
- When Mia answers the call from Greg, the upward lilt in her voice evokes Mary's pitch and cadence answering Sam's phone call in It's a Wonderful Life. Both scenes depict the revelation of raw attraction between the central male and female characters.
- Mia had been seeing Greg for a month when Seb and Mia got together. She describes Greg as "sweet".
- The schedule for Mia's big break in Paris was rehearsal for 3 months and film shoot for 4 months.
- In the epilogue, Mia says she and David will see Natalie's "it" "back" in NYC and they "don't miss this" referring to the traffic jam, which implies Mia lives in NYC now. I guess she met her husband and daughter in a hotel (Chateau Marmont) room, not an apartment.
- The epilogue doesn't indicate at all what David does besides being a husband and father, but if they normally live in NYC, then he and their daughter traveled to LA with Mia, so maybe they are together all the time.
- La La Land's seasons are obviously a relationship arc metaphor. While we can guess-timate how much time passes from scene to scene, in terms of a timeframe, even besides the 5-year jump to the epilogue, the movie's sectional seasons are likely not close to 3-month seasonal blocks, except the beginning "winter" corresponds with the Christmas holiday season according to the decorations, play list, and dialogue at Lipton's. Otherwise, the weather, attire, background, and dialogue don't indicate annual seasonal changes in the rest of the movie.
- Mia definitely left Seb and Seb is definitely in love with her. Seb plays their song at the photo shoot. At the theater, he's desperate to catch up with her, tries to see her tomorrow at her place (presumably with her 3 roommates) when she says she's going home, and begs her to allow him to make it up to her for missing her one-woman show. Mia's "don't help me" seems to be blame for convincing her to put on her show, as opposed to anger at him over missing her show, their physical separation due to Keith's band, or their argument. She leaves him with "all of this" of her Hollywood dream.
-The subtext of their argument was he had modified his ambition to love her but she was unwilling to modify her ambition to love him, in that she wouldn't go away from her theater practice to visit him on the road. She bristled at his suggestion with the accusation he was compromising his dream, which he confirmed with an articulation of her fear. Going on the road with him represented compromising her dream, like he later didn't go with her to Paris.
-Why is Mia so nervous in the epilogue? In Casablanca, Ilsa's nervousness is understandable given how she left Rick in Paris. But Mia and Seb seemed to have an amicable parting at Griffith Park, so her Ilsa-like nervousness is unexplained. Seb's shaken reaction to seeing Mia in his club is understandable given he still loves her deeply.
-The movie seems more blocky in its story progression on a 2nd viewing with the multiple use of montages to move the plot from point to point. The portrayal of the deterioration of their relationship is more rushed and less developed than their attraction and coming together. The movie shows strain in their relationship, but not in a way that satisfactorily explains why they broke up. The soul connection of their song implies true love, but the portrayal of their break-up implies he loved her for her but she only loved him for his dream.
-Classic? My 2nd impression is no. I was less impressed with La La Land in my 2nd viewing. I still like the movie, but in contrast to, say, Grease, I don't feel enthused about seeing La La Land again. The opening scene is still impressive, but after that, the showpiece numbers are good, but they're not classic-level memorable. The pedestrian dancing of the two leads and Gosling's mediocre singing stood out more. The movie flags after Sebastian and Mia pair-bond at Griffith Observatory. The happy couple montage is charming, but the montage itself heralds the movie becoming more blocky with the story becoming more rushed and less developed the rest of the way.

Eric

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Friday, May 12, 2017

Thoughts of the day

Dan Hanegby died suddenly in a freak accident. He had an enviable life - beautiful successful wife, 2 young children, Brooklyn Heights home, affluent job - that was cut short randomly in its prime. Although an experienced bicyclist, he somehow was struck by a passing charter bus. Hanegby fell under the bus's rear wheels and was run over.

The butterfly effect lends to activist theory.

Dean Awn has stepped down.

Ohm Youngmisuk ESPN article, quoting from Randy Foye's podcast with Jeremy Lin, about the racism that Lin experienced as a Harvard basketball player. It makes me ashamed for not being stronger for my interpersonal competitive challenges. Learn, evolve, and be better. Mastery learning orientation.

I don't drink Gatorade, but the message of this commercial is correct: The "secret to victory" is failure, or more precisely, investing failure constructively to inform and fuel the mastery learning process by which victory is an effect.

Add simple machines to the list of basic man knowledge. It's important to understand the physical math of mechanical advantage as well as the theory.

Sal Licata and Pete McCarthy on the Sports Zone at WOR 710 AM are good on their own and good together as co-hosts. I was unhappy when the Mets left WFAN, but the dedicated Mets pre- and post-games at WOR are a better listen on WOR with McCarthy and sometimes Licata than their predecessor on WFAN.

Wow. WFAN morning show host Craig Carton was arrested this morning by the FBI on wire and securities fraud and related conspiracy charges for a fake concert-ticket resale Ponzi scheme, allegedly to pay off Carton's gambling debts. The SEC has filed parallel civil charges (copy, copy) against Carton and a partner. In a pitiful pretense, Carton texted his morning-show teammates last night and this morning that he was "under the weather" (Esiason), indicating he knew last night he was being arrested and may have arranged to be arrested at home rather than at work.

I'm a Mets fan, but I would rather have been a baseball New York Giants fan for their rich New York baseball roots and uniform design and colors.

The Sandman: Overture, a prequel to the series, is fine work by Neil Gaiman and his teammates.

La La Land (2016); Night of the Comet (1984); Collateral Beauty (2016); Passengers (2016); Batman: Gotham Knight (2008); Operation Chromite (2016); The Hateful Eight (2015); Flight 7500 (2016); Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016); Weiner (2016); The Lego Batman Movie (2017); Kubo and the Two Strings (2016); Kong: Skull Island (2017); Gattaca (1997); back 2/3 of Sing (2016); Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016); back 3/4 of xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017); back 6/7 of Logan (2017); Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016); Shattered Glass (2003); The Lost City of Z (2016); The Lost Village (2017).

I felt bad for Huma Abedin in Weiner. She comes across as a normal wife who sincerely wanted to encourage, support, and stand by her husband. Anthony Weiner was glib, selfish, and self-centered in the movie, but that may be normal for a political candidate of his then-stature. There is a hint from Weiner in the movie in the Rodney Dangerfield joking scene with Barbara Morgan in the cab that his wife was frigid, his friend-partner more than a lover. Weiner has a petty shameful habit, sexting, that he denies yet barely covers up ("Carlos Danger"), which has multiply blown up in public and been seized upon by the tabloid press due to his high-profile political life. It's unclear why Sydney Leathers chose to blow his cover and embrace the sordidness of it all. His wife and professional teammates trusted him, and his stigmatization tainted their efforts. The lowbrow scandal trapped his politically important, image-conscious wife in a squalid public indignity. As of May 2017, Weiner's petty shameful habit has made him a felon. There isn't an obvious indication in the movie Weiner would have been a bad mayor. Nor was he a bad Congressman. With his personal idiosyncrasies, he seemed like a typical politician who glad-hands and gaslights, but over-all, approached his official duties seriously. I don't believe he was ever accused of official misconduct as a Congressman. I can empathize with an otherwise talented man whose talents propel him onto professional, social stages where he's painfully felled by an enduring personal flaw. The movie also showed there's a blurry distinction and perhaps overlap between constructive intuition and instinct, and self-destructive impulsiveness. Campaign staffer Jessica Provenz fills some gaps in the movie narrative.

A political takeaway from Weiner is the overwhelming tide of a narrow-minded narrative judgement of a media gang-up. The movie shows seasoned politicians and their media handlers anxious, fearful, and defensive with the press, and continually warping their own plans and actions in reaction to the press. All considerations factor the press narrative, which takes precedent over integrity, fairness, actual truth, and what's ethically and morally right. The movie offers insight on elite political workings since Weiner's camp, including his wife, was drawn from top-line Democratic operatives from the Clinton faction.

I enjoyed Kong: Skull Island. It's not thoughtful fare, except I object to its anti-military ethos. Otherwise, the movie was tightly made and reined in a cohesive plot. Its grasp doesn't exceed its reach. A little scene at the end of the credits implies there'll be a sequel, which I hope to see. I was surprised to find out it's in the same series and universe as the worse, loosely made 2014 Godzilla.

I watched the animated Batman The Dark Knight Returns, part 2 (2013) and didn't remember I already watched it in 2014 with part 1 until I was reminded by my comments.

This year's Hudson Riverflicks, Big Hit Wednesdays (7/5-8/16) line-up is Moonlight, Keanu, Arrival, Lego Batman, Hidden Figures, La La Land, and Logan. The Hudson Riverflicks, Family Fridays (7/7-8/18) line-up is The Secret Life of Pets, Trolls, Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, Kubo and the Two Strings, Sing, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and The Karate Kid (1984).

Uncle Vanya's story of bitter disillusionment and economic reality over a hopeless aging speaks to me as red-pill personal and social truth, but it's diagnostic with no prescriptive cure for me. Its prescription as such is a beautiful and/or gentle wife, children, and family. Romantically idealized work (farm labor, teaching and helping the poor, medicine, reforestation, political activism, art criticism, academic scholarship, music) is shown to be a sop that's actually bereft of depth and personal fulfillment. Everyone except the doctor depends on Sonia and Uncle Vanya's economic toil yet they're desperately unhappy and the least appreciated and rewarded. It's revealed by Vanya that Sonia owns the farm when her father presumes to sell the property to serve his own comfort. In the play's commentary on the professor, Yelena, and Vanya's mother on one hand, and Waffles on the other hand, the political values of the play presage Communism.

3-day GI cycle - May24AM-27AM-30AM-Jun2AM-5AM-9AM-13AM-16PM-17PM(D)-21AM-24PM-27PM-29PM-Jul3AM(D)-6PM-7AM(D)-10?AM(D)-12?PM-13PM-16AM-19AM-20AM(D?)-25AM-29AM-Aug2AM-5AM-5PM(D)-8AM-11PM-13AM-18AM-19AM(D?)-22AM-26AM-28AM(D)-31AM-Sep4PM-7AM-9PM-13PM-15PM-17AM-19AM.

My stomach has hurt for a week, and it seems to be better now, but not completely. There's still some pulsing and welling of dull pain. Baking soda and water has helped at least as a temporary pain reliever. Drinking water and eating has provided shorter-lived relief. The prime suspect is a few spoons worth of uncooked brownie batter I impulsively ate ranger pudding-style, which I've suffered for doing before, because the eggs I used for the batter were older, thick, and cloudy. A 2nd suspect is some 3+ years old Premio hot sausage I took out of my freezer that taste off. Update: I don't believe it's the sausage. I've finished off the 6 pack of sausage, but while the flavor is still off and my stomach still isn't all right yet, my stomach has been gradually improving. I think the cause was diseased brownie batter.

My Toastmaster burner now heats up when it's plugged in and the switch is set at off or 0 degrees. I wonder whether the other temperature settings are off kilter, too. 21 0000 JUN17 RIP: The Toastmaster 6420 burner just died. It emitted loud clicks, then puffs of white acrid coppery-smelling (toxic?) smoke, then no more heat. For a while, the burner had stayed warm in the off position, but otherwise worked normally. I guess it was a sign that some part of the heating element, likely insulation, was breaking down. The Toastmaster was the workhorse in my kitchen for 3+ years. My general cooking devices are now down to my 2nd Salton rice cooker, bottom burner only Proctor-Silex toaster oven, George Foreman grill, and Sharp Carousel microwave.

Based on this review, I bought a Continental CE23309 single-burner hot plate for $10.88 including tax. I'm not certain yet it heats up below the MED setting, but it's worked MED and up. The Mirro fits better on the Continental than the Toastmaster because the Continental's heating element is smaller diameter. The review didn't say anything about durability. It's relatively cheap, but it's new, so I hope the burner lasts.

Chicken liver, usually $1.99 per pound, is flavorful, filling, and versatile to cook. I bought about 4.5 lbs on sale for $1.28/lb and I wish I bought more. It doesn't make tasty jus for canned pink salmon, though.

Chicken gizzards need to be boiled over an hour to be passably tender, otherwise eating it is like biting into chunks of hard rubber. They're not filling and don't taste like much, either.

Canned pink salmon, marinated in a tasty pork shoulder jus, spread with sour cream on bannock is tasty. The same salmon's flavor is lost when spread on bannock with mayonnaise.

One area store sells chicken liver for $1.79 per pound as the regular price, and I caved in and bought a $2.12 pack. Price per pound is the standard way to count cost, and that's how I've made purchasing decisions. Another, more suitable way to count cost is price per meal which is usually the same as price per day. (I usually eat 1 big meal a day and otherwise impulsively snack 1-3 times in a day with the snacks sometimes bordering on meal size.) For example, a usual sale price for chicken thigh is .99/lb, but I usually eat 2 chicken thighs for a meal, which together usually account for roughly a pound or 99 cents. Whereas $1.99/lb italian sausages and $1.79/lb chicken livers will work out to about 70 cents worth of amount (eg, 2 sausage links) consumed in a meal despite the higher dollar cost per pound. A $1.99 can of 14.75 oz pink salmon will usually be consumed over 1 proper meal and then 2-3 snacks over the next 2-3 days, usually half or more of the can consumed at the 1st sitting with rice, then the rest of the can more frugally portioned as a spread on bannock with sour cream or as an extra flavor besides another meat. A $1.25-1.50 can of mackerel will be consumed over 1 meal, maybe 2 meals. Of course, variety matters, so sticking to the most cost-efficient-per-meal meat is not a pleasant way to live.

Chicken breast, at $1.79-1.99 a pound on sale is one of the best-tasting meats I eat, but also the most expensive per meal, since it's not filling, so I'll eat a ~1-pound breast for 1 meal, maybe 1 meal + 1 snack.

Rich eating is canned salmon ($1.50), sweet sausage ($3.60), and chicken breast ($7.30) over 30Aug-05Sep.

A good deal is Sugardale Prestige shank-portion hickory-smoked ham for .99/lb. It normally costs $3.49/lb. Pros are the sale cost, the ham is fully cooked and ready to eat, thick smoke flavor, it tastes good with mayonnaise like regular ham, and it doesn't need to be frozen to prevent spoilage. I've kept the ham in the refrigerator for over a month, though the smell does turn some after a few weeks. Cons are its thick smoke flavor is artificial and leaves some icky after-feeling like processed food, it has a lot of fat, and heating reduces its flavor. In contrast, Cook's brand shank-portion hickory-smoked ham, with the same sale and regular price, is exceptionally flavorless, and remains flavorless whatever flavoring I add to it, but doesn't leave the same icky after-feeling. The Sugardale ham didn't leak any fluid while the Cook's ham leaked a good deal of fluid.

I brought a 10-pack of chicken legs on sale for .69/lb. I cooked 3 on my George Foreman grill, microwaved 2, baked 2 in my bottom burner-only toaster oven, and boiled 3 while making rice. The worst outcome was the George Foreman grill, where the meat was either overcooked dry or undercooked, plus hard to scrape off burned-on bits stuck to the cooking surface. Baking was okay; the meat was tender and the skin crisped but took too long to cook - over an hour. Microwaving and boiling with rice worked about the same - tender meat, no crispy skin.

I microwaved a 4.01 lb Springer whole chicken for about 40 minutes (or 10 minutes per pound) starting with 70% power, following these directions. When I checked the chicken at about 20 minutes, parts of the chicken still felt cool to the touch, which may be partly due to the chicken wasn't completely defrosted, so I raised the power to 80%. It worked. The meat was moist. I ate the chicken over 5 days. The downside of microwaving the chicken is I couldn't add ingredients for a chicken stew, like I can when I boil a chicken using the 3-quart mixing bowl or the Mirro deep pan.

Tasty sweet sausage: Cooked by boiling with rice, then browned in the bottom-only toaster oven at 400 degrees in the 1-quart mixing bowl for about 15 minutes. Better tasting: Boiled with rice, then browned by pan-frying in hot corn oil.

I've had three packs of different kinds of 4?-year-old Premio sausage in my freezer for which I paid 99 cents each. In addition, I had a pack I paid $1.99 that's maybe 3 years old. I was loath to eat the Premio sausage because I bought them on such a good deal. I've occasionally used slices mixed in scrambled eggs or on bannock pizza. I recently decided to cook whole sausages from the packs. The whole sausages tasted off. Some of it tasted gross, a mix of leached Styrofoam flavor, curdled spices, and stale meat, which possibly made my stomach sick (though I believe the culprit was more likely uncooked brownie batter with old clotted eggs). I finished off the $1.99 pack and one of the 99-cent packs, and half the 99-cent pack that's been open for slices. My discovery is that the old sausage tastes okay as slices mixed in scrambled eggs or on bannock pizza, but does not taste good eaten whole.

Green cabbage, which I've bought on sale for 49 to 59 cents per pound, is tasty and can be stored unrefrigerated for quite a long time, although it does eventually grow mold on cut portions.

The George Foreman grill bakes a decent bannock pizza when the front legs are propped up to un-tilt the grill and the lid is propped up so its held up off the bannock pizza.

I scavenged a box with a 3-ounce tin of Crown Prince naturally smoked oysters. I don't know what "naturally smoked" means, but the smoked flavor of the oysters is thick. The olive oil is also flavorful. The oyster texture is mealy, somewhat like canned salmon. The oysters are best eaten by breaking off bits and spread thin on bannock.

I scavenged a bag of Beigel brand individually plastic-wrapped whole wheat bread and white bread slices. There were no artificial ingredients in the ingredient list printed on the whole wheat bread wrapping. The white bread slices didn't have ingredients and nutrition info printed on their wrapping. One whole wheat slice had a mold patch inside the sealed bag so I scarfed down all the wrapped slices over 4 days. Every application with the whole wheat and white bread slices was worse eating than bannock except the white bread worked better for a peanut butter and grape jam snack.

Duncan Hines milk chocolate brownie tastes like a cheap hot chocolate or an artificial flavored creamer for coffee. Baking with strawberry and sour cream is tasty. It works a la mode with Avenue A rum raisin-flavored and coconut-flavored ice cream, which I bought on sale for $2 per 48-oz box. I previously bought a box of Avenue A cookies-and-cream-flavored ice cream on sale for $2.50, which tasted right but shouldn't be combined with brownie since the oreo cookie flavor is somewhat neutralized by the brownie flavor. The rum raisin and coconut flavors provide a good contrast with brownie.

Pillsbury chocolate fudge tastes more like a proper brownie. Interestingly, its listed ingredients are the same as Pillsbury dark chocolate (chocolate fudge has more sugar: 18g vs 17g per serving), yet they don't taste the same. I prefer the chocolate fudge flavor. The tag price on the box is 90 cents cheaper than Duncan Hines milk chocolate brownie mix, but I prefer the more proper brownie-tasting Pillsbury chocolate fudge. Pillsbury milk chocolate brownie tastes proper, too.

At the same 300 degrees in the bottom-burner-only toaster oven, the Pillsbury chocolate fudge batter was still mostly sludgy liquid after 10 minutes baked using the stainless steel 1-quart mixing bowl yet burnt at the bottom after 7 minutes baked on the aluminum tray. The best baking method is 5 minutes in the George Foreman grill.

Bannock dough can be boiled as dumplings. But brownie batter breaks down into barely tasted foam when dropped into boiling water.

The foil cover of a 6 oz mango 1% milkfat La Yogurt opened in the bag on my way home (I hope it opened in the bag and wasn't opened and poisoned before purchase), so I decided not to eat it from the container. Instead, I mixed about 2/3 into bannock dough with baking soda and some corn oil in the 1-qt mixing bowl. I added 3 or 4 sliced fresh strawberries with the remaining yogurt as filling in the pocket in the middle and baked it at about 370 degrees in the bottom-burner only toaster oven for 45 minutes. It baked acceptably. The bottom was burnt, but the sides and top were baked through and light brown. The strawberry-and-yogurt filling was nearly tasteless, so I added sour cream and Aunt Jemima pancake syrup for flavor. The yogurt-added bannock's texture was more interesting - soft like cornbread and a bit creamy - in contrast to the more biscuit-like crumbly and oily texture of mayonnaise or corn oil-added bannock and the more French bread-like drier water-only bannock.

A decadent dessert is milk chocolate brownie (with ginger chips and extra flour) + chunky peanut butter + grape jam + sour cream + coconut-flavored ice cream. Interestingly, the real dairy flavor of the real dairy sour cream helped offset the artificial taste of the much artificial ice cream. Omitted ingredients were ripe banana and Dole frozen sliced strawberry in sugar. Add: I added strawberries and banana. It was good, still decadent, but the strong tartness of the strawberry dominated more than worked with the other flavors.

Dole frozen sliced strawberries in sugar works well as a lone topping on a brownie because its tartness dominates rather than complements other flavors. The Dole frozen strawberries are significantly more tart than fresh strawberries.

Frozen whole-milk coconut La Yogurt is not an a-la-mode substitute for ice cream with brownie. It's different. It adds a mild yogurt flavor. Aunt Jemima artificial maple syrup adds an interesting flavor to brownie, but the syrup comes with an uncomfortable after-feeling.

Pillsbury chocolate fudge brownie with La Yogurt guava yogurt is interesting, tasty.

Junk food, either sweet (eg, chocolate candy cookies) or salty (eg, Doritos), is not a meal replacement. I can, and usually do eat an excess, but then I feel compelled to eat a real meal to make up for the queasy after feeling as the heavy sugar, salts, oils, chemicals, and other unhealthy ingredients are processed by my digestive system.

Nature's Garden (Cibo Vita) pitted dates are a tasty sweet natural snack. The older one gets, the more one gravitates to natural foods because the older body responds worse to junk food while natural foods process more comfortably.

I scavenged a Chef's Choice 460 kitchen knife sharpener. PDF instructions. Video instructions with the similar Chef's Choice 450. It worked to sharpen a Farberware 5-inch utility knife that I also scavenged. According to bushcraft knife videos, normal kitchen knives are made from soft steel, in contrast to the hard steel used to make knives designed for fieldwork. The trade-off is kitchen knives lose their edge quickly but they also can be sharpened quickly and easily.

Eric

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

VELCRO coins

I bought a 15 pack of 5/8-inch VELCRO coins priced at $1.97 for a total of $2.14 with tax. The alternative to the VELCRO was 3M Command hanging strips, which are more expensive.

I'm using the VELCRO coins to adhere hooks to my window frame as anchor points for a curtain line. The hooks I'm using didn't come with the VELCRO coins. They're from a pack of peel-and-stick plastic hanging hooks I bought for $1.40 at a 99¢ store for my 1st attempt to mount the curtain line on the window frame. The combined cost of the VELCRO coins and the 99¢ store hooks ($2.14 + $1.40) is about the same as the price for a pack of 3M Command hooks and hanging strips. Oh well.

The 99¢ store hooks failed to hold the curtain line. Their adhesion seemed firm enough when I stuck them onto my window frame and waited more than a day to load them, but the hooks fell off the window frame and dropped the curtain after less than a day.

For the left and right-end anchor points, I removed the used stick-on pads from 2 of the failed hooks; I stuck 4 VELCRO coins in a diamond pattern onto the left-hand hook; I stuck 5 VELCRO coins in a square box+1 pattern on the right-hand hook. The curtain line is 1.5-millimeter or 1/16-inch kernmantle accessory cord, probably 100-pound strength. The left end of the curtain line is tied to its anchor point with a Siberian hitch. The right end is tied to its anchor point with a taut-line hitch, which means the curtain line is tensioned from the right side. The kernmantle accessory cord stretches under load, so I stuck 2 hooks between the anchor points to help distribute the load, guide the pull more across the line rather than down, and reduce the curtain sag to an acceptable amount. Unlike the load-bearing anchor hooks, the interior support hooks should be able to stay stuck on the window frame with just their original stick-on pads.

The product description lists a shear strength of 14.0 (I assume pounds) per square inch (avg.) and a peel strength of 1.2 per square inch (avg.). However, VELCRO's "Hook 88/Loop 1000, with 72 Adhesive System" technical data sheet lists a shear strength of 12.0 PSI.

I'm most interested in the shear strength, rather than the peel or tension strength, because almost all the load on the hooks should pull across the tensioned curtain line. I figure the shear strength should be about 21.875 PSI ((2*5/8)2 * 14.0) or 18.75 PSI ((2*5/8)2 * 12.0) for each hook. I believe there is also a peeling load from the weight of the curtain pulling down on the curtain line and the curtain line is a 1/4-inch off the VELCRO coins due to the structure of the hooks.

When the curtain line is tensioned with the taut-line hitch on the right side, the left-hand hook slides right 2/16 inch and the right-hand hook slides left 3/16 inch along the hook and pile of the VELCRO coins. I offset the right-hand hook 3/16 inch to the right to compensate for the 3/16-inch slide left when the taut-line hitch is tensioned. The result of offsetting the hook and pile coins seems to be a better aligned, tighter fit between the pile coins on the right-hand hook and hook coins on the window frame after the right-hand hook slides. I didn't offset the left-hand hook 2/16 inch to the left to compensate for the slide right. The next time I loosen the curtain line, I'll offset the left-hand and right-hand hooks before I re-tension the curtain line. I don't believe the adhesive is creeping.

The application instructions on the package say the VELCRO coins are ready for use 15 minutes after they're peeled and stuck on. However, product websites recommend, "for 0172 adhesive, allow the full curing time of 24 hours before loading or cycling" and the pressure-sensitive pre-coat "achieves full bond strength in 24 hours". I loaded and cycled the square box on the right-hand hook at about 23 hours after peeling and sticking on the VELCRO coins. I only waited about 45 minutes to load and cycle the +1 5th coin which I added as an adjustment to the right-hand hook after initially loading and cycling the square box. I wonder whether I lost bond strength, especially in the +1 coin, because I didn't wait for the 0172 adhesive to cure for 24 hours before loading and cycling the VELCRO coins on the right-hand hook. I'm waiting a full 24 hours before I load and cycle the diamond on the left-hand hook.

The loops - or pile - easily shed from the VELCRO coins. I hope that doesn't indicate a defective product with a weaker than expected shear, peel, and tension strength or cycle life. The cashier said I can return the purchase within 90 days if I'm not satisfied even if the product is opened and used, which I'm not sure about because her assurance isn't the same as the store's printed return policy. If the VELCRO coins are holding up the curtain fine at the end of the return period, I'll call it good.

The origin of the VELCRO brand name is "[Inventor George d]e Mestral decided to name his revolutionary invention an amalgam of the French words “Velour” (velvet) and “Crochet” (hook) hence the name of the brand."

13MAY17 update: Failure. The first observed sign of failure was the right middle support hook popping off the window frame at night. The next observed sign of failure was infrequent mysterious single or double-staccato ripping sounds. The following day, with the ripping sounds becoming more frequent, I examined the curtain line. The left middle support hook was hanging loose with its adhesive back partially torn from the top. The left anchor hook was crooked on a left-up, right-down diagonal with the left side of the hook raised off the coins. The left anchor hook was barely connected to the right half of the top middle coin of the diamond and maybe still the right lower border of the diamond. I expected to find the hook and pile had disconnected, but was more disappointed to find the left anchor hook had torn loose from the adhesive. The coins were still connected firmly to each other and the window frame. Meanwhile, the right anchor hook with the square+1 coins appears to be working fine. I thought there would be greater strain on the right anchor hook since I tensioned the curtain line from the right side, but it was the left anchor hook that failed. About 1/5-1/4 of the later-added +1 coin protrudes from the left edge of the right anchor hook; I wonder if that has helped level the hook against the tension while perhaps the left anchor hook tipped over on its right edge and thus placed greater strain on the left side of the hook. The coin of the right tip of the diamond on the left anchor hook was placed on the edge of the hook, but it did not protrude from the hook. Another difference is on the right anchor hook, I placed the pile coins on the window frame and the hook coins on the right anchor hook. On the left anchor hook, I placed the pile coins on the left anchor hook and the hook coins on the window frame. I'm disappointed. Back to the drawing board.

Eric
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Large ALICE pack

I own a large ALICE (All-purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment) pack. User manual. More here.

It's not an ALICE pack I was issued as a soldier, but rather one I purchased on eBay for a schoolmate who was a Marines officer candidate having trouble with the ruck march portion of the qualification course. He stopped practicing with it because one of the shoulder straps would slide and lengthen under load due to insufficient grip by the blunt teeth on its adjustment buckle. After he returned the ALICE pack to me, I found out that when the adjustment buckle is squeezed into the strap, it grips enough for the shoulder strap to be usable. The shoulder strap will still gradually slide when the pack is under load and needs to be periodically tugged to shorten it, and if I were a soldier, I'd DX the ALICE pack. For a civilian, it works acceptably adequately.

I don't remember how much I paid for it. I believe I bought the cheapest complete large ALICE pack, which includes the frame, shoulder straps, and lower back strap, listed on eBay at the time because it was meant for my schoolmate to practice ruck marching, not for general use as a backpack. It's worn. ALICE packs are described as water resistant, not water proof, and soldiers are issued dry bags to use in their rucksacks. My ALICE pack hardly resists water at all. In a rain storm, it takes in water like it's made from cotton. The OD green paint on the frame has many chips exposing the aluminum. The rivets on the frame are loose, so the crossbars squeak and clack under load. One of the metal keepers on the top of the frame is bent. There's a roughly centimeter square hole on the top of the main flap and multiple patches spread over the pack. The tie down straps are frayed and thinned. The edges of the frame attachment webbing are frayed. The strap for the inner compartment and draw cords for the 2 side large outer packets are missing. There's a hole at the bottom of the inner compartment where the stitching is missing; the hole might have been made on purpose. Some stitching is also gone, likely worn away, on the edges of the large outer pockets. The envelope that fits the pack onto the frame is stretched and worn like the rest of the pack. The velcro on the main flap pocket is weakened. The snap is missing on one of the quick-release straps; it's secured with a piece of 550-cord sheath. But for all its wear and tear, the integrity of my ALICE pack is sound. It's a rugged piece of equipment.

The bottom of the main flap pocket is white mesh with traces of faded dark greenish coloration, which is different than the rubberized plastic at the bottom of the main flap pocket in the ALICE packs I used as a soldier. I wondered whether the plastic was stripped out or whether the ALICE pack I bought on eBay is real military surplus. Then I saw this video by a former USAF SERE instructor featuring a medium ALICE pack he's owned since 1986 as a 16-year-old. Its main flap pocket also has a white mesh bottom. I guess his medium ALICE pack was manufactured sometime between the mid 1970s and early 1980s while the ones I used in the Army were a later version. My ALICE pack looks like it could have weathered hard use for 20+ years before I bought it.

I added a handle fashioned from cobra-stitched 550-cord to the top of the frame tied on with plastic fishing line, replacement draw cords for the 2 side large outer packets fashioned from 1/16-inch kernmantle accessory cord tied with poacher's knots into compression knots, a replacement inner compartment strap using a plastic mesh sleeve that held garlic bulbs, a pair of used shoe insert pads to the shoulder side of the shoulder pads tied on with shoestring, and shims fashioned from egg carton styrofoam at the base of the vertical cross bar tied on with dental floss. Hopefully, the shims will solve the creaking and clacking from the vertical crossbar when the ALICE pack is under load due to the loose rivet at its base.

Mitch Mitchell from season one of Alone has an interesting series on youtube in which he modifies a new large ALICE pack by removing the 3 small pockets and then sewing on a large center pocket in their place that he removed from his old large ALICE pack. His series provides insight on how the ALICE pack is stitched together. His old large ALICE pack has a white mesh bottom in the lid, like mine, and the mesh also appears to have some faded dark coloration. He says the waterproofing has worn out from the lid. His ALICE pack took in water in a rainstorm like mine and he treated his ALICE pack with silicone.

Eric

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Operation Iraqi Freedom FAQ sets the record straight using the primary source authorities, i.e., the controlling law, policy, and precedent and determinative facts, to correct the conjecture, distorted context, and misinformation that have obfuscated the Iraq issue.

Eric

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Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Guest post: Defense attorney discusses the legal basis of Operation Iraqi Freedom

PREFACE: This post is by the author of retired blog, Between Worlds. He responds to the "legal analysis" in the Operation Iraqi Freedom FAQ with his thoughts on the legal basis for OIF, including discussion on the limitations of international law enforcement and insight from his experience as a defense attorney. Enjoy:



The legal analysis is about the same as my own, although I didn't research primary material. However, I seem to recall that even some mainstream media at the time published analyses that followed a similar line of thought as we have, namely, that Iraq's failure to abide by Resolution 1441, which itself laid down an ultimatum for Iraq's well-documented failure to abide by the resolutions ending hostilities in 1991, was the proximate legal authorization, which can even be seen as revoking the cessation of hostilities as laid out in the 1991 resolutions.

The discrepancy in the political discourse can be chalked up to exactly that: politics. And of course, differences in politics ultimately reflect differences in policy preferences and Weltanschauung--although the prominence of cults of personality, whether against or for a particular person, certainly figures into the discourse as well.

One interesting point you bring up in your blog is the question of burden of proof. My time as a defense attorney has added nuances to my internal discussion. Those who insist that the burden of proof is on the prosecution tend to see international relations as an extension of domestic criminal law, and are uncomfortable with the power of the US to act as law enforcement and judge/jury. I imagine that, from their point of view, those who do the accusing have the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Of course, international relations are nothing like domestic institutions: there are no official legislative, executive and judicial institutions with the power to bind individual states.

Legislative: while statutory international law, in the form of treaties, have a certain binding effect (which the US observes in the breach, by refusing to ratify treaties that may obligate the federal government to legislate in fields where it is not empowered to do so), customary international law does not, other than the fact of its observance--it foists expectations on all nations, and individual states keep count as to who is living up to expectations, and who is not. Yet ultimately, the reality of international relations boils down to the willingness of the powerful to be bound by rules set by the weak. The US, despite its many transgressions, has been extraordinarily willingly to defer to such rules, whereas others, such as Russia, China and even France, tend more aggressively to pursue their national interests, narrowly writ.

Executive: how many divisions does the UN Secretary General have? One of the primary responsibilities of the executive is to send men with guns to enforce the law. The UN has peacekeepers, but they are ad hoc groups assembled for each crisis. There is no global policeman, notwithstanding the longstanding characterization of the US as such. The other primary responsibility is to enforce the law by prosecuting criminal actions against transgressors. The UN does not have its own prosecutors. Uniquely, in international law, prosecution takes place in one of a few international courts, such as the ICJ and the ICC, or in national courts of states that self-proclaim universal jurisdiction, such as Belgium.

Judicial: despite the existence of bodies such as the ICJ and the ICC, many states are not signatories, and may properly refuse to accept their jurisdictions--unless there's something in it for them. The US is not a signatory to the ICC due to fears that its soldiers may become subjects of prosecution brought by various entities. (This may not ultimately be due to lack of confidence in the ICC so much as a desire to maintain the jurisdiction of the UCMJ.) A counterexample is when Serbia ultimately accepted jurisdiction of the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal when it became clear that Milosevic's days were numbered, and the EU would not extend more carrots without such acceptance.

In short, international law simply doesn't work like domestic criminal law. While international law has become more predictable over the years, the fact remains that a recalcitrant state may make an unpredictable move with little if any objection; see, e.g., Russian actions against Georgia and Ukraine, and the Saudi-Iranian proxy war in Yemen.

Even if international law could be shoehorned into the strictures of domestic criminal law, the analogies proffered by those who opposed the war are mistaken. The 2003 US invasion of Iraq is not a fresh encounter between an officer of the law and a criminal suspect analogous to officer-involved shooting incidents that have come to light in the news (Ferguson, Baltimore, Chicago, etc.). Rather, Iraq was the beneficiary of a suspended sentence handed down by the UN for Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Iraq was essentially haled into court via the Iraq War. The cessation of hostilities was a plea-bargain, where Iraq was placed on probation in exchange for cessation of military hostilities and non-occupation of Iraq. In California, at least, probation is often subject to terms and conditions, which in the case of the end of the 1990-91 Gulf War, were that the Iraqi state had to account for and eliminate all its WMDs and subject certain parts of its territory to no-fly zones. A parallel to California drug laws may be in the form of drug classes (account for and eliminate WMDs) and random searches and drug testing (no fly zones). Continued failure by the Iraqi state to adhere to these terms and conditions meant that the Coalition was not obligated to refrain from renewing hostilities and occupying Iraq. In essence, Resolution 1441 was a "court order" that extended probation and clarified the possible consequences of failure to meet the terms and conditions.

One potential infirmity is that probation is supposed to be for a set term of time. I doubt that the original Gulf War resolutions set a time beyond which WMD inspections would no longer be conducted--meaning that the "probation" was indefinite. Nevertheless, Resolution 1441, as I understand it, cures that infirmity by extending the term of probation--which in California, judges have the power to do when a convict has been found in violation of his probation. The burden of proof in violations cases is probable cause, which is even lower than preponderance of the evidence, a civil court formula awarding victory to the producer of "50%+1" of the evidence. Further, all that was necessary for the "prosecution" to show was that Iraq had failed to cooperate with weapons inspectors; it was not necessary for the "prosecution" to prove that Iraq did have WMDs.

Sorry for the long analysis, but you caught me with a little free time on my hands, so there you go. Feel free to use the material, but please don't use my real name if you do want to use the material. And of course, send me a link if you do use the material.



Reference: International Criminal Court information page related to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Note the decision for OIF is outside ICC's jurisdiction.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Explaining the grounds for Operation Iraqi Freedom to a law professor

PREFACE: I responded to University of Utah law professor Chibli Mallat's misrepresentation of the grounds for OIF in his 09NOV15 The Guardian article, Ahmed Chalabi was right that Saddam Hussein had to be removed. Professor Mallat's e-mails in the exchange are omitted.



from: Eric
to: [Professor Mallat]
date: Sat, Nov 21, 2015 at 4:09 PM
subject: Your November 9 article in The Guardian misrepresents the grounds for Operation Iraqi Freedom

Professor Mallat,

Thank you for the reminder of Mr. Chalabi's worthy motivation to free Iraq and the just cause of deposing Saddam's regime.

At the same time, I would like to address your misrepresentation of the grounds for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), in particular that "WMD was the only common platform they could find" and the suggestion that a human-rights basis for the Iraqi regime change was rejected.

Relating a meeting you had with Bush officials in 2002, you state, "the path to war was set. WMD was the only common platform they could find within the administration". In other words, you suggest that the casus belli for OIF was formulated ad hoc in 2002. That suggestion is incorrect.

The reason the WMD issue was given the priority of place in the case against Saddam is the disarmament standard prescribed by UNSCR 687 (1991) was the principal condition of the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441) mandated for the Gulf War ceasefire. The casus belli for OIF, i.e., Iraq’s material breach of the Gulf War ceasefire, was established long before George W. Bush was elected President of the United States - indeed, years before Ahmed Chalabi gave his lecture to Winep in the mid-1990s.

The priority conformed to the policy. The grounds for the Iraq intervention were not “the only common platform they could find within the administration”. Rather, they were "the only common platform" prescribed in the law and policy of the Gulf War ceasefire that was handed down to the Bush administration from the HW Bush and Clinton administrations.

Neither UN Security Council resolution 1441 (2002) nor Public Law 107-243 (2002) was novel. The 2002 documents reiterated the UN-mandated "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" and the US law and policy enforcing the UNSCR 660-series resolutions since 1990-1991. The additions in the 2002 documents were updates and enhancements to standing terms, not novel terms.

Although you recommended a worthy new approach for confronting Saddam in 2002, the Bush administration carried forward the standing basis for enforcing the Gulf War ceasefire that had been established since 1990-1991.

As such, the principal trigger for OIF was the March 2003 UNMOVIC report of "about 100 unresolved disarmament issues" in violation of UNSCRs 687 (1991) and 1441 (2002), which followed the precedent of the UNSCOM report that triggered Operation Desert Fox in December 1998.

I recommend this explanation of the law and policy, fact basis for Operation Iraqi Freedom drawn from the primary sources of the mission:
http://learning-curve.blogspot.com/2014/05/operation-iraqi-freedom-faq.html[.]

You also suggest in the article that a human-rights basis for the Iraqi regime change was rejected by the Bush administration. That suggestion is also incorrect.

In fact, President Bush exercised a robust humanitarian policy on Iraq, which was carried forward from President[s] HW Bush and Clinton’s humanitarian policy on Iraq.

The evidence for your contention is your recommendation for a new "security council resolution based on the human rights record of the Iraqi dictatorship and the need to remove it, plus a security council plan to promote democracy through the deployment of human rights monitors" was turned down in 2002.

Again, the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" for the Gulf War ceasefire was established before 2002. In fact, the UN mandates already included a cornerstone humanitarian component: UNSCR 688 (1991). UNSCR 688 was recalled in UNSCR 1441.

The simplest reason that the disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687 were given the priority of place over the humanitarian mandates of UNSCR 688 is UNSCR 687 is a Chapter VII resolution. UNSCR 688 is not a Chapter VII resolution and, thus, is subject to Article 2 Paragraph 7 of the Charter. (Note: The US controversially justified invasive enforcement measures for UNSCR 688, such as the northern safe zones and no-fly zones, by claiming UNSCR 688 was enforceable under UNSCR 678 (1990), which is a Chapter VII resolution.)

Most significantly, your proposal called directly for Iraqi regime change, which contradicted the operative enforcement framework for the Gulf War ceasefire. The relevant UNSCRs for Iraq - from the original 660 to 1441's "final opportunity to comply" - provided the opportunity for Saddam to prove compliance in order to switch off enforcement. None of the resolutions, including UNSCR 688, called directly for Iraqi regime change. Under the operative enforcement framework, an enforcement response such as OIF was predicated on confirmation of Iraq's noncompliance such as the March 2003 UNMOVIC report of "about 100 unresolved disarmament issues".

That being said, distinct from the UN resolutions for Iraq, the humanitarian mandates were valued on par with the disarmament mandates in US law and policy. That meant that while the UN enforcement procedure prioritized the disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687 for the casus belli, the US also prioritized the humanitarian mandates of UNSCR 688, which was reflected in President Bush's approach to the Iraqi regime change and the subsequent UNSC resolutions for the peace operations.

I recommend this selection of[from] the law and policy for the humanitarian grounds for OIF: http://learning-curve.blogspot.com/2013/03/10-year-anniversary-start-Operation-Iraqi-Freedom-thoughts.html#unscr688[.]

I hope my explanation has helped you to better understand the grounds for Operation Iraqi Freedom and the response by Bush officials to your worthy recommendations in 2002.

Eric

---------------

from: Eric
to: [Professor Mallat]
date: Tue, Nov 24, 2015 at 2:29 PM
subject: Re: Your November 9 article in The Guardian misrepresents the grounds for Operation Iraqi Freedom

Professor Mallat,

Thank you for your attention to this issue. It's important, most of all for legal scholars, to set the record straight on the 'why' of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

If you were a proponent of the material breach argument in 1998, then President Bush followed your guidance in 2002-2003, to wit, "Resolution 1441 gave Iraq one last chance, one last chance to come into compliance or to face serious consequences" (Powell, 06[05]FEB03) and "The Security Council resolutions will be enforced -- the just demands of peace and security will be met -- or action will be unavoidable" (Bush, 12SEP02).

The view that "the war is being considered illegal, since WMD were found not to be in Iraq, officialy, by the Bush-appointed investigation" may be a popular one, but it is demonstrably incorrect on the law and the facts.

On the law, the assertion that "the war is being considered illegal" is incorrect according to the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" (UNSCR 1441). UNMOVIC, not the post-war Iraq Survey Group, provided the determinative fact finding that triggered enforcement. The ISG investigation is post hoc to the decision point for OIF and thus irrelevant to the casus belli for OIF.

According to the law that controlled the operative enforcement framework - i.e., the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" mandated by UNSCR 1441 and enforced under Public Law 107-243 - the UNMOVIC inspections mandated by UNSCR 1441 confirmed that in "[Iraq's] final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations ... Iraq [has been and] remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions, including resolution 687 ... Recalling that in its resolution 687 (1991) the Council declared that a ceasefire would be based on acceptance by Iraq of the provisions of that resolution, including the obligations on Iraq contained therein" (UNSCR 1441).

The casus belli for OIF was established by the UNMOVIC report ("Unresolved Disarmament Issues Iraq’s Proscribed Weapons Programmes") that was conveyed to the Security Council on March 7, 2003 with the finding of "about 100 unresolved disarmament issues" in violation of UNSCR 687. The UNMOVIC findings are dispositive according to the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" for disarmament.

On the facts, the assertion that "WMD were found not to be in Iraq" is incorrect according to - again - the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" for disarmament. The Iraq Survey Group corroborated UNMOVIC's confirmation that Iraq was in violation of UNSCR 687 for casus belli. To wit, on January 28, 2004, David Kay, who preceded Charles Duelfer as head of the Iraq Survey Group, reported to the Senate Armed Services Committee:
"In my judgment, based on the work that has been done to this point of the Iraq Survey Group, and in fact, that I reported to you in October, Iraq was in clear violation of the terms of [U.N.] Resolution 1441. Resolution 1441 required that Iraq report all of its activities -- one last chance to come clean about what it had. We have discovered hundreds of cases, based on both documents, physical evidence and the testimony of Iraqis, of activities that were prohibited under the initial U.N. Resolution 687 and that should have been reported under 1441, with Iraqi testimony that not only did they not tell the U.N. about this, they were instructed not to do it and they hid material."
In fact, the ISG findings are rife with disarmament violations, e.g., "the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) maintained throughout 1991 to 2003 a set of undeclared covert laboratories" and "From 1999 until he was deposed in April 2003, Saddam’s conventional weapons and WMD-related procurement programs steadily grew in scale, variety, and efficiency". In other words, ISG found an active program in the IIS that was proscribed under UNSCR 687. You would know better than I about the notoriety of the IIS for its principal role in Saddam's WMD program, terrorist network (which was also a violation of UNSCR 687), and abuse of the Iraqi people.

The political sleight-of-hand behind the popular view that "the war is being considered illegal, since WMD were found not to be in Iraq" is the misdirection from the actual legal-factual basis of the casus belli for OIF - i.e., Iraq's evident[ial] noncompliance with the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" - to focus inappositely on the predictive precision of the pre-war intelligence. However, the pre-war intelligence did not set the "governing standard of Iraqi compliance" nor was it a legal element of the casus belli for OIF.

On the substance, Saddam was evident[ial]ly guilty of material breach across the board of the Gulf War ceasefire, especially the disarmament mandates of UNSCR 687, terrorism mandates of UNSCR 687, and humanitarian mandates of UNSCR 688. The real argument that OIF is illegal is not substantive, but rather based on the longstanding procedural dispute in the Security Council over the decision authority for enforcement with Iraq. The procedural dispute over OIF was the same Security Council procedural dispute over the no-fly zones and Operation Desert Fox.

I unpack this issue with greater depth in my answers to "Did Bush lie his way to war with Iraq?" [and] "Was Operation Iraqi Freedom legal?", starting at http://learning-curve.blogspot.com/2014/05/operation-iraqi-freedom-faq.html#didBushlie .

Okay. That's enough for one e-mail, Professor. I look forward to further unpacking the legal controversy over the decision for OIF if you'd like. As I said, it's important to set the record straight on the 'why' of OIF. Meanwhile, I recommend again that you review my OIF FAQ explanation of the law and policy, fact basis of the decision for OIF drawn from the primary sources of the mission.

I'll finish this e-mail with an observation: again, there wasn't a new and distinct "Republican platform" formulated in 2002.

Review the Clinton administration's enforcement record with Iraq. President Clinton, not President Bush, is actually the best source for understanding the 'why' of OIF. Bush's case against Saddam was really Clinton's case against Saddam, updated from 9/11. Likewise, Bush's enforcement procedure with OIF carried forward Clinton's enforcement procedure for Iraq, updated from Operation Desert Fox, the penultimate military enforcement step.

In that regard, the position in your November 9 article that the Bush administration dropped the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-338) is incorrect. PL 105-338 was raised in the preamble of the 2002 AUMF (Public Law 107-243). More significantly, in the operative portion of the 2002 AUMF, section 7 of PL 105-338 was raised in section 4 of PL 107-243.

As I said, the 2002 documents were not novel. UNSCR 1441 and PL 107-243 reiterated the standing terms of the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement. The reason that section 7 rather than section 3 of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 was raised in the operative portion of 2002 AUMF is President Bush pointedly did not call for direct Iraqi regime change, contrary to your impression from your 2002 meetings. The controlling law and policy are clear that Iraqi regime change would be triggered by confirmation of Iraq's material breach of the Gulf War ceasefire.

That being said, after 12 years of Saddam's intransigence, your impression from your 2002 meetings follows that few US (and UN) officials realistically expected Saddam would reverse course by proving the "full and immediate compliance by Iraq without conditions or restrictions with its obligations under resolution 687 (1991) and other relevant resolutions" mandated by UNSCR 1441. Nevertheless, President Bush made sure that Saddam was provided a full "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441) in order to switch off enforcement. Unfortunately, Saddam, as expected, responded to his "final opportunity to comply" with "about 100 unresolved disarmament issues" (UNMOVIC) in violation of UNSCR 687, which triggered the credible threat of regime change and then section 7 of PL 105-338 via section 4 of PL 107-243.

Eric

---------------

from: Eric
to: [Professor Mallat]
date: Tue, Dec 1, 2015 at 4:14 PM
subject: Re: Your November 9 article in The Guardian misrepresents the grounds for Operation Iraqi Freedom

Professor Mallat,

I'm hoping you will. [Note: I am responding to the remark, "You should consider writing a book about this."]

By showing you my work with the primary sources it's based on, I'm hoping to inspire you to invest your personage in setting the record straight on the why of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) for policy makers and the public.
[...]
In your November 9 article, you expressed that deposing Saddam's terrorist regime was right from a human-rights perspective (albeit you've evidently misunderstood the operative enforcement framework, including the humanitarian grounds, for the Iraq intervention). As a human-rights advocate, I trust you to understand why it's critical to de-stigmatize OIF in order to re-normalize the paradigm of 'strong horse' American leadership of the free world that manifested with OIF.

Excerpt from the answer to "Was Operation Iraqi Freedom a strategic blunder or a strategic victory?":
"Misinformation and mischaracterization have distorted the public's understanding of the context, stakes, and achievements of the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement that President Bush carried forward from President Clinton and the groundbreaking peace operations by the US military in post-Saddam Iraq. The corrupted public perception of the Iraq mission has enabled President Obama's elementary, catastrophic errors, undermined the enforcement of international norms, and curtailed the further development of peace operations."
In other words, there currently is a taboo bolted onto the 'strong horse' type of American leadership needed to enforce liberal standards in less-than-permissive situations like Saddam's Iraq. The taboo is premised on a stigma derived from demonstrably false premises about OIF, such as "the war is being considered illegal, since WMD were found not to be in Iraq". If you wish to break the taboo and free America to lead liberally again like we led against Saddam's terrorist regime, then it's critical for you to set the record straight on OIF at the premise level of the zeitgeist.

Eric


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