----- 4 stars -----
The Mysterious Lawyer X / California Sunday Magazine
Nicola Gobbo defended Melbourne’s most notorious criminals at the height of a gangland war. They didn’t know she had a secret. [...] In a legal community featuring few prominent women attorneys, particularly defense barristers, Gobbo stood out by default. As her defense practice moved up the hierarchy of Melbourne’s underworld, she increasingly became a subject of the same press that greeted her clients outside the courtroom. By early 2002, that included Mokbel, who hired her while in jail on cocaine and amphetamine charges to advocate for his bail. In a clever legal maneuver, Gobbo convinced the judge that an ongoing corruption scandal in the police drug squad meant that Mokbel’s prosecution should be shelved. With his release on an AUD $1 million bond — complete with a provision allowing him to travel to Queensland for a lavish beach vacation — Gobbo’s public profile began to explode. She appeared in the city’s gossip pages, spotted wearing a sling after a gym accident, or on vacation buying rounds at the Hard Rock Cafe in Bali. She was also earning a reputation among both clients and cops as a formidable advocate. [...] Purana had arrested Williams in November 2003, after listening devices installed in his house captured him threatening a detective named Stuart Bateson, who’d been assigned to investigate him, and Bateson’s girlfriend. Gobbo appeared in court for Williams the following day, complaining that her client had been deprived of food, his antidepressants, and a change of clothing. His legal team then argued successfully for bail on the basis that the threats were a joke — Williams knew his house was bugged, they pointed out. Five days after Williams walked free, Gobbo showed up as a guest of honor at a lavish $150,000 christening he threw for his daughter at Melbourne’s Crown Casino. She was photographed in a low-cut cocktail dress standing between Williams and Benji Veniamin, the three of them beaming like old friends. She then took the stage alongside Williams and delivered a speech. “I’ve been asked to make a special thank-you that Carl could be with us tonight,” she said, and offered a mock toast to “the boys at Purana and, especially, Stuart Bateson.” By then, Gobbo’s gangland stature had earned her her own profile in the Herald Sun, headlined “Million-dollar eagle flies high.” “A formidable presence in impossibly short skirts, the blonde, blue-eyed barrister is fast becoming a legal celebrity,” the paper proclaimed. As often happened, even amid Gobbo’s colleagues, her legal prowess was downplayed in favor of stereotypes and snide asides. “But the niece of former governor Sir James Gobbo is described by a sibling as a one-person Salvation Army,” the paper added. “She spends time at weekends visiting clients in prison or on remand. However, she has managed to rile some of those in the police force who pay professionally when she succeeds.”
The Future of America’s Contest with China / New Yorker
Excellent and very thorough reporting, and interesting to read alongside another recent four-star link, Fareed Zakaria's piece in Foreign Affairs:
From the balcony, Xi presided over fifteen thousand goose-stepping troops and phalanxes of tanks and jets—five hundred and eighty pieces of equipment in all. For nearly a century, the U.S. has been the dominant military power in the Pacific, as it has in much of the world. Xi sees this as an unacceptable intrusion. “It is for the people of Asia to run the affairs of Asia, solve the problems of Asia, and uphold the security of Asia,” he has said. To achieve that, China has strengthened its military to the point that Pentagon analysts believe it could defeat U.S. forces in a confrontation along its borders. The most anticipated moment of the day was the début of a state-of-the-art missile called the Dongfeng-41, which can travel at twenty-five times the speed of sound toward targets more than nine thousand miles away, farther than anything comparable in the American arsenal. Watching the missile roll by, Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a nationalistic state newspaper, tweeted, “No need to fear it. Just respect it and respect China.” Hu, a seasoned provocateur, added a sly jab at the travails of democracy: above a picture of the missile, he wrote that China was just fine forgoing the “good stuff” of electoral democracy on display in “Haiti, Libya, Iraq and Ukraine.” [...] I lived in Beijing for eight years, starting in 2005. For the past six years, I have lived in Washington, D.C. This fall, I went back and forth between the two capitals, to gauge what lies ahead for a relationship that is more dangerously unstable than it has been since 1972, when Richard Nixon clasped Mao’s hand in Beijing, setting the course for China’s opening to the world. I talked to those who forged the relationship, and those who would remake it—in politics, business, security, entertainment, and technology—and found them startled by the depth of the rupture and the speed with which it has grown. “The relationship is in free fall,” a senior White House official told me. Deng Yuwen, a former top editor of a Communist Party journal who now lives in the United States, told me that when he talks to officials in Beijing they spare him the bluster. “They are very, very worried that the relationship will continue to deteriorate, that the economic impact will hurt people’s confidence and further growth, that it could have effects beyond their grasp,” he said.
----- 3 stars -----
The Art of Dying / New Yorker
Reflections on an interesting life:
Lung cancer, rampant. No surprise. I’ve smoked since I was sixteen, behind the high-school football bleachers in Northfield, Minnesota. I used to fear the embarrassment of dying youngish, letting people natter sagely, “He smoked, you know.” But at seventy-seven I’m into the actuarial zone. I know about ending a dependency. I’m an alcoholic twenty-seven years sober. Drink was destroying my life. Tobacco only shortens it, with the best parts over anyway. [...] A random shame: I was visited in New York by P., a soft-souled, brilliant friend from high school and college, a concert pianist. High on speed, I was arrogant and callous, watching the effects on P. with cold-blooded detachment. Finally, he said in a hurt tone, “I always thought you had a modesty about you. But not so.” I could have said something, admitted my drugged state, made amends the next day. But a devil in me exulted. Years later, a scene occurred that might work well in a novel set in the early seventies, in case you’re writing one. I was seeing a terrific artist, H., at least as prone to defiance as I was. I saw that P. was giving a concert. I asked H., my not-really, because she was so independent, girlfriend to attend with me. She got the message, which was not fully conscious but true: besides wanting to make up with P., I relished the prospect of showing her off. Usually downtown casual, she showed up in heels, a stunning dress, diamonds or what looked like them, and a mink coat. After the terrific music, especially Liszt, we joined P. and some other people in champagne toasts. P. facilitated introductions by asking the men—only the men—to say what they did. H. let that develop for about half a minute and detonated, “Let’s start this over! Let’s play What do the women do?” The company gawked. She was magnificent! With a flourish, she left the theatre. I tagged along moments later, stricken. Out on the street, she was gone. I limped home. I saw her only in passing after that. I didn’t try again to reconcile with P. The shock of feminism came none too soon for guys, including me, who had lorded in a sixties bohemia that mandated women be doting helpmeets to their entitled—because genius—men. Those domesticities went down like a row of dominoes at the first breath of female revolt. With no new model for relationships, libertinage reigned. I guess it was fun for some people, but it piled up emotional wreckage left and right. The art scene was always a third or more gay—often the best third. My chief poet heroes were Frank O’Hara and John Ashbery. John complained to me that he had thought that with success he’d have his pick from a meat rack of young poets. “How come you’re all straight?”—stretching out the last word to sound like something nasty going through a mangle.
Her Sorority Sisters Suspected She Was Pregnant. What Did Emile Weaver Know? / Elle
Before they found the body behind their sorority house, four Delta Gamma Theta sisters went out for ice cream. It was a chilly Wednesday night in late April, but they’d just lost a debate competition, and visiting the Dairy Duchess meant avoiding homework a little bit longer. They were still finishing their cones a few minutes from Muskingum University’s New Concord, Ohio, campus when the conversation turned to their sorority sister Emile. Rumors she was pregnant had been swirling for months. From the back seat, Emile’s roommate Jess* mentioned that Emile had been sick all day. She looked skinnier when the two went for dinner; the bathroom was a mess. Maybe she’d miscarried, someone suggested. Then a different idea surfaced. But if Emile had actually given birth, where was the baby? [...] While public perception of killing a newborn has shifted over the centuries, it still occurs, albeit at much lower rates. In 1970, U.S. forensic psychiatrist Phillip J. Resnick, MD, argued that when a parent kills his or her baby in the 24-hour window after birth, the act is markedly different from deaths that occur at subsequent points in the child’s life. Neonaticides, as he termed them, are almost exclusively carried out by mothers, and unlike those who kill their children later, these women are much less likely to be psychotic or severely depressed. Instead, as continuing research shows, they tend to be young, lacking in social support, ill-equipped to cope with a pregnancy, and driven by a toxic combination of fear and shame. They almost always give birth alone, having spent the previous nine months unable or unwilling to accept their pregnancies.
----- 2 stars -----
Pedro Martinez Pitched the Greatest Season Ever. Then He Did It Again. / YouTube (Baseball Bits)
Even if you're not into baseball, you will probably enjoy the storytelling in this video:
Pedro Martinez 1999 and Pedro Martinez 2000 are two examples of the best pitching season of all time. Bob Gibson 1968 is commonly brought up, but in this episode of Baseball Bits, a Foolish Baseball production, I suggest that perhaps Pedro Martinez Red Sox star pitched the MLB best season ever.
‘You’re a bunch of dopes and babies’: Inside Trump’s stunning tirade against generals / Washington Post
Mattis wasn’t trying to convince the president of anything, only to explain and provide facts. Now things were devolving quickly. The general tried to calmly explain to the president that he was not quite right. The NATO allies didn’t owe the United States back rent, he said. The truth was more complicated. NATO had a nonbinding goal that members should pay at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on their defenses. Only five of the countries currently met that goal, but it wasn’t as if they were shorting the United States on the bill. [...] Trump then repeated a threat he’d made countless times before. He wanted out of the Iran nuclear deal that President Obama had struck in 2015, which called for Iran to reduce its uranium stockpile and cut its nuclear program. “It’s the worst deal in history!” Trump declared. “Well, actually . . .,” Tillerson interjected. “I don’t want to hear it,” Trump said, cutting off the secretary of state before he could explain some of the benefits of the agreement. “They’re cheating. They’re building. We’re getting out of it. I keep telling you, I keep giving you time, and you keep delaying me. I want out of it.” Before they could debate the Iran deal, Trump erupted to revive another frequent complaint: the war in Afghanistan, which was now America’s longest war. He demanded an explanation for why the United States hadn’t won in Afghanistan yet, now 16 years after the nation began fighting there in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Trump unleashed his disdain, calling Afghanistan a “loser war.” That phrase hung in the air and disgusted not only the military leaders at the table but also the men and women in uniform sitting along the back wall behind their principals. They all were sworn to obey their commander in chief’s commands, and here he was calling the war they had been fighting a loser war. “You’re all losers,” Trump said. “You don’t know how to win anymore.”
An Introduction to Rope: Construction and Materials / Art of Manliness
You can do a lot with rope. Tie stuff down; pull stuff out; hoist things up. Without rope, humans wouldn’t have been able to sail across the globe, climb the tallest mountains, or build epic monuments and skyscrapers. It wouldn’t be too far fetched to say that rope made civilization possible. Yet despite the profound impact rope has had on humanity, and the use you’ve likely gotten out of it personally in the mundanities of your own life, you probably know very little about these mighty functional cords. What’s rope made of? How’s it made? When would I want to use one kind of rope over another? Below we rope the answers to these questions.
How Do Rice Cookers Know How Long To Cook Rice? There's A Simple, Brilliant Trick Behind It / Digg
We've never really questioned how our rice cookers know when to turn off — turns out, there's a clever mechanism at work.
The economic policy of Elizabeth Warren / Marginal Revolution
At the risk of stirring the pot a bit by stepping more directly into politics than I usually do, I'm genuinely interested in your perspectives if you disagree; I've been troubled by Warren's economic positions for some time, finding them ideological but not particularly well-founded:
Jerry Taylor has made some positive noises about her on Twitter lately, as had Will Wilkinson in earlier times. I genuinely do not see the appeal here, not even for Democrats. Let’s do a quick survey of some of her core views.
----- 1 star -----
Danny MacAskill Joins the Gym / Kottke
In a video that pokes a little bit of fun at the stationary cycling of Soulcycle and Peloton, trials rider Danny MacAskill joins the gym and practices his own unique brand of bicycle fitness. Stick around until the end to see some bloopers and some more stunts that didn’t make the cut.
Which countries love Trump the most and least? / BBC
Unlike Mr Trump, the US remains favourable in the eyes of the world, generally speaking, Pew found. "Favourable opinion of the US declined dramatically when Trump took office and remains significantly lower than during the Obama era," Pew reported. But in the last year, there have been some increases in favourable views of the US, which Pew says "may be driven at least in part by increased favourability among supporters of right-wing populist groups in some nations".
The First and Last Time Mister Rogers Sang “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” on TV / Kottke
Including special shows, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood ran for 912 episodes and at the beginning of each one, Rogers sang “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” while putting his sweater on and changing his shoes. In the video above, you can compare his rendition of the song from the first episode (February 19, 1968) and the final episode (August 31, 2001).
Too much transparency makes the world more opaque / Marginal Revolution
Kathleen Kingsbury of the NYTimes editorial page is proudly announcing that instead of following their historic practice of talking with the candidates off-the-record and then announcing an endorsement they will be utterly “transparent.” [...] What an awful idea, sure to neuter whatever influence the NYTimes might once have had. Here’s the problem. Under the off-the-record system a candidate could sit down with some smart people and say things like “look, I know tariffs won’t help but the WTO will knock them down anyway and I need to appeal to my base.” Or, “taxes on billionaires won’t raise enough to fund everything I want but to raise taxes on the middle class we need the middle class to know that everyone is going to pay their fair share.” Or “Our troops are demoralized and the plan isn’t working.” If everything is recorded, none of this can happen. Indeed, what possible value-added can the NYTimes make with a “transparent,” “public” process? Everything that will be said, has been said. In contrast, a non-transparent, off-the-record process can reveal new information because less transparent can be more honest.
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