April 6, 2019

At the Saturday Night Cafe...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"I have never had a reaction like this before. It’s been insane. And heartwarming. But now..."

"... I have to make sure the second season is even better so I’ll probably have to work much harder than usual. Annoying really," said Ricky Gervais, about the renewal of his TV show "After Life," reported at Variety.
The show centers around Tony (Gervais), a middle-aged journalist whose “perfect life” has been reduced to dust since his wife died of cancer. After contemplating taking his own life, he decides instead to live long enough to punish the world by saying and doing whatever he likes from now on. He thinks it’s like a Super Power, but eventually finds out life is more complicated, when everyone around him tries to save the nice guy they used to know.

"At the end of the day, it’s all those little mundane interactions that actually save your life — they’re the variety of life, they stop you from feeling too sorry for yourself. He’s got to take the dog for a walk, he’s got to go to work to make money to get drunk, and after all that, time heals,” Gervais explained to Variety in an interview.
I've watched 4 episodes, and it has my recommendation. It's beautifully filmed in a distinctive small city in South West England. It is a dramatic comedy about living again after your loved one has died. There's also quite a bit about the subtle pain of working on a little newspaper that reports inanely uplifting stories about local people, like the man pleased with the water stain on his wall that looks like Kenneth Branagh.

"The Alkonost is, according to Russian mythos and folklore, a woman-headed bird."

"It makes amazingly beautiful sounds, and those who hear these sounds forget everything they know and want nothing more ever again. She lives in the underworld with her counterpart the sirin. The alkonost lays her eggs on a beach and then rolls them into the sea. When the alkonost's eggs hatch, a thunderstorm sets in and the sea becomes so rough that it becomes impossible to traverse."

I'm reading the Wikipedia, "Alkonost," because I'm looking "Sirin und Alkonost"/"Birds of Joy and Sorrow," another painting by Victor Vasnetsov, whom I've taken an interest in lately:

The note says the one on the left is the Alkonost. I infer that the one on the right is the Sirin. From the Wikipedia article "Sirin":
These half-women half-birds are directly based on the Greek myths and later folklore about sirens....  Men who heard them would forget everything on earth, follow them, and ultimately die. People would attempt to save themselves from Sirins by shooting cannons, ringing bells and making other loud noises to scare the bird off. Later (17-18th century), the image of Sirins changed and they started to symbolize world harmony (as they live near paradise). People in those times believed only happy people could hear a Sirin, while only very few could see one because she is as fast and difficult to catch as human happiness. She symbolizes eternal joy and heavenly happiness....

Sometimes Sirins are seen as a metaphor for God's word going into the soul of a man. Sometimes they are seen as a metaphor of heretics tempting the weak. 

"It is as if a meteor, of the sort that killed off the dinosaurs, has struck — and the hole keeps deepening."

"They’re going down 37 feet, 11 ½ inches, every bit of it through Manhattan’s famously stubborn schist. Recently they hit quartz, which may become the subterranean floors and stairs. The finished mansion will feature an underground theater and a recording studio, a Jacuzzi and a sauna, free-floating elliptical stairs (whatever that might be) and a wall of sculpture depicting trees, animals and birds of the jungle. But to neighbors whose lives have been upended over the past year — by the noise, and vibrations, and fumes, and dust, and traffic, and wires, and Port-a-Potties, and rats — another accouterment captures the spirit of the place.... It’s as if stone that sat intact and undisturbed for millenniums beneath what would eventually become Manhattan is shrieking, 'And all this for … a swimming pool?'... ... Gabrielle Fink, a 36-year-old violinist, reluctantly moved out...  But many others, especially longtime residents like Nick Jordan, a professor of philosophy at Queens College, can’t just up and leave. For one thing, he’s 80 years old. He has lived at No. 51 since 1971...  '"Noise" isn’t strong enough,” he said of the din, by which he must now read exegeses and grade exams. '"Mindless hell and chaos" would be better.' I asked him whether any of the great philosophers had something useful to say on what he’s enduring. 'Schopenhauer argued that the higher your tolerance for noise, the lower your intelligence,' he replied. So was he getting stupider?..."

From "That Noise? The Rich Neighbors Digging a Basement Pool in Their $100 Million Brownstone" (NYT). Excellent photos of the beleaguered neighbors at the link. There's also description of "block organizers" who want to "find a way to make sure this never happens to anybody again," but "napped as the project won approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Department of Buildings." I hate these cries for new law from people who don't use the law that's already there.

And, here, you can read Schopenhauer's "On Noise." Excerpt:
The superabundant display of vitality, which takes the form of knocking, hammering, and tumbling things about, has proved a daily torment to me all my life long. There are people, it is true — nay, a great many people — who smile at such things, because they are not sensitive to noise; but they are just the very people who are also not sensitive to argument, or thought, or poetry, or art, in a word, to any kind of intellectual influence. The reason of it is that the tissue of their brains is of a very rough and coarse quality. On the other hand, noise is a torture to intellectual people....

Was that this past week or every other week of Trump's presidency (as reported in MSM headlines)?

I clicked on "Donald Trump's week of utter chaos sends a message" (CNN) solely because it sounded like idiocy to me.

This wasn't the usual chaos, I suppose. Now, it's UTTER!!! chaos. Yawn.

The writer is CNN Political Analyst Julian Zelizer. He begins:
Many political observers are struggling to figure out what the President's game plan is for 2020, and no wonder: This week was hard to believe....
Just because you can't figure out what someone is doing behind the scenes and inside his head doesn't mean there's chaos. It might mean you don't know or you can't understand.

Is this just another column on how Trump talked about health care when he could have just kept talking about the Mueller report? That's a pretty dull topic. Zelizer has a couple other things — Trump for no apparent reason said his father was born in Germany and Trump — for reasons I discussed here* — said some people think wind turbines might cause cancer.

Ah, but Zelizer does give Trump some credit:
The President intends to use his mastery of the media cycle to totally control the agenda throughout the next two years....  At some level there is a logic to such a plan.
Method to the madness.
After all, Democrats are on strong ground when it comes to a large number of policies.... But if they get drowned out by coverage of Trump, that's better for the President.... Trump will do everything possible to keep Democrats out of the media other than in the light he wants to paint them. As he has done since day one in the Oval Office, Trump will continually blitz the nation with controversy, inanity, outrage and fierce polemical attacks so that in each minute of the day reporters, producers, editors, bloggers and tweeters can't resist offering some kind of response.
Which is, in turn, what the media do to him.
Trump's chaos will make the media playing field rough for Democrats. They will need to figure out a way to cut through the President's noise and to steal attention away from the shiny object that is the President of the United States.
Orange man shiny.

It's also said that Trump will get respite from media attacks because the media will have to put out a lot of material about the Democratic Party candidates. But they might be too dull. America needs a shiny object.


* You can see my ideas about why Trump said "They say the [wind turbine] noise causes cancer" in the poll I put up — click to enlarge and clarify — which produced these results:
I thought of an additional reason later and put it in the comments: "To create a bond with the kind of people who have fears and resistance to what experts say about science."

This post makes me think of another reason: To trick the media into talking about something other than the policies Democrats want to forefront.

"You think you’re woke but you’re sleepwalking through a nightmare" — slogan for the Time to Get Organized for an Actual Revolution National Tour.

"I’m with the Time to Get Organized for an Actual Revolution National Tour. We’re touring all across the country to organize thousands into the ranks of the revolution," said "a teenage-looking boy" in the "Free Speech Zone" near a Trump fundraiser in Beverly Hills.

Quoted in "'No Celebrities': Embarrassing Turnout at Trump’s Beverly Hills Fundraiser" in The Daily Beast.

I wonder, who was embarrassed? Was it the people at The Daily Beast imagining that Trump ought to be embarrassed? He doesn't seem like a guy who gets embarrassed. Especially about the lack of "celebrities." Isn't it embarrassing that Democratic Party candidates get all the celebrities?

Here's an article from late November 2016 in Vanity Fair, "Did Celebrity Endorsements Contribute to Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Upset?/The divide in celebrity endorsements between candidates was as large as ever in the 2016 presidential election—and the candidate with the most lost":
The gulf between celebrity endorsements on the Democratic versus Republican side is stark during every election, but this year, the rift seemed infinite. Hillary Clinton had Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and even Lebron James. #ImWithHer hashtags decorated social output from Ariana Grande, Jennifer Lopez, the Kardashians, and Rihanna, as well as YouTube stars like Tyler Oakley. Clinton carried far and away the majority of celebrity seals of approval....

Many of the celebrity P.S.A.s this year leaned into the idea that no one wants to hear about politics from a Grammy/Oscar/Emmy winner. Lena Dunham’s parody of the earnest P.S.A., “Sensual Pantsuit Anthem,” tried to promote Hillary Clinton and voting through an attempted self-aware rap....

[Trump] removes middleman when it comes to endorsements. Instead of the transitive property of Katy Perry (“I’m a Katy Perry fan; Katy Perry is a Hillary Clinton fan; I’m a Hillary Clinton fan"), there’s the much simpler “I’m a Trump fan” equation, for better or worse.
Trump is his own celebrity. Is that better or worse than having other people to be your celebrities? Please, before answering, watch this video, which came out a few days before the 2016 election.

And come on, let's talk about what's embarrassing!

You think you’re woke but you’re sleepwalking through a nightmare...

ADDED: When the system tries to bring you down, listen to this, which was the actual soundtrack to this post, here at Meadhouse:

Saturday morning, getting started.

That first post of the day — "The Deep Rot Exposed By the Biden Flap" — made me create a new tag — "Pajamas."

Then I was off into the archive, looking for old posts that could use the tag, a task bogged down by all the appearances of "Pajamas Media," which, of course, doesn't get the tag. It even has its own tag. So does Pajama Boy. Pajama Boy! I had a tag for Pajama Boy, but not pajamas.

"Pajamas" is a great tag, by the way. Some good miscellany collected there, including my infamous episode with the subliminal pajamas in Hillary Clinton's attack on Obama. John Lennon shows up. And Hugh Hefner. There's Trump in the Treaty Room. There's JFK (who put on pajamas to take his afternoon nap). There's Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) — remember that pajama flap? There's Osama Bin Laden, shot to death because he wasn't naked. There's Rex Reed's reaction to the Manson murders. There's me in 1958. There's Marilyn Monroe.

Anyway... if you're wondering why this morning's blog session seemed to end with the gaze into deep rot, it was just me, scanning the archives for pajamas.

Now, out of pajamas, out of the past, onward to today and the relentless forward motion of the blog.

"The Deep Rot Exposed By the Biden Flap."

A funny headline in the Wall Street Journal. It makes me picture Joe Biden in drop-seat pajamas:
I hope you appreciate my stunningly non-creepy illustration of drop-seat pajamas (from Disney's "Peter Pan"). Now, just picture Joe Biden, with the flap open, and the deep rot exposed.

The opinion column in the WSJ is by its editor at large Gerard Baker.
What troubles me isn't simply this particular obsession with the former vice president's odd olfactory habits or what he does with his hands. It is what this baffling discussion says about the quality of what passes for debate now, the issues that seem to dominate that debate and the way that debate is conducted....

This obsessive puritanism is merely one symptom of the malaise in our public discourse, which runs deep and wide. It also lies...
What also lies? Oh, the malaise!
... in the trivialization of serious political issues; the willful mischaracterization of one another's views; the seething mutual contempt for an opposing voice; the rancor that suffuses discussion of even the least consequential of topics; the wild conspiracy-theorizing on both left and right as they seek to characterize each other's positions in the most poisonous way imaginable....
Baker has a degree in philosophy, politics and economics from Corpus Christi College, Oxford University. That prose made me look up his background. Especially "the rancor that suffuses discussion." This is civility bullshit, but oh, what bullshit! Is it properly called passive when the abstractions that replace the human subject are so active? "Rancor" isn't just there, it's suffusing. "Contempt" is seething. "Malaise" is running and lying.
All of this speaks to the triumph today not of reason -- the defining characteristic of the Enlightenment values that made America great -- but of emotion.
The old reason/emotion distinction. A favorite of blog commenters everywhere, so get on it.
Pundits, media companies and politicians have discovered that it is emotion, not reason, that wins votes and pulls in eyeballs. It's fun and lucrative while it lasts, but the Greeks and Romans can tell you precisely what it does to a civilization in the long run.

Because this, in the end, is what undoes great civilizations.
Make America Great Again. This obsession with greatness is as emotional as everything else. There's a gesture at erudition with a mere mention of the Enlightenment, the Greeks, and the Romans. But what has that got to do with thinking Joe Biden, because of his ample displays of sexless physical affection, should not be President? The reason/emotion distinction isn't too helpful, since what we're trying to "reason" about is how voters will feel about the super-feely Biden. Oh! But Rome fell!!!
Defeat on the battlefield overseas or destructive revolution at home only comes when the rot within is so advanced that the seemingly robust institutional structures have been fatally undermined. The condition of public discourse today is absolutely the kind of rot with that sort of potential.
Those are the last 2 sentences — conclusory and absolutely unsupported. I used the word "absolutely" because he did. I think it's a very silly word. So is "rot." Baker never demonstrated that the effort to take down Biden is "rot." And he didn't show that it was "malaise" or "obsessive puritanism."

If you want to write about elevating the discourse, elevate the discourse.

For now, my tag remains, as ever, "civility bullshit."

April 5, 2019

At the Tsarevnas Café...

... you can linger all night.

The painting is "The Tsarevnas of the Underground Kingdom" by Victor Vasnetsov, whose "Unsmiling Tsarevna" we saw in the "Three Types of Boredom" post earlier today. The "Underground Kingdom" is a Russian folk tale you can read here.

No need to discuss the painting or the tale. This is meant as an open conversation on any topic. I just named the café after the Tsarevnas.

And do consider supporting this blog by using the Althouse Portal to Amazon

"People soon get tired of things that aren’t boring, but not of what is boring."

From "Kafka on the Shore" by Haruki Murakami:
I keep on listening to the sonata.

“What do you think? Kind of boring?” he asks.

“Kind of,” I admit.

“You can appreciate Schubert if you train yourself. I was the same way when I first listened to him—it bored me silly. It’s only natural for someone your age. In time you’ll appreciate it. People soon get tired of things that aren’t boring, but not of what is boring. Go figure. For me, I might have the leisure to be bored, but not to grow tired of something. Most people can’t distinguish between the two.”

"There are three types of boredom, all of which involve problems of engagement of attention."

"These include times when we are prevented from engaging in wanted activity, when we are forced to engage in unwanted activity, or when we are simply unable for no apparent reason to maintain engagement in any activity or spectacle. Boredom proneness is a tendency to experience boredom of all types. This is typically assessed by the Boredom Proneness Scale.... People ranked low on a boredom-proneness scale were found to have better performance in a wide variety of aspects of their lives, including career, education, and autonomy.... Some recent studies have suggested that boredom may have some positive effects. A low-stimulus environment may lead to increased creativity and may set the stage for a 'eureka moment.'"

From the Wikipedia article "Boredom."

Here's an article on the supposed positive effects of boredom.

Here you can test where you go on the Boredom Proneness Scale. I came out as not likely to be bored, but I believe I have a strong power of boredom. This makes sense, because I avoid or extract myself from situations that bore me, and it's easy for me to be interested in the things I'm doing when I've maximized my ability to do what interests me.

The Wikipedia article is funny — in part because it's boring and in part because it has illustrations of various people (and one cat) being bored. This is my favorite:

That's "The Unsmiling Tsarevna" by Viktor Vasnetsov.

I guess I'm supposed to stop pretending.

Maybe this is the beginning of the end of Trump derangement syndrome.
Those who are coming to terms with the wrongness of their belief in the Russia collusion may take refuge in the idea that the other side is delusional.

ADDED: One way to deal with the collapse of the big Russia hoax is to switch to all the many things, the "multiple fronts." I only looked at the headline. I just don't believe Greg Sargent's scattershot approach is anything but an attempt to recover from the devastating loss of the fantasy that the President of the United States is in some elaborate, nefarious collusion with Russia.

But I'll read the Sargent piece so you don't have to. The "multiple fronts" on which Trump is "floundering" are: 1. Trump's attempt to make health-care reform a central issue for the GOP, 2. Trump's threat to close the border with Mexico unless Mexico helps with illegal immigration, 3. Oh... I think that's it. Hm. 2 things. I don't think you should say "multiple" unless you've got at least 3.

Sargent concludes: "Trump is floundering around disastrously on multiple fronts. We need to see what’s right at the end of our noses." It is right at the end of our nose, and it stinks, like a rotten flounder.


Evanescent art.

Via "A race against time': the beach artist whose sand murals quickly disappear/Andres Amador makes large-scale, impermanent artworks on the beach in California/The California tide soon washes away work by Andres Amador – but for the artist, that is part of the point" in The Guardian.
“It is a race against time,” he says while assembling his tools, and there is little time to waste. The tide that is retreating as he begins will soon regain its ground, sweeping over his work just moments after it is created. But, that is after all, part of the point.

“People have a hard time with this feeling of impermanence, of doing something that seems like it has no real purpose – which really is all art on some level,” he says, explaining that he tries to play the part of a contrarian. “But I am fully bought into the idea that there’s a much bigger thing occurring and the art plays a much bigger role than humanity, or at least our society, gives it credit for.”

I will read one and only one of articles on the "Popular in Slate" list, which I think stands on it's own as something worth reading.

I'll update soon with something about the one I want to read.

ADDED: The article I chose — could you guess? — was "It’s Time for the Heroic Male Paleontologist Trope to Go Extinct" by Riley Black (subheadline: "The New Yorker’s story on the day the dinosaurs died brings up more questions than it answers, but it does make the staleness of this genre clear").
Under the sweltering desert sun, a man painstakingly scrapes away at ancient stone. A weathered fedora offers what passes for shade in these harsh conditions. With each carefully controlled scratch, a lost world comes into view—a time of monsters never before seen, the strata seeming to glow with potential.

This isn’t a scene from the next Indiana Jones film; it’s the kind of breathless prose novelist Douglas Preston employs in his latest New Yorker feature hyping a controversial fossil site that slammed onto social media last week like the asteroid that closed the Cretaceous. It also happens to be exactly the kind of scruffy, macho, lone-scientist stereotype legend that needs to go extinct....

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with a little Indiana Jones cosplay... It’d be one thing if the rogue-heroic-scientist-makes-amazing-discovery storyline was one of many types of tales of how we make progress in this field. But it’s the only one we ever seem to get with paleontology, and in this case, the hype just doesn’t match the published results. The claims that made the New Yorker story so popular and shareable are not all included in the paper out this week....

This shouldn’t be how science, or science journalism, works.... 
IN THE COMMENTS: William said:
I think the writer is conflating archeologists with paleontologists. An easy mistake for the uninformed to make, but nonetheless a mistake. You will remember from Bringing Up Baby how Cary Grant wore glasses and was quite reserved and proper in his behavior. Likewise with Ross in Friends. Typical paleontologists. There's very little toxic masculinity among paleontologists.....
That's right! The 2 most well-known paleontologists in American popular media are Cary Grant in "Bringing Up Baby" and Ross in "Friends." Both are nerdy and inhibited.

"I have heard that she was nasty to me, but she should be. Look what I did to her sons."

Said Donald Trump about Barbara Bush, quoted in The Washington Times.

"They boost motivation to do the boring."

"Therefore, there is no healthy explanation for using [ADHD stimulant medications] for a social event. None. If you’re too tired to make it to that opening take a nap, not a pill. If the event seems insufferably boring then don’t go; stop accumulating soporific social obligations. Go read a book or ta[ke] a walk or visit with someone you actually do want to see. But taking speed so you can participate in a social event, whether it’s crystal meth or Adderall, is a warning sign of a serious problem developing."

From "Adderall In The Workplace: 7 Warning Signs You've Crossed The Line And Need Help" (Forbes).

Imagine wanting to set aside your power of boredom! That's dangerous. I wonder how many people I've been around in my life who were using a drug that gave them a drive to go on and on at what was boring. It would explain those awful meetings, which got longer and longer and duller and duller over the years. So bad for us who have kept our power of boredom intact.

Of course, there are many explanations for boringness, but I'm disturbed by the notion that non-boring people would take Adderall so they can put up with boring people and in doing so become boring too and become part of the reason more people take Adderall so they can keep up with the boredom.

"U.S. Adds 196,000 Jobs in March; Unemployment at 3.8%/After a lackluster performance in February, the job market bounced back in March."

The NYT reports the good news, albeit without mentioning Trump.

"I’ve covered the Justice Department for three decades, and seldom have I seen a story like the one published in the New York Times this week..."

"... under the headline, 'Some on Mueller's Team Say Report Was More Damaging Than Barr Revealed.' What concerned me most is that the story’s anonymous allegations reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the role prosecutors play, including special counsels such as Robert Mueller. The job of prosecutors is not, as the Times headline suggested, to pen 'damaging' narratives about people they couldn’t indict. And it’s not their job to air those people’s dirty laundry, or that of suspects outside of a grand jury room or a courtroom....  The federal justice system created grand juries so that evidence that was embarrassing or damaging to defendants could be weighed behind closed doors but never released if it did not rise to the level of provable criminality. The Justice Department rules threaten any law enforcement officer or prosecutor with prosecution if they leak any proceeding that occurred before a grand jury. And the Justice Department rules governing grand juries unequivocally talk about the sanctity of protecting citizens who end up not being charged.... What’s most ironic about this Mueller probe leak is that it comes less than a year after former FBI Director James Comey was admonished publicly for holding a news conference to criticize Hillary Clinton for how she handled classified emails based on the results of an investigation that resulted in no criminal charges...."

From "Note to Team Mueller: If you don't indict, you can't incite" by John Solomon (at The Hill).

"As women, we become conditioned to men encroaching on our personal space, and so we brush it off."

"That’s what I did at the Oscars — I silenced the voice that whispered that my discomfort mattered. Biden was in a position of power — the second-most-powerful person in the country, to be precise — and his presence was drawing attention to the problem of sexual harm. He has done important work to address sexual violence over the years. I didn’t want to discredit it then. I don’t want to discredit it now. But it’s precisely because he has been active on this for so long that he should have realized much earlier that he could be making women uncomfortable and that, given his powerful position, women could be holding back from expressing those feelings. Of course, no one likes to admit having done something wrong. Accountability is hard work. It takes maturity, emotional intelligence, moral clarity and courage...."

From "A photo of me and Joe Biden went viral. I want him to take ownership for his actions" by Sofie Karasek (WaPo).

The photograph has Biden bowing his forehead into hers and clasping her upraised hands. He's speaking. It looks like Biden is deeply empathizing with her. I've come to think that Biden believes that he has gift of compassion that can be conferred nonverbally and that is extraordinarily valuable, something like the laying on of hands.

Karasek says people have said to her "It looks like he's about to kiss you," but I don't think it does.

There are over 2,000 comments on the WaPo piece. The highest-rated one is:
There's nothing happening here that's not obvious to everyone but this woman. He's being compassionate and offering sympathy and she's obviously accepting it gratefully. These absurd attacks on Biden have to stop.
Second highest:
Enough with this Biden violated my personal space nonsense. Stop trying to make him into some kind of predator. This is craziness.
ADDED: Men also become conditioned to men encroaching on their personal space. Here's a famous example:

"Yes adderall is passed around D.C. like candy, and many of your favorite journalists also do meth."

I have no idea whether this is true, but I will just say that I would not watch a newsperson or commentator on TV if I knew they were on such drugs. And I do have an aversion to the TV news and news commentary shows. Perhaps those 2 things fit together. I would read an article even if I knew the person used meth or adderall. You're not staring at a human face. You're not hearing the human voice. You're looking at words, and it's a subtler thing, the way drugs get into the words.

Anyway, I wonder how much of the intensity and anxiety in the TV newspeople can be understood as symptomatic of drug use. When I do watch some news TV (almost always because I'm with someone else), I study and comment upon the faces, some of which have an insane and weird expression. From a summary of symptoms of chronic abuse of Adderall:
Chronic abuse is marked by severe rash, insomnia, irritability and personality changes. The most severe symptom of abuse is psychosis, which is often clinically indistinguishable from schizophrenia, according to the FDA. Toxic symptoms from taking an overdose of Adderall can come at low doses. Initial signs of an overdose include restlessness, tremor, confusion, hallucinations and panic, the FDA says. After this central stimulation, the patient will undergo fatigue, depression, and often cardiovascular and gastrointestinal symptoms....
Irritability, restlessness, hallucinations, panic.... Where do you see that on TV news commentary? Whether these people are jacking themselves up with drugs or not, it's a bad idea to fill your evening staring into these anxious faces and hearing their intense chatter. I was watching one of those shows yesterday — I won't say which one — and they were talking about the possibility that Attorney General Barr misrepresented what is in the Barr report. There was loud, fast talking; darting, over-wide eyes; and hand gestures so big that I paused the show and exclaimed that it looked like a wild late-night party. It's screwy to be sitting, relaxed and passive in your lounge chair, and letting these weird humans have their way with your mind.

April 4, 2019

At the Hard Swim Café...


... it's not your fault.

Why are there so many videos about minimalism?

And why are they so long and complicated?

I'm talking about unwatchable bilge like this and this.

"Of course, this makes MacKenzie far richer than Trump, so he will doubtlessly start tweeting mean things about her."

"That'd be hurting Donnie... a woman 36 times more billionairess than he is."

"Eat your envy, Donald. Separately, they’re net worth is more than yours."

"Hey, Donald...MacKinseys settlement is at least sixteen times your net worth. Have a nice day."

Those are 4 different commenters at "Jeff Bezos, in divorce settlement, retains 75 percent of the Amazon stock he held with his now ex-wife MacKenzie/MacKenzie Bezos’s stake will be worth roughly $36 billion, making her one of the wealthiest women in the world" (WaPo).

Ridiculous bullshit.

You can do this, Joe!

"Brunei's interpretation of Islamic law now imposes death by stoning as a punishment for sex between men and adultery, as well as amputation of limbs for theft."

"Lesbian sex can carry a penalty of up to 10 years in jail, the BBC reports... The new laws stipulate the death penalty for offenses such as rape, adultery and the defamation of the Prophet Muhammad, though the death penalty was already on the books in Brunei and the country has not carried out an execution since 1957....  Ellen DeGeneres, George Clooney and other high-profile celebrities have called for a boycott of Brunei-owned hotels in protest of these additions to the penal code. Brunei Investment Agency, a government-owned corporation founded by 72-year-old Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, owns luxury hotels across the U.S., U.K. and Europe, including both the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, The Dorchester in London and Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan....  Brunei released a statement on Saturday defending the laws, saying the penal code criminalizes and deters acts against the teaching of Islam and 'aims to educate, respect and protect the legitimate rights of all individuals, society or nationality of any faiths and race.'"

From "Death By Stoning Among Punishments In New Brunei Anti-LGBT, Criminal Laws" (NPR).

There's a phrase, "legitimate rights."

"You see, my parents decided that they were going to approach my adoption as if they were completely colorblind..."

"... despite the fact that we are not the same race. My brother was also adopted from Colombia, but we were both told that we were Italian and Portuguese, just like our adoptive parents. Your parents’ word is gold when you’re a child; at least that’s the best explanation I have for how my parents successfully passed me off as a dark-skinned Italian for 19 years of my life. Of course, during those years I asked them time and again. 'Mom, why is my skin darker?' or 'Why wasn’t I born in America?'... As an adopted child, I lost my birth parents, but because of my parents’ actions, I also lost my country, my language and my culture. I didn’t talk to them for a long time. I grieved. I raged. I went to therapy. I harbored a lot of resentment for my parents, who I blamed for depriving me of my culture. When you bring a child of a different race into a home, it’s hard to face certain realities. My white parents decided to teach colorblindness to try to protect themselves and me from racism in the world. But, instead, it taught me that my ethnicity was something to be ashamed of. It was something to be hidden."

From "My Adoptive Parents Hid My Racial Identity From Me For 19 Years" by Melissa Guida-Richards (HuffPo).

"Last year Biden told some college students that if only he and Trump were in high school together, 'I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.'"

"At the time, I wrote a column about the inadvisability of advocating an assault on the president, even in the past tense. And the next day Biden called up to say thanks 'for showing me what a jerk I was.' See, this is the reason people keep saying they love Joe Biden. Right before they say they hope he doesn’t run for president."

Writes Gail Collins in "The Biden Sort-Of Lovefest" (NYT).

The second-highest-ranked comment:
Not sure who you are talking to, but being a female of a certain age with friends all over the country in their 50s 60s and 70s, we to a person want Joe to run. We are outraged at the political hit that's being perpetrated by opponents and see it clearly for what it is. We've all taken a deep interest in politics over the years and have a good grasp of issues and are immune to shiny objects waved in front of us. We want to beat Trump. This does not mean that if a better candidate emerges at some point we would not change our minds. But we need Joe to run.
It is a political hit.

I'm not a Joe Biden fan. I thought he was loathsome in the 2012 VP debate with Paul Ryan (live-blogged here ("Ryan is speaking earnestly about preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons, and Biden is chuckling toothily, his body shaking like Santa Claus")). And I'm a longtime opponent of sexual harassment (and kept true to the position even when Bill Clinton, the first person I ever voted for for President who won, got accused of it). But this hit job has made me sympathetic to Joe. I'm surprised how distinct and strong my emotional reaction is.

"We took on this campaign to offer a different voice in Madison political life. To quit the blame game. To stop playing identity politics."

"I think we did that but the headline in this morning’s WI State Journal suggests we’ve got a ways to go: 'Winners secure all-female board.'... Fair enough, but the real story is it’s an all-status quo school board. The shocker is that education reformer Kaleem Caire did not make it despite running a textbook campaign.... The teachers union got their endorsements elected. No change for Progressives! Madison will continue to turn behavior issues into racial grievances, will continue to blame the man behind the tree instead of demanding individual accountability. [School superintendent] Jen Cheatham will keep blaming white privilege and shaming her hard-working teachers.... Madison even turned out Paul Soglin in favor of a mayor anointed by Progressive Dane.... Let’s face it: Madison went all Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Tuesday.... We offered real-life solutions rather than blaming nebulous, macro socio-economic conditions, Act 10 or various Koch brothers. Returning control of their classrooms to teachers was, Tuesday’s results show, a bridge too far.... I hope I showed the way. Praying that someone picks up the torch next year. I do believe it will have to get worse before it gets better. Me? I’ve got two motorcycles that need riding, bad. (Which is pretty much how I ride.)"

Writes David Blaska, who lost his bid for a seat on the Madison school board.

"Our former vice president, I was going to call him. I don’t know him well. I was gonna say, 'Welcome to the world, Joe. You having a good time, Joe?'"

Said President Trump, the day before Joe Biden came out with his "mindfulness" video.

Joe tugged at my heartstrings, I've got to say. He seemed so sweet and pathetic:
"But I’ll always believe governing — life, for that matter — is about connecting, connecting with people... That won’t change.... And I’ll be much more mindful. That’s my responsibility, my responsibility, and I’ll meet it.... The idea that I can’t adjust to the fact that personal space is important, more important than it’s ever been, is just not thinkable... I will. I will."
The time of loving and touching is over.

Nancy Pelosi explains:

"I'm a member of the straight arm club. I mean, I'm a straight-armer. Just pretend you have a cold, and I have a cold."

Tuesday's Wisconsin Supreme Court election makes national media look again at a state that last fall's election made them think was part of a "blue wall" again.

It must be so annoying for them. I feel the irksomeness leaking through the lines of "Wisconsin, Ground Zero for 2020 Politics, Looks Like a Tossup Again" (in the NYT).

Tony Evers ousted Scott Walker last fall, so that should have meant the state had accepted its blue place. The liberal SCt candidate was presented as way ahead, the conservative was duly smeared as a religious bigot, and then look what happened! How dare the Wisconsin slip away and demand more attention after the Democrats gave Milwaukee the convention!

The NYT article is illustrated with a photo of DNC chairman Tom Perez inking the convention deal while our new governor Tony Evers looks on smiling. The photo represents the hope that the Democratic Party had secured Wisconsin. But yesterday's election showed that Wisconsin is unruly (once you get past Milwaukee and Madison):
In the Supreme Court race, Judge Hagedorn, the conservative, got a major boost in the Green Bay and Wausau markets, enough to overcome a deep deficit in Dane County, which includes Madison, the state’s bluest stronghold.

In the 18 counties in the Green Bay media market, where TV ads linked Judge Hagedorn to Mr. Trump, voters swung by 18 points toward the conservative compared with a State Supreme Court election last year won by a liberal judge....

The Saturday before Election Day, there was no shortage of avid Trump supporters at Roar Off the Shore, a tasting of craft beers and cheeses east of Green Bay in Kewaunee County, which is on the thumb of the Wisconsin mitten. Though the county’s populace is small, Mr. Trump’s ability to run up the score in such places was repeated all across rural America in 2016. He won Kewaunee County, a dairy region, by 28 points compared with Mitt Romney’s six-point margin as the 2012 Republican nominee.

“I’m tired of politicians; he’s not a politician,” said Randy Boor, 57, who works in a factory that makes commercial cookware. He judged Mr. Trump’s chances of carrying the state in 2020 as even better than in 2016.

“We’ve got a guy there that’s delivering,” he said. “He wants to do the frickin’ job. You know how much could get done if he wasn’t being opposed by all these idiots?”

When "The Late Show" mocks millennials...

... it's pretty weak.

But at least they tried, and points for not getting distracted into Trump hating.

April 3, 2019

"Don’t be a stranger, okay? 'Even chance meetings'... how does the rest of that go?"

"'Are the result of karma.'"/"Right, right... But what does it mean?"/"That things in life are fated by our previous lives. That even in the smallest events there’s no such thing as coincidence."

From "Kafka on the Shore" by Haruki Murakami, which I just started reading this morning, after I'd blogged "Karma is an unkind mistress," so it felt like a coincidence, hearing "karma" come up again, and even in the smallest events there’s no such thing as coincidence.

"I’m reluctant to comment on another person’s faith, but I would say it is hard to look at this president’s actions and believe that they’re the actions of somebody who believes in God."

"I just don’t understand how you can be as worshipful of your own self as he is and be prepared to humble yourself before God. I’ve never seen him humble himself before anyone. And the exaltation of yourself, especially a self that’s about wealth and power, could not be more at odds with at least my understanding of the teachings of the Christian faith."

Said Buttigieg, giving us an interesting look at his idea of reluctance.

I'm not reluctant to ask: Is Buttigieg's commentary humble or arrogant? Does it seem like something that would be said by somebody who believes in God? And would you like to rate everything any politician does or says according to how closely it accords with a belief in God or your understanding of whatever religion the politician professes?

I'll suggest a scale from 1 to 5:

1 — That's the sort of thing that you'd probably only do/say if you believed in God/the religion you profess.

2 — That's something that might arise from a belief in God/religion or from ethics or good motivations of a non-religious sort.

3 — That's something that you could do/say without obvious conflict with a belief in God/religion.

4 — If you claim to believe in God or follow the Christian religion (or whatever other religion), then you ought to know that you are doing something hypocritical and wrong.

5— If you claim to believe in God or follow the Christian religion (or whatever other religion), but you do this, you're just lying to us and perhaps also to yourself.

"They say the [wind turbine] noise causes cancer."

Said Donald Trump. Why did he say that? You can add "They say" to a lot of assertions and have something that's not exactly false... assuming somebody out there is saying that.

But, as Jonathan Chait sums up:
Wind turbines do not cause cancer. Some people blame the noise for causing a variety of other health ailments, but these charges have zero scientific validity. Cancer is not caused by noises of any kind....
Help answer my question:

Why did Trump say that? (Multiple answers accepted)

pollcode.com free polls

"Karma is an unkind mistress. However, suffering couldn't be better visited on any other group than they who sought to impose suffering upon others to enrich themselves."

"Enjoy, Islamic State crazies. Let's talk when you're ready to permanently give up trying to kill and oppress others."

That's the top-rated comment on the Washington Post article "The Islamic State’s refugees are facing a humanitarian calamity." To the commenter who pushes back with "these are people. women and children caught in the middle of something you'll never understand," he comes back with, "I understand far better than your crude mind that these folks were part of the extremist clan who sought to rob, kill, and enslave everyone they thought they could get away with robbing, killing, and enslaving. Go on over and offer them your assistance if you believe otherwise. Meanwhile, leave the purported 'thinking' to adults."

Another highly rated comment is: "Zero sympathy for these terrorists. The atrocities that they committed should not be overlooked. My friends Uncle was a Syrian man living a quiet life. As my friend tells it he was tortured and forced to dig his own grave. No sympathy for terrorists." And: "ISIS brought calamity to every town, village or city it conquered. Mass graves of victims are still being uncovered. The survivors of their savagery deserve help...but these, these are the perps. Foreign women who joined the caliphate were active participants in this evil...and they had no mercy towards anyone else's children. They went to Syria voluntarily... this is the world they wanted. I hope they stay there."

Charles Sanna "developed a way to produce millions of individual packets of powdered coffee creamer for American troops."

"Military contracts stipulated, though, that his family’s company, Sanna Dairy Engineers, would be penalized if the orders were underfilled. So, to be safe, the company produced extra packets. But that meant that it was routinely stuck with excess supply, since the Army had also insisted that none of the overstock be used to fill future orders. The surplus powder was savory, potentially valuable and perishable. With necessity being the mother’s milk of invention, Mr. Sanna had another idea. 'I believed that it would make an excellent ingredient for a hot cup of cocoa,' he recalled. He experimented over the stove in the family kitchen in Menomonie, Wis.... 'I consulted the family cookbook and determined the best proportions of creamer, sugar, cocoa and vanilla,' Mr. Sanna said... Which was how, in the late 1950s, the future Swiss Miss brand — and the whole instant hot cocoa mix market — were born."

From the NYT obituary for Charles Sanna, who died here in Madison, Wisconsin last month at the age of 101. The company was founded in Madison. The brand, Swiss Miss, was sold to Beatrice Foods half a century ago.

"Tonight I was in a hotel bar in Midtown when you came on TV. Very Important Men in expensive suits spoke in hushed tones..."

"... and contorted their faces into various forms of 'worried' as they watched. I freshened my red lipstick and carried on. It was glorious."

Tweets Nicole Sanchez at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who responds, but not to Nicole Sanchez, to one of those VIMs with worried faces:
If you’re a guy in a $ suit that feels some type of way when you see me on TV, maybe you’re limiting yourself to thinking working people’s gain must come at your loss.

After all, mega corps have gained at the cost of working people for so long, many can’t think of any other way.
AOC didn't take the prompt to say, Yeah, I hate those guys, and I aim my red lipstick at them and glory in their anxiety. She looks to the guys — depriving Sanchez of her sisterhood boost — and tells them they are included. Let the businessmen come to me. All are saved!

A couple of heards...

The Great Orange Mystification Move of April 2019.

ADDED: Why did Aaron Rupar (whoever he is) put the video up twice, replying to himself, as if in a conversation with himself, agreeing with himself that he is amazed.

These oranges are replicating. Viral as hell and you cannot stop...

... you're mesmerized, and you don't know why.

"For six weeks now Hagedorn has been mired in negative stories and controversy over his extreme views on a host of topics" — that was the story 2 weeks ago.

After Hagedorn's victory in yesterday's Wisconsin Supreme Court election, I'm reading "Vetting fail/Republicans skip background check before pushing Brian Hagedorn for Supreme Court" in the Madison newspaper Isthmus (from March 21st).
We’ve learned that back in 2006, as a married 27-year-old father of two and law student at Northwestern University, Hagedorn wrote a blog as “a fellow soldier in the culture wars,” where he condemned the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down anti-sodomy laws prohibiting sex between unmarried consulting adults, be they heterosexual or homosexual. Hagedorn called the ruling a travesty that “should render laws prohibiting bestiality unconstitutional.”

He blasted Roe v. Wade as “the worst and most unjustifiable decision in history,” called Planned Parenthood a “wicked organization,” and the NAACP “a disgrace to America.”

And Hagedorn, now 40, clearly hasn’t changed his views. The press has since reported he “helped create and serves on the board of a private Christian elementary school,” whose code of conduct bars teachers, board members, students and even their parents from being in gay relationships. In fact, students can be expelled for the “immoral sexual activity” of their parents.

Hagedorn also received $1,000 per speech for three speeches in 2015, 2016 and 2017 to an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a “hate group”....
Oh! The Southern Poverty Law Center. Ha ha ha. That Isthmus piece didn't age well. This low attack on Hagedorn had us thinking he was a loser. Isthmus was claiming victory early, and now we've got a 5-2 conservative majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. This was the first state-wide vote since we elected a Democratic governor last fall and ousted Scott Walker.
... Hagedorn’s views are not shared by the majority of voters, much less by younger millennials. And you can bet those views will be roasted repeatedly in attack ads by liberal third-party groups. Meanwhile Hagedorn is seeing more defectors: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce won’t be funneling money into Wisconsin to support the conservative candidate.... The most recent report by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign showed that 96 percent of all third-party spending in the race supported Hagedorn’s opponent, Lisa Neubauer....

This is 2019, and Hagedorn’s views and actions are clearly, if not aggressively, out of the mainstream. Which helps explain why Neubauer is getting more financial support and far more endorsements from the legal community than Hagedorn. Walker and the Republican establishment failed at Politics 101: check out the background of your favored candidate.
There's good schadenfreude this morning for conservatives.

And, yes, we're still in the denial phase. The news report at the Cap Times from 14 minutes ago is: "Conservative Brian Hagedorn declares victory with razor-thin margin in Wisconsin Supreme Court race." But:
Conservative Brian Hagedorn, who was Walker's chief legal counsel for five years, led liberal-backed Lisa Neubauer by 5,911 votes out of 1.2 million cast, based on unofficial results. That is a difference of about 0.49 percentage point, close enough for Neubauer to request a recount but she would have to pay for it.
I thought Neubauer was going to get a decisive win. That's how it looked in the press. I was totally surprised when Hagedorn took the lead.

April 2, 2019

At the NO! Cafe....

... you have the right to say yes.

"[Griffin] Spikoski’s parents told filmmakers that they decided to remove their son from high school as his dedication to gaming deepened."

"With his notoriety increasing... Spikoski struggled to manage two worlds — and two personalities — that felt increasingly divergent. In person, Spikoski is shy and anxious. In the virtual world, he is confident, playful and mischievous. 'I think he made it through three days of high school and he had issues every day that he was there — either being distracted in class because people wanted his attention or feeling like he had to be Sceptic at school,' Connolly said. Spikoski’s parents said their son had been pushing them to allow him to pursue online schooling. With his success growing, they eventually relented. 'I was playing games all day and watching videos, that was just my life,' Spikoski told filmmakers when asked about his parents’ reaction to his request. 'They already knew.'... 'We don’t really see that you need a 9-to-5 job to get by in life and you can actually have fun with a career and enjoy your love and do what you love and make a living out of it,' [his father said]."

From "This teenager started playing video games 18 hours a day. Now he makes more money than most adults. Meet Griffin Spikoski, the new definition of a student 'athlete'" (WaPo).

"It is difficult not to get choked up and passionate about this topic. We look at moment-by-moment records of one of the most notable impact events in Earth’s history."

"No other site has a record quite like that. And this particular event is tied directly to all of us — to every mammal on Earth, in fact. Because this is essentially where we inherited the planet. Nothing was the same after the impact. It became a planet of mammals instead of a planet of dinosaurs."

Said University of Kansas doctoral student Robert A. DePalma, quoted in "KU student’s major find: Scene of devastation from dinosaur-killing asteroid" (Kansas City Star).

"Joe Biden's 2020 Ukrainian nightmare: A closed probe is revived."

At The Hill.
In his own words, with video cameras rolling, Biden described how he threatened Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in March 2016 that the Obama administration would pull $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees, sending the former Soviet republic toward insolvency, if it didn’t immediately fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin.

“I said, ‘You’re not getting the billion.’ I’m going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money,’” Biden recalled telling Poroshenko. “Well, son of a bitch, he got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time,” Biden told the Council on Foreign Relations event, insisting that President Obama was in on the threat....

But Ukrainian officials tell me there was one crucial piece of information that Biden must have known but didn’t mention to his audience: The prosecutor he got fired was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into the natural gas firm Burisma Holdings that employed Biden’s younger son, Hunter, as a board member....

"The Trump era has been all about dissolving moral norms and waging vicious attacks. This has been an era of culture war, class warfare..."

"... and identity politics. It’s been an era in which call-out culture, reality TV melodrama and tribal grandstanding have overshadowed policymaking and the challenges of actually governing. The Buttigieg surge suggests that there are a lot of Democrats who want to say goodbye to all that. They don’t want to fight fire and divisiveness with more fire and divisiveness. They don’t want to fight white identity politics with another kind of identity politics. They are sick of the moral melodrama altogether. They just want a person who is more about governing than virtue-signaling, more about friendliness and basic decency than media circus and rhetorical war. Buttigieg’s secret is that he transcends many of the tensions that run through our society in a way that makes people on all sides feel comfortable.... Buttigieg’s policy positions are not all that different from the more identifiable leftist candidates. But he eschews grand ideological conflict."

Writes David Brooks in "Why You Love Mayor Pete/Buttigieg detaches progressive policy from the culture war" (NYT).

ADDED: A really interesting top-rated comment at the NYT, from Brad Malkovsky of South Bend (who may be this person):
A story has been making the rounds in South Bend since last week about Mayor Pete some time ago (just how long ago was not stated) showing up in the emergency ward in one of our local hospitals to help a Somali boy who had nearly hanged himself. The story is reported by an emergency physician. Neither the boy nor his mother spoke English. Pete had heard over the police scanner that an Arabic translator was needed. He showed up, knowing how dire the situation was, did the translating, and stayed with the boy and his mother for an hour, accompanying them right into the ICU. Only afterward, when pressed by the physician to reveal how long he had been working as a translator for the hospital, did Pete casually reveal that he was not in fact a translator but rather the mayor of South Bend. He then shook hands with the physician and quietly left. This is our Mayor Pete. He gets things done quietly and without drawing attention to himself. He is the grownup in the room.
Wow. It's called a "story," so I guess I have to say "if true..." So, if true, that's the most perfect political anecdote I've ever read.

"His wonderful performance, lifting the human dumbell."

That's "Today's featured picture" at Wikipedia, from the article on Eugen Sandow.

I love the poster, and I love the idea of a literal human dumbell.

Is "dumbell" the correct spelling? The OED has "dumb-bell." The double "B" is important to understanding the meaning. From the unlinkable OED:
1. (a) Formerly, An apparatus, like that for swinging a church-bell, but without the bell itself, and thus making no noise, in the ‘ringing’ of which bodily exercise was taken. (b) Also, applied to a similar apparatus, used in learning bell-ringing.
You need "dumb" (for silence) and "bell" (for the familiar object, a bell).

The slang term, meaning a stupid person, goes back to the 1920s:
1920 Collier's 3 July 8/1 The gent..stands alone as the Crown Prince of dumb-bells.
1922 S. Lewis Babbitt xviii. 227 The poor old dumb-bells that you can't get to dance.
a1930 D. H. Lawrence Etruscan Places (1932) i. 21 They gave the usual dumb-bell answer.
1936 Punch 15 Apr. 430/3 Next came one of those series of Dumb-bell Letters which seem to be very popular, a dumb-bell being the kind of person who writes to the manufacturer asking him to replace a gadget that has been lost, and then adds a postscript telling him not to bother as the missing gadget has just been found.

"If the war starts, we can’t have you at a hotel, because the hotels will be some of the first targets for the regime and the Russians."

"We will move you into my house and we will have our base there for as long as this takes. But please, Annika, understand what I am saying—there will be bodies all over the streets, this war has only two possible endings—a new government or an emboldened old one with no restraints and no consequences."

From "'The Wise Are Running for Their Lives': Venezuela Simmers With Violence as Putin Sends in Russian Troop" by Annika Hernroth-Rothstein. She's quoting her bodyguard. Fantastic photograph at the link. Hernroth-Rothstein continues:
Two months have passed since I got here and in that time, the possibility of an American intervention in Venezuela has been on everyone’s mind. President Donald Trump has generously sprinkled his speeches with heavy innuendo to that effect, including boasts about being ready to take on the Russians, but shows little sign of actually following through.

The Venezuelan people themselves are divided on the issue; some fear that American help to overthrow Maduro will end up becoming a permanent American presence in the country and a co-dependent relationship that doesn’t come close to the ideals they’ve fought for over the past two decades....

For the U.S. to intervene now would mean a conflict between Trump and Putin, something Maduro surely is counting on Trump wanting to avoid....

"When an inmate contends that a state’s method of execution violates the Eighth Amendment... he must show that there is an alternative method of execution that would 'significantly reduce a substantial risk of severe pain'..."

"... but that the state has – for no good reason – refused to adopt. This requirement applies, Gorsuch explained [writing for the majority of the Supreme Court], even though Bucklew is only challenging the constitutionality of the state’s use of lethal injection to execute him, rather than the constitutionality of lethal injection more generally.... In this case... Bucklew had made only a 'bare-bones proposal' to use death by nitrogen gas, depriving the body of oxygen, as an alternative to lethal injection. In Gorsuch’s view, that proposal 'falls well short' of showing that the alternative could be 'readily implemented' because Bucklew had not offered any evidence on what Gorsuch deemed 'essential questions': 'how nitrogen gas should be administered (using a gas chamber, a tent, a hood, a mask, or some other delivery device); in what concentration (pure nitrogen or some other mixture of gases); how quickly and for how long it should be introduced; or how the State might ensure the safety of the execution team, including protecting them against the risk of gas leaks.'...  Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion in which he reiterated that, in his view, a method of execution only violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment if it is 'deliberately designed to inflict pain.'"

From "Opinion analysis: Divided court rejects lethal-injection challenge by inmate with rare medical condition" by Amy Howe (at SCOTUSblog).


"One day we're hoping to be in the actual West Wing, which we'll fill with witty repartee, fast walking, good dialogue."

Says Pete Buttigieg, who for now is just finding his way into his new campaign headquarters:

I'm for witty repartee, fast walking, and good dialogue.

"Americans would run out of avocados in three weeks if imports from Mexico were stopped..."

"... according to Steve Barnard, president and chief executive of Mission Produce, the largest distributor and grower of avocados in the world. 'You couldn't pick a worse time of year because Mexico supplies virtually 100 percent of the avocados in the US right now,' Barnard said. 'California is just starting and they have a very small crop, but they're not relevant right now and won't be for another month or so.' Trump said on Friday that there was a 'very good likelihood' he would close the border this week if Mexico did not stop immigrants from reaching the United States."

I'm reading "America would run out of avocados in three weeks if Trump shuts the US-Mexico border" in The Daily Mail.

You couldn't pick a worse time of year? It seems to me this is the best time of year for Trump's move. It puts the pressure on Mexico, with its immense glut of perishable food. What's it to us if we go without one particular food, eat something else, and then get back to that food as California warms up? That's how we used to eat. That's closer to the locavore ideal. Restaurants and home foodsters will adjust easily. No one needs to eat avocados. But people who have grown avocados need to sell them. And why shouldn't Mexico help us with the illegal immigration problem?

I'm guessing it is a big problem for Barnard's company, Mission Produce. I see Mission Produce is one of the case studies presented at Harvard Business School:
As the leading distributor of fresh avocados in the U.S., Mission Produce was at a crossroads in late 2013. Avocado consumption was booming and CEO Steve Barnard wanted to acquire additional land in Peru and develop new avocado farms to help fill a projected supply gap. Mission could also buy avocado farms in other countries, expand its international marketing efforts, invest in brand building in Asia, and/or add processed avocado products. This strategy case describes Mission's growth, entrepreneurial leadership, future opportunities, and financing alternatives.
ADDED: Nudging hipsters to whine about their avocado toast is kind of a genius move.

"The April 2 election is for the seat held for 43 years by Justice Shirley Abrahamson, one of the [Wisconsin Supreme C]ourt’s three liberals."

"If Neubauer wins, that could set the stage for liberals to gain control of the court next year, when conservative Justice Dan Kelly, like [her opponent Brian] Hagedorn an appointee of Walker, is set to face voters. But all of this depends on whether Neubauer is in fact a liberal. And that is something she absolutely refuses to admit. In fact, Neubauer, who has personal and family ties to Democrats (her husband, Jeff, is the former state party chair; her daughter, Greta, is a Democratic lawmaker), has run one of the most opaque campaigns for state Supreme Court in recent years. At the candidates’ March 15 debate before the State Bar of Wisconsin, she ducked questions, endlessly repeated her campaign talking points — that she is 'fair, impartial and independent' and backed by 345 past and present Wisconsin judges, way more than Hagedorn — and falsely claimed that the Code of Judicial Conduct prohibited her from commenting on any issue that may come before the court. (Other candidates have gone much further in answering questions about where they stand, without any knocks on the door by the Judicial Police.)"

Wrote Bill Lueders in Isthmus. Was he concerned that the "liberal" branding was needed to get out the Madison vote for Neubauer? It's completely typical for Supreme Court candidates to portray themselves as utterly neutral and devoted to the law, because that is their apt understanding of how most voters think about the role of the judge. Hagedorn also takes this neutral approach, and Lueders doesn't like that either:
Hagedorn, 41, claims that what he thinks about anything is irrelevant to his role as a judge, and that anyone who brings it up is attacking his religion. It’s a remarkably dishonest contention, especially given that he has in the past personally urged people to back the election of a conservative justice to preserve Walker’s attack on public employee unions and other explicitly political reasons.
"To preserve Walker’s attack on public employee unions" = to refrain from overturning the work of the democratically elected branches of government.

Basically, the irritating problem is that the popular conception of the role of judges — as neutral and not activist — overlaps much more comfortably with what conservative judges do, and that makes it harder to run as the liberal candidate, especially when things depend on getting out the vote and it's a low-profile election, like today's.

"A paltry $20 fine for people who ride bicycles on the state’s high-speed expressways — as a crowd of 'kids' did Saturday night through the O’Neill Tunnel..."

"... will do nothing to deter the behavior and should be revised, officials said. The group of around 30 cyclists zipped onto Interstate 93 south at Leverett Circle and, to the astonishment of the people in cars around them, took up the two right-hand lanes as they pedaled over the Zakim Bridge and through the tunnel.... Boston City Councilor Tim McCarthy said risky behavior by people on bikes, dirt bikes and various other means of transportation creeps up this time of year — and he’s going to ask the cops to take a look at their policies and enforcement.... He said he’d been at a lacrosse game recently when a group of 10 or 15 dirt bikers screamed past, doing wheelies for the people gathered in the parking lot. 'It’s like anarchy,' McCarthy said of the dirt bikers and this week’s highway cyclists. 'The temperature hits 40 and this starts back up.'"

The Boston Herald reports.

"For weeks, [Baltimore mayor Catherine] Pugh, a Democrat, has been the focus of criticism surrounding her Healthy Holly children's book series about a black girl who promotes nutrition and exercise."

"Just before she announced her leave of absence, The Baltimore Sun reported that health care giant Kaiser Permanente was seeking a contract to provide coverage to city employees and paid $114,000 to purchase some 20,000 copies of the books between 2015 to 2018. The city's spending panel, of which Pugh is a member, awarded a contract worth $48 million in 2017 to Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States Inc., according to the Sun.... Last month, the Sun also reported that Pugh profited from business contracts with the nonprofit University of Maryland Medical System, which runs hospitals around Baltimore. Pugh was a board member of UMMS until her resignation on March 18. Two other board members resigned a day earlier. According the Sun, the medical system paid Pugh $500,000 for copies of the Healthy Holly books, and the payments were made for a number of years."

NPR reports.

Holy hell — Healthy Holly....

"How does an eight-year-old from Minneapolis become so famous in China that he gets mobbed every time he visits?"

Asks BBC. The answer: "The expressions of Gavin Thomas are used as memes in China where people are sometimes too polite to say what they really think."

In Iceland, a glacier calves, tourists run.

It's amusing and scenic and normal and no one is hurt (or even gets wet):

April 1, 2019

"It's been really hard because I have been an ally for a long time and to be rejected this way is very painful."

Said Rob Mueller-Owens, quoted in "In interview, former Whitehorse staffer speaks publicly for the first time since altercation with student" (Capital Times).
"The most painful thing about this besides being betrayed by the school district, the people I worked with — I believed in the agenda that [Madison school superintendent] Jennifer Cheatham and (district administrators) Alex Fralin and Nancy Hanks established for us, and I promoted it and worked toward it as hard as I could — is the leaders in the community who have jumped on the bandwagon that I'm a racist c---, and have said that in their political messaging, their campaigning, their Facebook feeds and all of social media," Mueller-Owens said.... "I never thought my career would end in disgrace, and it didn't have to end that way," Mueller-Owens said.
David Blaska (who is running for a seat on the school board in tomorrow's election) has this blog post on the Cap Times article:
And where were our putative school board leaders? Ducking for cover, as always.
  • School Board President Mary Burke declined to comment for this story.
  • School Board member TJ Mertz declined to comment
  • Cris Carusi, declined to address the claims
  • Seat 4 candidate Ali Muldrow [and Blaska’s opponent] was critical of Mueller-Owens’ claims
  • Kaleem Caire, who is running for Seat 3 on the board, said he would be open to talking with Mueller-Owens. “(Mueller-Owens) shouldn’t have engaged that young lady like he did,” Caire said. “I think he should feel lucky and thankful that he was able to get a severance and move on with his career.”