October 26, 2019

Why did Trump just tweet "Something very big has just happened!"?

Kind of disturbing actually...

Western view of the lake at sunrise.

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David Bowie — speaking 20 years ago — says the internet "is an alien life form."

Kanye speaks (and goes meta on himself, with "This is a free man talking").

What does it mean that The New York Times and The Washington Post are digging up villains from the past for their front page?

The Washington Post gives us Susan Smith, for no reason other than we first heard about her exactly 25 years ago:



The New York Times gives us Michael Milken — the "swashbuckling financier" of the 1980s — apparently because Trump's "opportunity zones" — presented as a boon to distressed communities — can be disparaged as benefitting this ancient fiend:



Trump is a such colorful villain of today, but it can't just be Trump Trump Trump all the time. I hypothesize that the newspapers are looking to the past for a new infusion of colorful villains to excite readers.

We're so childishly into villains these days, and political partisans must worry that that we will satisfy our appetite by regarding anyone who makes it into the limelight as a villain. So bring back some old villains to feed our shameful hunger and leave, say, Adam Schiff, in the darkness of the basement.

"Nearly 900 children in the small Pakistani city of Ratodero were bedridden early this year with raging fevers that resisted treatment...."

"In April, the disease was pinned down, and the diagnosis was devastating: The city was the epicenter of an H.I.V. outbreak that overwhelmingly affected children....When officials descended on Ratodero to investigate, they discovered that many of the infected children had gone to the same pediatrician, Muzaffar Ghanghro, who served the city’s poorest families and appeared to be at the center of the outbreak.... The effect on Ratodero’s social fabric has been grim. In May, one man strangled his H.I.V.-positive wife to death. And in June, residents in another town discovered their neighbor tied to a tree by her family, after she had tested positive for the virus. The family said they had bound her to prevent her from spreading the virus to the rest of the town. After public outcry and police intervention, the family untied her. She now lives in an isolated room in the house, her every movement monitored by her family."

From "Panic in Pakistani City After 900 Children Test Positive for H.I.V./Health workers say the reuse of syringes drove the outbreak in the city of Ratodero" (NYT).

One woman is quoted saying, "It seems it is God’s affliction on us. How could so many of our children have such a terrible disease?"

"President Donald Trump on Friday dismissed the need for additional help in countering Democrats' impeachment efforts..."

"... despite pleas from outside advisers for a more coordinated response from the White House. In a comment reminiscent of his 'I alone can fix it' declaration in accepting the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, Trump told reporters gathered on the White House South Lawn that he will be the one leading the fight when it comes to responding to impeachment. 'Here's the thing. I don't have teams, everyone's talking about teams,' Trump said. 'I'm the team. I did nothing wrong.' Trump's allies have been imploring the White House to develop a more organized structure.... A number have suggested Trump follow the war-room model set up by the Clinton White House...."

NBC News reports.

Just because he says "I don't have teams... I'm the team" doesn't mean he's the "I alone" guy. It just means he wants that image. It goes along with "I did nothing wrong": "I'm the team. I did nothing wrong." Those 2 thoughts go together because... people who hear them merge them into a demonstration of a clean conscience. But in real life, you can be innocent and stumble into saying and doing things that your antagonists can use to convict you.

Most people know the the saying, a man who acts as his own lawyer has a fool for a client. Who said that?

"At first, I drank wine only socially, but sometime in my early 40s, I started drinking a glass of white wine around 5:30 every day."

"I would sip it as I finished up whatever piece of writing I was working on, certain that the low-level buzz inspired more creativity in those last few minutes of work. My husband — the family cook — would be in the kitchen making dinner, and the kids would inevitably be running around or speed-talking at me as they passed by my office on the way to play outside. It was my modernized and gender flip-flopped version of the dynamic I remembered fondly from childhood: my dad sitting at the kitchen table drinking a beer and reading the daily paper, while my mom cooked and the kids ran around. The wine helped me relax, shrug off the day, and transition from work mode to parent mode. I loved it. Each week, when my husband was making the grocery list, I would say, 'Don’t forget the wine.' It became a bit of a joke: Judi needs her wine! Is it wine time yet? I always wanted to make sure a bottle was chilling, and that I didn’t have to drive anywhere between 5 and 6. If I did, I’d be super irritated that I’d miss my glass."

From "How Drinking Less Solved a Lot of Problems/I don’t have a drinking problem, but cutting down on alcohol was an eye opener" by Judi Ketteler (NYT). She has a book coming out, called "Would I Lie to You? The Amazing Power of Being Honest in a World That Lies." I liked her writing and I like the concept for the book.

The top-rated comment over there reflects what is in the other comments:
Why is everyone being so defensive? The author is telling us about her experience or, at least, her perception of her experience. She is not judging anyone else, she is not telling anyone else what to do, she's just telling us what she did. If you're getting your hackles up over this it probably means she touched upon something that's bothering you in your own life so maybe instead of wasting your energy on being irate at the author you should use it to do a little self examination.

"The food at West Hollywood’s first weed restaurant... isn’t actually infused with weed. But the cuisine could certainly be described as cannabis complementary."

"There are vegan nachos and upscale corn dogs; French fries and Angus burgers; and crispy brussels sprouts as well as baby kale and garden salads for those with more virtuous palates when they’re high.... The restaurant, which opened on Oct. 1 and has been packed every day since, is part of West Hollywood’s effort to make the city a kind of cannabis destination within Los Angeles County.... Lush potted plants and slowly rotating fans hang from the ceiling... There are juices with ginger and turmeric; no alcohol is allowed. A hip wait staff takes food orders, while roving 'flower hosts' — a sort of weed sommelier — hand out thick tomes with lists of cannabis options. ('How do you want to medicate?' one asked, cheerfully.) On the weed menu are vape pens with 'cold pressed cannabis oil' ($60), loose marijuana ('sold by the eighth ounce'), crystal-clear gravity bongs for rent, and pre-rolled joints including the options Kushberry Cheesecake ($20, 'invigorating, active') and Kosher Dog ($27, 'soothing, mood booster'), which came rolled up with a tiny spiral noodle as the filter. Heady smoke fills the air in spite of the well-publicized, state-of-the-art ventilation system."

From "Pairs Well With Weed/The first marijuana restaurant in West Hollywood, Calif. is a branding exercise. What does it mean for the industry?" (NYT).

Lots of verbiage, but there are also photographs at the link, and the place does not look at all elegant or sophisticated. The people look... well, let me quote a commenter over there:
I am staring in disbelief at these images of glazed-eyed, let's get stoned, I-want-my-organic-greens self-indulgence; and contemplating their apparent self-satisfaction that this is good for society, and most of all, for children watching what the grown-ups do... I weep for the children, starting with the ones I saw, decades ago when I was a young parent, left on their own on the village green, with money in their pockets and air kisses from their stoned parents off to the next Ashram fun for the weekend. These (perfectly pleasant and friendly) parents would chide me for my old-fashioned ways; But today, my children are alive, and sadly, a number of theirs are not.

PS: I am a lifelong progressive Democrat.

Sunrise, 7:26.

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"Actual sunrise" time was 7:25. Ah! I have one with that precise time:

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My phone was taking things literally, with the playlist just getting to "Here Comes the Sun":

"What do you do if you are a Japanese conglomerate whose investment fund entrusted billions of dollars to a grandiose-bordering-on-shady entrepreneur, only to watch said entrepreneur..."

"A. Burn through that entire pile of cash while... B. Yammering about running for 'president of the world,' before... C. Attempting to bill the company $6 million for the use of the word 'We' in its name, and all the while... D. Selling or borrowing against his own shares in the company to buy five mansions and a private jet? If you’re SoftBank, you throw billions more at WeWork, presumably hoping that a sudden torrent of cash will extinguish this monetary bonfire. Also, you pay the entrepreneur, Adam Neumann, more than $1 billion to stop tossing matches at your money and go away."

Megan McArdle explains why "The WeWork story is so bizarre we can’t even get outraged about it."

Okay, then, I will laugh and move on.

"If Senate Republicans vote to remove Trump on anything like the current facts, even the worst interpretation of them, it would leave the GOP a smoldering ruin."

"It wouldn’t matter who the Democrats nominated for 2020. They could run Bernie Sanders on a ticket with Elizabeth Warren and promise to make Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez secretary of the treasury and Ilhan Omar secretary of defense, and they’d still win. A significant portion of the Republican party would consider a Senate conviction of Trump a dastardly betrayal....  Trump himself isn’t going to get convicted by the Senate and say: 'Well, I’m a little disappointed, to be honest. But it was a close call, and Mike Pence is a great guy, and I’m just grateful I had the opportunity to serve in the White House for more than three years.' He won’t go away quietly to lick his wounds. He won’t delete his Twitter account. He won’t make it easy on anyone. He will vent his anger and resentment at every opportunity. It will be 'human scum' every single day. And it’s not as though the media are going to lose their interest in the most luridly telegenic politician that we’ve ever seen. The mainstream press would be delighted to see Trump destroyed, yet sad to bid him farewell. The obvious way to square the circle would be to continue to give Trump lavish coverage in his post-presidency. He’d be out of the White House but still driving screaming CNN chyrons every other hour."

Writes Rich Lowry in "The Problem with President Pence" (National Review).

This reminds me of something I wrote on October 9th, "What if the Senate really does produce a supermajority to convict Trump and ousts him from office? What happens next?":
I think the entire theater of impeachment is taking place within the false security that the Senate will never be able to convict. But what if the momentum gets going and 2/3 of the Senators vote to convict? Yes, Pence becomes President, but what I mean is: What happens to the American people who voted Trump into office and who — from the moment they won — have had the experience of seeing their President treated like a big, horrible mistake? Their choice was never honored, never treated as respectable. They got to see that their opinion never mattered and was never supposed to prevail. And what will Trump do? Freed from the responsibilities of the presidency and past all the fighting of the impeachment battle, he won't hide away. He will be out and about, energized and inventing more new ways of being a politician in America, and he will have an immense audience, overshadowing what any other political candidate can do. The new temptation will be to prosecute him for crimes, but, again, how will this affect the millions of people who thought they won the election and then saw their victory taken away?

Can Democratic Party candidate get American voters activated over changing the Supreme Court?

I'm reading Robert Barnes in WaPo — "Polls show trust in Supreme Court, but there is growing interest in fixed terms and other changes":
●A Gallup poll that shows rising public approval for the court, with far more Americans thinking it is “about right” ideologically than either too conservative or too liberal.

●An Annenberg Public Policy Center survey showing two-thirds of people trust the court to operate in the best interests of the public, and 70 percent think the court has the right amount of power.

●A massive survey from Marquette Law School finding that a majority of Americans have more confidence in the Supreme Court than other parts of the federal government and that few believe the justices take extremely liberal or extremely conservative positions....
Apparently, people aren't feeling too activated about the Supreme Court, even after that uproar over Justice Kavanaugh last year. Nevertheless, there are ideas about changing it. There's ending life tenure, which requires a constitutional amendment and therefore won't happen, but Marquette asked about it and 72% favored fixed terms for Justices over life terms.

I think the results would be very different if the question had been, "The Constitution provides for Supreme Court Justices to have their positions for life; would you support an amendment process to change that to a fixed term?" That bundles 2 ideas that I think are influential: 1. If something is in the Constitution, it was probably put there for a good reason and is part of our tradition, and 2. It's so hard to change the Constitution, that any talk about it is just for political effect.

The other proposed change, as phrased in the Marquette poll, is "Increase the number of justices on the US Supreme Court." This would not require a constitutional amendment and there's a history to this idea, which is generally referred to as "Court-packing." The poll, quite properly, didn't use the word "Court-packing."
The respondents in the Marquette poll opposed “court-packing” by a 57 percent to 42 percent margin. But Democrats were evenly split on the idea, and even that 40 percent support was startling to [one law professor].

“I can’t emphasize enough what a sea change that is,” [she] said. The term court-packing “used to be an epithet.”
Yeah, but the pollsters did not use the term, and I think it would have skewed the results, because would be heard as pejorative.

I think it's a terrible idea for Democrats to push these changes. They should not be talking about tearing down what people respect, only about choosing better nominees and improving the balance of types of judicial minds on the Court. A subset of voters could get activated about changing the Court, but if that happened, it would bring out conservatism in far more people. Court-packing looks blatantly political, and advocating it makes a candidate looks untrustworthy.

ADDED: Pete Buttigieg just did an interview (with Cosmopolitan) in which he "floated the ideas" of Court-packing and term limits. He presents these ideas as a potential cure for "the descent of the Supreme Court into becoming yet another political body":

October 25, 2019

The first frost.

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"But I guess being on an island with minimal food resources might cause someone... to get excited by a blue-hued adult beverage called the 'Shark Bowl' that features a floating gummy fish."

"... Or cause [someone else] to declare that Applebee’s is her favorite 'sit-down restaurant.' I mean, come on. Shrimp ‘n’ Parmesan Sirloin? Yuck. Spinach and artichoke dip with chips? No thanks. Chef Bulgarelli’s Stuffed Rigatoni and Tomato Meat Sauce? Not exactly the right food for a tropical paradise. I don’t know how host Jeff Probst managed to even spit out the words 'loaded, sizzling fajitas, smothered with hot queso' with a straight face. Oh, and don’t forget the blue-ribbon brownie, whatever that is. Is it worth slithering on the beach tied to another player and getting your face and body exfoliated by what amounts hot sandpaper? I would say no."

Writes Susan Wloszczyna (at Gold Derby), which I'm reading because I hated the embedded Applebee's ad in this week's episode of "Survivor."

And maybe this is a good time to remind you that I don't blog about things in the order that I think they're important or criticize things in order of their badness in the grand scheme of things. I went to great lengths to analyze Trump's use of the phrase "human scum" — here and here — but that doesn't mean I think "human scum" is the worst thing anybody is saying right now.

I blog things according to my personal standard of bloggability, which is something of a mystery, and I don't expect you to understand it completely, especially since it's one of those I-know-it-when-I-see-it standards, but I would like you to remember that when I'm talking about one thing, I'm not implying something about all the other things that I am not talking about.

I don't like making an example of a particular commenter, especially somebody who is one of the all-time greatest commenters on this blog, but Laslo Spatula wrote, in the comments to my second "human scum" post:

Invisible sun rising on the lake...

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... on the morning of the first frost...

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"Many of the Anangu themselves live in a trash-strewn community near the rock... a jarring contrast to the exclusive resorts that surround the monolith..."

"... where tourists seated at white tablecloths drink sparkling wines and eat canapés as the setting sun turns Uluru a vivid red. Those tourists point to other dualities, too. While Uluru is so sacred to the Anangu that there are certain parts that they do not want photographed or even touched, they welcome the visitors who tool around its base on camels or Segways, or take art lessons in its shadow. Then there is the challenge that comes with making the case that the rock is sacred without being able to say why.... 'They can’t tell you the secrets it holds, because then they’d be breaking their traditional law, and if they break their traditional law, they’re rubbishing their inheritance,' [the author of a book about Uluru] Ms. Cowley said.... Some people who say the rock should remain open to climbing argue that it is part of a national park and therefore should belong to everyone. And there are those who discount the indigenous claims that climbing the rock offends their laws, pointing to photos from decades ago showing indigenous guides leading white people up Uluru.... 'Every day, thousands of people are climbing; they’re expressing their opinions by their actions,' [a geologist] said. ;Everyone has a right to experience this place on their own terms without being bothered by petty bureaucracy and the religious views of others.'"

From "A Climbing Ban at Uluru Ends a Chapter. But There’s More to This Australian Story/While the ban on ascending the iconic rock is a once-unthinkable victory for an Aboriginal people, they still face material hardship and a measure of resistance" (NYT). Today is the last day for climbing Australia's big rock.

Lots of photos at the link. To my eye, the people look awful on the rock, and I like the ban if only as a preservation of beauty. Stand back and look. Don't put yourself on the thing and ruin the sight. I don't need a claim of longstanding religious belief to say that. It's sad that people won't simply honor the Anangu and accept their refusal to say why they understand the rock to be sacred. I'm surprised that people are willing to be so disrespectful — is this really happening? — as to question the sincerity of their professed beliefs.

"Ew. That’s really the only way to describe the experience of reading 'All the President’s Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator,' a deep dive into..."

"... the many allegations that depict Trump’s relationships with women as vulgar, misogynistic, demeaning, sometimes violent and always puerile. The accusations wash over a reader like a tidal wave of sewage until you are thoroughly caked in muck and light-headed from the stink."

So writes Robin Givhan in "A thorough, revolting history of Trump’s behavior toward women" (WaPo). It was interesting to read that right after immersing myself in the meaning of "human scum."

Are we in a new age of squeamishness? Or are we just pretending to be disgusted?

Givhan writes:
Somewhere between the descriptions of casual groping and the lengthy investigation of Trump’s possible involvement in a threesome with an underage girl, you long to scrub your memory bank with bleach, to douse yourself with disinfectant.
Do you? Personally, I am revolted by the idea of putting dangerous chemicals on my body. I'm never so disgusted with others that my impulse is to attempt to clean myself in some crazily exaggerated fashion.

Givhan goes on to say the book isn't shocking, because we've heard the main things before: "the affair with Karen McDougal, the sex with Stormy Daniels, the sexual intimidation of Ivana Trump, the gutter talk with Howard Stern, the ogling of half-dressed Miss Universe contestants, and the personal insults hurled at women ranging from Megyn Kelly and Rosie O’Donnell to former beauty queen Alicia Machado."

Gutter talk with Howard Stern. This is America in 2019? Disturbed by conversations with Howard Stern? I hope this is pretend offense. I've read Howard Stern's collection of interviews, which has lots of Trump, and it's lively and funny, and everything that's said is said for a reason. I wouldn't call it "gutter talk."

Givhan informs us that "All the President’s Women" has "a 70-page appendix filled with truncated tales of lascivious behavior — bonus nuggets of lechery." A fashion photographer calls Trump a "predator" because "He was always chasing models." The book says that in the presence of models, Trump "liked to paw their shoulders, cup their bottoms, grab at their breasts and plant sloppy kisses on them when they least expected it."

Paw, cup, grab, plant — How would your gestures of physical affection be described by your worst enemy? Every playful, tender move you make would be disgusting.

Givhan faults the book for collecting the stories but never analyzing why Trump is the way the stories, as told by the authors, make him look. What made him "a lecher"? Something about his childhood, his mother? Some "cultural forces"? "Was he created by some collision of generational, social and demographic storms? Is he a volatile result of a tectonic shift in gender roles?"

And what about us? What makes anybody want to read a compilation of all the scurrilous sexual material about Trump? What kind of result of a "collision of generational, social and demographic storms" are you?

When Jefferson Davis called the people of the northern states "the descendants of the human scum that Cromwell scraped from the bogs and marshes of England."

Yesterday, I was trying to understand the meaning and significance of Trump's use of the phrase "human scum" to describe the "Never Trumper Republicans." I used the NYT archive as my source.

In the comments, Bill Peschel shared the results of his search, using a Library of Congress website that lets you search all of American newspapers, going back to 1789. There, you can see that the oldest use of "human scum" is from the Western Reserve Chronicle, January 21, 1863 — "A Brace of Traitors — The Roundheads and The Cavaliers" — characterizing what Jefferson Davis said as he bucked up southerners to fight during the Civil War:



ADDED: Using that search tool, I am finding earlier newspapers with the more elegant phrase, "the scum of humanity."

AND: I made this chart:

October 24, 2019

The parsley harvest.

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(Meade and I separately photographed the parsley. The first photo is mine, taken while he was out collecting the second bowlful. The second photo is his.)

Troubled by Trump's use of the phrase "human scum," I decided to trace its usage, over the years...

... in the NYT archive. Not "scum" alone, but "human scum," the 2 words together, which struck me as particularly ugly. I searched, and I read every appearance of "human scum" in the NYT. I summarize everything below, but I'll give you the short answer here. The epithet rarely appeared until 2003, when it began coming up repeatedly in statements from the North Korean government. The first person called "human scum" by the North Koreans was John Bolton. Bolton — who was undersecretary of state for arms control in 2003— became Trump's national security adviser and was ousted last month.

But let's go back to the beginning. The oldest use of "human scum" in the NYT came in the July 23, 1897 issue:

I stumbled into the NYT review of Virginia Woolf's first novel.

I'm working on a little research project — results later — that got me into the June 13, 1920 issue of the paper. The short review ends delightfully:

"I remember when I saw Laura Bush.... She said, 'Oh, there she is. The voice of reason on The Five.'"

"I hear that quite a lot. I think, partly, it’s just in my nature to be somebody who tries to bring people together. Ever since I was a kid, I paid a lot of attention to communication. I would sit in the backseat of the car with my sister. If my parents got in an argument, I would immediately start to think, 'If she had just waited until we got home and then if he had said it this way.' I was always trying to figure out, how can we all get along better through communication? I think about that now. It’s just my natural state. I want people to try to get along. Also, I feel like, again, with the background that I have, I’m like, 'Everything changes.' I worked on Capitol Hill when President Clinton was president and we went through the Lewinsky impeachment. I was there on 9/11. I was there during the Iraq War. I was there during the financial crisis. I covered the Obama administration and now Trump. I constantly seek serenity in my life. I’m not saying I’m very good at it, but I’m always seeking it. The other thing I love about being at Fox, and especially I think The Five helped me with this, is that I just am who I am. I can’t fake it. What you see is what you get."

From "Dana Perino’s Rising Stature in Fox News’ Post-Shep Landscape: A Mediaite Q&A" (Mediaite).

It’s just my natural state. I want people to try to get along.... That's the way I feel too.

“I got hit with a chop block when I was a defensive end in high school. My ankles were weak for years. So when I became an exercise junkie..."

"... in my 20s, I used to turn my ankles a bunch. Anyway, I had a friend, a Shoshone healer. Rolling Thunder. I used to see him work on people with an owl’s wing and cedar smoke. I said, ‘Chief, would you consider doctoring my ankles?’ He stood me up and said, ‘When you’re running, have you ever thought about looking down at where you put your feet?’ Here he pauses for effect And I haven’t turned my ankle since.”

From "The Grateful Dead's Bob Weir Is 72 and Still Working Out Like a Beast/What do you get when you cross a Grateful Dead legend and epic, age-defying workouts?" (Men's Health).

Hey, that reminds me. I went out for a drive yesterday. I wanted to see some fall colors and meditate on the local landscape. I turned on the car radio — satellite radio — and just happened to hit the preset button that played this:

Acorns are a superfood fad, and some people are worrying about squirrels starving.

The Wall Street Journal reports:
Formed at Seoul's Yonsei University, the nascent Acorn Rangers group polices the bucolic campus, scaring off other humans from swiping squirrel food.... Strolling across campus, Ms. Park, a junior, sprung into action after spotting an acorn assailant: a woman in her early 60s, clutching a plastic bag stuffed with the tree nuts.

"The squirrels will starve!" barked Ms. Park, her voice booming so loudly that other acorn hunters -- human ones -- scurried away. The two argued for nearly an hour....

Over the past five years, there has been a fivefold increase in criminal charges for illegal gathering of "forest products," according to the Korea Forest Service. The few violators ever caught in the act face up to five years in prison or a maximum fine of roughly $40,000....

At Bukhansan National Park, a popular hiking destination in Seoul, a team of 200 employees and volunteers are now deployed to catch nut thieves. One year the confiscated acorns totaled nearly 450 pounds, such a large haul that they used a helicopter to redistribute the loot for the squirrels....
In Wisconsin state parks, the rule is: "[Y]ou may pick edible fruits, edible nuts, wild mushrooms, wild asparagus and watercress for personal consumption." Personal consumption. Not to start an acorn powder business.

We have a huge oak tree in our yard. We can get acorns so easily I wouldn't even use the word "forage."

"Donald Trump's defense has collapsed. The quid pro quo has been proven.... That's more or less been the unanimous chorus in the impeachment press..."

"... since Tuesday, when State Department envoy to Ukraine William Taylor testified to the House Intelligence Committee. The problem with this narrative is that all we have to rely on is Mr. Taylor's opening statement and leaks from Democrats. What we don't know is how Mr. Taylor responded to questions, or what he knew first-hand versus what he concluded on his own, because like all impeachment witnesses he testified in secret. Chairman Adam Schiff, with the approval of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, refuses to release any witness transcripts.... House Republicans staged a protest at the House Intelligence hearing room on Wednesday to demand an open process, and it was a PR stunt. But they are right about the disgrace of this closed-door impeachment. This isn't routine oversight of a bad presidential decision or reckless judgment. The self-described goal of Mr. Schiff's hearings is to impeach and remove from office a President elected by 63 million Americans. This requires more transparency and public scrutiny than Mr. Schiff's unprecedented process of secret testimony, followed by selective leaks to the friendly media to put everything in the most anti-Trump light, in order to sway public opinion."

From "Schiff's Secret Bombshells," an editorial in the Wall Street Journal.

"TikTok users know that what they post can be repurposed and recontextualized. Reusing other people’s content..."

"... is the central engine of the platform. The voicemail meme is interesting in the standard sense that people who were once in abusive relationships are regaining power and autonomy, and helping viewers in similar situations work through them as well. But the trend is also interesting in that it feels preemptive. If audio needs video accompaniment on TikTok, and people are going to automatically turn anything earnest or heartfelt into an ironic demonstration, it makes sense that users are now doing it to themselves. On one level, they’re claiming dominance over their exes, on another level, they’re also claiming dominance over their audience and critics on TikTok by beating detractors to the punch."

From "Why People Are Soundtracking Dance Videos With Old Voicemails on TikTok" (NY Magazine). Example:

Sunrise, 7:26 AM.

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The precise actual sunrise time today was 7:23.

"Many presidents have used their foreign policy power for political or personal advantage. Most recently, President Barack Obama..."

"... misused his power in order to take personal revenge against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In the last days of his second term, Obama engineered a one-sided UN Security Council resolution declaring that Israel's control over the Western Wall -- Judaism's holiest site -- constitutes a 'flagrant violation of international law.' Nearly every member of Congress and many in his own administration opposed this unilateral change in our policy, but Obama was determined to take revenge against Netanyahu, whom he despised. Obama committed a political sin by placing his personal pique over our national interest, but he did not commit an impeachable offense. Nor did President George H. W. Bush commit an impeachable offense when he pardoned Caspar Weinberger and others on the eve of their trials in order to prevent them from pointing the finger at him."

From "Impeachers Searching for New Crimes" by Alan Dershowitz (at Gatestone Institute).

AND: It would be great if we could just follow a sort of golden rule: Impeach a President you hate only if you would impeach a President you love for doing the same thing.

PLUS: I read my golden rule out loud to Meade and he said "Impeach unto others as you would have others impeach unto you."

"A Texas man says his 7-year-old isn’t transgender. Now his custody fight has reached the governor’s office."

WaPo reports on a story that has been getting attention in conservative media, notably in this tweet from Ted Cruz yesterday:

From the WaPo article:

Was there ever a better throwing out of the first pitch?

"In fact, Trump killed the old Republican Party and now he alone animates the zombie party that lurched forward after its death."

Writes Charles M. Blow in "Donald Trump, Life of a Zombie Party/And an army is blindly following" (NYT).

Yes, Blow is always against Trump, but it's a good line. It fits within a concept I've been tracking under the tag "what Trump did to the GOP."

"Stop calling the inquiry a 'witch hunt' and a 'deep state' conspiracy, they said by way of guidance to the president and his advisers..."

"... because it’s deluding too many Trump supporters into a sense of complacency. Stop insisting that polls showing majority public support for the impeachment inquiry are 'fake news' — because they aren’t. Stop dismissing everyone who testifies about the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine as a radical unelected bureaucrat... The show, which is airing on a half dozen stations in Virginia and Florida and streams on the website WarRoom.org, is a remarkably blunt attempt by former Trump aides to criticize and influence the work of current Trump administration officials. Even the show’s name is something of an affront to the White House — and to Mr. Trump himself. He has told aides that he does not want to create a war room, as crisis response operations are often nicknamed, because he is concerned that people would see it as an acknowledgment that he views the impeachment inquiry as legitimate.... In a broadcast earlier this week, Mr. Bannon warned Mr. Trump’s supporters not to be blinded by their animosity toward the speaker. 'I don’t care if you hate Nancy Pelosi,' he said. 'This is a master, and she is teaching a master class.'"

From "In Steve Bannon’s Basement, a Rogue ‘War Room’ to Fight Impeachment/A new radio show featuring Mr. Bannon and some Trump loyalists aims to add to the messaging in defense of the president" (NYT).

Would Zuckerberg be willing to spend one hour a day for a year as a Facebook content monitor?

A taunting question. What can Zuck say? Well, that's the point of a question like this. There's really no way to answer, and good luck trying before Representative Katie Porter claims back her time. But check out how he tries:



How should Zuckerberg have answered? (Watch video first!)
 
pollcode.com free polls

"For me the best introduction is the human face. When I see two eyes, one mouth, one nose, I know I’m dealing with another human being like me."

"I’m like those young children who don’t care about their companions’ background so long as they smile and are willing to play."

Said the Dalai Lama.

Trump has to explain a joke.



Are we smart enough for democracy?

I think we hurt our brain and now it's reversing....



The internet is exempt from honesty.

October 23, 2019

Sunrise panorama (this morning).

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Click and click again to enlarge.

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Trump calls never Trumpers "human scum."

"A group of House Republicans barged into a secure room at the Capitol on Wednesday where the latest witness in the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry was set to testify..."

"... temporarily shutting down the proceedings. The disruption delayed closed-door testimony from Laura Cooper, the Pentagon official who oversees Ukraine policy, whom lawmakers planned to ask about the White House’s decision to withhold military aid for several months over the summer.... Republicans involved in storming the secure room have begun tweeting updates about their activities and about how Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) has responded. 'BREAKING: I led over 30 of my colleagues into the SCIF where Adam Schiff is holding secret impeachment depositions. Still inside - more details to come,' tweeted Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). Reporting from Adam Schiff’s secret chamber....' Republican lawmakers on the three committees involved in the inquiry have been permitted to attend and ask questions during depositions of witnesses. The lawmakers who have been asked to leave are not members of those committees...."

From "Live updates: House Republicans barge into secure room, disrupt planned testimony in Trump impeachment inquiry" (WaPo).

It's nice not to be recognized.

Trump, just now, on the success of his withdrawal from Syria.

"In the video, three students are seen walking across the parking lot... saying the [n-word] louder with each repetition."

On Monday, the same day that students held a march and rally over the incident, campus police arrested two of the students in the video, identifying them as Jarred Karal and Ryan Mucaj... [I]n an incident report filed by police, Karal and Mucaj, both described as white, 21-year-old male students, had been playing 'a game in which they yelled vulgar words' as they walked with a third student. After arriving at the parking lot of the student apartment complex, they 'switched to saying a racial epithet,' according to the report. The men were loud enough for some students in the complex to hear the shouting from their apartments.... On October 21, Karal and Mucaj were charged with ridicule on account of creed, religion, color, denomination, nationality or race.... [University of Connecticut President Thomas C. Katsouleas] has worked to stress his belief that the university both has a zero-tolerance policy against racism and should not be defined by the recent racist incidents...."

From "White UConn students were arrested for shouting the n-word. Black students say the incident is part of a larger problem/Students say the university needs to do a lot more to address a deeper culture of racism on campus" (Vox).

First, let's distinguish between doing something "to address a deeper culture of racism on campus" and having the state prosecute 2 individuals for saying the n-word to each other in some kind of game. The arrests are a complete distraction from whatever the serious problem may be in the campus culture.

Second, here's that zero-tolerance policy again, that fake, self-serving way for those in power act as though they're taking the problem their constituents care about seriously. We just saw the case of Marlon Anderson, here in Madison, Wisconsin, who was fired for saying the n-word in the context of telling a student not to call him the n-word. Everyone could see the badness of zero tolerance in that context. In this University of Connecticut case, guys who thought they were only talking to each other were playing some sort of game of saying bad words, in which context, it's plain to see that they knew the word was transgressive. They had no target, but they were overheard and recorded, and now they're being scapegoated.

Third, whatever is going on with the school's purported "zero-tolerance" policy, that was not what Karal and Mucaj were arrested for. It's something the school's president is trying to use to defend himself from the students who want the culture to change. I suspect that to these students, what Karal and Mucaj did is evidence that there is a racist culture. If that could happen, they may think, it means that much more is happening all the time. In that light, you should see why Katsouleas's response would be experienced as infuriatingly weak.

"The Cease-Fire in Syria Worked (More or Less)/Whatever the agreement was, it left the status quo in place, at least for the time being."

Writes Kathy Gilsinan in The Atlantic.
[I]t more or less worked... in the very narrow sense of stopping the worst of the Turkish onslaught against the Syrian Kurds for a time. Now there’s a different kind of order in place of the fighting: Syrian Kurdish forces have withdrawn from a chunk of territory near Syria’s border with Turkey; Russia has vowed to help Turkey push them from an area twice as large....

[I]t’s only become clearer that each of the key players—the U.S., Turkey, and the Syrian Kurdish leadership—all believe they agreed to different things....
By "all believe they agreed to different things," she means all assert something different about what was agreed to. No one is speaking the truth straight from their brain. Anything anyone says is to advance their interests.
Despite accusations that the United States had abandoned the Kurds, they seemed to have no intention of abandoning the United States....

Erdoğan may have received enough guarantees, from enough international backers, to maintain the cease-fire—or whatever it is—for now. He has managed to pull both Russia and the United States into effectively guaranteeing Turkish security along its border with Syria. He has, through three separate incursions into northern Syria since 2016, chopped up a stretch of contiguous Kurdish-held territory they had hoped to keep autonomous....
Of course, I don't know what is really happening, but I hope for the best. I hope Trump's decision works out well, and I wonder if Trump's antagonists are hoping it goes badly, hoping Trump fails.

It was in that context that I undertook the search of the archive discussed in the previous post. How awful it is for Americans to be rooting for the failure of an American military effort because that's how much they hate Trump and want him proved horribly, irrefutably wrong! That made me want to look back at what I'd written when Rush Limbaugh said — on the occasion of Obama's inauguration — "I hope he fails."

ADDED: It wasn't the Atlantic article that got me thinking in these terms this morning. It was this Trump tweet:

Dead poll discovered. You can no longer vote or even see the poll results, and I've forgotten what they were. But look what I asked on January 23, 2017.

Should Trump keep fighting back about everything, as aggressively and continuously as he does?







pollcode.com free polls

Here's the post with the poll, which came up this morning when I was searching for old discussions of what Rush Limbaugh said when Obama became President: "I hope he fails." I won't use this post to explain why that became relevant to me this morning, because it would overwhelm and derail this discussion. I'll put that in the next post. Here, I just want to talk about that early speculation about how Trump would behave as President, now that we know he himself picked the first option (the strongest one).

Sunrise, just now.

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"President Threatening to Sue Everybody..."

Everybody?! Easy to make jokes on that headline, which appears at Drudge, but let's click through. It's The Daily Beast, where the real headline is: "With Impeachment Looming, Trump Is Threatening to Sue ‘Everybody Who Pisses Him Off’/The president is reverting to his bad habits" (by White House reporter Asawin Suebsaeng).

The "everybody who pisses him off" quote comes from "one senior White House official."

The President has threatened to sue CNN (and I can't imagine that CNN finds this threatening as opposed to good, invigorating PR):

Harvard students rise up against the student newspaper for covering both sides of a controversy.

I'm reading "Harvard Student Groups Condemn The Crimson’s Coverage of Abolish ICE Rally."
The Crimson reached out to an ICE spokesperson after the protest’s conclusion and did not provide names, immigration statuses, or extended quotes of those who criticized the government agency....

Marion Davis, director of communications for the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said... “I know the Crimson acted on a desire for fairness, but I have learned [through] experience that getting both sides isn't always what is fair, especially when one side has already made its views well known through the megaphones of government,” Davis wrote....

Society of Professional Journalists President Patricia Gallagher Newberry said it is “wholly appropriate” that The Crimson contacted ICE to respond to criticisms of the agency. “You’re not calling ICE to call out an individual person who might be in our country without the documentation required by ICE. You're simply asking for it to respond in a holistic way to the Abolish ICE Movement,” Gallagher said....

"Ultimately, it's unlikely she would do it. But put it this way: It ain't zero. And does she think about it all the time? Absolutely.... Her view is: I ran against this guy, I know how to do this. She has battle scars to prove it."

From "Democrats see weak spots in their own 2020 prospects" (Stamford Advocate)(the top link at Drudge right now).

"She" = Hillary Clinton.
Allies have passed around an op-ed that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, written by former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, with the headline, "Who should run against Trump? How about Hillary Clinton?"

Supporters say she has been glued to the Democratic primary contest and has spoken with some frequency with Warren and Biden, among others. Now selling a book written with her daughter, Chelsea, she has been a constant public presence of late, engaging in a days-long spat with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and repeatedly trolling Trump on his favorite communications platform, Twitter.

A late entrance under any circumstances would be difficult, with Clinton's former aides and fundraising network dispersed among many current campaigns. But her supporters have discussed whether she could helm a slimmed-down campaign operation and whether she would be able to maintain the less cautious, more freewheeling persona she has adopted since her loss in 2016.
I think the problem is that there were some plausible but look-alike and unglitzy governors in the mix but they're already dropped out. The process is such that the better-known Senators blocked the view (along with a few flashy extras, Beto, Buttigieg, Williamson, Yang). There's only so much attention we can pay and only so much money.

Now — just as people with lives should be starting to care about an election that's over a year away — it still looks like a crowd, but there's no one in that crowd who seems able to beat Trump.

Trump! The guy who — if you watch the media — is about to be tossed out on his ass by Congress. Congress... which can't even deliver up one candidate good enough to beat the guy in the normal process. But it's too late now to get a governor. Those characters went down long ago. So the party hacks look around in desperation, and of course, she's there — Hillary Clinton.



Here's my post from May 12, 2019, "It's a joke until it happens. DJT was a joke until it happened. The funniest thing may be the most likely thing."
Yesterday, on Facebook, my son John declared an "Open thread for your predictions on who’ll win the 2020 presidential election. I know it’s too early, but it’s still fun to guess." There were lots of answers, mostly "Trump," but some said Biden or Harris or Buttigieg. After 4 hours of that, I said:
Hillary. It’s her turn.
ADDED: "She has battle scars to prove it" made me think of Lyndon Johnson:



He'd had his gallbladder removed. By the way, Hillary's new book is called "The Book of Gutsy Women."

October 22, 2019

Sunrise (I could tell by the time).

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"By the middle of the evening, I was flying, absolutely out of my mind, when a scruffy-looking guy I didn’t recognize wandered into the party. Who the hell was he?"

"It must be one of the staff, a gardener. I loudly demanded to know what the gardener was doing helping himself to a drink. There was a moment’s shocked silence, broken by the sound of Bob Halley’s voice: 'Elton, that’s not the fucking gardener. It’s Bob Dylan.'"

From Elton John's autobiography, "Me."

"A Massachusetts Democrat is pushing a bill that would make it a crime to maliciously call someone a 'bitch' within the commonwealth."

"Foul-mouthed individuals who are found guilty under a bill introduced by Democratic representative Daniel J. Hunt would face a $150 maximum fine for the first offense, while repeat offenders would face up to six months' imprisonment, a $200 fine, or both. If enacted, 'bitch' would be the only word in the English language to receive such special consideration in Massachusetts."

The Washington Free Beacon reports. Hunt says a constituent asked him to file this bill, and that's why he did it. It's obviously unconstitutional, of course.

"I think even if we have to lose, we need to leave our true thoughts in history. We need to let the people behind us know that we've tried."

Said one of the Hong Kong protesters, interviewed on "Umbrellas Up/For over 100 days now, protesters in Hong Kong have taken to the streets every weekend. What it’s like to live through that," an episode of "This American Life" (audio/transcript).

Another said:
I am pretty much pessimistic, actually. I do wish that one day, we all succeed. We want a democratic Hong Kong, but now, I just don't see a way out. Like, it's been three months. We've been trying each and every step. We've broke into the legislative council. We have more than 1,000 people got arrested. But the government is still trying to ignore all of this.... At least the government sees that we are not that-- how do we say-- we are not that obedient. So we have to continuously tell the government that we are not satisfied with what they are giving us. So we have to do it.
Still another (translated from Chinese):
I think we're actually lucky because we grew up with people who thought the same way. And we realized that when we turn 50, it's the end of our freedoms. I'm 22 now, and I imagine that when I'm 25, that's really half way until the bomb explodes. And so if we don't do anything, by the time we're 50 years old, it would be awful. I don't want our children to have the same battle. And then when we're 50, we'll look back and think that we didn't do enough. Our birthday is like a countdown to the end. And so more so than other people, I feel like my generation, we have a duty to do more.

"When the sickeningly twisted mother pretends her daughter is sick, then actively makes her truly sick and die, for her own personal attention and gain, some call it Munchausen syndrome by proxy."

"When the sickeningly twisted president of our nation pretends our nation is sick, then actively makes it truly sick (and our democracy die?), for his own personal attention and gain, some call it a Manchurian candidacy. Apparently, 'by proxy' to Putin. Both of them deserve the worst sort of hell."

That is one of the highest-rated comments on "A mother’s ‘bucket list’ for her ‘terminally ill’ daughter went viral. But now she’s charged with her murder" (WaPo). To his credit, the commenter marks his own comment "off topic."

"A black security guard who was fired from Madison’s West High School last week for repeating a racial slur a student had hurled at him, in an attempt to correct the student, will get his job back."

"Interim Superintendent Jane Belmore said she rescinded the termination of Marlon Anderson Monday. The decision comes less than a week after Anderson was fired Wednesday for what he said was defending himself from a student who was calling Anderson the N-word. The incident was followed by days of outrage among community members, a student walkout and national attention.... In a statement, School Board President Gloria Reyes said she asked Belmore to rescind the termination, which stemmed from a zero-tolerance approach by the district on the use of racial slurs by employees. The policy, put in place last year, has resulted in at least seven employees losing their jobs."

The Wisconsin State Journal reports.

That shows that applying pressure works, not that any of these authority figures have good character or judgment. And what are they going to do about the other employees who lost their jobs under the zero tolerance policy? Those former employees shouldn't get worse treatment just because there was no display of outrage on their behalf.

If a contextualized judgment is what was required for Anderson, then it's required for all of them. You don't have a zero tolerance policy if you make exceptions.

The zero tolerance policy began as a device that made life easier for those in power, and their interest in their own comfort is underscored by their caving to pressure when that policy made their life difficult. What we're left with is unprincipled power. Have a clear rule and stick to it or consider all the circumstances for everyone. The school authorities do not deserve the ease of leaving those other cases closed.

"Everyone is looking at him like he’s some kind of monster, but that’s not who he is. People make mistakes, and that’s what this is. Yes, it was a horrible tragedy, but it’s still not something to throw his life away over."

Said the mother of a 9-year-old boy who is charged with 5 counts of first-degree murder. She's quoted in "A 9-year-old is facing five counts of murder. He didn’t even know what ‘alleged’ meant" (WaPo).

The boy's aunt, whose 2-year-old daughter was one of the persons who died in the fire, said: "I think he should go somewhere until he’s legal age to go to juvie. Then I think he should go to juvie. And then from juvie to prison. Because at the end of the day, whether he meant to or not, he knew what fire did."

"Billionaires, he argued, should not exist in a 'cosmic sense,' but in reality most of them are..."

"... simply 'people who do really good things and kind of help a lot of other people. And you get well compensated for that.' He warned too about the dangers of ceding too much control over their wealth to the government, allegedly bound to stifle innovation and competition and 'deprive the market' of his fellow billionaires’ funding for philanthropy and scientific research. 'Some people think that, okay, well the issue or the way to deal with this sort of accumulation of wealth is, Let’s just have the government take it all,'  Zuckerberg said. 'And now the government can basically decide, you know, all of the medical research that gets done.' What he didn’t mention is that Sanders’s tax would cost him $5.5bn in its first year."

From "Mark Zuckerberg's plea for the billionaire class is deeply anti-democratic/In his defense against Bernie Sanders’ call to abolish billionaires, Mark Zuckerberg makes claims that are elitist and wrong" (The Guardian).

Tangentially related: "U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that being president has cost him between $2 billion and $5 billion that he would have made if he had continued running his business instead of getting into politics, a claim unsupported by evidence" (Reuters).

ADDED: A photograph of mine, from 2008, originally blogged as "Cosmic ice cream":

Cosmic Ice Cream

"This is my last letter..."

"[T]he fictional shirts boast a bottle-cap-sized pull-tab at the midsection, which, according to Mr. Robinson's character, is there 'so you don't wreck your shirt or hurt your hand' when pulling your T-shirt down over your belly...."

"Many men pull on their shirts, just below the rib cage, just above the belly button, constantly. The sketch was inspired by [Tim] Robinson's own tugging habit...  'If I catch myself doing it, I'm like, What are you doing -- you've got to stop tugging on your shirt,' said Michael Berkowitz, 26, a product manager at a financial tech company in Austin, Texas. After watching the shirt-tugging sketch on 'I Think You Should Leave,' his girlfriend started teasing him in public about the quirk.... 'You get older, you get a little gut, and you get a little self-conscious, and you tug out your shirt. I found myself doing it a lot.'"

From "Men, That Constant Tugging of Your Shirt? We Notice It" (WSJ).

"[I]t’s fair to say that Mexico is now on a trajectory to become a vast gangland governed more by warlordism than by the state."

"The last time this happened was a century ago, during the decade-long Mexican Revolution, which eventually triggered the invasion and occupation of northern Mexico in 1916 by the U.S. Army, including the mobilization of the entire National Guard and a call for volunteers. Before it was over, U.S. forces attacked and occupied Nogales, Sonora, in 1918 and Ciudad Juarez in 1919.... What’s different today is that Mexico, despite its corrupt and incompetent government, has a rising middle class and a growing economy. Unlike the Mexican state, the Mexican people have shown themselves to be more than capable of industrious and liberal self-government, not just in the success millions of them have achieved in the United States but also in the success of local governments throughout the country. Set against the Mexican people is a Mexican state incapable of governing and a cartel insurgency that now controls vast swaths of both territory and industry. President Lopez Obrador will not push back on the cartels.... He has said he wants to tackle the 'root causes' of crime and violence, which he has said are poverty and lack of opportunity, and campaigned for president on slogans such as 'hugs, not gunshots,' and 'you can’t fight fire with fire.'.... The idea that a nation of 120 million people with whom the United States shares a 2,000-mile border and ever-increasing economic ties might spiral into collapse has not seriously occurred to the American people."

From "A Drug Cartel Just Defeated The Mexican Military In Battle" (The Federalist).

Question for Mike Huckabee: Were the authors of The Federalist Papers kids, cowards, couch potatoes, or perverts?


Pseudonyms are an American tradition. They're all over the place in debate over ratifying the Constitution.

And how about Rocky Clark? Was he a kid, a coward, a couch potato, or a pervert? (Rocky Clark was the pseudonym Steve Wozniak used "when attending the University of California, Berkeley after co-founding Apple Computer, because 'I knew I wouldn't have time enough to be an A+ student'" — see "Pseudonym" (Wikipedia)).

And then there's Donald Trump:
Donald Trump, an American businessman, politician, and 45th president of the United States, has used several pseudonyms, including "John Barron" (or "John Baron"), "John Miller" and "David Dennison". His practice of sometimes speaking to the media under the guise of a spokesperson has been described as "an open secret" at the Trump Organization and in New York media circles. Some New York editors recalled that "calls from Barron were at points so common that they became a recurring joke on the city desk." A writer for Fortune reported that Trump's father Fred Trump had used the pseudonym Mr. Green in business dealings....
Was Huckabee couch-potatoing when he came up with that pathetic tweet? He didn't even spell Pierre Delecto right.

October 21, 2019

Railroad grafitti.

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Lawrence O'Donnell learns the word "beclown."


I guess Lawrence O'Donnell hasn't been reading Instapundit over the years, because "beclown" is a favorite word over there. Here are all the "beclown"s on Instapundit, the oldest one being this, from 2007:
I LOVE THIS PHRASE: “BECLOWNED HIMSELF.” It fits.
He loved it, and he remembered to use it. We'll see if O'Donnell, newly infatuated with "beclown," remembers it.

I checked my archive, and I see I've never used "beclown," never even quoted it. But the second place I check is the OED, and it is there, under the entry for the prefix "be-." And the quote is from 1609:
1609 S. Rowlands Whole Crew Kind Gossips 24 O wretch, O Lob, who would be thus beclown'd?
There are lots of "be-" words attested to by the OED — "bedoctor," "befinger," "berascal," "bebutter," "becobweb," "bepimple" (to choose a tiny handful).

Here's something Laurence Sterne wrote in "Tristram Shandy" (1769): "[T]he souls of connoisseurs... by long friction and incumbition, have the happiness, at length, to get all be-virtu'd—be-pictured,—be-butterflied, and be-fiddled."

I am amused (not bemused (which means puzzled)).

"CNN’s new hire, former Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), has used his first two appearances on the network to push a conspiracy theory that has already been widely debunked — including by CNN’s own reporting."

"The debunked Crowdstrike conspiracy theory is at the center of the impeachment inquiry into whether President Donald Trump improperly withheld congressionally approved military aid from Ukraine. The theory posits that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of the Democrats -- conveniently exonerating Russia’s efforts to aid Trump -- and that a Ukrainian-owned company tried to cover the tracks and took the Democratic National Committee’s computer server that was hacked to Ukraine. In reality, the FBI and Congress have investigated the 2016 election and found that Russia meddled extensively to push for Trump’s win. The company at the center of the conspiracy theory -- CrowdStrike -- is headquartered in the United States, not Ukraine. And there was never a physical DNC server that could’ve been taken to Ukraine.... Duffy has used his first two appearances on CNN to argue that Trump was right to pressure Ukraine to look into the conspiracy theory, even though it 'may be' debunked. In both instances, Duffy received strong pushback, begging the question why CNN would hire a bad-faith conspiracy theorist who undermines CNN’s own reporting and needs to be fact-checked on-air."

From "CNN hired Sean Duffy, who immediately pushed conspiracy theories that CNN had already debunked" (Media Matters).

It's so easy to answer the question why CNN would hire a bad-faith conspiracy theorist who undermines CNN’s own reporting and needs to be fact-checked on-air!

I don't know if that's a fair characterization of Duffy (and I haven't followed the Crowdstrike business), but let's do it as a hypothetical and leave Duffy and Crowdstrike out of this.

CNN hires a bad-faith conspiracy theorist who undermines CNN’s own reporting and needs to be fact-checked on-air. Why? A network strongly biased against Trump wants to have some claim of balance — of showing both sides and having someone who ostensibly defends Trump. Because of their actual bias, they choose someone who will make weak, inflammatory arguments, and the other people on the show will make sport of him for the entertainment and edification of the anti-Trump audience.

Is Duffy a mere punching bag, or is he performing a role similar to what Juan Williams does on Fox News (on "The Five")? I don't know. I don't watch CNN.

"... 98 percent of Fox-citing Republicans oppose impeaching and removing Trump... 90 percent of non-Fox-citing Republicans oppose impeaching and removing him — which is overwhelmingly high..."

"... but suggests that among this group, at least, Trump could suffer losses on the margins as the inquiry turns up worse revelations. And here’s another real doozy: In response to my inquiry, PRRI tells me that 71 percent of Fox-citing Republicans strongly approve of Trump, while only 39 percent of non-Fox-citing Republicans strongly approve of him.... On impeachment, Fox News figures have put out nonstop disinformation. They regularly claim the inquiry is invalid absent a full House vote (which is baseless); that Trump did nothing wrong in the Ukraine scandal (he pressured a foreign leader to help him rig our election by investigating potential opponent Joe Biden); that the whistleblower has been discredited (his complaint perfectly captured what Trump actually did); and that Biden did the same or worse (which is based on a fabricated narrative).... "

From "Want Trump removed? New data shows Fox News is a huge obstacle" by Greg Sargent at WaPo (which is trying to be a huge obstacle to Trump's staying in office).

Here's the top-rated comment: "Fox should be labeled a national security threat, a seditious organization and a Russian asset." I can't tell if that was written as sarcasm or what percent of the up-voters are perceiving it as sarcasm.

Mitt Romney "explained that he uses a secret Twitter account—'What do they call me, a lurker?'—to keep tabs on the political conversation."

"'I won’t give you the name of it,' he said, but 'I’m following 668 people.' Swiping at his tablet, he recited some of the accounts he follows, including journalists, late-night comedians ('What’s his name, the big redhead from Boston?'), and athletes. Trump was not among them. 'He tweets so much,' Romney said, comparing the president to one of his nieces who overshares on Instagram. 'I love her, but it’s like, Ah, it’s too much.'"

From "This Sure Looks Like Mitt Romney’s Secret Twitter Account (Update: It Is)/Meet 'Pierre Delecto.'"

This strikes me as totally normal — having a Twitter account so you can follow people but not wanting you real name to be seen. He only had 8 followers and only tweeted 10 times (each time replying to somebody). It's nothing.

Maybe just funny that he picked the named Pierre Delecto. "Delecto" is the Latin word for "delight." Don't mix it up with "delicto" which means an act of wrongdoing, as in "in flagrante delicto" — which means, literally, "a flaming offense." The Wikipedia article for "in flagrante delicto" says "See also: Smoking gun."

And it's funny that he couldn't think of the name of Conan O'Brien.

"Hong Kong activists wear Joker and Winnie-the-Pooh masks as they form human chains in defiance of ban on face coverings."

The Daily Mail reports.
Chinese internet users have joked that Chinese president Xi Jinping resembles AA Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh - leading the country's censors to scrub online references to it. Many protesters have been seen wearing masks of the character in an apparent effort to mock the leader....
The photo at the link doesn't show a Winnie-the-Pooh mask, but an image that combines Winnie-the-Pooh and Xi:



It's hard for me to absorb the mockery, if that is what is intended. I feel nothing but affection toward Winnie-the-Pooh. In fact, I was just listening to this lovely song...



... so resembling Winnie-the-Pooh feels totally positive.

"Doral in Miami would have been the best place to hold the G-7, and free, but too much heat from the Do Nothing Radical Left Democrats & their Partner, the Fake News Media!"

"I’m surprised that they allow me to give up my $400,000 Plus Presidential Salary! We’ll find someplace else!"

Trump tweets.

"The Colorado originates in the Rocky mountains and traverses seven US states, watering cities and farmland, before reaching Mexico, where it is supposed to flow onwards to the Sea of Cortez."

"Instead, the river is dammed at the US-Mexico border, and on the other side the river channel is empty. Locals are now battling to bring it back to life. There are few more striking examples of what has come to be known as 'environmental injustice' – the inequitable access to clean land, air and water, and disproportionate exposure to hazards and climate disasters. Water in particular has emerged as a flash point as global heating renders vast swaths of the planet ever drier.... [T]he 1944 treaty did not allocate Mexico any water for the river itself.... In the US, the Colorado serves over 35 million people, including several native tribes, seven national wildlife refuges, 11 national parks, and, supports $26m tourism and recreational industries, as well as farming.... At the Morelos dam, located between Los Algodones, Baja California and Yuma, Arizona, the river is diverted to a complex system of irrigation canals which nourish fields of cotton, wheat, alfalfa, asparagus, watermelons and date palms in the vast surrounding desert valley.... Following the dry riverbed south towards the Gulf of California evokes an eerie sadness...."

From "The lost river/Mexicans fight for mighty waterway taken by the US" (The Guardian).

I'm interested in this concept of the water's inherent destiny — that it "is supposed to flow onwards to the Sea of Cortez." No one is fighting for that result.

"Poll: Iowa caucuses are 'up for grabs' as Pete Buttigieg surges into top tier."

Headline at USA Today.
It's a new three-way race in Iowa.... The poll, taken Wednesday through Friday, put Biden at 18%, Warren at 17% and Buttigieg at 13% among 500 likely Democratic caucusgoers.... California Sen. Kamala Harris, who was then in second place after a strong showing in the first Democratic debate, has plummeted 13 percentage points and is now in a three-way tie for sixth [at 3%]. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders earned 9% support, the same number as in the June poll.

"By this point in the 2016 Democratic primary, in contrast, a huge bloc Democratic governors, senators and representatives had chosen a candidate, Hillary Clinton."

"But this cycle, the overwhelming majority of congressional Democrats and Democratic governors are still on the sidelines. Indeed, the 2020 Democratic primary looks more like the 2016 Republican primary, when most GOP officials held their fire until deep into the race, than that year’s Democratic race.... Warren has two obvious problems with party elites. First, there is the perception among some of them that her left-wing stands, such as Medicare for All, are too risky for the general election and decrease the party’s chances of defeating President Trump.... Secondly, electoral considerations aside, there is a center-left wing of the Democratic Party that fundamentally disagrees with Warren’s more leftward positions... Warren also has a third challenge with party elites that is less obvious. The Massachusetts senator clashed with senior aides to President Obama for much of his tenure in the White House. She, like Sanders, isn’t quite in line with the party’s establishment. A Warren administration would probably be less likely to hire former Clinton (Bill and Hillary) and Obama aides in key posts than, say, a Biden, Booker or Harris one. So people connected with the party establishment (like many DNC members) may be fine with Warren but prefer other candidates for more self-interested reasons.... The potential danger for the Massachusetts senator is that 'party elites lukewarm about Warren' turns into 'party elites organize to stop Warren.' And perhaps Democratic voters care more about the views of their party’s elites than Republican voters did in 2016."

From "Why Aren’t More Democrats Endorsing Warren?" (FiveThirtyEight).

I wish there were some discussion of the way Democratic Party elites behaved in 2008, endorsing Hillary Clinton early and interfering with the rise of Barack Obama. Aren't they avoiding giving Biden what they gave Hillary in '08?

Anyway, things were different then. There were "superdelegates," and the elite had reason to think they could control things. Here's a WaPo article from September 2018, "The DNC voted to strip superdelegates of their powers. Will it matter for 2020?":

October 20, 2019

At sunrise, 2 red orbs.

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"Syria critic Lindsey Graham reverses stance, says Trump's policy could succeed."

Reuters reports.
“I am increasingly optimistic that we can have some historic solutions in Syria that have eluded us for years if we play our cards right,” Graham said.

Graham said Trump was prepared to use U.S. air power over a demilitarized zone occupied by international forces, adding that the use of air power could help ensure Islamic State fighters who had been held in the area did not “break out.”...

Graham also said he believed the United States and Kurdish forces long allied with Washington could establish a venture to modernize Syrian oil fields, with the revenue flowing to the Kurds. “President Trump is thinking outside the box,” Graham said of Trump’s thinking on oil. “The president appreciates what the Kurds have done,” Graham added. “He wants to make sure ISIS does not come back. I expect we will continue to partner with the Kurds in Eastern Syria to make sure ISIS does not re-emerge.”