November 23, 2019

13 minutes after sunrise...


16 minutes after sunrise...


Actual sunrise time today: 7:01.

Feel free to talk about anything in the comments.

"Every person you sit next to in a coffee shop..."

Running in airports... Cory Booker.

7 minutes before sunrise...


4 minutes before sunrise...


Trump phones in a rally to an audience of 3.

"What to say to one of the masters of the macabre?... [Gahan] Wilson was a star in three places: The New Yorker, Playboy, and National Lampoon..."

"... delivering covers, multi-panel series, and single-panel gags to those majestic peaks of the cartoon-publishing landscape. The title of a 2013 documentary about him, 'Born Dead, Still Weird,' tells us a lot about the man and his work. Weird was his specialty—he thought that way, and he drew that way. Wilson was part of a select group of cartoonists who own their style, who deliver on paper what seems to be a good piece of themselves. It is a distinction shared by, to name just a few, Edward Koren, George Booth, and Roz Chast. The work is somehow inseparable from who they are, and that’s part of what makes it so memorable.... Although he habitually delved into that dark funny corner that we associate with Charles Addams, his style was singular. He liked to depict ordinary folks encountering some kind of anxious terror, or experiencing the unthinkable in mundane places. It’s a man at a pizza counter hovering over an entire pizza—the man’s mouth the same oval shape, the same size, as the whole pie. It’s fishermen on a calm lake, with one about to be murdered by the other, who is removing a human mask to reveal his true monster self."

From the New Yorker tribute to Gahan Wilson, who died on Thursday at the age of 89.

"Well, that was a total waste of time."

More cartoons at the link. And here's that documentary:

Gahan Wilson-Born Dead, Still Weird from Mindy Elliott on Vimeo.

"TV’s impeachment drama is drawing big ratings, but a Democratic debate on MSNBC sank to a viewership low."

The NYT reports.
After five full days of hearings across two weeks, the average live TV viewership for impeachment has been roughly 12 million people, according to Nielsen. Ratings have dipped slightly from a peak on Day 1, Nov. 13, which drew an audience of 13.1 million, but the drop-off is less than what many sitcoms see after a season premiere.

And the numbers for cable news are superlative: Last week, Fox News notched its highest-rated week of the year in terms of total viewership. MSNBC enjoyed the best week in its 23-year history for total viewers....

Partisan talk shows are doing particularly well. On Fox News, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson earned close to their biggest audiences of the year, with Mr. Hannity at one point zooming past 4.4 million viewers. On MSNBC, Rachel Maddow’s average viewership during impeachment has put her on track for one of her best-ever ratings months....
But the Democratic candidates' debate on Wednesday night only got "6.6 million tuning in to MSNBC." Maybe the Democrats are better off if we don't see too much of their candidates, but do the ratings for the impeachment hearings suggest that the American voters are eager to get rid of Trump? Obviously not. It's Fox News that's getting the most viewers, and I'm going to presume that choosing to watch the hearings (and analysis) on Fox means that you're hoping to see Trump exonerated. Plenty of people watched on MSNBC too, and I presume they were looking to see guilt, guilt, guilt.

"Social media has enabled the Great Control Swap.... The first baby step toward the Great Swap was the shift from phone calls to texts."

"A phone interaction requires participants to be 'on the same time,' which entails negotiations over entrance into and exit from the conversation. Consider all the time we spend first on, 'Is this a bad time to call? Can you talk?' And then later on, 'O.K., gotta go, talk to you soon, see you later, good talking to you … '... [If you tweet about your children, they] can’t control whether you laugh at it, or what tone you use when you do.... But we live in a world that is starting to allow us to satisfy [the desire for human connection] without feeling the common-sense moral strictures that have traditionally governed human relationships. We can engage without obligation, without boredom and, most importantly, without subjecting our attention to the command of another.... The immense appeal of this free-form socializing lies in the way it makes one a master of one’s own time — but it cannot happen without a place. All that data has to sit somewhere so that people can freely access it whenever they wish.... When we alienate our identities as text data, and put that data 'out there' to be read by anyone who wanders by, we are putting ourselves into the interpretive hands of those who have no bonds or obligations or agreements with us.... People we cannot trust. The Great Control Swap buys us control over the logistics of our interactions at the cost of interpretive control over the content of those interactions. Our words have lost their wings, and fallen to the ground as data."

From "The Real Cost of Tweeting About My Kids/When I’ve told you what my son said, it’s not 'his data' anymore" by Agnes Callard (NYT). Callard is a philosophy professor at the University of Chicago.

As is even more clear if you read the entire column, Callard mixes 2 topics:

1. Creating permanent text that is stored beyond your control where it can be used by others for their purposes. There's the businesslike monetization done by whatever social media platform you use. And there is the infinite human potential to use whatever has been written down for whatever new purposes arise at any point in the future. There's too much evidence in written form, lying there, discoverable, to be used against you, out of context, by anybody, any time for the rest of you life.

2. The escape from the time constraints involved in conversations — whether in person or by telephone. There is freedom in not having to get and stay in the same time frame with another person, but you miss the ongoing feedback about how the other person is responding, and there's more distance, room for interpretation, and exposure to people whose emotions and intentions are far beyond your knowledge and control.

This essay would work better if the subject of websites monetizing data were left out. The topic of control in personal relationships is enough and even too much. The headline writer teased us with an even smaller topic, mothers writing about their children and appropriating their lives for their transitory narcissistic pleasure. We do (ironically) hear some details about her sons, but Callard is writing about human relationships more generally, and she doesn't have the space to really get into that topic.

Callard doesn't go back into the history of adopting the telephone and whatever havoc that caused. Before that, people spoke in person or wrote letters. What about "The Great Control Swap" that happened when we all got telephones? Fewer letters and less knowledge about what people who were speaking to you were actually doing and feeling and where they were and who they were with.

I'm not buying "Our words have lost their wings, and fallen to the ground as data." Yes, there's data in the sense of our manufacturing a product that some business can sell, but the words still have wings in the sense that they are read by real human beings who understand and interpret and do things of their own with those words. Are the words more dangerous to the person who creates them because they are written down? If they're dangerous, it's not because they've "fallen to the ground" but because they are still in action and the writer has lost control. But the words you speak also escape your control, and because there is no text record, you're at the mercy of the the person who heard or misheard and remembered or misremembers and repeats or misrepeats whatever you said.

November 22, 2019

At the Friday Cafe...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"The Justice Department inspector general has found evidence that an FBI employee may have altered a document connected to court-approved surveillance of a former Trump campaign adviser..."

"... but has concluded that the conduct did not affect the overall validity of the surveillance application, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter. The person under scrutiny is a low-level FBI lawyer who has since been forced out of the agency, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss material that has not yet been made public. They declined to identify the lawyer.... That conduct did not alter Horowitz’s finding that the surveillance application of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page had a proper legal and factual basis, the officials said. [Inspector General Michael] Horowitz has been exploring various aspects of the Russia probe but was focused in particular on applications the FBI filed with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor Page’s electronic communications.... Separately, Attorney General William P. Barr tapped U.S. Attorney John Durham to explore the origins of the FBI probe and U.S. intelligence agency activities aimed at the Trump campaign, and Durham is expected to pursue the allegation surrounding the altered document to see whether it constitutes a crime, people familiar with the matter said.... Conservatives have alleged that a medley of wrongdoing occurred during the investigation, which was eventually taken over by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, and they are likely to seize on any criticism that Horowitz directs at those involved in the probe...."

WaPo reports.

"Oh, Thank God, It’s Over Now."

A headline at NY Magazine. I clicked because I thought that it was going to be about the impeachment hearings and that it was interesting that somebody at NY Magazine was glad they were over. But it's about the annual televised Victoria's Secret fashion show.
Victoria’s Secret has become emblematic of an outdated kind of sex appeal, one that was sold to women but catered to men. It also probably doesn’t help that Les Wexner, the former CEO of L Brands, was a well-known client of Jeffrey Epstein....

The brand has had some attempts to change. A September ad campaign was inspired by Me Too and photos of a plus-size model and a transgender model were shown in stores (the plus-size model in question, people were quick to point out, has made fatphobic comments in the past). Still, the general response was, “Too little too late.”...

Invisible sunrise, 7:03.


Actual sunrise time, 7:00.

“My God, what did I do? Was I the Al Jolson of androgyny?”

Said Julia Sweeney, quoted in "Who Is Julia Sweeney Coming to Terms With? It’s Pat/The 'Saturday Night Live' character has been used as an insult for decades. Sweeney and some of her most prominent critics address the enduring legacy of her role" (NYT).

Wasn't Pat worse than what Al Jolson did? Seems to me Pat was an intentional effort at encouraging the audience to feel revulsion and engage in mockery against a kind of person who is an outsider.

From the Wikipedia article, "Al Jolson":
Jolson often performed in blackface makeup. Performing in blackface makeup was a theatrical convention of many entertainers at the beginning of the 20th century, having its origin in the minstrel show. According to film historian Eric Lott:

"[Fiona] Hill conflated two separate theories of Ukrainian collusion in the 2016 election. One of these is discredited, the other is quite viable."

"Hill helped the Democrats suggest that they have both been debunked.... ... President Trump is largely to blame for propagating the discredited Ukraine theory. It holds that, somehow, it was Ukraine, rather than Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election by cyber-espionage against Democratic email accounts.... The second theory has nothing to do with Russia. It is supported by significant evidence. It includes public professions of support for Clinton and opposition to Trump by Ukrainian officials. It includes acknowledgments by Ukrainian investigators that their Obama administration counterparts encouraged them to investigate Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Bolstering this theory is the fact that Ukrainian officials leaked information damaging to Manafort (a ledger of payments, possibly fabricated) that forced Manafort’s ouster from the Trump campaign, triggering waves of negative publicity for the campaign. A Ukrainian court, in late 2018, concluded that two Ukrainian officials meddled in the election. And in 2018 House testimony, Nellie Ohr — who worked for Fusion GPS, the Clinton campaign opposition research firm that produced the lurid and discredited Steele dossier — conceded that a pro-Clinton Ukrainian legislator was a Fusion informant. When Republicans and most Trump supporters refer to evidence of Ukrainian collusion in the 2016 election, it is this collusion theory that they are speaking about. This theory is in no way mutually exclusive with the finding that Russia hacked the DNC accounts — it has nothing to do with the hacking."

Writes Andrew McCarthy (in the NY Post).

"It was only a mere presidential election cycle ago, after all, that the white suit was thrust into the limelight as a symbol of so much: women’s advancement and opportunity..."

"... and the possibility of change. That it became not an item of clothing but a placeholder in a continuum that began with the suffragists, continued through Geraldine Ferraro, and resonated today. That it sparked mountains of text and tweets and entire Facebook groups dedicated to celebrating its meaning and urging adoption — and then designating it the outfit of the opposition. That Hillary Clinton made it a cause célèbre, #WearWhiteToVote made it a hashtag, Melania Trump made it a pointed subject of speculation, and the women of the 116th Congress made it a gauntlet."

But then along came Tulsi, and "Tulsi Gabbard’s White Pantsuit Isn’t Winning" — according to Vanessa Friedman in the NYT. Elizabeth Warren isn't doing the white pantsuit. Amy Klobuchar isn't doing the white pantsuit. Kamala Harris isn't doing the white pantsuit. Only Tulsi. And she's not doing it right. She's worn a white pantsuit in 3 debates. Oh! She persisted!

What is Friedman's problem with Tulsi in white? Well, Friedman doesn't admit that she has a problem with Tulsi in white. She's gesturing at the existence of opinion out there: "reaction has been muted at best." Is that even anything? The absence of getting as excited about Tulsi in white as people got about Hillary Clinton in white... but was that even ever real excitement? Wasn't that fake? And no one's criticizing Tulsi, are they?

Assuming there's some kind of problem here, Friedman speculates that it might be abou Gabbard's squabbling with Hillary Clinton (Clinton called her a Russian asset and Gabbard called Clinton "queen of the warmongers") or the fact that there are other women on the stage, but it's most likely because Gabbard's white is not the white of the suffragists but "the white of avenging angels and flaming swords, of somewhat combative righteousness (also cult leaders)." That is, per Friedman, she's not about "community building" she's about setting herself apart and appealing to "the fringe, rather than the center."

To me, the white suit — on any candidate — is a problem. It's too bright, drawing attention away from the face. It makes you look as though you're not ready for hard work, only for show. And I suspect that most women feel that they couldn't wear an all white suit because it's unflattering. It's just not realistic. Maybe that's the point, trying to look like the embodiment of ideals. But that's not what we need in a President.

But what about the white suit on Tulsi in particular? Is it a problem because the white suit has important, recent, special meaning and she's not doing that meaning? Can't she just pick whatever color she wants? Sometimes white is just a color?

Quick. Find an absolutely clear, 1-paragraph, just-the-facts summary of exactly what Trump did that warrants impeachment.

Right now, as Democrats are deciding whether to plunge into impeachment, they need to check in with reality.

I'm begging you, Democrats: Assume you are talking to an ordinary American, someone who hasn't been sitting around watching hearings, who doesn't have the time or patience to listen to elaborate explanations, and who isn't just already on your team.

Imagine this person saying to you:
I'm very busy. I'm going to vote next year, but I'm seeing this impeachment business, and I don't have time to do all the homework. I don't trust any of you politicos, and I don't want to try to figure out who among all you characters is more honest and patriotic than the others. I'd like to wait for the election and hash it all out next year in the normal way, but you're talking about immersing us in all this crazy stuff about who said what to whom and what was in Trump's head. You need the support of the people — normal people, like me — and you need to tell me clearly, factually, what the hell you are talking about. If you say 100 words without pulling it together and making sense to me, you need to shut up and leave me alone. I hate you.
The reason for impeaching should be very clear and not dependent on a predisposition to make leaps of inference or the belief that Trump is a terrible President.

Democrats, if you can't do this, you need to step back from the precipice.

The cheap, obtuse fun of mocking Marie Kondo for selling some expensive, carefully chosen objects.

I saw the mockery the other day, but didn't want to take the trouble to say what is too obvious to ignore, but here's Penelope Green saying it in the NYT: "Marie Kondo Wants to Sell You Nice Things. What’s Wrong With That?/Her new online store honors her brand’s ethos: that objects can make people happy."

Kondo's decluttering was never about getting down to the bare minimum. It's about getting rid of everything that doesn't make you feel happy. That assumes you do have a few things that really work for you. But what would those things be? And what if you're just starting out? And also, what if you need to buy gifts for people who you know have followed the Marie Kondo method?

Here's the KonMari store. And here's the page for the most-mocked thing: Tuning Fork & Rose Quartz Crystal/$75.
Marie uses a tuning fork in her everyday life to help her to reset – and she’s never without a crystal. Striking the fork against a crystal creates pure tones that are believed to help restore a sense of balance. Made of aluminum alloy, this KonMari tuning fork has a frequency of 4,096 hertz. Comes with a rose quartz crystal.
She's never without a crystal, but she doesn't make any assertions about what the crystal is supposed to do. Leave the crystal beliefs to others to propound, but as for the tuning fork, the belief is stated: It restores a sense of balance. I note that there's no assertion that Marie believes that or that the belief is true. The assertion is only that there are such beliefs out there, presumably somewhere in the mind of some human beings, because where else could beliefs that complex exist? A cat might have a sense of balance, but it's unlikely that a cat has beliefs about a sense of balance, and virtually impossible for a cat to think it could recover a lost sense of balance by using an object to make a particular sound.

"Tesla’s Electric ‘Cybertruck’ Is Unveiled. It’s Pointy."

Ha ha. Great NYT headline. The thing is pointy.

At the unveiling, Elon Musk said: "Trucks have been the same for a very long time. Like a hundred years, trucks have been basically the same. We want to try something different."

The designer, Franz von Holzhausen, banged it with a sledgehammer, and that demonstration of toughness worked. Then he threw a metal ball at the driver’s side window and the window cracked. He threw the metal ball at the back seat window and, again, the window cracked.

Musk said "Maybe that was a little too hard" and continued with the presentation with the truck with 2 cracked windows in the background.

If you want a good look at the pointy-ness, Motor Trend has 47 photos of the thing. After you've seen a few of them, please take my poll, and vote only based on how it looks (not on whether you like electric trucks or worry about crackable windows):

What do you think of the looks of Tesla's Cybertruck? free polls

November 21, 2019

At the Doll's House Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

(I took the photograph on Sunday, just before a performance of "A Doll's House 2" at the American Players Theater, the last play of the season. I saw the classic Ibsen play "A Doll's House" twice at the APT this year. "A Doll's House 2" is recent play (from 2017), written by Lucas Hnath. It has 4 characters from the original play, and we see them 15 years later. So: How did it go for Nora after she slammed the door on Torvald?)

"A new Emerson poll finds President Trump’s approval has increased in the last month with 48% approval and 47% disapproval..."

"... a bounce from 43% approval in the last Emerson National poll in October. Support for impeachment has flipped since October from 48% support with 44% opposing to now 45% opposed and 43% in support. The biggest swing is among Independents, who oppose impeachment now 49% to 34%, which is a reversal from October where they supported impeachment 48% to 39%...."

Emerson reports.

"I Want Nothing."

I think this is a sign that everything's going to be all right.

The Guardian, on its front page, features an article titled "The 10 greatest cardigans." And "cardigans" isn't some special British word for something more important than a sweater that buttons down the front. This is actually an article identifying and ranking the great button-down sweaters in history. #7 is that thick, nubby thing Jeff Bridges wore in "The Big Lebowski." #4 is that even rattier thing Kurt Cobain wore in Nirvana's MTV "Unplugged" performance. #1 is the J. Crew "symbol of Michelle Obama’s mastery of soft-power semiotics" that FLOTUS wore on her first visit to London when she met the Prime Minister's wife. Michelle Obama also wore a cardigan to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen, but apparently the soft-power semiotics she deployed for the Prime Minister's wife had more greatness about it.

"Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted on corruption charges on Thursday..."

"The decision announced by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit was the first of its kind against a serving Israeli prime minister and represented Netanyahu's gravest crisis of his lengthy political career. He was charged with breach of trust and fraud in all three corruption cases against him, as well as bribery in one of the investigations, according to a charge sheet released by the Justice Ministry.... He is under no legal obligation to resign after being charged. The opening of a trial could be delayed for months by a new election and any moves by the right-wing prime minister to seek parliamentary immunity from prosecution."

Reuters reports.

I'm only overhearing the impeachment hearing right now, and all I can say is the witness has a fascinatingly beautiful accent.

I searched Twitter for Fiona Hill and accent...

"Scientists have long theorized about a hypothetical 'most excruciating dinner party possible,' and now a potential breakthrough has been made: In October..."

"Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Thiel, and Donald Trump had dinner in Washington, D.C. NBC News confirmed the existence of the dinner, which neither Facebook nor the White House had announced," Max Read writes in "How Should You Feel About Mark Zuckerberg’s Dinner Date With Peter Thiel and Donald Trump?" (NY Magazine).
Not only is it normal for the CEO and a powerful board member of a major U.S. company to have dinner with the president, it’s normal for Zuckerberg to have dinner with right-wing pundits and conservative figures...

“It is unclear why the meeting was not made public or what Trump, Zuckerberg, and Thiel discussed,” NBC reports... So how should we feel? At best, I suppose, we should feel thankful that none of us had to be physically present as the trio chewed on well-done steak, Trump interjecting every so often to share his thoughts on Andrea Mitchell.
Hmm. I didn't expect the last 2 words to turn out to be "Andrea Mitchell." That surprised me. Did Trump tweet something about Andrea Mitchell just recently?

I wonder why the teaser "How Should You Feel About...?" worked on me. I'm not looking to be told how to feel. I guess I thought the article would be more manipulative and that would give me something to vocally resist. It didn't, and this post is what it is... a jumping off point for me to go look and see what Trump has tweeted recently!

I couldn't find anything about Andrea Mitchell in in Trump's Twitter feed. She was one of the debate moderators last night, but I don't think Trump said anything about the debate. So let me leave you with this tweet, which is tangentially related to Zuckerberg and Thiel:

A lit-up window in downtown Madison, Wisconsin.

Didn't see a loaf of bread and two eggs at first, Walgreens on the square! from r/madisonwi

It's another impeachment hearing day?! The Democrats are smothering their own debate from both sides.

Last night's debate happened after a long grueling day of impeachment hearings. It ended late, many of us couldn't take the huge crowd and the wild yelling, but as we look at the news this morning, we see the set up for today's impeachment hearings. The debate never gets a chance to mean anything. It's forgotten like last night's bad dream... the one about being chased through Atlanta by Amy Klobuchar's vibrating hair helmet.

I'll read the 3 articles about the debate that Real Clear Politics has selected.

Linked at the top of RCP:

1. "Democratic Debate Detente in Atlanta" Philip Wegmann, RealClearPolitics
Though each [of the candidates] wants to compete against Trump next November, all said he has committed impeachable offenses and should be removed from office early.

This may explain why they didn’t pull knives on one another. “There were no conflicts of consequence,” Democratic pollster John Zogby told RCP, “because it would have given ammunition to an incumbent president who has had arguably the worst days of his tenure.”...

“In a multi-candidate primary, it’s very difficult to make progress by attacking your opponent,” prominent Democrat Matt Bennett explained to RCP. “You might get a moment, but as [Julian] Castro and others have discovered, it’s just as easy to hurt yourself.”...

The co-chair of the Biden campaign... Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond said that the relative civility on stage was a reflection of the seriousness of the race.... A calm debate didn’t automatically mean substance, however. Richmond wasn’t happy with the format, asserting that “these debates are a clown show”...
2. "Debate Confirms There Is No Democratic Presidential Frontrunner," Ella Nilsen, Vox.
[T]he fundamental dynamic characterizing each debate so far did not change; the stage was incredibly crowded, leading to rushed responses. The top four candidates were drowned out by others.... Wednesday night featured few fireworks between the frontrunners themselves.... The night gave all four frontrunners some wins, and a few losses. Still, not much happened to dramatically reshape the state of the race.
3. "Biden Struggled, as He Always Does--But Is He Winning?" Damon Linker, The Week (at the link the title is "The unbearable persistence of Joe Biden").
Biden had a lot of competition in the “I-am-not-a-socialist” lane in Atlanta.... The need to become The One Who Can Step Into Biden's Shoes... set up what many commentators expected to be a tense evening.... It never happened.... It was a civil and somewhat bland night overall...

The one exception was Booker's indignant attack on Biden for supposedly opposing the legalization of marijuana.... Unfortunately for Booker, Biden kept his cool and calmly explained that... he supports decriminalizing marijuana and expunging drug arrests.... and ... left Booker looking like a man caught overacting in a repertory theater production....

Warren talked with fire in her eyes about all the amazing things she'll do with the money she takes from rich people. Sanders sounded just as angry and disgusted with American capitalism as he always does. Buttigieg looked like a guy who'll run a very effective campaign for president 15 years from now. Harris, Klobuchar, and Booker seemed frustrated at their inability to make any headway.

And Joe Biden kept right on winning, despite himself.
What can I say? Not much happened, and maybe there's something wrong with the debate format, but there's probably something very wrong with repeated debates with a large number of candidates. I don't know if it's worse because we're stuck with debates from only one party or whether these people have an advantage because the other party has its candidate and he's a glaringly specific target. Maybe Joe Biden is gumming up the works. They don't know how to attack him, and he stands there, undying, grinning forever, secure in the doting expectation that the nomination will wander over and snuggle into his lap like a new grandchild.

Next morning impressions from the debate last night.

I'm a morning person, but I was awake at 10 CST when the debate ended (assuming it was 2 hours long), but I'd turned off the debate about halfway through.

At 9, the NYT crossword becomes available, and I took refuge in that peace and quiet. Then I finished reading "Strange Planet," which is a delightful comic book by Nathan W. Pyle that revisualizes ordinary life on earth with different words. For example — getting up for a sunrise run would be:

I got a good night's sleep. I've forgotten my dreams, but maybe Bernie was yelling all night. Maybe Cory was raving about taxes. Maybe the mottled, reanimated corpse of Joe Biden was pursuing me. Maybe Amy Klobuchar's vibrating hair was pursuing me. I really don't know. I tell you, I forgot.

The upstairs TV is bigger, brighter, and sharper than the downstairs TV. We ought to switch them around, because who wants these giant, overly sharp heads coming at you when you're in your pre-sleep relaxation position? The heads are smeared with rubbery makeup, perhaps in the hope of making them pleasant enough on the old TV, but they look like false puppet heads on the bedroom TV.

Just as some candidates were promising to tax you more, some candidates chose to slather on more makeup or to tint themselves more yellow than their natural color. Biden kept his natural white-gray-purple mottled skin tone. I'm saying it's natural because who would paint that onto a face (when it's not Halloween)?

Early on, I said out loud, "They all look and sound desperate." A bit later, I said, "Why are they all yelling at me?" So, there: I remember 2 of my own quotes, but none of theirs.

"The Democratic National Committee... reported less than $8.7 million cash on hand and over $7 million debt in an FEC report released Wednesday."

The Daily Caller reports.
The RNC raised nearly three times as much money as the DNC last month, pulling in over $25 million in October, while reporting over $60 million cash on hand. Additionally, the joint fundraising effort between the Trump campaign and the RNC has raised over $300 million in 2019 so far, and reported over $156 million cash on hand last month.
That's linked at Drudge. Looking for another source, I found the story in the Washington Examiner. I'll just quote the additional/different things:
The Republican National Committee told the Washington Examiner on Wednesday that it has $61.4 million on hand and $0 in debt. The RNC raised $25.3 million in October, nearly three times as much as the Democrats who raised $9 million. Furthermore the RNC has raised $194 million in 2019 so far with the DNC raising less than half of that, at $75.5 million.
The Examiner embeds a tweet from Sean Spicer: "Embarrassing. The DNC is effectively bankrupt which is huge problem for the eventual nominee."

Both articles call attention to the tactic of dropping these horrible numbers in the middle of the Democratic candidates' debate.

November 20, 2019

At the Mendota Fog Café...


... you can talk about anything you want.

Feel free to talk about the debate. As my sunrise photos attest, I am a morning person. The debate is too late for me! I may watch, but I won't blog. Not until tomorrow morning.

"Trump Is Doing Exactly What He Was Elected to Do/Don’t impeach him. His actions have all been within the scope of the presidency."

A NYT op-ed, by Daniel McCarthy, editor of Modern Age: A Conservative Quarterly.
The impeachment effort against President Trump hinges on his motives. Presidents have wide discretion when dealing with foreign governments, and Mr. Trump’s actions have all been within the scope of his office’s power. But has he used that power for personal gain?



According to the new Marquette poll, only Booker beats Trump in Wisconsin.

Poll results here.

Althouse selects the best of TikTok.

1. A French bulldog skateboards:

2. A bee eats honey:

3. A dog looks through a fence:

The sunrise run. Actual sunrise time, 6:57.

Meade takes a picture of me at 7:08...


At 6:53, we heard the trumpeter swans off to the west of the beach, and I stopped to take a photo and somehow caused them to stop trumpeting (or I would be showing you video of this)...


At 7:06, the fog and the reflection in the lake got me to stop again...


In awe of the uniform.

I went looking to see if anyone was comparing the reaction to Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman — the Democrats' witness — to Oliver North — the Republicans’ witness from the Reagan Era. And yes, I did find this, "What to wear? Republicans flag Vindman's sartorial choice/As military officers do, the Army lieutenant colonel testified in his dress uniform: a column in Roll Call."
“Lt. Col. Vindman, I see you wearing your dress uniform,” said [Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah], who is himself a retired Air Force major. “Knowing that’s not the uniform of the day and you’d normally wear a suit to the White House, I think it’s a great reminder of your military service.”

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Texas, suggested that it was only appropriate for Vindman to appear in uniform if he wears it daily during his work at the NSC, but if he didn’t, he shouldn’t wear it while testifying. “When you’re wearing the uniform testifying, that testimony is then linked to the United States military, good or bad,” Perry told CQ Roll Call during a break in Tuesday’s hearing....

Military officials routinely testify before Congress in their uniforms. The military chiefs, for instance, make the rounds on Capitol Hill to defend their budget requests each year with four stars upon each shoulder. It’s also worth noting that Lt. Col. Oliver North, who like Vindman was staffed to the National Security Council, wore his uniform while testifying during the Iran-Contra hearings in 1987.
That's just about whether it was proper for Vindman to dress like that for the hearing. What I'm interested in is how people react to the uniform. I remember the Oliver North performance very well because I listened to the first part of it on the radio and it didn't seem that special. Then there was a break in the hearing and the commentators were highly excited over the big impression North was making. I switched to television, and what a difference! The visual of the man was so compelling, so entrancing. What the hell?!

It was such a striking demonstration of the overriding power of the visual world and the emotional component of reason. So I make it a point to observe my responses to try to bring the mysterious undercurrent to the surface.

With North, it was not just the uniform, it was also the expressive and handsome face — the commitment and earnestness that flowed out at us. Fortunately for those of us hoping to hang onto our powers of reason and judgment, Vindman is an ordinary looking man with a bland demeanor.

"Why not buy Greenland?"

"Biden, to me, is like having a flashlight with a dying battery and going for a long walk in the woods."

Too much television.

Are we supposed to watch the impeachment hearings all day and then the Democratic debate all night? Is there even a gap between these 2 TV extravaganzas? If there is, are we supposed to watch TV talking heads analyze what just went on in the impeachment hearings and what might go on in the Democratic candidates debate? Look, at least take a break if there's a gap. I can tell you what those analysts will say. As for the hearings, on Fox News, they'll say the Democrats had a very hard day and they're worried, and on MSNBC, they'll say the Democrats elicited some terribly damaging evidence against Trump. As for the debate, they'll advise us to watch to see if anyone goes after Pete Buttigieg, because he just did very well in a couple of polls.

A juxtaposition in the New York Post inspires me to think that we will survive.

(Click to enlarge and clarify.)

"Reporter spotted chugging her coffee is hero of impeachment hearings"

"120-year-old photo sparks Greta Thunberg conspiracy theories"

"Goodwin: Why Dems are so worried after latest round of impeachment hearings"

"Surgeons cut pounds of petroleum jelly out of ‘Popeye’ bodybuilder’s biceps"
ADDED: From the Goodman column:
Vindman was a strong witness, but a strange one, too. He presented himself as an Alexander Haig-like “I’m in charge here” figure, when he was actually far down the pecking order.

His inflated sense of self-importance seemed to be key to his alarm over the phone call. As he put it, he believed “that if Ukraine pursued an investigation in the 2016 elections, the Bidens and Burisma, it would be interpreted as a partisan play” and Ukraine would lose bipartisan support...

Adding to the surreal quality of the hearings is a crucial fact that gets too little attention: Trump’s policy toward Ukraine has been far stronger than President Barack Obama’s. Providing Ukraine with antitank weapons to counter Russian invasions is a direct slap at Vladimir Putin, a move Obama rejected because he feared it would provoke Putin.
IN THE COMMENTS: tim maguire asked (about the coffee drinker):
Why is that a thing? He testified for a long time. The people behind him are going to do stuff. I could see if she picked her nose or let loose a particularly large yawn, but drinking coffee? That’s pretty normal.
It's "a thing" because people get so bored and dull during long formal proceedings that something spontaneous gives joy. This is what I'm talking about when I say I am inspired. It means that we seemingly inert Americans are not sitting still and inertly receiving the program. We are thirsting for humanity — and when we feel we are down to the last drop, we invert the big cup onto our face with jaunty enthusiasm.

Speaking of "if she picked her nose or let loose a particularly large yawn"... just look at all the attention paid yesterday to the possibility that Eric Swalwell farted during a TV interview. The fart heard 'round the world means: We want to feel alive! We are human!!

"not to get panglossian but I think..."

Who's Litman? His Twitter profile says: "Washington Post columnist. Former US Attorney, DOJ official.Teach con law at UCSD and UCLA. Practice law @CCWhistleblower. Exec. prod. & host, @talkingfedspod."

This tweet is such a perfect example of cocooned liberal self-love. If there is one thing that has given me energy from Day 1 of this blog, it is my aversion to cocooned liberal self-love.

The word in that tweet that really gets me is "wholesomeness." Imagine staring at Adam Schiff for hours thinking, oh, that is so reassuring, he's so gosh-darn wholesome.

I like the "panglossian," and not just because I'm elite-educated enough to know what it means. Click my Voltaire tag to check my credibility. But I looked up "panglossian" in the OED anyway, in the hope of finding some good quotes. The best one is from Thomas Hardy (1922): "Should anything of this sort in the following adumbrations seem ‘queer’—should any of them seem to good Panglossians to embody strange and disrespectful conceptions of this best of all possible worlds, I apologize; but cannot help it."

Absorbed in the OED, I looked up "cocoon." When did the silky larva-spun case break out into the butterfly of figurative usage? The OED says1865 (D. Masson Recent Brit. Philos.): "That power of thinking which has involved itself in such a vast cocoon of wonders." And 1870 (J. R. Lowell My Study Windows): "The mind can weave itself warmly in the cocoon of its own thoughts."

ADDED: I clicked on my Voltaire tag and noticed this drawing of a bust of Voltaire (which I scrawled many years ago at the Louvre and blogged in the first year of blogging):

And I got something out of this previously blogged Voltaire quote: "To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize." I don't know if that's patriotic and wholesome, but it's great support for the proposition that Donald Trump does not rule over us. You can totally criticize that guy as much as you want. It's strongly encouraged!

The teacher is so much more interested in Jeff Bezos than the kids are.

What will it take for schools to get kids interested in Jeff Bezos?

November 19, 2019

Sunrise, northern view.


That is truly what it looked like this morning (at 7:01).

This post is an open thread.

"What if All That Flying Is Good for the Planet?/Without tourism, it’s easy to imagine the Serengeti turned into cattle ranches."

An op-ed by Costas Christ (in the NYT). Christ is the founder of Beyond Green Travel.
As a conservationist and sustainable tourism expert, I am an advocate for a more responsible approach to tourism. Although I began my career as a wildlife ecologist, my work in the tourism industry is focused on transforming travel to be more environmentally friendly. While I recognize that flying is harmful to the climate, I also know what will happen if, in their understandable concern for climate change, travelers stop booking trips to go on a wildlife safari to Africa or decide to forgo that bucket list vacation to South America. Conservation and poverty alleviation will suffer twin blows....

Last year, some 1.5 million tourists visited Tanzania, the majority headed to the Serengeti, where they paid a minimum of $60 dollars per day in entrance fees. Take that income away, and the vast plains would most likely be transformed into cattle ranches — raising beef is already among the most significant contributors to carbon emissions....

[W]e also have the tools to start flying green class — like developing synthetic jet fuels and designing electric planes....

Twin to twin.

Who needs elections when you have electrification?

That's a political slogan I thought of as I was half-listening to the impeachment coverage on TV and kept hearing references to "electrifying" testimony.

A vivid new Trump ad.

Effective, I think:

The NYT collects late-night TV-talk-show jokes about Trump's unannounced visit to Walter Reed hospital for what was said to be "phase 1" of his annual physical.

Here's the link to the NYT. I'll just put the jokes in the order that I think they're any good (and I'll leave it to you to determine if I've put this best to worst or worst to best):
“Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham later explained that Trump decided to get parts of his physical done early because he had a ‘free weekend in Washington.’ O.K., that’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard. [Imitating Trump] ‘Hmm, let’s see, I’ve got the day off. I could spend it with my children — not really my thing. Uh, with my wife? No, she hates me. Uh, my friends? All in jail. Uh, tell you what: I’ll just go to the hospital and have them stick me with needles, just to feel something.’” — STEPHEN COLBERT

“Phase 1 was this weekend, Phase 2 is next — was this a physical or a kitchen remodel?” — JIMMY KIMMEL

"The person, I can totally abhor and loathe, but the work is the work... Once an artist creates something, it doesn’t belong to the artist anymore: It belongs to the world."

Said Vicente Todolí, who was the director of the Tate Modern when it put on a big Gauguin exhibition in 2010, quoted in "Is It Time Gauguin Got Canceled?/Museums are reassessing the legacy of an artist who had sex with teenage girls and called the Polynesian people he painted 'savages'" (NYT).
“I love his paintings, but I find him a little bit strange,” [said Kehinde Wiley, a male African-American painter]. “The ways we see black and brown bodies from the Pacific are shot through his sense of desire. But how do you change the narrative? How do you change the way of looking?”

To ensure that Gauguin’s artistic legacy is not besmirched by his “marriages” to underage girls, these relationships should be covered in exhibitions, said Line Clausen Pedersen, a Danish curator who has put on several Gauguin shows. With each exhibition, “another layer is peeled off the protection of history that he has somehow enjoyed,” she said. “Maybe the time is ripe to take off more layers than before.”

“What’s left to say about Gauguin,” she added, “is for us to bring out all the dirty stuff.”
Despite the headline, the article doesn't seem to have anyone arguing for the cancellation of Gauguin. There so much money invested in these artworks, and people love them and have been gazing at them for years. Maybe some day people won't want to look and these shows won't rake in money.

But notice the confusion between the images themselves and what the man did in his life.

Anybody watching the impeachment show?

I'm overhearing it, so I know it's on. It sounds like they're talking about how people felt and what concerns they had after they heard the Ukraine phone call.

Eastern view, 7:00 a.m., 9 minutes after the "actual sunrise" time.


"Hong Kong faced a fresh threat to its tenuous freedoms and autonomy on Tuesday, as the Chinese government admonished the city’s judiciary..."

"... after a court overturned a ban on demonstrators wearing face masks. The central government’s Hong Kong affairs office said that Monday’s judgment 'blatantly challenged the authority' of China’s legislature and of Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, and created 'severe negative social and political impact.' The pointed remarks were perhaps the most stark and public instance of the Beijing government weighing in on a judicial decision in Hong Kong, which is guaranteed independent courts under the Basic Law, its mini-constitution. The intervention underlined one of the central grievances of Hong Kong’s protest movement — encroachment by the mainland government on the semiautonomous territory’s affairs — and came after days of violent clashes on university campuses."

From "China slams Hong Kong judges after mask ruling, raising pressure on city’s freedoms" (WaPo).

"Look for anything in your surroundings that appears disturbed, out of place or odd."

"Surveillance can be done by more than clunky nanny cams. It can be conducted with wireless microdevices, some as small as a postage stamp, that can be stashed in hard-to-spot places like inside clocks, light fixtures and air vents. Be wary of anything with an inexplicable hole in it, like a hole drilled into a hair-dryer mount in a hotel bathroom. And scrutinize any wires trailing out of something that’s not obviously electronic, like a desk, a bookcase or a plant.... [Turn] off the lights and [use] a flashlight to scan a room to see if the lens of a camera shines back at you. If you don’t have a flashlight, look around using the front-facing camera on your smartphone (the side you use for video chats), which may allow you to see the otherwise invisible infrared light that spy cameras emit.... [V]oyeurs may use spy gear that has its own hot spot for live streaming. So... check for other Wi-Fi networks in the vicinity that have a strong signal... 'For every one camera that’s been found, there have probably been a hundred cameras that haven’t been found'...."

From "A Paranoid Guide to Fighting the ‘Bugging Epidemic’/With surveillance gear cheaper and easier to use, security experts say checking your environment for cameras and microphones is not a crazy idea" (NYT, with a nice illustration (by Ariel Davis)).

If you're really paranoid, you can never get naked, use the toilet, or have sex anywhere other than in your own home. And worry about whether somebody has bugged your house. You won't be safe from spying until you die, and maybe not even then. I bet spycams planted by crazy voyeurs are inside some buried coffins.

"The Afghan Taliban have freed two Western hostages in exchange for three imprisoned senior militants, officials and Taliban sources say."

BBC reports on the release of Kevin King and Timothy Weeks who were professors at the American University of Afghanistan in Kabul.
The swap includes Anas Haqqani, a leading figure and fund-raiser in the Haqqani militant group, and two other senior commanders, who had been held in prison by Afghan authorities. Anas Haqqani's older brother, Sirajuddin, leads the Haqqani network of fighters and is a deputy leader of the Taliban, which has a political office in Qatar....

The Haqqani network has been behind many of the co-ordinated attacks on Afghan and Nato forces in recent years and has been blamed for some of the deadliest blasts in the country, including a truck bomb in Kabul in 2017 that killed more than 150 people....

It is hoped the exchange will boost efforts to re-start peace talks between the Taliban and the US....

"Since all of my paintings—almost every single one except for the figure paintings—are done from memory, I rely specifically on the memory of..."

"... working in restaurants, or of visiting farms on which I worked as a young person. I try to recall the look and feel and love of what I have experienced. The same goes for my landscape paintings. Utah was full of wonderful red earth, mesas and mesa-type outcroppings. When I moved to Southern California, I spent a lot of time on the beach—I loved the beach bluffs. And then, in Lake Tahoe later in life, the High Sierras were a great inspiration. Recalling all of them from memory gave me the option of working on the mountains, for example, more abstractly."

From an interview with Wayne Thiebaud — "one of America’s greatest painters, and certainly its premier painter of food... still going strong" at 99 years old — about his New Yorker cover this week.

Thanksgiving is coming up — not this week but next week — and it's a very food-based holiday.

The food-based painter paints a roasted turkey. Just the platter of meat. Also some vegetables on the side. But no table surrounded by human beings aglow with thanks. None of that Norman Rockwell scene or any latter-day spoof of such. Just the food. An interesting painterly blue shadow along the right edge of the platter.

Hmm. I don't know. If you look at it long enough maybe deeper meaning comes through. We're told the title of the painting is "Stuffed," but the neck end of the turkey is turned toward the viewer, and it's stitched closed as though the cook had taken the trouble to pack stuffing in that secondary compartment, but it but doesn't bulge out. It's concave.

Thiebaud is invited to compare his turkey to the turkey in the famous Norman Rockwell painting (which is called "Freedom from Want," after one of Franklin Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms"). Thiebaud says:
That’s a marvellous turkey! I don’t know if anyone could compete with that. That’s a beautiful, American, wonderfully felt family get-together. Everyone is right there, including the turkey.
Yes, it's even wonderful for the cooked carcass... in the memory's visualization of the look and feel and love of what has been experienced. But the memory of Thanksgiving doesn't have to be stuffed with family happiness. It can be empty and concave, like the neck end of Thiebaud's turkey.

Indeed, that title, "Stuffed," is ambiguous. Stuffed is the feeling that you've had more than enough. All those Thanksgivings, looked back on in memory. Thiebaud has 90+ Thanksgivings in his memory to try to recall the look and feel and love of as as he paints a New Yorker cover that can never escape comparison to the Thanksgiving idealization Norman Rockwell found in his head three-quarters of a century ago.

We're all in the blue shadow of that image.

Or I should say we're all in the blue shadow of our memory of that image? Looking at it now, I'm surprised that it seems so dim and gray. The turkey is a dismal mound, and the other food on the table is celery and a couple of pickles. Yes, there are people, but are they really happy? They look gaga and manic. Disembodied heads.

And I don't believe that frail grandmother could, without strain, hold a 25-pound turkey off to the side at an angle like that. Grandfather is the dark eminence, presiding, but he should move aside so grandma can keep that load in balance. Maybe that's what all those other characters are cackling about. Grandma's pissed. I bet 1 second later she loses her grip and 25-pounds of cooked bird drops on the table and that cackling comes to an abrupt halt.

ADDED: Move up one decade from Rockwell's Thanksgiving, get to the 1950s (where I grew up), and the look and feel and love of Thanksgiving in your memory could be...

November 18, 2019

At the Monday Cafe...

... you can talk all night.

"Catty corner"? "It's 'kitty-corner' and it will never not be 'kitty-corner' #TeamKitty."

Says Rex Parker, railing about today's NYT crossword. I wasn't so sure. Why does the diagonal path across an intersection have anything to do with felines? Is it like "as the crow flies"? Cats don't use the crosswalks? But what makes the corner catty? I mean, if the right term is "catty corner," it seems to say that the corner diagonally across from another corner is somehow cat-like. But if it's "kitty corner," it seems to mean that it's the corner where a kitty is located.

But consider the possibility that this term was never about cats or kitties. It was about the French word "quatre," which means 4, and "quatre" was also sometimes spelled "catre" — in French — and it became "cater" in English.

"But just when information is needed most, to many Americans it feels most elusive."

"The rise of social media; the proliferation of information online, including news designed to deceive; and a flood of partisan news are leading to a general exhaustion with news itself.... [People are] tuning out. Mr. Trudell, a registered independent, stopped paying attention to national news about a year ago. He found it toxic and mentally taxing, and it started arguments that had no end.... The degree of alienation is new. In the late 1970s, nearly three quarters of Americans trusted newspapers, radio and television. Walter Cronkite read the news every night, and most Americans went to bed with the same set of facts, even if they had different political views.... New academic work is emerging that supports the view that news avoidance is not about left or right. Benjamin J. Toff, an assistant professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of Minnesota, conducted in-depth interviews in Iowa this summer and found that those who say they avoid the news tended to be younger, female and poorer — people already stretched between jobs and home, making hours of evaluating news sources 'the last thing they wanted to do with their time,' Professor Toff said. 'They had this sense that they had to be skeptical of everything out there but they didn’t have the time to spend hours to make sense of it,' he said."

From "‘No One Believes Anything’: Voters Worn Out by a Fog of Political News/Paying attention to the impeachment inquiry and other developments means having to figure out what is true, false or spin. Many Americans are throwing up their hands and tuning it all out" (NYT).

This made me think of that NYT article from March 2018, "The Man Who Knew Too Little/The most ignorant man in America knows that Donald Trump is president — but that’s about it. Living a liberal fantasy is complicated." A guy named Erik Hagerman was disturbed by what happened on election day, 2016, so he "developed his own eccentric experiment, one that was part silent protest, part coping mechanism, part extreme self-care plan.... 'It was draconian and complete... It’s not like I wanted to just steer away from Trump or shift the conversation. It was like I was a vampire and any photon of Trump would turn me to dust.'"

Silent protest... coping... extreme self-care plan.... Yeah, lots of us are coming around to that.

It's like end "gun violence" — "It's time to #EndTrafficViolence" sounds like you want to take our cars.

ADDED: This got me looking up the word "violence" in the OED. To what extent does "violence" mean that the damaging action was intentional? The first definition is, as expected, "The deliberate exercise of physical force..."

But then there's "Great strength or power of a natural force or physical action" — for example, a storm or an earthquake. There's no mind deliberating there (though maybe there's an implication of human will and the usage is metaphorical, such as when corny writers tell you the sea was "angry").

"Violence" is also "Great intensity or severity, esp. of something destructive or undesirable. Example: " Mrs. Viveash had been reduced, by the violence of her headache, to coming home..for a rest." (That's Aldous Huxley.)

Similarly, there's "Vehemence or intensity of emotion, behaviour, or language; extreme fervour; passion." Example, from Shakespeare, "Marke me, with what violence she first lou'd the Moore." But now we've got the human mind in play again. I don't think what's being called "traffic violence" is any intensity in the traffic, just accidents, by people who didn't mean to do that (if we set aside the very tiny proportion of car damage done by an evildoer deliberately running somebody down).

"Violence" is also used to refer to restrictions imposed on nature, as in "He was obliged to attend near a Quarter of an Hour, though with great Violence to his natural Impetuosity, before he was suffered to speak" (Henry Fielding, "Tom Jones" (1749)).

And then there's the "Improper treatment or use of a word or text; misinterpretation; misapplication; alteration of meaning or intention." Again, from "Tom Jones": "A Passion which might, without any great Violence to the Word, be called Love."

But the real question here is whether we like the term "traffic violence." Does it do what its users want it to do? Of course, we're all against the harm done by cars, but most of us like our cars and want to use them for our good purposes.

Seen and unseen.

"The press does not like to do stories where the problem is bi-partisan," says Matt Taibbi, talking about why the press is not pursuing the Epstein murder story.

Scroll back if you want to hear Taibbi and Joe Rogan both express near certitude that Epstein was murdered. Keep listening to hear Taibbi talk about the economics of the news media in the internet era. Now, unlike in the golden age of Walter Cronkite, the media are "always trying to get everybody upset." It used to be "a unifying experience to watch the news." Really? Taibbi means there was basically one style or presenting the news on the 3 networks, but today, we can go wherever we want, so the media have adopted the strategy of "monetizing anger."

Taibbi is pushing his new book, "Hate Inc.: Why Today’s Media Makes Us Despise One Another."

Trump says he likes the idea of testifying in "the phony Impeachment Witch Hunt."

Sunrise at 6:51.


The actual sunrise today was 6:55.

"An overwhelming 70% of Americans think President Donald Trump’s request to a foreign leader to investigate his political rival... was wrong..."

ABC News reports on its new poll.
A slim majority of Americans, 51%, believe Trump’s actions were both wrong and he should be impeached and removed from office. But only 21% of Americans say they are following the hearings very closely.
IN THE COMMENTS: Quayle asks the skeptical question "What was the survey question? Was it '....investigate a political rival...'? Or was it '...investigate potential or alleged illegal corruption....'?"

You can see how the question was asked, here. It's like the way I write polls for this blog. There's a set up question that's neutral: "When it comes to the recent impeachment hearings, which one of the following statements comes closest to your point of view?" Then the answers give an array of options:
President Trump’s actions were wrong and he should be impeached by the House and removed from office by the Senate 51

President Trump’s actions were wrong and he should be impeached by the House but NOT removed from office by the Senate 6

President Trump’s actions were wrong, but he should NOT be impeached by the House or removed from office by the Senate 13

President Trump’s actions were NOT wrong 25
Now, was "wrong" the right word to use? You could have just asked if the President's actions were "impeachable," but I think separating the judgment about wrongness from the question of what Congress ought to do about it is good. There's no ability to say anything about the degree of wrongness other than through your opinion about what ought to be done.

"The trove of leaked Iranian intelligence reports largely confirms what was already known about Iran’s firm grip on Iraqi politics."

"But the reports reveal far more than was previously understood about the extent to which Iran and the United States have used Iraq as a staging area for their spy games. They also shed new light on the complex internal politics of the Iranian government, where competing factions are grappling with many of the same challenges faced by American occupying forces as they struggled to stabilize Iraq after the United States invasion. And the documents show how Iran, at nearly every turn, has outmaneuvered the United States in the contest for influence.... [B]y and large, the intelligence ministry operatives portrayed in the documents appear patient, professional and pragmatic. Their main tasks are to keep Iraq from falling apart; from breeding Sunni militants on the Iranian border; from descending into sectarian warfare that might make Shia Muslims the targets of violence; and from spinning off an independent Kurdistan that would threaten regional stability and Iranian territorial integrity. The Revolutionary Guards and General Suleimani have also worked to eradicate the Islamic State, but with a greater focus on maintaining Iraq as a client state of Iran and making sure that political factions loyal to Tehran remain in power...."

From "The Iran Cables: Secret Documents Show How Tehran Wields Power in Iraq/Hundreds of leaked intelligence reports shed light on a shadow war for regional influence — and the battles within the Islamic Republic’s own spy divisions" (NYT).

"We were close to a window, and my mother took my brother and threw him out. She grabbed me and fell back and then threw me out. She tried to get my sister..."

"... but she was too heavy, and my mother decided to get out by the time the zeppelin was nearly on the ground. I remember lying on the ground, and my brother told me to get up and to get out of there."

Said Werner Doehner, who survived the Hindenburg disaster, quoted in "Werner Doehner, last survivor of the Hindenburg disaster, dies at 90" (WaPo). He was 8 years old and the last of the 62 people who escaped from the burning wreckage.

November 17, 2019

"They are fast, hard-working, green-hearted people. I love their energy and greenness, and I am so glad my age-old eco-passions gave birth to so many little green pirates."

From "They Love Trash/Young rebels take on the unpleasant byproducts of festival culture" (NYT).

"Your family member has been sent to study because they have come under a degree of harmful influence in religious extremism and violent terrorist thoughts. "

"If at some point the 'Three Forces' or people with ulterior motives incited or bewitched them, the consequences would be severe. If they came under the sway of extremist ideas and the 'Three Forces' and did something that they shouldn’t do, they would injure not just innocent members of society, but also themselves and other family members, relatives and friends, including you. I don’t think that’s something you would ever want to see happen. So for everyone’s security, for the happiness of your family, and so that you can focus on your studies, we had to send them to a school at the first opportunity to undergo concentrated education and study.... After you become infected by religious extremism and terrorist ideas, unless you quickly receive 'transformation through education,' it will be very difficult to ensure that there won’t be a recurring impact that leaves you open to being incited and bewitched. Your thoughts can be restored to health as quickly as possible only with systematic, enclosed 'inpatient treatment' in our schools that thoroughly eradicates religious extremism and terrorist ideas."

From "Document: What Chinese Officials Told Children Whose Families Were Put in Camps" (NYT).

(The “Three Forces” are terrorism, separatism, and religious extremism.)

At the Last of the Fall Color Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

The photo documents my chance encounter with fall color this morning.

AND: Here's a quote I ran across in my reading the other day:
There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own. However, nothing dispirits, and nothing seems worth while disputing. He bolts down all events, all creeds, and beliefs, and persuasions, all hard things visible and invisible, never mind how knobby; as an ostrich of potent digestion gobbles down bullets and gun flints. And as for small difficulties and worryings, prospects of sudden disaster, peril of life and limb; all these, and death itself, seem to him only sly, good-natured hits, and jolly punches in the side bestowed by the unseen and unaccountable old joker.
(So begins Chapter 49 of "Moby-Dick.")

Image control.

"Precarity (also precariousness) is a precarious existence, lacking in predictability, job security, material or psychological welfare. The social class defined by this condition has been termed the precariat..."

"Léonce Crenier, a Catholic monk who had previously been active as an anarcho-communist, may have established the English usage. In 1952 the term was documented by Dorothy Day, writing for the Catholic Worker Movement... The condition of precarity is said to affect all of service sector labor in a narrow sense, and the whole of society in a wider sense, but particularly youth, women, and immigrants.... Around 2000, the word started being used in its English usage by some global justice movement (sometimes identified with antiglobalization) activists... and also in EU official reports on social welfare. But it was in the strikes of young part-timers at McDonald's and Pizza Hut in winter 2000, that the first political union network emerged in Europe explicitly devoted to fighting precarity: Stop Précarité, with links to AC!, CGT, SUD, CNT, Trotskyists and other elements of the French radical left... The precariat class has been emerging in advanced societies such as Japan, where it includes over 20 million so-called 'freeters.' The young precariat class in Europe became a serious issue in the early part of the 21st century."

I'm reading the Wikipedia article "Precarity," because I encountered the word — which I'd never noticed before — in a NYT article, "The End of Babies/Something is stopping us from creating the families we claim to desire. But what?"
There are as many answers to this question as there are people choosing whether to reproduce. At the national level, what demographers call “underachieving fertility” finds explanations ranging from the glaring absence of family-friendly policies in the United States to gender inequality in South Korea to high youth unemployment across Southern Europe. It has prompted concerns about public finances and work force stability and, in some cases, contributed to rising xenophobia.

But these all miss the bigger picture.

Our current version of global capitalism — one from which few countries and individuals are able to opt out — has generated shocking wealth for some, and precarity for many more. These economic conditions generate social conditions inimical to starting families: Our workweeks are longer and our wages lower, leaving us less time and money to meet, court and fall in love. Our increasingly winner-take-all economies require that children get intensive parenting and costly educations, creating rising anxiety around what sort of life a would-be parent might provide. A lifetime of messaging directs us toward other pursuits instead: education, work, travel....
The OED has the first published use of the word "precarity" in 1910, in "The Crowds and the Veiled Women," by Marian Cox: "In proportion as Monsieur was certain, Gaspard was rendered more miserable through the delay that augmented its precarity."

"Cups are used for quenching thirst across a wide range of cultures and social classes, and different styles of cups may be used for different liquids or in different situations."

"Cups of different styles may be used for different types of liquids or other foodstuffs (e.g. teacups and measuring cups), in different situations (e.g. at water stations or in ceremonies and rituals), or for decoration.... Cups are an obvious improvement on using cupped hands or feet to hold liquids. They have almost certainly been used since before recorded history, and have been found at archaeological sites throughout the world. Prehistoric cups were sometimes fashioned from shells and hollowed out stones.... There is an evidence that the Roman Empire may have spread the use of cups throughout Europe, with notable examples including silver cups in Wales and a color-changing glass cup in ancient Thrace...."

I'm reading the Wikipedia entry "Cup."

I was contemplating cups as I was out running this morning, mainly because a familiar song lyric with the word "cup" came up again on my November-sunrise-running playlist, and I often get hung up on the idea in that song and in 2 other songs I've liked for a long time. Maybe it was the endorphins, but I got to imagining writing an entire book about cups and could see all the chapter headings. Back home at my desk, following my standard sitting-at-a-desk approach to exploring a sprawling concept, I looked up the word on Wikipedia.

I love the line "Cups are an obvious improvement on using cupped hands or feet to hold liquids." That slight deviation from Wikipedia flatness — "obvious" — amuses me. And then there are the 2 words that are so weird I didn't even see them on first read: "or feet."

What's the color-changing glass cup from Thrace? — you may wonder. It's the Lycurgus Cup — "a 4th-century Roman glass cage cup made of a dichroic glass, which shows a different colour depending on whether or not light is passing through it: red when lit from behind and green when lit from in front":


That's King Lycurgus who tries to kill Ambrosia after Ambrosia turned into a vine that twined itself around the king. The king eventually dies (in this myth) and Dionysus laughs at him.

Yes — I am answering unheard questions — my unwritten book includes the communion cup and the  cups in tarot cards. Yes, I have thought of bra cups and the World Cup and other trophies.

The song on my playlist was "Full Measure" by the Lovin' Spoonful, which begins: "The full measure of your giving/You don't yet understand/A cupful of living/That you hold in your hand." The other 2 "cup" songs are "Across the Universe" ("Words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup, they slither wildly as they slip away across the universe") and "Danny's Song" ("Love the girl who holds the world in a paper cup/Drink it up...").

If you're like me, you're wondering whether the Lovin' Spoonful cup was — like the "Across the Universe" cup and the "Danny's Song" cup — a paper cup.

Notice that all 3 songs visualize the cup as containing grand and exalted space — life, the universe, the world. Thus, this post gets my #1 all-time favorite tag, "big and small." And I'm making a new tag now — "cups" — and will add it retroactively, so wait an hour and click it, if you enjoy the random delights of the archive. While you're waiting, why not have a drink? Use a cup. It's obviously better than cupping your hands or your feet.