January 4, 2020

At the Saturday Night Cafe...

... you can talk all night.

"Its glorious Great Barrier Reef is dying, its world-heritage rain forests are burning, its giant kelp forests have largely vanished, numerous towns have run out of water or are about to..."

"... and now the vast continent is burning on a scale never before seen. The images of the fires are a cross between 'Mad Max' and 'On the Beach': thousands driven onto beaches in a dull orange haze, crowded tableaux of people and animals almost medieval in their strange muteness — half-Bruegel, half-Bosch, ringed by fire, survivors’ faces hidden behind masks and swimming goggles. Day turns to night as smoke extinguishes all light in the horrifying minutes before the red glow announces the imminence of the inferno. Flames leaping 200 feet into the air. Fire tornadoes. Terrified children at the helm of dinghies, piloting away from the flames, refugees in their own country.... As Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, once observed, the collapse of the Soviet Union began with the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986. In the wake of that catastrophe, 'the system as we knew it became untenable,' he wrote in 2006. Could it be that the immense, still-unfolding tragedy of the Australian fires may yet prove to be the Chernobyl of climate crisis?"

From "Australia Is Committing Climate Suicide/As record fires rage, the country’s leaders seem intent on sending it to its doom" by the novelist Richard Flanagan (NYT).

"I want people to take responsibility and not just constantly point a finger at somebody else, saying, 'You’ve ruined my life.'... #MeToo is a witch-hunt."

"I really feel there were a lot of people, decent people, or mildly irritating people, who were getting hammered. That’s wrong. I don’t like mob mentality.... When you have power [like Harvey Weinstein], you don’t take responsibility for abusing others. You enjoy the power. That’s the way it works in reality.... [His victims] were ambitious adults.… There are many victims in Harvey’s life, and I feel sympathy for them, but then, Hollywood is full of very ambitious people who are adults and they make choices."

Said the director Terry Gilliam, quoted in "Terry Gilliam faces backlash after labeling #MeToo a 'witch-hunt'/Director told the Independent he was ‘tired, as a white male, of being blamed for everything that is wrong with the world’" (The Guardian).

Meanwhile, Harvey Weinstein himself answered some emailed questions from CNN:
"The past two years have been grueling and have presented me with a great opportunity for self-reflection," Weinstein wrote. "I realize now that I was consumed with my work, my company and my drive for success. This caused me to neglect my family, my relationships and to lash out at the people around me. I have been in rehab since October 2017, and have been involved in a 12-step program and meditation. I have learned to give up my need for control."...

Weinstein declined to answer if he felt empathy for his accusers. "While I do have many empathetic opinions regarding many people, I am following the advice of my lawyers on the eve of my trial to not offer any commentary on this," he responded....

"My meditation and focus on looking inward has helped me balance my emotions," Weinstein wrote. "The whole process has been overwhelming, but I am working every day to stay level."

There's something I do every day that if you do it too you'll know why I'm looking at this picture today.

That's "Portrait of a Lady (formerly incorrectly identified as Christina of Denmark, Dowager-Duchess of Milan and Lorraine [1521–1590])" at the Wikipedia article "Bobbin lace" ("Bobbin lace is a lace textile made by braiding and twisting lengths of thread, which are wound on bobbins to manage them. As the work progresses, the weaving is held in place with pins set in a lace pillow, the placement of the pins usually determined by a pattern or pricking pinned on the pillow. Bobbin lace is also known as pillow lace, because it was worked on a pillow, and bone lace, because early bobbins were made of bone or ivory.")

Anyway, I love the painting — the fabulously homely face and the elaborate detail to the clothing.

"It’s possible to create a realistic portrait of contemporary San Francisco by simply listing all the harebrained new-money antics and 'mindful' hippie-redux principles that flourish there."

"All you have to do after that is juxtapose them with the effects of the city’s rocket-ship rents: a once-lively counterculture gasping for air and a 'concentration of public pain' shameful and shocking even to a native New Yorker. [Anna] Wiener deploys this strategy liberally, with adroit specificity and arch timing... By the end of the book, she shows that technologists are not interested in 'systems' thinking only because it can fix what’s broken; they are 'settling into newfound political power,' with armies of trolls now serving as foot soldiers in what founders call a 'war' for market share. Being skilled at deconstruction is a disadvantage for a customer-support specialist hoping to find 'meaning' in her work, and for a millennial who values moving through the world with a clear sense of right and wrong. For a writer, though, it’s a pickax, and we’re living through a gold rush, as they might say in San Francisco."

From "A Tech Insider Stylishly Chronicles Her Industry’s ‘Uncanny Valley’" (NYT) by the novelist Lauren Oyler (reviewing "Uncanny Valley" by Anna Wiener).

While I was at Amazon getting that link, I did a search inside the book for "blogging," and so here's a screenshot, just one thing that I found:
Forget the musician boyfriend. Just have sex with the room. Apparently.

"Every time there is more surveillance and more captured of the lived experience, that will be helpful for police investigators. The consequences are an erosion of privacy..."

"... and security at our homes and in our private moments. The trade-off is one that is hard, but also one I’m not sure citizens have fully understood when they decided to buy a little extra security for their home.”

Said lawprof Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, quoted in "Man Captured on Doorbell Camera Footage Confessing to Murder/'I killed Jennifer,' the man said before his arrest, according to the authorities. The episode is one of several recent examples of doorbell cameras yielding footage that becomes useful to the local authorities" (NYT).

What are the invasions of privacy accomplished by doorbell cameras? People are outdoors and in public. Quite aside from privacy, how is there an "erosion of... security"? Maybe the professor didn't mean to say that, but I guess the man who said "I killed Jennifer" lost whatever security he may have had in escaping undiscovered.

Trump with the Evangelicals.

Yesterday, in Miami:

ADDED: Here's a Guardian article about Trump's rally, "'He was sent to us': at church rally, evangelicals worship God and Trump":
“My administration will never stop fighting for Americans of faith,” Trump said at the conclusion of an often freewheeling 75-minute speech. “We will restore the faith as the true foundation of American life.”...

Friday’s rally, hastily organized in the wake of a stinging Christianity Today editorial last month, recognized Trump’s need to retain the loyalty of the evangelical voting bloc that propelled him to victory in 2016. Four years ago, he won 80% backing from white evangelical voters nationwide.

“In 2016 evangelical Christians went out and helped us in numbers never seen before. We’re going to blow those numbers away in 2020,” Trump said. “I really believe we have God on our side.”
And I noticed this:

"Methodism in the United States dates to the early 1700s, with a long history of valuing local congregations over a top-down structure. It has split many times..."

"... most notably over slavery before the Civil War. Membership is varied demographically and politically, counting as adherents everyone from Hillary Clinton to Jeff Sessions.... [C]ongregations overseas are growing rapidly, particularly in Africa; there are nearly 3 million members in Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These groups tend to be more conservative than the typical American Methodist, which in part explains the vote in St. Louis, where more than 40 percent of delegates were from outside the United States.... Though the traditionalists won the narrow vote in 2019, it is the progressives who will remain under the banner of the United Methodist Church...."

From "United Methodist Church Announces Plan to Split Over Same-Sex Marriage/Under an agreement to be voted on in May, a new 'traditionalist Methodist' denomination would continue to ban same-sex marriage and gay and lesbian clergy" (NYT).

"It’s well documented at this point. Modern employees are feeling more stressed than ever."

Well, first of all, I don't believe that. Also, I'm not sure I understand. Does it mean that employees today are feeling more stressed than employees at any other time in human history or does it mean that within the category of modern employees, the most stress is happening right now? Either way, it seems unlikely to be true and silly to assert that it's "well documented."

But that's okay, because I wanted to express extreme skepticism about the main assertion in the article (linked by Drudge): Having a potted plant on your desk reduces stress. That's some low-grade stress if a potted plant is helping. Also, how stressed are you if you've got room on your desk for a plant (or if you have just enough room but will experience the new form of stress that is worrying about knocking the thing off the desk)?
[R]esearchers wanted to determine just how much relief workers felt after intentionally looking at an indoor plant whenever they started to feel tired on the job....
You have to intentionally look at it. One more task to complete.

"Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg saw a 6-point bump in the latest Hill.TV survey of the Democratic presidential primary."

I'm reading "Bloomberg rises to third place alongside Warren in national poll" (The Hill).

That tie has each of them at merely 11%, so that's pretty bad for Warren. As for Bloomberg, it's notable that he hasn't been in the debates (and can't be in the debates, because he's paying his own expenses and not collecting the donations that have been made the basis of qualifying to debate).

Bloomberg is kind of okay to me. I like his blandness. I'm sure he's thought of the slogan "Okay, Bloomberg," and that would express what I like about him. Nothing wrong with him. I like his response to the Soleimani killing and I liked his response to the pick-the-best-subway-seat meme:

But does it mean he made the wrong call?

I'm trying to read the Washington Post editorial, "Yes, Soleimani was an enemy. That doesn’t mean Trump made the right call."

My post title is the question I had when I read that headline. I've now read the editorial, and I can tell you that the editors do not answer my question.

It simply ends with the statement that Trump hasn't explained why the killing "is in America’s strategic interest."

By the way, WaPo calls it an "assassination," in that editorial and in at least 7 other pieces. If you use the word "assassination," aren't you implicitly saying it's wrong?

The "collab house" is not a hippie commune and not a sweat shop.

I'm reading "Hype House and the Los Angeles TikTok Mansion Gold Rush/The city is home to a land rush of 'collab houses,' where the content creators are getting younger and younger/Collab houses are beneficial to influencers in lots of ways" in the NYT, which seems to believe this is just really cool... or that the NYT is cool or you'll think it's cool that they're showing you these people, who look so pretty and vibrant in the photograph of them photographing themselves.
So-called collab houses, also known as content houses, are an established tradition in the influencer world....

“It’s a brilliant move for power players on these platforms to lift each other up,” said Sam Sheffer, a YouTuber and technologist. “‘Elevate others to elevate yourself’ is a saying, and it really rings true with this new generation of TikTokers. From a management perspective, it’s great... It just means all the kids will focus on content.”...

[I]f you want to be a part of the group, you need to churn out content daily. “If someone slips up constantly, they’ll not be a part of this team anymore,” [said Thomas Petrou, 21, a YouTube star]. “You can’t come and stay with us for a week and not make any videos, it’s not going to work. This whole house is designed for productivity. If you want to party, there’s hundreds of houses that throw parties in L.A. every weekend. We don’t want to be that. It’s not in line with anyone in this house’s brand. This house is about creating something big, and you can’t do that if you’re going out on the weekends.”...

MaiLinh Nguyen, a former videographer for Jake Paul, said... “I don’t think it’s sustainable to just be a collective forever... At some point if they want to do a pop-up shop, or release Hype House merch, they need to figure out how to divvy things up financially and they’re going to have to legitimize it as a business.”...

If you want to immerse yourself in influencer and internet culture, there’s no better place to be.... “It’s 24/7 here. Last night we posted at 2 a.m.,” Thomas said. “There’s probably 100 TikToks made here per day. At minimum.”
This is the kind of fact pattern I used to make Civil Procedure exams out of. This combines "The Real World" and "America's Funniest Home Videos." Back in the 90s I made into jurisdiction-and-joinder problems out of both of those shows. Not at the same time. In separate exams.

I remember reading — year ago — about media writers in a house in Brooklyn. Ah, yes, here it is: "From Mars/A young man’s adventures in women’s publishing" (in The New Yorker, in 2013):
On her first day of work, instead of going to an office, [Jenny Hollander, a twenty-three-year-old Columbia Journalism School student] arrived at a newly renovated four-story town house in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It had two kitchens, two living rooms, and a roof deck—all decorated in a funky flea-market style. The house was the headquarters of Bustle, a new online publication for women. There were four editors in their mid-twenties, and a gaggle of interns—college students or recent graduates, all women—sat around, typing on MacBooks. Many students have summer jobs that involve little more than fetching coffee and maintaining Twitter feeds, so Hollander was surprised when she was told to take out her laptop and start writing blog posts. “I called my housemate and was, like, ‘So I’m doing this job, and all I’m doing is sitting on sofas in this gorgeous house with a bunch of other girls, and we’re all writing together!’ ”...

Around noon, twenty-six writers and editors assembled in the second-floor living room. The scene resembled a dorm meeting at an exclusive college: the women, dressed in sandals and jeans, crowded onto couches and the floor. Someone had ordered Thai food for lunch, and take-out boxes were piled on the kitchen counter. Goldberg slumped at the end of the couch, with his hands behind his head. He was the only man in the room....

The writers and editors talked about their visions for the site. Turits said, “I often sit on my couch, and I watch MSNBC while painting my toenails. It didn’t feel like there was a Web site that felt like the Internet equivalent of watching MSNBC while painting my toenails.”...

Goldberg... likes to characterize himself as the leader of a youth revolt, rather than as a capitalist overlord.... 
Bustle is still around. Here's my screen shot of a portion of the current front page:

If I wanted to create more content, I'd explain the feeling that made me select that visual snippet. But it's time to move on — to go balls out and do something with all my power. About giant dogs. And loneliness.

January 3, 2020

At the Least Interesting Sunrise Café...


... you make your own entertainment.

This was, I think, the dullest possible sunrise. You're seeing the western view at 7:25. The "actual" sunrise took place at 7:30, which is an interesting time in that it's the latest sunrise time of the year, and we're stuck on that number until the 7th.

The art of the face.

Buttigieg comes as close to approving of the icing of Soleimani as a Democratic candidate is likely to get.

Dershowitz gives the legal opinion on the blowing up of Suleimani.

"But in Iran, many saw him as a larger-than-life hero.... Anecdotes about his asceticism and quiet charisma joined to create an image of a warrior-philosopher...."

From "Qassim Suleimani, Master of Iran’s Intrigue, Built a Shiite Axis of Power in Mideast/The commander helped direct wars in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, and he became the face of Iran’s efforts to build a regional bloc of Shiite power" (the obituary in the NYT).

Also, in 2018, after Trump warned the President of Iran not to threaten the U.S., Suleiman responded with another threat: “It is beneath the dignity of our president to respond to you... I, as a soldier, respond to you. We are near you, where you can’t even imagine. We are ready. We are the man of this arena.”

The obituary ends:
“He was so big that he achieved his dream of being martyred by America,” wrote a reformist politician and former vice president, Mohammad Ali Abtahi.

General Suleimani had received the country’s highest military honor, the Order of Zolfaghar.... Ayatollah Khamenei pinned the medal on General Suleimani’s chest last February... said: “The Islamic Republic needs him for many more years. But I hope that in the end, he dies as a martyr.”

"In Japan, this new generation of sexless men—and the Japanese sex recession is caused by men’s lack of interest, to the vocal dismay of young Japanese women... — are known as soushoku danshi, literally 'grass-eating men' — in a word, herbivores."

"The epithet was originally coined by a frustrated female columnist but, incredibly, the herbivores aren’t offended and most of them are happy to identify as such.... And what seems to define the herbivores is not just that they have no interest in sex, it’s that they don’t seem to be interested in much of anything at all.... Not that they’re opting out of productive society to focus on, say, art, or activism, or some other form of creativity or counter-culture. Apparently, one of the few hobbies that seem to be popular among herbivores is . . . going on walks. To be fair, walking is an important part of digestion for ruminants... Beyond sexuality, the herbivores seem strikingly like a generation of men suffering from hypofrontality, the neurological disease caused by porn addiction. It seems that their key problem is an inability to commit, whether to a career or a woman. Commitment requires abilities enabled by the prefrontal cortex, like self-mastery, correctly weighing risk and reward, and projecting oneself into the future.... [I]t’s impossible to prove scientifically that the herbivore phenomenon is caused by widespread porn addiction. But one thing is certainly very suggestive: there’s no explanation for why, if the herbivore trend is caused by some broader cultural or socioeconomic trends, it should be such an overwhelmingly male phenomenon.... Is Japan a harbinger of the future? Are we on the road to becoming a herbivore civilization?"

From "A Science-Based Case for Ending the Porn Epidemic/We know what porn does to the brain, because the medical science is solid. Because social science is much softer, we can’t know for certain what causal impacts porn has on society, if any. But once we realize that we have to be much more humble in this area, we can still make prudential judgments" (American Greatness).

Dancing in the streets.

"In 2007, I watched a string of vehicles pass from Iran into northern Iraq... the choice was particularly tricky: whether or not to attack a convoy that included Qassem Suleimani...."

"There was good reason to eliminate Suleimani..... But to avoid a firefight, and the contentious politics that would follow, I decided that we should monitor the caravan, not strike immediately.... Suleimani has grown from a military commander into a ghostly puppet master. His brilliance, effectiveness, and commitment to his country have been revered by his allies and denounced by his critics in equal measure. What all seem to agree on, however, is that the humble leader’s steady hand has helped guide Iranian foreign policy for decades—and there is no denying his successes on the battlefield. Suleimani is arguably the most powerful and unconstrained actor in the Middle East today. U.S. defense officials have reported that Suleimani is running the Syrian civil war (via Iran’s local proxies) all on his own.... His staunch defense of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has effectively halted any progress by the Islamic State and other rebel groups, all but ensuring that Assad remains in power and stays solidly allied to Iran.....  Suleimani is singularly dangerous. He is also singularly positioned to shape the future of the Middle East."

From "Iran’s Deadly Puppet Master/Gen. Stanley McChrystal explains exactly why Qassem Suleimani is so dangerous" in the Winter 2019 issue of Foreign Policy magazine.

After only tweeting the image of an American flag in the last day, Trump finally tweets words: "Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!"

Bernie talks like Trump: "People want to criticize me for that? Go for it, that's okay."

Bernie opposes war with Iran, but I presume Trump also opposes war with Iran. And that kicker line, the last thing Bernie says in the video, below, is "People want to criticize me for that? Go for it, that's okay" That's the way Trump talks, saying "that's okay" about his critics saying hostile things about him.

Bernie is doing a great job of positioning himself here:

"President Trump’s political operation headed into 2020 with nearly $200 million on hand..."

"... according to party officials, giving him a financial war chest that vastly outstrips the resources of his Democratic opponents weeks before primary voting begins. Trump’s reelection campaign, the Republican Party and two joint fundraising committees together raised a record $154 million in the final three months of the year, party officials told The Washington Post, a massive haul they said was fueled by backlash to the House impeachment of the president. Of that, more than $72 million was collected by the Republican National Committee, driven in part by big checks from wealthy donors — a sign of how much of the moneyed class that shunned Trump in 2016 is now embracing him. Small donors also continued to give to the party and to Trump’s reelection campaign, which pulled in $46 million, far outpacing leading Democrats vying for their party’s nomination. Among them, the biggest fundraiser last quarter was Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who raised $34.5 million. Since the impeachment inquiry began in September, the president’s campaign and RNC gained 600,000 new donors, officials said. In all, Trump and the RNC together scooped up a staggering $463 million in 2019, party officials said. In comparison, then-President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party raised roughly $220 million in 2011, the year before his reelection."

WaPo reports.

The news this morning is making me think of 1984. Not the book. The election. Remember that?

Biggest difference: The ex-Vice-President who got his party's nomination to fend off the hated, show-biz, imposter President... was so fresh-faced!

By the way, that man still walks the face of the earth, and he's not all that much older than Biden.

ADDED: Elizabeth Warren has finally revealed her 4th quarter number — $21.2 million, down from $24.6 million in the 3rd quarter and less than the others in the top 4.

"'Most revered military leader' now joins 'austere religious scholar' and 'mourners' trying to storm our embassy as word choices that make normal people wonder whose side the American mainstream media is on."


Trending on Twitter.

There's a lot going on within this tag, and I can't see what the original examples were. I don't want to call undue attention to what is being said by Twitter users with a small following. I'm seeing maps of the United States isolating Washington D.C. (or the White House specifically) as the right place for Iran to target (with silly alternatives, such as Texas or Staten Island). I'm seeing people indicating that they hate President Trump too and they had nothing to do with the Soleimani attack. I'm seeing some silly appeasement of Iran (for example "Did anybody ever tall yall was cool and yall can dress amd yall long names are unique").

I recommend clicking on the link above and getting an idea of where that tag is going. It seems to be a quickly evolving meme, so what you see will be different from what I just saw. I think the trend is toward silly, but there is also dark comedy suggesting things that I won't write here.

"Soleimani was a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans. But this reckless move escalates the situation with Iran..."

"... and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict. Our priority must be to avoid another costly war," tweets Elizabeth Warren.

I guess all the Democratic candidates will weigh in on the killing of Soleimani.

Here's Bernie Sanders: "Trump's dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars. Trump promised to end endless wars, but this action puts us on the path to another one."

Here's Biden:

As for Trump's tweeting, he only has one post from the relevant time period. It's this:

You understand what that means, as an answer to the verbiage put on Twitter by his opponents.

January 2, 2020

At the Winter Beach Café...


... you can talk all night.

(The western view at 7:37 a.m.)

"But at the very moment that Harvard is defending its use of race in admissions, citing diversity as a key component of the education it provides, students of color are saying that once they are on campus..."

"... Harvard devalues their history and experiences and fails to retain professors who support them. Several students who testified during the legal challenge to Harvard’s admissions policies, saying it was important for the school to be able to consider race in admissions, are now among those criticizing the decision to deny tenure to the professor, Lorgia García Peña.... 'I am tired of Harvard using my story without giving me ethnic studies so I can fully understand what my story even means... Harvard, stop using our stories when you won’t listen to us.'"

From "Denying a Professor Tenure, Harvard Sparks a Debate Over Ethnic Studies/Some students of color say that even as the university defends its use of race in admissions, it devalues their experiences and fails to retain professors who support them" (NYT).

The top-rated comment (by a lot):
It is entirely inappropriate for students to determine who at a university should be granted tenure. Tenure, especially at elite institutions, is supposed to be based on scholarly accomplishments, not the results of a poll about who is popular with students (much less with faculty or staff at other institutions).

It is also inappropriate for students to try to force a university administration to create new departments to address ethnic or gender studies. If these students wanted such majors, they should have picked institutions that offered them. Also, if they want jobs after graduation, they should think twice about majoring in subjects so trendy and insubstantial as ethnic/gender studies.

This is just another example of letting the inmates run the asylum.

Biden touts himself as the embodiment of honesty while spreading a well-known lie. That's an exquisite form of lying.

Sunrise, 7:23.






Actual sunrise time: 7:30.

"Oh! I'm just seeing I left my fingershadow in the frame! I needed a New Year's resolution, and I'm resolving to keep my fingers out of the frame — literally and metaphorically...."

I wrote on Facebook on December 30, after I posted one of my sunrise photos and then noticed the telltale shadow in the upper right corner.

Yesterday, the first day of the new year, I took some photos, including this:

I think that's a magnificent smashing of a New Year's resolution. That's why I'm showing it to you.

ADDED: It's very clear when the literal resolution is broken, much harder to see the metaphorical smashing.

Bernie Sanders raised $34.5 million in the fourth quarter, the most of any candidate so far.

NBC News reports.

Buttigieg raised $24.7, and Andrew Yang’s rasied more than $12.5 million.

We haven't heard from Biden and Warren yet. I'm especially interested in hearing what Warren was able to raise. If Bernie has far overshadowed her, it ought to cause those who want a solidly left-wing nominee to shift to Bernie.

Who are all these people giving to Bernie?
For the final three months of the year, Sanders donors most often listed their occupation as “teacher.” The five most common employers of people who contributed to the campaign were Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart, the U.S. Postal Service and Target. The senator routinely criticizes Amazon and Walmart for the pay and benefits they give workers.
ADDED: If it is true that Bernie and not Warren is the left-wing choice, why is that happening? I'll sketch out all the reasons I can think of off-hand and put them in a survey. I'm limiting you to one choice to make the results more interesting. Pick the strongest reason (not the most interesting reason!):

Why might left-leaning Democrats prefer Sanders to Warren. Pick the strongest answer.
pollcode.com free polls

"Former Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, himself impeached and now serving a 14-year term in federal prison for corruption, said in a new op-ed that today's House Democrats would have impeached Abraham Lincoln."

Fox News reports.
"Lincoln didn't ask Congress for permission when he declared an end to nearly 250 years of slavery and offered freedom to millions of slaves in the American South," he said, referring to the Emancipation Proclamation, which went into effect on this day in 1863 and itself was a "unilateral" executive branch decision.

In addition, the 62-year-old former governor said Pelosi would likely charge that Lincoln had committed "Confederate Collusion" when he offered Virginia native Gen. Robert E. Lee command of the U.S. Army....

"Can't you see how a Speaker Pelosi and many of today's House Democrats would call for the appointment of a Special Counsel to investigate Lincoln for 'Confederate Collusion' and bring impeachment charges for abuse of power for offering the top military command to a guy who would go on to become the top military commander of the other side?" he asked in his column.

"How is this different to a million other things? Airlines, Uber, property. It’s called supply and demand."

One response, quoted in The NY Post, to Mayor Bill De Blasio's tweet, "Jacking up your prices on people trying to celebrate the holidays? Classy, @dominos.... To the thousands who came to Times Square last night to ring in 2020, I’m sorry this corporate chain exploited you — stick it to them by patronizing one of our fantastic LOCAL pizzerias."

A Domino's deliveryman was bringing pizzas out to the crowd in Times Square on New Year's Eve and asking and getting $30 a pie — about double the normal price:
[Deliveryman Ratan] Banik ran between the parlor and Times Square, balancing a stack of hot pies on his head while touting his cheesy wares — some hungry revelers tapping him on the shoulder to ask his price.

“Pepperoni, cheese, onion!” Banik called before being mobbed by starving tourists waiting in giant holding pens in Times Square, many having camped out overnight.

“He is our Santa,” said Amit Zanwar, 31, from New Jersey, who was with two friends for the spectacular and didn’t pack any food. “He came a little late [for Christmas], but we were happy.... It’s absolutely worth it. It was hot. It seems like it just came out of the oven... If he comes back, I will buy some more.”

The tens of thousands of tourists who decided to ring in the new decade in Times Square arrived as early as Monday evening and were not allowed to leave once they were in holding pens — meaning many were employing rather degrading tactics to last the distance....
Were the "fantastic LOCAL pizzerias" bringing pizza out to these people who were enduring the city's "rather degrading" detention of human beings in "holding pens"? If they were, were they charging less than an extra $15 for delivery to the site? De Blasio talks like a teenager. And he tweeted that from the official Twitter account of mayor of New York City.

"It turns out... that staying away from the daily distractions of Trump has not been restorative. You can turn off the Trump show, but..."

"... the nagging, unfortunate reality is that the show goes on, with or without you," wrote Susan B. Glasser in The New Yorker, in "Our Year of Trumpschmerz." She says she "unplug[ged] over the holiday week."

To me, she and her fellow anti-Trumpers are part of the nagging, unfortunate reality show that is the Trump era. The anti-Trumpers like to depict Trump as a big baby, but they've been having a 3-year tantrum. They never accepted his victory in an election, and now they've got a new election creeping up on them, and they can't freak out into a higher level of dismay at the prospect of his reelection.

Glasser offers the word "Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz" to denote "the ceaseless anxiety and absurdity" she (and presumably everyone she knows) feels while Trump is President.
On the brink of a new year, Trumpregierungsschlamasselschmerz has come to dominate our collective psyche.
The "collective psyche" does not include the millions of people who actually love Trump and the millions more who enjoy or tolerate his style and like some or a lot of what he's doing. Personally, I don't like the idea of a "collective psyche." It sounds fascist to me... especially with that German word stamped on it... even in its shortened form Trumpschmerz.

Glasser tells us that "-schmerz" means a "continuous pain or ache of the soul that results from excessive contemplation of it all." The solution to excessive anything is to scale back to the right amount.

Anti-Trump sketches from the artist Barry Blitt that The New Yorker rejected.

Video here.

Click my "Barry Blitt" tag if you can't remember Blitt's finished work that The New Yorker has published. I love seeing the work at the sketch phase — raw and closer to a mere idea — and it's interesting to know what falls below the anti-Trumpism that permeates The New Yorker and seems to torment Blitt.

I see that The New Yorker is now running a series called "Barry Blitt's Sketchbook"... I mean: "Blitt's Kvetchbook." Here, under the headline "The Latest on J. D. Salinger Unearthed," is a drawing captioned "J.D. Salinger, moments before he became disgusted with something." You either already have a New Yorker subscription or you just became disgusted with something.

ADDED: After publishing this post, I clicked my own "Barry Blitt" tag, and I was amazed to see that I had not written a post with that tag since May 2017! To me, that says a lot about what anti-Trumpism has done to humorists who are not Donald Trump. That's the only Blitt cover about Trump that I've seen fit to blog during the Trump administration.

It shows James Comey being dragged off an airplane. And I commented back then about "the loss of a sense of humor in Trump's America":
I think Trump thinks he's funny, and I think he's funny. But when the funnyman holds vast power, he's like the classic bully whose taunt is "What's the matter, can't you take a joke?"

And yet, if political discourse loses its humor dimension, and it becomes nothing but outrage and That's not funny, many people — I feel it happening to me — will turn away. We need the leavening, most of us.
The next newest one is a cover that bears the date January 23, 2017, but it was out before the inauguration, and I blogged it on January 13th.

January 1, 2020

At the Sunset Café...


... keep the conversation going.

"Anyone complaining about it being too hot in the bedroom is not just being 'a whining loser.'"

"People who sleep in hot environments have been found to have elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol the next morning.... A study of people with a sleep disorder found that they slept longer in temperatures of 61 degrees Fahrenheit versus 75 degrees. The cold-sleepers were also more alert the next morning. The basic physiology is that your body undergoes several changes at night to ease you into sleep: Your core and brain temperatures decrease, and both blood sugar and heart rate drop. Keeping a bedroom hot essentially fights against this process. Insomnia has even been linked to a basic malfunctioning of the body’s heat-regulation cycles—meaning some cases could be a disorder of body temperature.... There is no universally accepted temperature that is the correct one, but... I will say this: 60 degrees is the correct temperature for winter sleep. Anything warmer is incorrect. If 60 degrees is simply intolerable, physically or existentially, the National Sleep Foundation recommends sleeping in socks or putting a hot water bottle at your feet. Or maybe wear a warm hat...."

From the inaptly titled "Your Bedroom Is Too Hot" — by James Hamblin in The Atlantic. If 60° is "the correct temperature for winter sleep," then our bedroom is too cold. We let the temperature drop down to 50° (and keep a window open if it's above 30°). 60° is too hot. Anyway, even if you stick to 60°, there's still the problem of summertime. Hamblin nails down 60° as "the correct temperature for winter sleep." Why isn't it also "correct" in summer? The answer has nothing to do with health and individual wellbeing. It's just morally wrong to use what he calls "a vicious amount of air conditioning."

Naming the apartment building...


I just happened to walk by there the other day.


"What was supposed to be a shallow, tooted and booted, 1-night stand has grown and flourished to something far more meaningful..."

"I just want to see badgers chew up ducks."

Overheard at Meadhouse.

The sun rises on 2020.


Pope slap.

I approve. The Pope — and anyone else who's doing personal, physical contact with a crowd— gets to decide where he stops. He kept going until he got to a child, and, yes, that's disappointing to the last person who would have been touched if the toucher had not stopped exactly where he did.

(That happened to me once. Not with the Pope. With Ray Davies, who I'm sure was more important to me than he was to the last person he touched.)

Now, that woman not only reached out and touched him, she grabbed him. And she not only grabbed him, she yanked him. That was completely wrong, criminally wrong. She got slapped. Lucky her! A quick chastisement, firmly delivered, absolutely justified.

She was still holding on when he slapped. It was a let-go-of-me slap, not a swift-vengeance-punishment sort of slap... which would have been more interesting!

ADDED: When we watched that video yesterday, Meade said, "Thanks, I needed that," which set off a search for the old TV commercial. And here it is (did you know the actor, back in 1979, was John Goodman?):

AND: The Pope responded (after the video went viral): "So many times we lose our patience; me too, and I apologize for yesterday’s bad example."

I like that he apologized because he didn't want to be a bad example. It's because it was seen and others might do it that he apologized.

PLUS: I happen to think he set a good example. If someone has grabbed you and is aggressively pulling on you, you have a right to use force to free yourself. It's interesting that he used the words "me too." I think of the #MeToo movement and the many stories of women who don't have a well developed fight or flee response. Kindness is not free.

I've denied being a contrarian (which seems like a joke, since isn't that what a contrarian would do?)...

... but I must say that when I saw this list, which someone had posted on Facebook...
1. The past cannot be changed.
2. Opinions don’t define your reality.
3. Everyone’s journey is different.
4. Things always get better with time.
5. Judgements are a confession of character.
6. Overthinking will lead to sadness.
7. Happiness is found within.
8. Positive thoughts create positive things.
9. Smiles are contagious.
10. Kindness is free.
11. You only fail if you quit.
12. What goes around, comes around.
... my instinct was to rewrite each one and reverse the meaning. Including the title! It's ridiculous to always be remembering 12 things. How nudge-y this list is! And yet, it's Facebook, so what a terrible mistake to allow yourself to be baited into disagreeing with what was obviously put up with cheerful good intentions. You look like there's something wrong with you if your contrarian instinct shows on Facebook. Can't you see that the people there want to be nice and supportive? Yeah, I can, and therefore I need to retreat to my blog to tell you that we are changing the past all the time, etc. etc.

"[V]irtues were fixed and certain... standards against which behavior could and should be measured. When conduct fell short of those standards..."

"... it was judged in moral terms as bad, wrong or evil — not, as is more often the case today, as misguided, undesirable or (the most recent corruption of the moral vocabulary) 'inappropriate.'"

Wrote Gertrude Himmelfarb in "The De-Moralization of Society: From Victorian Virtues to Modern Values," quoted in "Gertrude Himmelfarb, scholar of Victorian era and neoconservative thinker, dies at 97" (WaPo). Himmelfarb was the wife of Irving Kristol and mother of William Kristol.
Beginning in the early 1950s, Dr. Himmelfarb published a series of well-regarded books about 19th-century British intellectual history and political and cultural figures. She advanced the notion that the Victorians, with their rigorous standards of morality, hard work, self-reliance and public rectitude — and the British Empire’s muscular economic and military presence — should be a model for modern American life and public policy....


I just wanted to write that.

The twenties! It will be so satisfying to say that, to be in a decade with a real name, like the old-time decades I knew so well — the fifties, the sixties, the seventies, the eighties, the nineties. We were verbally impoverished these last 2 decades. Now, once again, time will have the distinction of a name, a decade name.

The vague gray time is over. I feel so optimistic!

Happy New Year to all!

I hope you rang it in the way you like. I certainly did it my way by being asleep and then up at 5. We watched some episodes of "Twilight Zone" on the SyFy channel — "The Hitchhiker," "The Monsters Are Due on Main Street," "Eye of the Beholder," "The Invaders."

December 31, 2019

It’s New Year’s Eve.

Once again, we’ve made it to the end of a decade... and another year... as well as another day. We live in days, of course, but once in a while we force ourselves to think of the year-long unit and almost never, tonight being one of the exceptions, do we think of the decade-long unit. So here we are. It’s been a very distinct 10-year unit for me — a great 10 years. And here’s to the next 10 years.

Have you got any resolutions? I made some resolutions back in September, because I think of the year as starting in September. The academic year always gave me a crisp sense of beginning. I had a general resolution that was something like: Do something new every day. Every day! I think that can be done, if you take a fine-grained look at what is new. I did do 3 new things beginning in September, and I’ve kept them up and intend to keep going into 2020. I wanted to see the sunrise and photograph it. I combined that with learning to run, which I’d never been able to do before. And I wanted to figure out a way to eat that would make me lose some weight, and in fact, I’ve lost 15 pounds!

I would like to add more new things. Maybe a new writing project. I’m thinking of moving about more in where I write. I bought one of these backpacks today to take my laptop around town and see if I can’t do something new in a new environment.

New, new, new. What’s new with you?

A new coat of snow.


This morning at 7:35 — 5 minutes after the "actual sunrise" time.

A 20-year-old man has ripped Picasso's "Bust of a Woman."

"Man charged over damage to £20m Picasso at Tate Modern/Bust of a Woman was reportedly ripped while gallery was open to public on Saturday" (The Guardian).

Attacking artwork is a strange crime. Here's an article from last October in ArtNews, "What Makes Someone Attack a Work of Art? Here Are 9 of the Most Audacious Acts of Art Vandalism—and What Inspired Them." The reasons vary. There's objection to the work of art, that it's something that shouldn't be regarded as art (e.g, the simple modern Barnett Newman painting that seemed, to its attacker, like something a child could do) or opposition to the perceived message in the art (e.g., a suffragette chopping a meat-cleaver into the ass of a Velázquez nude). There's using the art to leverage another message (for example, treating a sculpture with a big flat surface as a sort of billboard for anti-Semitic graffiti). There is sheer lunacy (such as slashing Rembrandt's "Night Watch" "for the Lord").

Not laughable at all.

I'm reading "Cancel Culture Claims Another Scalp" by John Hinderaker (at Power Line), which is about the Bret Stephens column on the "genius" of Jews. I blogged about the column, here, before the Twitter outrage cranked up.  I said:
So, according to Stephens, there are the people who can build things and do things in the real world. They can perform feats of engineering or devise military strategy. But those things are "prosaic," and — in Stephens blunt view — not what Jews do with their "prodigious intellect." Jews — in Stephens view — stand apart from these practical things and "question the premise and rethink the concept," they "ask why (or why not?)," they see absurdities and "maintain[] a critical distance." It may be good to value different kinds of intelligence and to roughly opine that there are the people who do things in the real world and people who stand back and observe and critique everything, but it's a big problem to put a group — even your own group — in the second category.
I was focusing on the danger to Jews that was inherent in the praise Stephens was attempting to offer. The outrage on Twitter (and elsewhere) was more about the use of IQ data from a paper co-authored by the anthropologist Henry Harpending. Hinderaker is critical of that outrage:
[L]iberals promptly swung into action, in many cases weirdly accusing Stephens of perpetuating an anti-Semitic stereotype.
Hinderaker quotes "Bret Stephens under fire for NY Times column on Jewish intelligence" (Jewish Telegraphic Agency):
But the Southern Poverty Law Center said that Harpending was an anthropologist who possessed a white nationalist ideology and promoted eugenics, which was studied and practiced by the Nazis.
Hinderaker comments:
I would’t take the SPLC’s word for anything, and there is something laughable about a supposed pro-Nazi who publishes an article finding that Jews have high IQ scores. 
Wow! I do not find that laughable at all. Whatever may or may not be true about Harpending, it is not inconsistent with anti-Semitism to believe that Jews are especially intelligent! Bigotry takes many forms, and the stereotypes about some groups include the notion that they have lower intelligence, but other stereotypes — for other groups — have the idea that they are more intelligent. That can be a basis for admiration, but it can be — and has been — a source of fear and the desire to disempower the people who you might imagine are deviously arranging the world to hurt you.

"Protesters broke into the heavily guarded compound of the United States Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday and lit fires inside..."

"... to express their anger over American airstrikes that killed 24 members of an Iranian-backed militia over the weekend. Chanting 'Death to America!' thousands of protesters and militia members demonstrated outside the embassy compound, throwing rocks, shattering surveillance cameras, covering the walls with graffiti and demanding that the United States withdraw its forces from Iraq."

From "Iraq Protesters Break Into U.S. Embassy Compound in Baghdad/President Trump blamed Iran after demonstrators breached the compound’s outer wall and lit fires. Tensions are high after American airstrikes killed 24 members of an Iraqi militia backed by Iran" (NYT).

Trump's response:

"The 20th-century German philosopher (and victim of the Nazis) Walter Benjamin warned how fascism engages an 'aestheticization of politics'..."

"... where spectacle and transcendence provide a type of ecstasy for its adherents. Watch clips of fevered crowds, from today or the past, chanting against 'enemies of the people'; they are malignant scenes, but ones that in no small part mimic religious revivals. Critics of democracy often claim that it offers no similar sense of transcendence. The 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche castigated democracy as a system of 'quarantine mechanisms' for human desires, and as 'such they are … very boring.' If the individual unit of democracy is the citizen, authoritarian societies thrill to the Übermensch, the superman promising that 'I alone can fix it.' Yet I would argue that all of the hallmarks of authoritarianism — the rallies and crowds, the marching and military parades, the shouting demagogue promising his followers that they are superior — are wind and hot air. What fascism offers isn’t elevation but cheap transcendence, a counterfeit of meaning rather than the real thing. [Walt] Whitman understood that democracy wasn’t 'very boring' but rather a political system that could deliver on the promises that authoritarianism only pretended it would. For the poet, democracy wasn’t just a way of passing laws or a manner of organizing a government; democracy was a method of transcendence in its own right."

From "Why We Will Need Walt Whitman in 2020/With our democracy in crisis, the poet and prophet of the American ideal should be our guide" by Ed Simon (in the NYT).

What's so bad about boring? Some things — important things — you want to be boring (for example: the operation of your internal organs). I'd prefer a boring government. I don't like people getting all emotional about politics. Rather than pumping up the pro-democracy propaganda and rhetoric, why don't we give respect to boredom. Let politics be boring so our own individual life engages our interest.

I have a tag "I'm for Boring." I started that tag here (in 2014). Reacting to a WaPo columnist who fretted about low turnout in elections, I said:
Boring!... I mean hooray for boredom in politics.

Do you remember the New Year's Tick?

It was December 31, 2008, when I wrote, "I'm quite serious about replacing the depressing Father Time/Baby New Year with the New Year's Tick." I was inspired by a BBC headline, "New Year to arrive a tick later" (about a "leap second" that had to be added to the atomic clock). I said:
I think I'll try to draw a picture of the New Year's Tick. Or see if I can get people to send pictures of the New Year's Tick. And I'm going to push for the adoption of the New Year's Tick as the new New Year's mascot, replacing that stupid — and frankly depressing — Old Man and Baby mascot. Or the Ball. What the hell kind of symbol is a Ball?
It's just by chance that I got reminded of the New Year's Tick on the day of New Year's Eve. I was reading a Jennifer Rubin column in The Washington Post, "Resolutions for the media and politicians." One of her resolutions is:
Presidential candidates should promise to cut out their rhetorical ticks. Former vice president Joe Biden needs to stop saying “I’m serious” and “No joke.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) must not start sentences with “So … ” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) cannot say “billionaires” more than 10 times in a debate or speech.
Rhetorical ticks! I love the idea of ticks giving speeches! I'm tantalized by the prospect of using my favorite tag "insect politics" once again, but I've been down that road before across that grassy meadow before. A tick is not an insect!

The spelling should be "tic," but I'm thinking there's something perhaps a little politically incorrect about the figurative use of a word that denotes "severe facial neuralgia with twitching of the facial muscles" (OED).  I like this example in the OED:
1960 20th Cent. Apr. 361 This is an irritating tic of the British Left, this substitution of moral gestures for practical policies.
"Tic" is spelled like that because the medical condition is "tic douloureux" — French for "painful twitching." There is also a condition in horses, "The vice or morbid habit in horses called crib-biting or cribbing," and that has been spelled "tick" since the 18th century. Etymologically, it too comes from the French "tic," so it's easy to argue that "promise to cut out their rhetorical ticks" is just fine and nicely in English and un-French. The horse's crib-biting also has been used figuratively, and the meaning is the same as the figurative "tic": It means "whim."

I'm going to say that Rubin's "tick" is le mot juste if what you're picturing when you picture Elizabeth Warren saying "so" and Bernie Sanders saying "billionaire" looks something like this:

WaPo readers demand full-strength propaganda.

The WaPo columnist, Catherine Rampell offers "four suggested New Year’s resolutions for the media" is: "Remember that just because the president did (or proposed) it doesn’t mean it’s bad; inversely, just because one of the president’s perceived opponents did (or proposed) it doesn’t mean it’s good."

The comments over there trash her for that, and not because it's so mild. You might think it's safely and blandly obvious Journalism 101. But commenters are demanding an actively anti-Trump point of view. Here's the highest-rated comment:
Catherine, the most important resolution should be for the media to stop this "both-sides-ism". The republicons are clearly lying, cheating and doing everything possible to stay in power. The Democrats are truly trying to govern for the betterment of the people.
Another highly rated comment:
The first three [resolutions] were good, but then I got to #4, which is simply unnecessary, at least as stated. And "whataboutism," "false equivalence," and " bothsiderism" are still very common in both the Post and NY Times....
Notice that Rampell did not even say that journalists should strive for balance and give equal weigh to both sides. She just said journalists shouldn't assume that everything from Trump is bad and everything from his opponents is good. That is, she wasn't pushing "bothsiderism," only opposing onesiderism.

The commenters speak as if anything less that onesiderism is bothsiderism! They've given up on independence and objectivity and want full-strength propaganda.

December 30, 2019

At the Unfrozen Café...


... be fluent.

A fantastic montage of the wildest moments of 2019.

1 minute after sunrise...


Photo taken at 7:31.

"The extreme isolation and hardness of the landscape is what drew me here, too. I took the trip with my partner Noah."

"Both of our marriages had recently ended, and in our 40s, we were suddenly rootless, dislocated in a way neither of us had expected. It was as though we’d sat on the shoreline, watching a glacier crumble into the ocean. We’d found each other, but our relationship was still new and untested. Perhaps we’d been drawn to the Arctic to see if anything permanent in the world still existed.... We booked a room at Funken Lodge.... We’d made New Year’s Eve dinner reservations at Huset... The main course showcased local reindeer two ways... accompanied by strands of salty kelp harvested from the island’s shoreline and microgreens provided by the island’s sole greenhouse, a pink geodesic dome visible from the main road.... A few minutes before midnight, Noah and I pulled our coats and boots on and half-stumbled, half-skated to the edge of the parking lot between the restaurant and the high wall of the glacier. Some of the kitchen staff lit off fireworks...."

From "Greeting the New Year in Earth’s Northernmost Settlement/In Svalbard, above the Arctic Circle, you can’t be born and you can’t be buried, but you can find renewal in the dark of winter/The northern-most greenhouse dome in the world provides microgreens to a local restaurant" by Kelly McMasters (in the NYT).

Later, the author and her companion Noah enjoy a sauna and — this is how the article ends — "My sweat felt like all the stars in the sky were wrapped around my body in a blanket, little spears of heat and ice, and when I turned to Noah his skin was bathed in silver, as if his body was part of the aurora itself."

Here's the top-rated comment: "As someone who has unbridled passion and respect for the Arctic, I am truly disappointed in the lack of respect and depth you seem to have of your Svalbard experience. Having been to to Svalbard and the Arctic in many countries around the globe, you fail to capture or even seriously understand the incredible value, beauty, uniqueness and importance this precious place has on our earth. I am not a scientist, simply a traveler who seeks to grow and learn about myself and this world with respect. The Arctic should not be the next hot bucket list destination that one can say 'yeah I have been aka aren’t I cool?' NYT, you can and should do better."

Oh! But all the stars and spears of sweat and Noah's silver body and the reindeer two ways!

"There’s a clear irony here, given how much thought I’ve put into what things — art, interiors, people — should look like, that I’ve come to a place..."

"... in which I no longer know what my own life should look like. I literally do not know what to do with myself and what I should believe in anymore, and this does, in fact, seem kind of frivolous, given the very urgent concerns of the society we live in.... (I chose a career in the dying industry that is print journalism and it’s too late to choose a new one). I’m unable to save money for retirement and I get very anxious when I think about the future. Worse, I’ve lost my sense of meaning to myself. I feel like the culture has moved on without me.... I don’t own a home and no one needs me; I am nobody’s mother and now I am nobody’s child, as my parents are no longer living. My friends and peers have gone on to have families, to marry and stop working.... On good days, I can take a yoga class and still feel like life’s potential is still just around the corner if I’m just open to it; on bad ones, I feel such futility, like I’ve squandered my own youth and beauty in the hall of mirrors that is our consumerist society. Am I simply being solipsistic here? Or is this what getting older is about, acknowledging one’s comedown to the brutal reality of life?"

From an anonymous letter written by a 40-year-old woman to the "culture therapist" at the NYT Style Magazine.

The NYT writer who answers this letter says: "[Y]our way of seeing thing... seems not wholly true or right or your own, and is in dire need of a refresh. It feels reductive and merciless, informed too much by the very aspects of our culture that have become deadening to you. I wonder if what you’re craving is a less placid form of beauty, one that’s in keeping with the richer and more complex person you have become — art that is more than a flawlessly lit and composed image and that demands more of you than a well-trained set of eyes."

That is, the problem is not so much that she's centered her life on beauty but that she needs to upgrade her concept of beauty.

Some of Politico's "The Worst Political Predictions of 2019" is really good, with genuine predictions that are genuinely ridiculous in hindsight.

Like "By the end of 2019, the president of the United States will be Nancy Pelosi."

But that's #17 on a list of 17, and the quality of the list declines from there and is totally botched at #1, which just has to be Trump, but apparently they couldn't find a bad enough Trump prediction to feature at #1 and they just brought up something he did that's not a prediction and — as presidential misdeeds go — isn't even that bad: Sharpiegate:
In advance of the storm making landfall, Trump tweeted that “In addition to Florida - South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.” There were never any reputable weather maps that had Alabama in the direct path of the storm, and the National Weather Service in Birmingham quickly issued a statement correcting the president. Rather than admit a mistake, Trump produced a map of the hurricane’s path—and apparently used a marker to draw over the expert forecast and change the path of Dorian’s projected fallout area to include Alabama. The hurricane never did hit the state.

If he's so weak, why don't the Democrats look like formidable opponents?

I'm trying to read "The Presidential Nominating Process Is Absurd/We have an unnecessarily weak presidential field, especially the incumbent" by David Leonhardt (in the NYT). To me, the headline looks fluffed up with various distractions, and a more honest statement would be "We have a puzzlingly weak field of Democratic candidates" or "We have an alarmingly weak field of Democratic candidates."

If Trump is the weakest candidate of all, the Democrats wouldn't look so weak. They'd be just fine. That "especially the incumbent" feels incoherent, and it seems to be offered as a sop to depressed and scared NYT readers. And then, let's talk about how there's something bad about the "process." It's absurd!

But I will read this thing for you. The focus is the process:

"I find no rock songs. Not a single one in this list"/"Literally none of this is rock"/"Literally 0 rock songs"...

Twitter is literally so upset with Billboard's "Top Rock Songs of the Decade."

The coldness.

"Legal experts say Roberts hopes to follow the example set by his late mentor Chief Justice William Rehnquist at then-President Clinton's 1999 trial."

"Rehnquist, for whom Roberts clerked in the 1980s, once mused that during Clinton’s proceeding he 'did nothing in particular, and did it very well,' lifting a line from Gilbert and Sullivan. Eric Claeys, a law professor at George Mason University and former Rehnquist clerk, said Rehnquist’s approach was framed by the 1986 rules. The rules say the presiding officer 'may rule' on all questions of evidence, like instances where the relevance and significance of a document or witness testimony is unclear. However, a single senator can appeal the ruling, triggering a Senate vote, where some say Roberts would break a 50-50 tie, though that is disputed. The presiding officer also has the option to stay mum on an evidentiary question and send it directly to the Senate for an up-or-down vote. Rehnquist generally avoided this option during Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial, Claeys said. Instead, Rehnquist applied the relevant precedents, then left it up to senators to decide whether to reverse his decision. 'I don’t think that Chief Justice Roberts will play a bigger role in President Trump’s impeachment trial than Chief Justice Rehnquist did in President Clinton’s,' Claeys said. 'I expect Roberts will follow the same strategy.' However, some legal experts believe today’s more intensely partisan atmosphere may force Roberts to depart from the course charted by his predecessor...."

From "Trump impeachment trial drags Roberts into spotlight" by John Kruzel (in The Hill).

The Gilbert and Sullivan song is "When Britain really ruled the waves" (from "Iolanthe"):
When Wellington thrashed Bonaparte,
As every child can tell,
The House of Peers, throughout the war,
Did nothing in particular,
And did it very well:
Yet Britain set the world ablaze
In good King George’s glorious days!

"When I first came to Washington, I was surprised at how few Democrats had taken their argument for the merit of paid leave to their colleagues across the aisle."

"So it really was starting from the beginning and talking about this policy and framing it in different terms.... We proposed the first ever bipartisan, bicameral plan.... [T]he president has made very clear he thinks that this is critical policy. And now we are working with members on both sides of the aisle to see who has the right policy to move forward and to be able to garner the votes to pass this into law....  I think the option that has been put out there by the Democrats without even opining on the policy of it, it has sat there since 2012, has never been scored, has never received the endorsement of a president, including President Obama, and has never received bipartisan support from colleagues in the Senate. So the way I look at it is that the debate had grown stale...."

Said Ivanka Trump on "Face the Nation."

The interviewer, Margaret Brennan, tries to bring a little edge.

First, she brings up the fact that Ivanka, in her own private business, did not initially have a paid family leave policy in place. Ivanka's answer is that the first pregnant person in her company was the fourth person hired, indeed, she was pregnant at the time of hiring, and they put a policy in place at the point.

Second, Brennan introduces the topic of family separation and immigration, which she is kindly enough to observe that Ivanka was "vocal" in opposing and called "a low point." Brennan asks if Ivanka is still "engaged" on the subject of family separation. Ivanka answers and quickly turns the subject to human trafficking:

December 29, 2019

At the Deep Blue Café...


... keep the conversation going.

The photo was taken at 7:27. Actual sunrise time was 7:29

"President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia called President Trump on Sunday to thank him for a tip from American intelligence agencies that helped prevent a terrorist attack in Russia..."

"... the Kremlin said in a statement.... [T]he Federal Security Service, the main successor agency to the K.G.B., told Russian media it had detained two suspects preparing an attack on a crowded location in the northern city of St. Petersburg on New Year’s Eve....  Some of the terrorist groups tracked by the United States have also targeted Russia for years, among them the Islamic State. In 2015, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for blowing up a Russian airliner over Egypt, killing all 224 people aboard.... In 2011, the Federal Security Service warned the F.B.I. that an immigrant from Russia living in Boston, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, had associated with Islamist militants. The F.B.I. investigated the tip but closed the case after finding no proof. Two years later, Mr. Tsarnaev and his brother Dzhokhar detonated homemade bombs at the Boston Marathon."

The NYT reports.

"So why has the news that a synagogue in the Netherlands stopped posting the time of services upset me above all?"

"Because it is vivid proof that anti-Semitism is driving Jews underground in the West. For some time now, many kippah-wearing Jews have adopted the habit of wearing baseball caps when visiting Europe. Young people think twice before wearing Israeli-flag T-shirts when they wander the streets of Paris. Or before carrying a backpack with the name of their Jewish youth group prominently displayed.... During a trip to Berlin, a friend gave me directions to an out-of-the-way synagogue. After some intricate explanations, he added that if I got lost, I should look for police on the street with submachine guns. 'That,' he noted, 'would be the entrance to the synagogue.' But I should also keep watch for men in baseball caps and follow them. 'They will lead you to the synagogue.... When Jews feel it is safer for them to go 'underground' as Jews, something is terribly wrong—wrong for them and, even more so, wrong for the society in which they live."

Writes Deborah Lipstadt, who teaches Holocaust history at Emory University, in "Jews Are Going Underground/A month of terrible anti-Semitic attacks culminated with a stabbing yesterday of multiple people at a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York" (The Atlantic).

"Democratic candidate presidential and former vice president Joe Biden... is right in saying that he would refuse to comply with a Senate subpoena absent a court order."

"In making that statement, however, Biden has now taken the legs out from under the second article of impeachment voted on by the House against President Trump. That article accuses the president of 'obstruction of Congress' for doing essentially what Biden said he would do, namely demanding a court order before he would comply with what he believes to be partisan subpoenas issued by one chamber of Congress.... If Biden is not obstructing the Senate by his refusal to comply with a Senate subpoena, how could Trump be guilty of obstructing Congress by refusing to comply with the House subpoenas absent court orders? The shoe is now on the other foot and causing blisters for Democrats. It could also be uncomfortable for Republicans, who may have to acknowledge that Biden has a point."

Writes Alan Dershowitz (at The Hill).

"Rotting penis not pictured."

That's at Gizmodo, where I knew that wasn't a picture of a rotting penis and where they are wrong that I "might like" something about Yoda.

CORRECTION: That says I "may also like" that thing about Yoda. As if I liked the rotting penis! I am sick of these insinuations from Gizmodo. It thinks it knows me, but it does not know me.

Decaying city.

Dan Scavino is the Assistant to the President and Director of Social Media at the White House.

"In the long arc of human history, 2019 has been the best year ever."

"The bad things that you fret about are true. But it’s also true that since modern humans emerged about 200,000 years ago, 2019 was probably the year in which children were least likely to die, adults were least likely to be illiterate and people were least likely to suffer excruciating and disfiguring diseases. Every single day in recent years, another 325,000 people got their first access to electricity. Each day, more than 200,000 got piped water for the first time. And some 650,000 went online for the first time, every single day. Perhaps the greatest calamity for anyone is to lose a child. That used to be common: Historically, almost half of all humans died in childhood. As recently as 1950, 27 percent of all children still died by age 15. Now that figure has dropped to about 4 percent."

From "This Has Been the Best Year Ever/For humanity over all, life just keeps getting better" by Nicholas Kristof (in the NYT).

I trust he's right about all facts he's setting out, and great! Of course. But let me carp about "The bad things that you fret about are true." He doesn't know what I — and the other "you"s who read him — fret about. I was just fretting the other day about the possibility that our consciousness is an illusion that coalesces anew each time we wake up after a night's sleep.

I took 3 photos today and 3 photos yesterday and they're kind of similar.

When things are basically the same, look twice, and what you see are the differences. Biggest difference: the color... even though it's all very blue.

"An intruder with a large knife burst into the home of a Hasidic rabbi in a New York suburb on Saturday night, stabbing and wounding five people..."

"... just as they were gathering to light candles for Hanukkah, officials and a witness said. It was a terrifying scene... at the home of the rabbi, Chaim Rottenberg, in Monsey, which is in an area with a large population of ultra-Orthodox Jews... 'I was praying for my life,' [said Aron Kohn, 65] '“He started attacking people right away as soon as he came in the door. We didn’t have time to react at all. We saw him pull a knife out of a case... It was about the size of a broomstick.' Mr. Kohn said that after the attacker fled, he tried to enter a synagogue next door, Congregation Netzach Yisroel, which is led by Rabbi Rottenberg. But people inside the synagogue apparently heard screams from the rabbi’s home and, fearful, locked the door so the attacker could not get in, Mr. Kohn said.... Orthodox Jews in Monsey were already rattled by recent assaults against Jews that took place in the last week in Brooklyn, as well as a deadly anti-Semitic shooting at a kosher market in Jersey City this month..."

From "Monsey Hanukkah Stabbing: 5 Wounded at Rabbi’s Home in N.Y. Suburb/The governor called the violence an “act of domestic terrorism” after a suspect was arrested in Harlem" (NYT).

A suspect has been arrested in Harlem, which is 30 miles from Monsey.

AND: Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, The NY Post reports:
Suspects arrested in last week’s spree of eight anti-Semitic attacks are being quickly released right back into the neighborhoods they terrorized thanks to “bail reform” legislation — which doesn’t even take effect until Jan. 1....

The accused assailant, Tiffany Harris, was hauled in handcuffs before a Brooklyn judge on 21 menacing, harassment and attempted assault charges.

“Yes, I was there,” Harris later admitted to cops, according to the criminal complaint against her. “Yes, I slapped them. I cursed them out. I said ‘F-U, Jews.”

Ivanka laughed at Jane Fonda's plan to use sex as a weapon.

I'm reading "The Star Power of Jane Fonda’s Climate-Change Arrests" (The New Yorker):
After the 2016 election, Fonda was initially optimistic that Trump could be flattered into taking on the cause of battling climate change. She wanted to invite several “voluptuous” female activists (including the environmentally minded actress Pamela Anderson) to brief Trump on the dangers of relying on fossil fuels. Fonda spoke by phone to Jared Kushner, who told her to speak to Ivanka Trump, who laughed at the idea and said she’d follow up. Fonda never got to meet with Trump.
So it's okay to treat women as sex objects if it's a means to an end? This belongs in the same category as "I'd be happy to give him a blowjob just to thank him for keeping abortion legal" ("I" = Time correspondent Nina Burleigh, "him" = Bill Clinton).