January 23, 2020

"I am in one way 'becoming' a man. But in another way, I have always been one, and I’m trying out all the ways..."

"... to live as one, some good, some bad. One night I was in a Lyft talking to a guy who was a dental technician trying to join the Navy. He told me he was doing it 'for his woman.' 'I think she’s the one,' he said tentatively. 'They only want your money, and I’ve told her I haven’t got any, but I’m making her sign a prenup anyway.' I heard myself say, 'Yeah, man, I feel you — all that bullshit about women’s rights.' He laughed and said, 'Yeah, you know, my man, you know what I’m saying.' I tipped him $10 and gave him five stars for letting me indulge my inner sexist jerk. My friend Lee tells me it’s my job to correct this behavior, and sometimes I do, but sometimes I dive right in, trying to grasp at some false sense of power that I know has been used against me a thousand times in another life. It feels good to blow off steam with another man for just a moment."

From "Becoming a Man/What I learned about masculinity from my father, my father-in-law and my own transition" by P. Carl (NYT).

"The Democrat House would not give us lawyers, or not one witness, but now demand that the Republican Senate produce the witnesses that the House never sought, or even asked for?"

"They had their chance, but pretended to rush. Most unfair & corrupt hearing in Congressional history!"/"No matter what you give to the Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, it will never be enough!"

Trump tweets this morning.

"It is true that an impeachable 'abuse of power' can’t simply consist in using the powers of the executive for personal, political gain; that happens all the time."

"Abuse of power, for impeachment purposes, must consist in corruptly using those powers for personal, political gain. If the president in fact withheld military assistance authorized by Congress in order to gain an advantage over former Vice President Joe Biden, that was an unlawful and corrupt abuse of power. The fact that the GAO confirmed that this was a violation of law is not, as Dershowitz claims, irrelevant. And the claim that other presidents violated the same provisions—without a showing that they did so for personal, political reasons—has nothing to do with the question of impeachment. Of course, Trump’s defense team may well argue that the president never intended to connect his withholding of funds from Ukraine with the demand that the Ukrainian president announce an investigation of Biden and his son."

From "Alan Dershowitz’s Strange Constitutional Arguments on Impoundment and Foreign Policy" by Philip Bobbitt (Lawfare).

If we take Bobbitt's approach to heart, everything depends on what Trump had in his mind. The question is whether the Senators have enough evidence of wrong thoughts in Trump's mind that they should deprive the people of the choice we made in the last election, when the alternative is to go forward to the next election. And I'm saying "we" even though I did not vote for Trump. We, the People.

"The classic image of the Tory, which holds from the 1700s to today, is that of a fat, self-satisfied landowner, generally complacent but..."

"... driven to red-faced distemper by anything that would intrude on the enjoyment of his privilege and the comforts of his estate....Yang seems to uniquely attract this kind of person — the recently established and self-regarding. His supporters include Tesla founder Elon Musk, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, rapper and actor Donald Glover, who threw an impromptu concert for Yang in December, Weezer lead singer Rivers Cuomo, and actor Nicholas Cage. They all in one way or another belong to a previous age, in which the pretensions of wealth and talent were given more deference. They are men accustomed to having their fanciful notions regarded with awe and respect. In the midst of or approaching middle age, they fear the loss of the world they could understand and master. The 17th century philosopher Spinoza asserted that every individual thing strives to persist in its existence, and these magnates certainly follow that universal law, resenting anything that would dilute or diminish their sense of singularity. In America, libertarianism used to attract people with this sensibility, but the era of Trump and populism has evidently made libertarians realize that 'Leave me alone' is no longer a viable political position; they have moved on to 'If I give you some money, will you leave me alone?' in the form of the Freedom Dividend, Yang’s Universal Basic Income proposal. The New American Tories have adopted the classic Tory answer to social unrest — paternalism."

From "Andrew Yang and the New American Tories/What links celebrity Yang supporters like Dave Chappelle, Rivers Cuomo, and Norm MacDonald?" (The Outline).

"Every Bloomberg staffer gets a MacBook Pro and an iPhone 11 on day one. They also enjoy three catered meals daily...."

"A... woman who interviewed with the Bloomberg campaign for an assistant level position that paid $70,000– nearly double her current salary as a Democratic staffer– said she was greeted with a 'hotel-style buffet' at the interview. 'The salary would have been life-changing... I would have my student loans paid off within this calendar year.... I’m declining it because... I’m an Elizabeth Warren supporter and really the reason I came so close to working for Bloomberg was the benefits and the salary and the perks that were evident from the moment you walk in'..."

From "Here’s how Mike Bloomberg is luring 2020 campaign staffers with lavish perks" (NY Post).

Who knew that swimming in natural bodies of water was a special sort of swimming in need of a revival and a retronym?

I just learned that, reading "THE SUBVERSIVE JOY OF COLD-WATER SWIMMING/Britons are skipping the heated pool and rediscovering the pleasures of lakes, rivers, and seas—even in winter" by Rebecca Mead in The New Yorker.

Apparently, the shift to swimming in chlorinated pools was so extensive that people (in Britain anyway) started talking about "wild swimming." It seems to be a retronym (like snail mail and acoustic guitar).

Anyway, as you can see from the title, the article is about not just swimming in outdoor natural water, but swimming in cold water — because there are lots of lakes in Britain, and they're cold.

Oh, the ordeal of being a Senator coerced to sit silent all day without coffee, without iPads!

I'm reading "Senators are out and about rather than in their seats" in WaPo's "What happened in Wednesday’s Senate trial, in 5 minutes."

I'm beyond bored by the trial, but this is what interests me, because I would go mad stuck in the position the Senators have gotten themselves into. Their theater, their rules:
Senators are supposed to sit down and stay in their seats for the entire trial, except when they all agree to take breaks. And yet at one point, our congressional colleagues watching the hearing from above the Senate chamber counted about 20 Republican senators not in their seats, walking outside the Senate floor or hanging out in private rooms just off it....

Why that matters: It’s another reminder there are no repercussions for not following the rules — which technically warn everyone to be silent “upon pain of imprisonment.”
When are these characters going to start throwing themselves in prison? Rules are rules! Well, once the ironclad rule-following breaks down — and it looks as though it already has — what's to stop them from openly sipping coffee and scrolling on iPads? What's to stop them from milling around right there in the chamber? What's to stop them from laughing out loud? From heckling?

After all these years, the Lamb of God is looking at you.



That's a closeup of the central figure in the Ghent Altarpiece, before and after restoration. The great masterpiece by Hubert and Jan Van Eyck (1432) had been painted over in the 16th century, and people had gotten used to the eyes way off to the side. But the image on the right puts the eyes back where Hu and Jan had them.

I'm reading "Ghent Altarpiece: Lamb's 'alarmingly humanoid' face surprises art world" (BBC). Smithsonian Magazine is quoted saying "These features are 'eye-catching, if not alarmingly anthropomorphic.'" There's also a lot of reaction in social media.

The new image is the original painting, with layers of "overpaint" removed. The Belgium's Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (RICH) defends its work:
The Van Eyck brothers chose to "represent the Lamb of God with human-like staring eyes", which was a common style in the Middle Ages, it said. "The choice for removing the overpaint was carefully weighed out, and it was fully supported by all involved," the institute said. "The results of the restoration have been praised by experts, the public and St Bavo's Cathedral."
Here's the Wikipedia article "Lamb of God":
Lamb of God ... is a title for Jesus that appears in the Gospel of John. It appears at John 1:29, where John the Baptist sees Jesus and exclaims, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."...

The Lamb imagery in Revelation is counterintuitive. In Rev. 5:5, John hears from an elder about the lion of Judah who conquers, but in 5:6, what he sees is a lamb....

[I]n 375 Saint Augustine wrote: "Why a lamb in his passion? Because he underwent death without being guilty of any iniquity. Why a lion in his passion? Because in being slain, he slew death. Why a lamb in his resurrection? Because his innocence is everlasting. Why a lion in his resurrection? Because everlasting also is his might."
If you want to talk about what's "alarmingly anthropomorphic," begin with Jesus.

ADDED: The oldest usage of the word "anthropomorphic" is about God. It "ascribes human form, character, or attributes to God or a god" (OED). The first appearance of the word is this:
1802 S. T. Coleridge Coll. Lett. (1956) II. 893 Even the worship of one God becomes Idolatry..when instead of the Eternal & Omnipresent..we set up a distinct Jehovah tricked out in the anthropomorphic Attributes of Time & Successive Thoughts—& think of him as a Person.

January 22, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...

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... you can talk until sunrise.

The photo was taken at 7:22 — 1 minute before the "actual" sunrise time.

"The White House on Wednesday passed up a chance to force a vote to dismiss the impeachment charges against President Trump before arguments get underway."

"Both the president’s defense lawyers and the House Democratic impeachment managers had until 9 a.m. on Wednesday to offer motions related to the trial, except for ones that would call for witnesses and new evidence, issues that will be dealt with next week. Neither side did so, aides in both parties said.... A dismissal vote this week would almost certainly have failed to attract a majority of senators, dividing Republicans and dealing Mr. Trump an early symbolic defeat. A motion to dismiss could still be offered later in the trial."

The NYT reports.

And Trump "lashed out":

"Before being arrested by the FBI last week, three alleged members of a white supremacist group were plotting deadly attacks at Monday’s gun rights rally in Richmond..."

"... including shooting 'unsuspecting civilians and police officers' in hopes of igniting what one called a 'full-blown civil war,' authorities said in court filings. In legal motions filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Maryland, prosecutors said the three suspects, who were under investigation for weeks before the rally, were recorded discussing the planned mayhem by a microphone and video camera secretly planted in a Delaware apartment by FBI agents in December. 'We can’t let Virginia go to waste, we just can’t,' one of the men, Patrik J. Mathews, said, according to the court filings. Like his co-defendants, Mathews is accused of belonging to a militant hate group whose name, 'the Base,' is a rough English translation of 'al-Qaeda.' Mathews, according to prosecutors, said: 'Here’s the thing. . . . You want to create . . . instability while the Virginia situation is happening . . . derail some rail lines . . . shut down the highways' as a way to 'kick off the economic collapse.' 'Virginia will be our day,' another of the three, Brian M. Lemley Jr., said, according to the court documents."

From "Alleged white supremacists planned deadly violence at Richmond gun rally, federal prosecutors say" (WaPo).

Meanwhile, the rally that did take place was entirely peaceful: "Gun-rights advocates pick-up trash after protesting peacefully in Richmond."

"When celebrities wear pajamas to an event, they are called fashionable. But when ordinary people wear pajamas to walk around on the streets, they are called uncivilized."

Someone wrote in Chinese social media, quoted in "Chinese City Uses Facial Recognition to Shame Pajama Wearers/Local officials apologized, but the crackdown on a common — and comfortable — practice has raised a rare outcry over privacy in a country accustomed to surveillance" (NYT).
When officials in an eastern Chinese city were told to root out “uncivilized behavior,” they were given a powerful tool to carry out their mission: facial recognition software.

Among their top targets? People wearing pajamas in public.... Public pajama wearing is common in China, particularly among older women, who tend toward bold colors and floral or cartoon patterns....

Public shaming is a common tactic. In theaters, laser pointers are used to shame audience members who play on their phones during shows. And in Shanghai, facial recognition systems have been installed at some crosswalks to single out jaywalkers.

After the online uproar on Monday, urban management officials in Suzhou quickly took down the original post and issued an apology....
The shamers were themselves shamed. Shame shaming works.

ADDED: If you look at the history of pajamas, you'll see that the original meaning is "leg clothing" and the reference is to loose, flowing pants worn in India, Pakistan, and Iran. When the style was first used by westerners, it "was associated with masquerade costume, actresses, and prostitution, not with respectable women" until feminists — in the mid-19th century — began wearing them under a knee-length skirt and calling them "bloomers." It was only later that pajamas became sleepwear too.

In the 20th century, various designers came up with "pajama" styles — for the beach and for evening wear ("palazzo pajamas"). The 70s designer Halston pushed glamorous "pajama" styles, and that caused women's magazines to suggest the economical alternative of simply buying things that are sold as lingerie.

Chief Justice Roberts admonishes the House Managers and the President's counsel to "remember where they are" and "avoid speaking in a manner and avoid using language that is not conducive to civil discourse."



"I think it is appropriate at this point for me to admonish both the House Managers and the President's counsel, in equal terms, to remember that they are addressing the world's greatest deliberative body. One reason it has earned that title is because its members avoid speaking in a manner and avoid using language that is not conducive to civil discourse. In the 1905 Swain trial, a Senator objected when one of the managers used the word 'pettifogging,' and the presiding officer said the word ought not to have been used. I don't think we need to aspire to that high a standard, but I do think those addressing the Senate should remember where they are."

I didn't watch much of yesterday's theatrics, but I did think the style of speech was inappropriate for a legal presentation. It was more like actors in a courtroom drama. Lawyers arguing in the U.S. Supreme Court do not take anything like that tone. I only heard a small bit of argument from House Managers, but it was obvious to me that they were speaking through the cameras at the American people and trying to gain political ground. I was able to vocalize disgust and walk away, but the Chief Justice is required to sit there and listen, and all the Senators are required to sit there and listen, and the form of speech really disrespects them.

There's so much talk about solemnity and seriousness, but these characters are speaking like they're in a Hollywood melodrama. Something really wrong is going on here....



IN THE COMMENTS: Darrell says: "Sure. Criticize both sides. That makes you look impartial. That's what losers do." But if you look at the Washington Post's story on the Roberts admonishment, you'll see the highest-rated comments there accuse Roberts of bias against the Democrats:

"Milk drips onto a dairy cow's hoof"/"Don Rust, 69, assembles a rope sandal..."/"Austin, 24, blends in with the Ozarks’ autumn leaves"/"Channel Salmons, 30, with her Alembic Hydro cell"/"Maddie sits on top of a woodpile."

Captions under photographs at "The New Generation of Self-Created Utopias/As so-called intentional communities proliferate across the country, a subset of Americans is discovering the value of opting out of contemporary society" (NYT).

Excerpts from the text:
It wasn’t until the decades after World War II, when large numbers of Americans began questioning their nation’s sociopolitical and environmental policies, that the desire to create alternative societies was renewed, leading to the “hippie communes” that would become indelible features of the 20th-century cultural landscape.... Many of these communes... eventually faltered, but they had already achieved a kind of dubious cultural immortality, ultimately becoming the nation’s measure for the alternative living arrangements and utopian enterprises that followed....

Though many residents of intentional communities are undoubtedly frustrated by climate inaction and mounting economic inequality, others are joining primarily to form stronger social bonds..... As Boone Wheeler, a 33-year-old member of East Wind, told me, “There are literal health consequences to loneliness: Your quality of life goes down due to lack of community — you will die sooner.”

"Late night congress is great stuff! I'm switching between Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock and the impeachment hearings and it's all starting to make sense."

Said Mr. Forward in last night's "Are you watching the impeachment theater?/I walked out."

Me, I conked out early, got a full night's sleep, and am up at 3 a.m. to view the wreckage.

Headlines on the front page of the NYT:
Senate Adopts Framework After Acrimonious Debate

Republicans blocked Democrats’ efforts to subpoena documents and seek testimony, including from John Bolton. Witnesses could still be summoned later.

Chief Justice John Roberts admonished the House impeachment managers and President Trump’s lawyers to “remember where they are.”

At Davos, Trump Scoffs at Trial and ‘Prophets of Doom’/President Trump appeared at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on the day his trial began.

Impeachment Trial Begins in Acrimony/Republicans made last-minute changes to their proposed rules to placate moderates, but they held together to turn back Democratic proposals.
The headlines kept changing on me, and I don't think "Acrimonious" and "Acrimony" were up at the same time, but I infer that they wanted a negative word to describe the emotional atmosphere and they converged on "acrimony."

"Acrimony" is "anger and bitterness: harsh or biting sharpness especially of words, manner, or feelings." It's the same root as "acrid," which is used to describe a taste or smell.

Remember smellovision?



PLUS: "They'll have to have subtitles for the smelling impaired." Hey, thanks for thinking of me, Weird Al.

AND: The word "acrimony" also appears in the NYT headline, "‘Nobody Likes Him’: Hillary Clinton Risks a Party Split Over Bernie Sanders," which went up yesterday, and that's intraparty acrimony:
Since Mr. Sanders endorsed Mrs. Clinton in July 2016, the acrimony between the two camps has lingered. Mrs. Clinton and her former aides maintain that his endorsement came too late and was too lukewarm to truly unify the party. Some supporters of Mr. Sanders still argue that the Democratic National Committee “rigged” the rules to help her secure the nomination.

January 21, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...

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... you can talk about anything you like EXCEPT the impeachment. Go down to the previous post to talk about the subject that must be encapsulated and isolated for the comfort and protection of all the assembled late-night chatters.

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The photos were taken at 7:29 and 7:32 on a day when the actual sunrise was 7:24.

Are you watching the impeachment theater?

I walked out.

I'm about to put up a café, but I'm putting this up first so you will have a separate place if you want to talk about the impeachment show. And I'm adding this for random entertainment...

AND: Here's a link to the TikTok video I thought was great — a come-to-life painting. I took out the embedded video, because there's something wrong with TikTok embeds that triggers scrolling in some browsers. Not mine, but it seems to happen every time. Too bad, because I find some highly amusing things I really want to share.

The tradwife.

Video at BBC.

"'Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him'... it's not only him, it's the culture around him. It's his leadership team. It's his prominent supporters. It's his online Bernie Bros..."

"... and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women. And I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture — not only permitted, [he] seems to really be very much supporting it. And I don't think we want to go down that road again where you campaign by insult and attack and maybe you try to get some distance from it, but you either don't know what your campaign and supporters are doing or you're just giving them a wink and you want them to go after Kamala [Harris] or after Elizabeth [Warren]. I think that that's a pattern that people should take into account when they make their decisions.... Then this argument about whether or not or when he did or didn't say that a woman couldn't be elected, it's part of a pattern. If it were a one-off, you might say, 'OK, fine.' But he said I was unqualified. I had a lot more experience than he did, and got a lot more done than he had, but that was his attack on me. I just think people need to pay attention because we want, hopefully, to elect a president who's going to try to bring us together, and not either turn a blind eye, or actually reward the kind of insulting, attacking, demeaning, degrading behavior that we've seen from this current administration."

Said Hillary Clinton, quoted in "Hillary Clinton in Full: A Fiery New Documentary, Trump Regrets and Harsh Words for Bernie: "Nobody Likes Him'" (Hollywood Reporter). The quote within the quote — "Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him" — is from the documentary. The rest is from the Hollywood Reporter interview.

ADDED: She's talking about Bernie the way Democrats talk about Trump.

AND: Nobody likes you is a classic childhood taunt.

PLUS: How much do you care whether the politicians like each other? Does that benefit Us the People or is their inwardly directed cliquishness a danger? Do they like us?

The NYT expresses a belief that there's a "legal consensus" on constitutional law and that anyone who doesn't follow along is spouting "constitutional nonsense."

A headline (on a column by Charlie Savage) expresses that belief, but the NYT cannot really believe that. On so many issues, they love the dissenting voice and they laud the newly articulated interpretation.

But for this one particular issue — whether a crime is required for impeachment — the NYT headline writer adheres to the concept of "legal consensus" and characterizes divergence from the asserted (made up?) consensus as "constitutional nonsense."

What I'm trying to slog through is "'Constitutional Nonsense’': Trump’s Impeachment Defense Defies Legal Consensus/The president’s legal case would negate any need for witnesses. But constitutional scholars say that it’s wrong" (NYT).

Savage is looking at Trump's lawyers' argument that impeachment requires allegation of a crime and not just abuse of power.
Their argument... cuts against the consensus among scholars that impeachment exists to remove officials who abuse power. The phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” means a serious violation of public trust that need not also be an ordinary crime, said Frank O. Bowman III, a University of Missouri law professor and the author of a recent book on the topic.
“This argument is constitutional nonsense,” Mr. Bowman said. “The almost universal consensus — in Great Britain, in the colonies, in the American states between 1776 and 1787, at the Constitutional Convention and since — has been that criminal conduct is not required for impeachment.”...
The evidence of a consensus among scholars (which scholars?) is that one scholar asserts that there is a consensus. We're given no reasoning at all on the notion that anything not in the "consensus" is "nonsense."

But in Trump's legal brief, Bowman's "consensus" is called a "newly invented... theory." So we've got lawyers on either side yelling at each other: Your interpretation is totally off! No one ever even heard of that before!
Mr. Bowman — whose scholarship on impeachment law is cited in a footnote in the Trump legal team brief — called the arguments in that brief “a well-crafted piece of sophistry that cherry-picks sources and ignores inconvenient history and precedent.”
In other words, it's a legal brief.

Savage quotes Alan Dershowitz, who concedes that "most" scholars say a crime is not necessary: "My argument will be very serious and very scholarly. The fact that other scholars disagree, that’s for the Senate to consider. There is a division — most of the scholars disagree with me. I think they’re wrong."

We'll see if Professor Dershowitz can win the hearts of the American people as he argues that there must be a crime alleged. Whether that works or not, it shines a strong light on the stark fact that Trump's aggressive opponents never accused him of committing a crime.

Nice graphic design of a NYT headline, and they let you know they think they know which one you're going to pick.



Quitting — just say no! — is an interesting abstraction. (It fits with the best adage I ever wrote: "Better than nothing is a high standard.") But no way am I going to click on all those headings. I'm considering clicking on "Caring" just to see if they quote Melania's jacket ("I really don't care/Do U?"), but like just about anyone else, I'm clicking on "Sex":
I said to everyone, “I want my body to get some rest. I want my body to understand what my body really wants. Maybe my body wants some caresses but nothing more.”

I had the intuition that pleasure could be something very important. What I expected from sex was to trust someone so much that I could be fully there, my soul and my body. Sometimes, physically, I was there, but my mind was in exile. Sometimes, my soul was there, but very far from my body...

Everyone worried about me. My attitude was like a mirror that I put in front of them. Maybe everyone was wondering if their own sex lives weren’t that good....

My time of no sex ended because suddenly, in front of a guy, I was very honest. Instead of pretending, instead of protecting myself, I just said that I didn’t know if I was able to make love again. Maybe I forgot everything. This honesty opened the honesty of the guy in front of me.
This is by Sophie Fontanel, who wrote a book about her experience, so I'm pretty sure I've blogged about this. I search the archive.

Ah,  yes. Here's the post, from 2013, "12 years without sex, or as Sophie Fontanel calls it, 12 years of insubordination." The last line of the post is: "You know my old aphorism: Better than nothing is a high standard."

"In an abandoned two-storey house surrounded by woodland, he was locked-up and told to look after the plants that grew on every available surface."

"It was a mundane vigil of switching lights on and off over the plants at set times and watering them every few hours. But it was also punctuated by violence. When a plant failed, Ba was starved and kicked by a Chinese boss.... Ba never received any payment for his work, and wasn't told he was earning to pay off his fare to the UK. He was a slave.... He finally escaped by smashing an upstairs window, and jumping to the ground.... 'I didn't even know I was in England.' The train line, predictably, led him to a train station - and to what was for him a very happy meeting with British Transport Police. 'It had been a long time since anyone had been nice to me,' he says. Ba has now settled into British life. He recently won a prize at college for his grades, and celebrated his first Christmas. He'd never unwrapped a present before. The translator who met Ba when he was taken into police custody says the transformation is remarkable.... Ba doesn't know whether he'll be allowed to stay in the UK. His last meeting at the Home Office to discuss his application for asylum didn't go well. The official tried to persuade him that if he returned to Vietnam he'd be helped by the authorities, which Ba finds impossible to believe. He is sure that if he is sent back, he will be trafficked again...."

From "How a boy from Vietnam became a slave on a UK cannabis farm" (BBC).

"Calling signs with fingers when there are hundreds of cameras trained on you seems archaic. Yet it is traditional..."

"... and the collision of technology and tradition needs a bridge if we want to preserve aspects of the past that are the signature of the game’s heartbeat. The real consequence of the Astros scandal may be to stoke the feeling of helplessness we all feel with technology at times, always a step behind.... Maybe the values behind the rules, the 'love of the game,' are naïve. That it is idealistic to dream of a World Series ring won through pure team and individual effort; maybe we should have realized the temptation of cutting corners for spoils that can more easily be acquired with money, drugs and better technology. A rocket arm, a quick bat, a big heart, a blessing from divine sources or humility are diminished in such a world. What you came with is not enough naturally. If we do not respond by fighting for what we claim to value in fair play, such a scandal makes us beholden to the notion that the prerequisites of success are simply deeper pockets, a better pharmacist and a[n] unethical hacker. And in such a world, humanity is marginalized and no game remains. Just video. So maybe the top isn’t that shiny simply because it is the top. Maybe the top is just resting high on an ice cream cake, doomed to melt from the heat of 'do whatever it takes' ethics."

From "Baseball’s Existential Crisis/The Astros cheating scandal calls into question the fundamental values of the game" by Doug Glanville (in The NYT). Glanville was a major league baseball player from 1996 to 2004.

We talked about the sign-stealing problem last November, where I wrote (in the comments):
Signs are made out in the open. Why can’t you read them?

How is it “stealing”?

It’s looking and seeing.
I put "stealing" in quotes because stealing usually sounds bad, but in baseball stealing bases is a celebrated skill. The easiest solution to this "existential crisis" is just to accept sign stealing as part of the game, no more unethical than stealing a base. Since that route is possible, isn't the real dispute about the balance of advantages between pitcher and batter? Is the hand-wringing about ethics pro-pitcher propaganda?

Also in the comments at that November post, Char Char Binks wrote:
I know little, and care less, about this controversy, but it illustrates one of the things I hate about baseball. The game is rife with unfairness, chicanery, and outright cheating. The general ethos of the game is “it’s not against the rules if you don’t get caught”, with flexible strike zones, brush backs with a deadly weapon, corked and tarred bats, pitchers secretly altering the ball to suit their preference, and players openly “razzing” opponents with behavior that would be considered grossly unsportsmanlike in almost any other game, but that coaches teach players to do from a young age.

How baseball came to be seen as the exemplar of good, clean American fair play I’ll never know.
Psota responded:
Ha! Baseball is PERFECT as a symbol of American society's distinctive combination of "High ideals" + "low morals" approach to life. This is not a comment on Dems v GOP, Trump v Hillary,etc. Charles Dickens was writing about our peculiar national character in Martin Chuzzlewit.
What did Dickens say about Americans in "Martin Chuzzlewit"? I'm not sure, but Lisa Simpson says:
"I think we should invest in a set of The Great Books Of Western Civilization. Look at this ad from The New Republic for Kids: Each month, a new classic will be delivered to our door. Paradise Regained, Martin Chuzzlewit or Herman Melville's twin classics Omoo and Typee."

January 20, 2020

Sunrise, 7:30.

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The actual sunrise time was 7:24.

You may ask, did it really look like that? The answer is no, it was more unusual with a very striking, brilliant vertical and horizontal light — a distinct cross. The camera did not capture that. But the camera (the iPhone camera) did detect colors that I could not see. I've turned down the light a bit to keep the sun from washing things out, but I left the color saturation where it was.

I had not done a sunrise run since January 15th. I wanted to go out each day, but either there was the kind of new snow emergency where the police ask you to stay off the roads or the wind chill was below zero. This morning it was about 15°, which is perfectly fine. There was snow, but it was trampled down, so the only problem was a little bumpiness (because footsteps don't pack the snow down exactly evenly).

Anyway, I'm back to my ritual, and I regret that I could not record the huge vivid cross in the sky. You can say it was only in my head, but I saw it.

"President Trump’s legal team will call on the Senate on Monday to 'swiftly reject' the impeachment charges and acquit him..."

"... maintaining that he committed no impeachable offense and has been the victim of an illegitimate partisan effort to take him down.... Mr. Trump’s lawyers plan to dismiss the largely party-line impeachment by the House as a 'brazenly political act' following a 'rigged process' that should be repudiated by the Senate, according to a person working with his legal team, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the submission of the trial brief.... The brief does not deny that Mr. Trump pressured Ukraine to announce investigations into Democrats, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., but argues that the president has the right to conduct relations with other countries as he sees fit and that he had valid reasons to raise those issues with Ukraine to fight corruption. The lawyers plan to dismiss the notion that doing so was an abuse of power, as outlined in the first article of impeachment, calling that a 'novel theory' and a 'newly invented' offense that would allow Congress to second-guess presidents for legitimate policy decisions. They will argue that the second article, accusing him of obstructing Congress by blocking testimony and refusing to turn over documents during the House impeachment inquiry, would violate separation of powers by invalidating a president’s right to confidential deliberations...."

Write Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman in the NYT this morning.

"It’s clear that Northam is praying for violence."

Wrote Glenn Reynolds, expressing the cynical view that I had but felt I should refrain from saying.

My post, from 5 days ago, quotes NBC12 — "Fearing a repeat of the deadly violence that engulfed Charlottesville more than two years ago, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a temporary emergency Wednesday banning all weapons, including guns, from Capitol Square ahead of a massive rally planned next week over gun rights" — and says:
That phrase — "Fearing a repeat of the deadly violence that engulfed Charlottesville more than two years ago" — caused me to have a thought so cynical that I will refrain from writing it down.
With Glenn's companionship, I will disclose that when I read the headline out loud 5 days ago, I stopped after "Fearing a repeat of the deadly violence that engulfed Charlottesville" and said "Hoping for a repeat of the deadly violence that engulfed Charlottesville."

Today's the day. The rally is under way. The New York Times is doing live, minute-by-minute updates under the heading "Virginia Gun Rally Live Updates: Crowds and Lines, but Calm So Far." Sample text:
White supremacists, members of antigovernment militias and other extremists have said they planned to be in Richmond for the rally as well, stoking fears of the sort of violence that left one person dead and some two dozen others injured during a far-right rally in Charlottesville in 2017.

Hoping to head off trouble, the state has set up a security perimeter around the Capitol grounds and has banned weapons — including firearms — from the area inside. Police officers guarded the area with the help of bomb-sniffing dogs, and people entering the perimeter through the single entrance were being screened with metal detectors....

Firefall.

When The Ramones were on "Sha Na Na" playing "The Ramone Family" in a "Family Feud" spoof.

I just found this YouTube obscurity from 1979:



I was just stumbling around in Wikipedia, researching the insult "greasy," skimming through the subject of the "greaser sub-culture" — "The band Sha-Na-Na models their on-stage presence on New York City greasers (the band members themselves were mostly Ivy Leaguers)" — which led me to the article on "Sha Na Na":
Conceived by George Leonard, then a graduate student in humanities, Sha Na Na began performing in 1969 at the height of the hippie counterculture, and achieved national fame after playing at the Woodstock Festival, where Rob Leonard, the president and bass singer of the band, sang the lead on “Teen Angel” when the band opened for their friend Jimi Hendrix. Their 90-second appearance in the Woodstock film...

... brought the group national attention and helped spark a 1950s nostalgia craze that inspired similar groups in North America, as well as the Broadway musical Grease (and its feature film adaptation), the feature film American Graffiti and the TV show Happy Days....
That was a culturally powerful 90 seconds!
From 1969 until 1971, the band played at, among other places, the Fillmore East and Fillmore West, opening for such bands as the Grateful Dead, the Mothers of Invention, and the Kinks. When Sha Na Na began headlining at other venues, one of their opening acts was Bruce Springsteen...

On their album The Golden Age of Rock and Roll, the lead singer taunts the audience on one of the live tracks by announcing, "We've got just one thing to say to you fuckin' hippies, and that is that rock and roll is here to stay!"
Americans are always looking back to a golden age. Compare "Make America Great Again." Question whether Donald Trump's present day version of "you fuckin' hippies" is any less satirical than Sha Na Na's. They're all Ivy Leaguers restyling American culture for the edification and education of the American People.

And how about those Ramones? How much of a comedy routine were they? And how did they interface with American politics? I'll just say that at the time, in the 70s, I regarded them as a comic act, and let me give you this from Wikipedia:
[Joey and Johnny] were politically antagonistic, Joey being a liberal and Johnny a conservative. Their personalities also clashed: Johnny, who spent two years in military school, lived by a strict code of self-discipline, while Joey struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder and alcoholism....
Sounds just like America.

"There are no 'male feminist' gay guys," Joe Rogan asserts — to make the point that the "male feminist" is always faking it, faking it to get women.

"It's such a weird, sneaky thing... It's greasy!... Whenever I read 'male feminist' posts... I know what you're doing: You're a greasy man!"



Joe is speaking in the extreme, stating absolutes, and that works as comic expression, whether or not the absolute version of the statement is precisely true. Of course, if you had to defend it as precisely true, you could easily win by using a "no true Scotsman" approach to what "male feminist" means.

Also, "greasy man" is an excellent insult. It's old too. I looked it up in the OED. It's "a contemptuous or abusive epithet" that's been around since the 1500s.

Is this gender-related? The NYT endorses both Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren.

I like the illustration, but this is semi-nuts:



The nice illustration is by Jules Julien. It's even better if you go to the article page, here.

If Kamala Harris were still in the race, would the Times have picked 3?

Let's read:
On the Democratic side, an essential debate is underway between two visions that may define the future of the party and perhaps the nation. Some in the party view President Trump as an aberration and believe that a return to a more sensible America is possible. Then there are those who believe that President Trump was the product of political and economic systems so rotten that they must be replaced....

Democrats must decide which of their two models would be most compelling for the American people and best suited for repairing the Republic.... The history of the editorial board would suggest that we would side squarely with the candidate with a more traditional approach to pushing the nation forward, within the realities of a constitutional framework and a multiparty country....

[But now b]oth the radical and the realist models warrant serious consideration.... That’s why we’re endorsing the most effective advocates for each approach. They are Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar.....
You decide if you want to go realist or radical, and the Times has picked the best realist and the best radical. This is similar to choosing the best Democrat and the best Republican when there are active primaries in both parties.

Anyway, the question becomes why Warren over Sanders? The NYT observes that Sanders is 79 (Warren is 70) and he just had a heart attack. But it's not just that. The Times says he's "overly rigid, untested and divisive." Meanwhile, "Senator Warren is a gifted storyteller." Oh, yes, I remember the story of how Bernie told her a woman can't be President and the story of how she is a person of color. But the Times means:
She speaks elegantly of how the economic system is rigged against all but the wealthiest Americans... In her hands, that story has the passion of a convert, a longtime Republican from Oklahoma and a middle-class family, whose work studying economic realities left her increasingly worried about the future of the country....
How do we know Warren was "a longtime Republican"? I agree it's a good story!

I'm skipping over a lot, but here's the part where the Times has a reservation (sorry, I just stumbled into that word, but I do see the humor potential):
In her primary campaign...  she has shown some questionable political instincts. She sometimes sounds like a candidate who sees a universe of us-versus-thems, who, in the general election, would be going up against a president who has already divided America into his own version of them and us.... The senator talks more about bringing together Democrats, Republicans and independents behind her proposals, often leaning on anecdotes about her conservative brothers to do so....
For those who opt for moderation, why is Amy Klobuchar the one? The Times ticks through the alternatives. Pete Buttigieg is young. Andrew Yang has no governmental experience. Bloomberg is "the candidate in the race with the clearest track record of governing," but he's not campaigning in the normal way. Joe Biden is "prone to verbal stumbles," and he just "tinkers at the edges of issues," and talks about "merely restoring the status quo." So: Amy!
The senator from Minnesota is the very definition of Midwestern charisma, grit and sticktoitiveness. Her lengthy tenure in the Senate and bipartisan credentials would make her a deal maker (a real one) and uniter for the wings of the party — and perhaps the nation.... Her record shows that she is confident and thoughtful, and she reacts to data — what you’d want in a crisis....
I think the NYT really wants Amy Klobuchar to be the one. And you know me: I said it in December 2018: "Why aren't the Democratic candidates better? I'm just going to be for Amy Klobuchar."

Here's how the NYT ends its dual endorsement:
Democrats would be smart to recognize that Mr. Trump’s vision for America’s future is shared by many millions of Americans. Any hope of restoring unity in the country will require modesty, a willingness to compromise and the support of the many demographics that make up the Democratic coalition....

There will be those dissatisfied that this page is not throwing its weight behind a single candidate, favoring centrists or progressives. But it’s a fight the party itself has been itching to have... the very purpose of primaries...

May the best woman win.
I think there's a dual endorsement here not because there are 2 women left and the NYT wants a woman, as if there's no way to distinguish them because there's only one factor, gender. I think the NYT wants to stand back for a while and let voters have their time with the radical option and get rid of one of the radicals (Bernie, they hope), and later when things settle down, they'll let us know that the realist is better suited to go up against Trump. They hope to give Amy some traction in the meantime, and if it comes down, in the end, to Elizabeth and Amy, they'll advise Democrats to pick Amy.

But chances are, it will boil down to Biden and Bernie, and if it does, that's when we'll know how dedicated the Times is to the realist side of the Democratic Party. They'll embrace Biden.

Bill Maher complains about being criticized as a "bad person" for saying that fat people need to take responsibility for the health problem they, in fact, have.



Here's the image from 1988 of Oprah, newly thin and openly leading a celebration of herself for the achievement. Maher and Rogan say you can't do that today. It would be socially unacceptable fat-shaming.

The singer Adele recently lost a lot of weight, and Maher and Rogan talk about how people are actually criticizing her for quitting serving as a role model for people who want to feel good about being fat.

Oprah Magazine instructs its readers on the proper reaction to Adele's weight loss: "On Adele’s Weight Loss: Let's Stop Criticizing Her Body, No Matter How She Looks/Why can't we focus on how happy she looks on the beach, instead of how she looks on the beach?"
At a time when body positivity is (finally) being more widely celebrated, some folks are apparently disappointed that she changed what many women saw as a valuable representation of their own plus-size figures.... The core of the [body positivity] movement stands behind the radical idea that your worth has nothing to do with the size of your body.... So who are we to criticize Adele’s frame...? Her body belongs to her—not us.
Maher was repeating a point he'd made a while back on his show — that 40,000 people a month die from fat-related illness and that it's not about how people look but the terrible health problem. He talks about the criticism he took from James Corden, and I found this background in Variety:
Maher, host of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” joked about obesity on his show last week, saying “Fat isn’t a birth defect” and “Nobody comes out of the womb needing to buy two seats on the airplane.” He advocated: “Fat-shaming doesn’t need to end, it needs to make a comeback.”...
In the podcast, Maher claims that he didn't make any jokes about fatness! Obviously, he did, even if he also has a serious purpose.
“There’s a common and insulting misconception that fat people are stupid and lazy, and we’re not,” Corden said. “We get it, we know. We know that being overweight isn’t good for us and I’ve struggled my entire life trying to manage my weight and I suck at it. I’ve had good days and bad months. I’ve basically been off and on diets since as long as I can remember and, well, this is how it’s going...".
Now that I'm reading this, I think Maher, in the podcast, is quite dishonest about his own statements and Corden's. Maher may have something of a good point about the costs of fat-related health problems in a system in which we're all more or less paying for each other's health care, but he's not doing straight health policy analysis. In fact, if you did hard-nosed, truth-telling policy analysis, you wouldn't stress the 40,000-a-month death toll. Early deaths save money.

ADDED: Here's the "Real Time" routine that I think Maher was dishonest about:

January 19, 2020

At the Nightmare Cafe...

... keep your spirits up.

The wall Trump opposes.

Sharyl Attkisson picks a winning pro-Trump description of impeachment (and I guess there will be a winning anti-Trump description).

Elephant walks into a hotel...

"Nothing like this has ever happened before"... okay, you got me BBC. I'll click.

Oh!

It's Harry and Meghan.

Really, is there any reason why I need to keep up with this story.

I did notice this guy the other day. I'm forgetting about BBC and would like this viewpoint to stand for what I think:

"Seth Lookhart performed a dental extraction procedure on a sedated patient while riding a hoverboard and filmed the procedure and distributed the film to persons outside his dental practice."

From "Hoverboarding dentist found guilty of 'unlawful dental acts'" (NBC News).

"And the fault was not mine/Nor where I was /Nor how I was dressed/The rapist is you."


I found that through "Women's March Draws A Smaller, But Passionate Crowd" (NPR):
Unlike in previous years, Saturday's march in Washington did not feature a stage for performances and speeches from celebrities. Instead, in an effort to reconnect with supporters, organizers marched alongside everybody else.

Upon reaching the White House, Chilean collective LasTesis led the crowd through a rendition of their viral protest anthem "Un Violador En Tu Camino" ("A Rapist in Your Path").
That internal link goes to "A Chilean Feminist Anthem Decrying Gender Violence Goes Global" (WBUR, December 11, 2019):
The song — “Un violador en tu camino” ("A Rapist in Your Path") — was created by Chilean art collective Lastesis to highlight gender-based violence in the country. I...

Wearing blindfolds, women sing the powerful lyrics atop an electric beat: “Y la culpa no era mía / ni dónde estaba / ni cómo vestía./ El violador eres tú.” (And the fault was not mine / nor where I was / nor how I was dressed. / The rapist is you.)

Spontaneous performances of the song have popped up in Mexico, Venezuela, France, Spain, India and the U.K. In the U.S., the song has inspired Velu Ochoa and fellow organizers to come together for an upcoming performance in the nation’s capital.

"The traditional voyeuristic peephole in film suggests the person being watched is under threat. The peephole makes the person looking through the peephole into the vulnerable one."

Aaid Catherine Zimmer, author of 'Surveillance Cinema,' quoted in "The Policing of the American Porch/Ring offers a front-door view of a country where millions of Amazon customers use Amazon cameras to watch Amazon contractors deliver Amazon packages" (in the Style section of NYT).

Note that Amazon owns Ring, and people who buy and install these devices are facilitating Amazon's business, which is hurt by the theft of packages left outside customers' houses. Amazon ought to give us the devices free and given an Amazon Prime discount to people who keep them up and running.

It's interesting to see how we balance security and privacy as we accept these devices. Imagine if the government simply required us to accept the installation of the devices and imposed its app on all cell phones. What if the city added $1,000 a year to the property tax on any home that did not maintain a Ring-type surveillance doorbell? Of course, we would scream.

But here we are accepting the thing, because it seems cool, and it's low-priced. (If you want one, please buy it here, so that I get a percentage, since I am an "Amazon Associate" and have — voluntarily!! — linked my fortunes to Amazon.) Since the device is voluntary, those who accept it onto their property feel they are gaining security.

If you, the person inside the house, are peeping out, then, as the film professor says, you have the sense that whoever approaches your house is "the vulnerable one."  The conventions of cinematography say, you are in control, you have the power. That's important... at least some of the time.

Or maybe all of the time if the world has already changed to the point where children don't come up to doors to ask if a child who lives there can come out to play and neighbors stop by to chat.

ADDED: The second part of the quote in the post title is confusing: "The peephole makes the person looking through the peephole into the vulnerable one." I assume Zimmer didn't mean to say 2 different things, and that "the person looking through the peephole" means the person outside of the house who is being watched from inside the house. But taken literally, it seems more like the one who is looking out through the peephole — the homeowner who wanted to do surveillance — has become vulnerable. We'd need some more clever verbiage to sketch out that theory.

The hunter becomes the prey... but how? Did Zimmer intend to call up the old hunter/hunted switcheroo?
That trope has roots as far back as Greek Mythology, where a quite literal hunter, Actaeon, is transformed into a deer by Artemis and eventually torn apart by his own dogs.

The Hunter of Monsters in general lives by this trope in a supernatural context, since monsters, in general, are often portrayed as predators of human beings, and human beings tend not to like being prey....
Zimmer is a film scholar, and this trope appears in many movies — "M... Dr. Mabuse... North by Northwest... To Catch a Thief..." — and we all know the cartoons with the hunter-becomes-the-hunted plot. Here's the classic:



IN THE COMMENTS: Roger Sweeny said:
I think she means that if you are looking through the peephole worrying that someone may be trying to do you wrong, you are feeling vulnerable. You are worrying that something bad could happen to you, caused by the person on the other side of the peephole.
I found that hard to coordinate with the first sentence: "The traditional voyeuristic peephole in film suggests the person being watched is under threat." But Zimmer did say "traditional," so it may be that in the cinematic tradition — such as "Psycho" — the peephole is in a secretive pace, used for spying on someone who thinks no one's watching and gets naked, but with the Ring, the thing is out and proud and the person approaching is outside and expecting to be seen. The person who is in private, inside the house is not seen via the peephole, but that person's sense of vulnerability is manifested by the device. The obvious Ring device isn't a way to sneak a look at someone but to let them know in advance that you're suspicious of them.

For a complete reversal of the peephole, see the "Reverse Peephole" episode of "Seinfeld":



"Newman and I are reversing the peepholes on our door. So you can see in..."/"To prevent an ambush"/"But then anyone can just look in and see you"/"Our policy is, we're comfortable with our bodies. You know, if someone wants to help themselves to an eyeful, well, we say, 'Enjoy the show.'"

AND: Don't forget the great 60s slogan, "Power to the Peephole!"



Elizabeth Warren said, "Let me remind you, I think, I'm the only one running for president who's actually been on the executive side."

Did she "think" wrong?

The Washington Examiner points out that Bernie Sanders was mayor of Burlington, Vermont (long ago), Pete Buttigieg was mayor South Bend, Indiana, and Michael Bloomberg was that mayor of New York City.

But I think I know what she meant, and it's wrong in a different way than forgetting that Sanders, Buttigieg, and Bloomberg have been mayors and mayor is an executive position.

She meant I'm the only one running for president whose actually been on the executive side of the federal government.

The wrongness I'm seeing is the idea that government means national government. State and local government are invisible to the nationalist. For them, federalism is not a system of benefits and safeguards to the American people. The states and local governments might be useful as instruments of national power, carrying out mandates and handling the enforcement of federal norms. In this view, state and local government is subordinate and unimportant — not worth mentioning.

That, I suspect, is where Elizabeth Warren's mind was when she said she's the only one running for President who has actually been on the executive side. I'd like to know more about what Warren thinks about federalism. As a law professor, I was very used to hearing from law professors who dismissed federalism as outmoded at best and racist at worst.

IN THE COMMENTS: RichAndSceptical said, "And obviously Biden was [on the executive side] as VP." Which wrecks my interpretation.

ALSO: Remember when Barack Obama was first running for President and he argued that he had executive experience running Harvard Law Review and running his own campaign?

"The Articles of Impeachment are constitutionally invalid on their face. They fail to allege any crime or violation of law whatever..."

"... let alone 'high Crimes and Misdemeanors,' as required by the Constitution. They are the result of a lawless process that violated basic due process and fundamental fairness. Nothing in these Articles could permit even beginning to consider removing a duly elected President or warrant nullifying the election and subverting the will of the American people."

So reads the second paragraph of the "Answer of President Donald J. Trump" "In Proceedings Before the United States Senate."  My link goes to the PDF at the White House website. I couldn't find a text document of the 6-page letter so there's nothing to cut and paste. The White House website does have this text introduction, which, you can see, stresses the politics:
The Articles of Impeachment submitted by House Democrats are a dangerous attack on the right of the American people to freely choose their President. This is a brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election—now just months away. The highly partisan and reckless obsession with impeaching the President began the day he was inaugurated and continues to this day.
Other than the word "he," that sounds like something Trump could say at a rally. It's all about the motivations of the House Democrats, which, I'd like to point out, corresponds exactly to the House Democrats' argument against Trump: He/They took the powers of government and used them for personal advantage and only personal advantage. The legitimate, governmental purpose of that power was completely absent.

If we knew for a FACT that the House Democrats acted solely for their own personal, political advantage AND that Trump acted solely for his own personal, political advantage, do the 2 transgressions cancel each other out? But we don't know these things as facts, and the Democrats are calling on the Senate to answer the question about Trump, but they can't shield themselves from the question about themselves.

I see 3 ways to untangle these parallel problems: 1. The question of the House Democrats' political motivation must be answered first, and if they are appropriating the mechanisms of government solely for political benefit, they must be stopped in the act and denied the use of the Senate, or 2. When there is a legitimate governmental purpose, it's acceptable that a desire for political gain is also present, and that should let the Democrats over the threshold but will also set up the absolution of President Trump, or 3. The political component of impeachment is inherent, open, and part of the constitutional design, entirely different from turning federal spending and foreign policy into a personal, political tool.

But I've been talking about website text introducing the 6-page Answer. In the formal Answer, Trump certainly isn't arguing So what if I'm political too?

The document says he has "not in any way 'abused the powers of the Presidency.'" Everything he did was "perfectly legal, completely appropriate, and taken in furtherance of the national interest." He did "nothing wrong." The call was so perfect that "Mr. Schiff created a fraudulent version" of the call, and that proves the Democrats "knew there was absolutely nothing wrong with that call." As for what they call "obstruction of Congress," the Democrats didn't go to court to resolve the dispute over whether Trump's claim of executive privilege was valid, so they can't turn that into a basis for impeachment.

The Answer concedes nothing. Nothing was personally political. It was all on the highest level. Of course, that's what the House Democrats say about themselves too.

January 18, 2020

At the Saturday Night Cafe...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"That Simon & Garfunkel-referencing track is drawing a lot of attention for the video, which depicts a fictionalized account of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting from the perspective of the shooter."

I'm reading "Eminem’s Juvenile Shock Tactics Ruin Surprise New Album ‘Music To Be Murdered By’" (Daily Beast) and the part that interests me is "Simon & Garfunkel-referencing." The track is called "Darkness," so I'm thinking "Hello, Darkness, my old friend...." Rather than read on about how "Em can’t seem to resist his own adolescent tendencies—and it can make for a muddied listening experience, even on his stronger works," I'm just going to embed the video:

"A Kansas City area radio station can broadcast Russian state-owned media programming, the type that U.S. intelligence called a 'propaganda machine,' for six hours a day..."

"RM Broadcasting LLC, a Florida-based company that has agreements to broadcast the Russian state media program Radio Sputnik... KCXL’s website, which says that it’s the radio station that will 'tell you the things that the liberal media wont (sic) tell you,' lists Radio Sputnik in its morning programming.... RM Broadcasting in 2019 was ordered by a federal judge to register as a foreign agent under the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires political agents in the U.S. acting on a foreign government’s behalf to disclose their relationships, finances and activities.... KCXL’s president is Peter Schartel, who... [says he's] 'basically a liberal, patriotic American...but our government has done some horrible things.'"

The Kansas City Star reports.

"I should never have done that f***ing vaping thing" — said Trump.

Quoted at Axios.

Yeah, Trump got played, and he knows it. Nice to see him face up to it and yell at himself.

Or... oh... wait... Axios says:
Both sources familiar with the conversation said Trump wasn't expressing regret for the specific vaping policy outcome, which the team believes is the right one, but rather for personally wading into vaping and e-cigarette policy in the first place rather than leaving it up to the Food and Drug Administration.
The reason I think he got played is that he reacted quickly to early reports of teenagers dying or near death, glimpses of science, and earnest hysteria.

The National Archives blurred "vagina" in the photograph of a sign that said "If my vagina could shoot bullets, it’d be less REGULATED."

And it blurred out "Pussy" in "This Pussy Grabs Back." And "Trump" in "God Hates Trump" and "Trump & GOP — Hands Off Women." These were all signs in a photo of the 2017 Women's March that is on display in an exhibit on the occasion of the centennial of the 19th Amendment.

At WaPo, Joe Helm tries to figure out why the Archives would tamper with a photograph like that:
The Archives said the decision to obscure the words was made as the exhibit was being developed by agency managers and museum staff members. It said David S. Ferriero, the archivist of the United States who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009, participated in talks regarding the exhibit and supports the decision to edit the photo.

“As a non-partisan, non-political federal agency, we blurred references to the President’s name on some posters, so as not to engage in current political controversy,” Archives spokeswoman Miriam Kleiman said in an emailed statement. “Our mission is to safeguard and provide access to the nation’s most important federal records, and our exhibits are one way in which we connect the American people to those records. Modifying the image was an attempt on our part to keep the focus on the records.”
That is such a bad explanation that I'm only wondering if Kleiman is straight-out lying, stupid, or deep into some truly unfortunate ideological zone. If I had to guess, I'd say lying. It looks to me like a desire to keep things nice and uplifting for everyone. It wasn't a "focus on the record," but a deception — changing and sweetening the record, a disneyfication of history.

The article quotes a couple of historians, and they, quite appropriately, disapprove heartily. Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley said "there's zero reason why the Archives can't be upfront about a photo from a women's march. Purdue history prof Wendy Kline said the Archive "buys right into the notion that it's okay to silence women's voice and actions... literally erasing something that was accurately captured on camera."

"In Chiafolo v. Washington and Colorado Department of State v. Baca, the justices will consider the constitutionality of 'faithless elector' laws, which require presidential electors to vote the way state law directs."

"The petitioner in the Washington case, Peter Chiafolo, was elected as a presidential elector when Hillary Clinton won that state’s popular vote in 2016 but voted for Colin Powell instead, which led to a $1,000 fine for violating a state law that required him to vote for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates who won the majority of the popular votes. The respondent in the Colorado case, Micheal Baca, was removed as an elector after he attempted to vote for John Kasich, even though Clinton won the popular vote in Colorado as well. Chiafolo told the justices that the question has real-world importance in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election: In 2016, he noted, 'ten of the 538 presidential electors either cast presidential votes other than the nominees of their party' or tried to do so but were replaced. A similar swing would 'have changed the results in five of fifty-eight prior elections,' he added."

Explains SCOTUSblog.

Wow! The answer had better be that these laws are constitutional or all hell will break loose! What if the electors have a constitutionally based power to make up their own minds and apply their personal judgment? It's one thing for them to think they might and to contemplate going off on their own and for some of them, occasionally, to do it. It would be quite another thing for the Supreme Court to enshrine this power in constitutional law, to specifically give the electors the go-ahead!

And how would we, the humble voters feel if we found out that we're not voting for Donald Trump or Biden/Sanders/Warren/Bloomberg but for some local character who's free to do what he/she thinks is best? There would be another dimension of analysis. Some person we haven't cared at all about will need to be scrutinized for iron-clad party fealty. Horrible!

On the other hand, for those who hate the Electoral College and have felt bad about the seeming impossibility of amending the Constitution to change it, the crazy chaos of constitutionally empowered electors could be horrible enough to push the states to ratify an abolition of the Electoral College.

ADDED: I don't think people realize the benefits of the Electoral College. After the 2000 election, I read 2 books on the reform movement that got traction after the 1960 election. I wrote about what I learned in "Electoral College Reform: Déjà Vu." It's short. A lot shorter than the 2 books, and those books made me see why it's not a good idea to abolish the Electoral College.

AND: From my little article — I had forgotten this — "Looking at the faithless elector 'problem' from another angle, consider the plan of novelist James A. Michener, who was a Pennsylvania elector pledged to Democratic candidate Hubert H. Humphrey, to switch to Nixon if that were necessary to deprive [George] Wallace of a majority. James A. Michener, Presidential Lottery: The Reckless Gamble in Our Electoral System 16, 56 (1969)."

ALSO: I added a link on that James A. Michener book title, because it's still available. You can buy it on Amazon, even in Kindle. Maybe I'll read that! I like to read the bad reviews at Amazon. In this case: "This book is a disappointment, so precise and so much information that does not mean much and it goes on and on and on about nothing. Did not enjoy it at all." LOL. I love "so precise" as a complaint. Stop with all the precision, James! There. I put it in my Kindle. No audiobook for this one, so we shall see if I can get through a "boring" book. I'll try. Worth it, because the faithless elector problem is before the Supreme Court.

Books are boring.

According to "A (Former) Night Owl’s Guide to Becoming a Morning Person" in the NYT:
To get to bed earlier, you also have to slow down in the evenings. Excitement makes it harder to sleep. “Smartphones and laptops are just too exciting,” [said Dr. Alex Dimitriu, founder of the Menlo Park Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine clinic]. “So many people find it easier to go to sleep after reading a book than after trawling the internet. Do more quiet, relaxing activities in the hour or two before you plan to sleep.” Books, audiobooks, just listening to music or even meditating are all perfect — though make sure you don’t mess around with your phone too much....

Personally, I find it much easier to get to bed earlier if I let myself get a little bit bored in the evenings. Sleep is preferable to great literature, at least after 10 p.m.
There's also some discussion of the "blue light" of screens. That might have something to do with why reading on screens is (supposedly) detrimental to getting a good night's sleep. But put that to the side and consider the idea that reading on a screen is significantly more exciting than reading a book. Books should be the very best of reading, but I know I lock into reading screens for hours, and I rarely just sit and read a book. Even when the book is much better material, it can't compete with the action of being on line, clicking here and there, exploring and discovering along the infinite pathways.

The truth is, when I want to read a book, I get the audiobook and go for long walks, and I get through many books that way. I don't — like the author of the NYT article — feel bored when I'm reading books I've chosen, but I do feel endlessly tempted to go somewhere in my reading, that is, to click through to various places and to have my choices create my reading pathways. Maybe the audiobook walks work for me because the walk itself is my choosing where to go, moment to moment, and the book is the stationary thing that corresponds to the chair when I'm reading on line.

When you fall asleep, you have the ultimate personally chosen pathway — a dream. In my dreams, I'm always walking around looking for things, trying to figure things out.

And of course, when I write a blog post, I get to wander around wherever I want. It's a compelling combination of language, curiosity, personal choice, random discovery, and freedom of movement — perfectly intrinsically rewarding.

January 17, 2020

At the Snowfall Café...

2E7D7921-0816-451B-8147-DF36C1A0D682_1_201_a

... enjoy the conversation.

"Madison, Wisconsin takes the top spot in our study on the best cities for work-life balance."

"It ranks in the top 10% of the study for six out of the 10 metrics we considered. It does the best across all 100 cities overall for both its low unemployment rate, at 1.9%, and its low percentage of workers with a commute longer than 60 minutes, at 2.3%. Workers there have an average commute time of less than 20 minutes and work less than 37 hours per week on average. With all the time they’re saving, they’ll be able to enjoy other meaningful activities such as checking out art galleries or spending time with friends. Arts, entertainment and recreation establishments in Madison comprise about 2.2% of all establishments and bars comprise more than 1% of all establishments, both top-10 rates."

From "Cities With the Best Work-Life Balance – 2020 Edition" (Smart Asset).

"More nuanced analyses of the Sanders-Warren conflict suggest that maintaining a nonaggression pact would be mutually beneficial because otherwise..."

"... Biden could run away with the nomination. But the word 'mutually' is debatable. I’d argue nonaggression toward Warren is pretty clearly in the best interest of Sanders, who was in the stronger position than Warren heading into the debate and who would probably prefer to focus on Biden. But it’s probably not beneficial to Warren. Any scenario that doesn’t involve Warren winning Iowa will leave her in a fairly rough position — and winning Iowa means beating Sanders there."

Writes Nate Silver (at FiveThirtyEight).

"Everything I do is political," says Representative Ayanna Pressley, about revealing that she is, in fact, completely bald.



There's no explanation of why she lost all her hair — was it traction alopecia from wearing tight braids? — but she does explain why she's choosing to reveal that she is bald, rather than simply hiding it by continuing to wear wigs. The explanation is that everything she does is political, and that, she says, pushed her to talk about it and actually to show it (which you can see at 6:00 in the video).

I think she looks fine being out-and-proud bald (other than that she's projecting sadness and loss). I wish more people who go bald would be openly bald. If you're bald and you choose to wear wigs, it may be a good idea to wear a perfectly wiggy wig — like they say in the old song, a "wig-hat" — so that there's no expression of hiding or shame.

I think of Andy Warhol. He wore wigs from 1955 on, and they were very wiggy-looking wigs. From "The Andy Warhol Diaries":

Oh, the things you have to do to be popular!

I'm reading "Universal Tries to Escape Disaster by Patching Up ‘Dolittle’/Script rewrites, adding animal characters delayed release of the costly family film" (WSJ):
In a pivotal scene in Universal Pictures’ “Dolittle,” hitting theaters Friday, the title character—a doctor, played by Robert Downey Jr., who can converse with animals—relieves an ornery beast’s indigestion by removing debris from its rectum. Flatulence jokes ensue. The scene was added late in the filmmaking process, one of several efforts Comcast Corp. ’s Universal made to try to ensure a return on the $175 million it invested in the family-friendly movie, according to a person close to the production.
Robert Downey Jr. recently submitted to the Joe Rogan Experience:



I'm only 26 minutes into it, so I can't tell you if they get to any frank talk about the disaster that is Dr. Dolittle. Joe normally takes a long time warming up his guests, and things often get really good in the second or third hour, but Downey is a big star, and he only sits there for 53 minutes. In the first half, he's shown a great propensity for self-seriousness, so I'm not expecting much.

"'I wouldn’t go to war with you people,' Trump told the assembled brass.... You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.'"

"For a president known for verbiage he euphemistically called 'locker room talk,' this was the gravest insult he could have delivered to these people, in this sacred space. The flag officers in the room were shocked. Some staff began looking down at their papers, rearranging folders, almost wishing themselves out of the room. A few considered walking out. They tried not to reveal their revulsion on their faces, but questions raced through their minds. 'How does the commander in chief say that?' one thought. 'What would our worst adversaries think if they knew he said this?'... Tillerson in particular was stunned by Trump’s diatribe and began visibly seething. For too many minutes, others in the room noticed, he had been staring straight, dumbfounded, at Mattis, who was speechless, his head bowed down toward the table. Tillerson thought to himself, 'Gosh darn it, Jim, say something. Why aren’t you saying something?'... The meeting soon ended and Trump walked out.... Standing in the hall with a small cluster of people he trusted, Tillerson finally let down his guard. 'He’s a f---ing moron'...."

From "'You’re a bunch of dopes and babies’: Inside Trump’s stunning tirade against generals" (WaPo)(adapted from the new book "A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America")(describing a meeting that took place July 20, 2017).

Ironically, it makes the people Trump called "dopes and babies" look like dopes and babies.

Why should their feelings be coddled?

The "sacred space" was "the Tank" at the Pentagon:
2E924 of the Pentagon, a windowless and secure vault where the Joint Chiefs of Staff meet regularly.... The Tank resembles a small corporate boardroom, with a gleaming golden oak table, leather swivel armchairs and other mid-century stylings. Inside its walls, flag officers observe a reverence and decorum for the wrenching decisions that have been made there.
Trump brought his own boardroom style. He got elected offering that. I see no reason why he should be expected to change to a style of "reverence and decorum" because that's what others in the room are used to and feel comfortable with. Why should those people be facilitated in their comfort and established old ways? During the Vietnam War era, we would have reacted with derision at expectations like that.

Here's an article (from January 2019) quoting Trump about The Tank:
"When I became President, I had a meeting at the Pentagon with lots of generals. They were like from a movie. Better looking than Tom Cruise and stronger. And I had more generals than I've ever seen, and we were at the bottom of this incredible room. I said 'this is greatest room I've ever seen.' I saw more computer boards than I think that they make today."
ADDED: Derision and contempt.

IN THE COMMENTS: Ken B wrote:
From Fodor, Top 10 American Sacred Spaces
1 Gettysburg
2 Arlington Cemetery
3 That cool windowless room with all the monitors
4 Bunker Hill
5 Nancy Pelosi's Closet
6 Ford's Theater
7 Nancy Pelosi's Other Closet
8 The Washington Monument
9 Faneuil Hall
10 Fort Sumter

"Kenneth W. Starr and Alan Dershowitz to join Trump’s legal team."

WaPo reports.

And for the first the first time, I'm picturing myself watching the big trial and not avoiding it.

ADDED: I should confess that I watched the entire swearing-in ritual yesterday...



I paid close attention, watching each and every Senator sign the book. I took note of who was left handed, what sort of watches they had on, wondered who the Senator with the really long hair was, gasped aloud at the low-necked, red-caped stylings of Kyrsten Sinema....

"I’ve always been a wriggler. I mean, I am my own fantasy. I am the ‘Cosmic Dancer’ who dances his way out of the womb and into the tomb on Electric Warrior."

"I’m not frightened to get up there and groove in front of 6 million people on TV because it doesn’t look cool. That’s the way I would do it at home. It’s not serious. I’m serious about the music, but I’m not serious about the fantasy."

Said Marc Bolan in 1971, quoted in "The Timeless Glam Perfection of T. Rex: Why Marc Bolan Still Casts a Spell/The new Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees have been a guiding spirit for cosmic dancers from Prince to Harry Styles" (Rolling Stone).
Born in 1947, the son of a Hackney lorry driver, Marc Feld grew up as a mod on the London scene. As a broke young poseur, trying to hustle into showbiz, he got hired one day to paint his manager’s office with another kid. Marc introduced himself as “King Mod,” and declared, “Your shoes are crap.” The other kid was David Bowie. These two rivals would torment each other for years to come. In February 1969, after Bolan blew up on the U.K. charts, he invited Bowie on tour — as a mime. “Marc was quite cruel about David’s as-yet-unproven musical career,” producer Tony Visconti recalled later. “I think it was with great sadistic delight that Marc hired David to open for Tyrannosaurus Rex, not as a musical act, but as a mime.” (What could make it even sweeter for Bolan? Bowie got booed.)
I went looking for a Marc Bolan/Hall of Fame article after Bolan came up in the first post of the day, the one about "Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo." That post quoted Marc eating potatoes with Ringo and saying "Ooh you, boogaloo." In the comments over there, I said:
He goes into the the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame... it was just announced a few weeks ago. I should do a post on that. I am a big Marc Bolan fan from back when his band was called Tyrannosaurus Rex.

As a college kid in 1969, I would make anyone I could get to put up with it listen to the album "Unicorn."

Anyone else here a fan of "Unicorn"?

Here's the whole album. Just imagine yourself captive in 18-year-old Althouse's dorm room!...

The toad road licked my wheels like a sabre
Winds of the marsh lightly blew
Stone jars stacked with stars on her shoulders
Hunters of pity she slew...

Are you listening?!!!
A couple years later, Marc was much more accessible, and everyone loved...



... didn't they?

"Iran’s supreme leader... Ayatollah Ali Khamenei... added that President Trump was a 'clown' who only pretended to support the Iranian people but would 'push a poisonous dagger' into their backs."

"The event, choreographed to present an image of power and unity, skirted the accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane on Jan. 8 by Iranian forces that killed all 176 people on board. A lone banner featuring an airplane hung between huge pictures of General Suleimani."

From "Iran’s Supreme Leader Rebukes U.S. in Rare Friday Sermon/Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told thousands of worshipers that God’s backing had allowed Iran to 'slap the face' of the United States with a missile attack" (NYT).

Also on the front page at nytimes.com right now is "11 Americans Were Hurt in Iranian Strike, Military Says, Contradicting Trump/The servicemembers were treated for concussion symptoms after Iranian missiles hit air bases in Iraq last week. President Trump had said that 'no Americans were harmed.'"

If you're skeptical of the NYT, your first question was probably: How were they hurt?

The answer is that there were 11 Americans "treated for concussion symptoms from the blast" who "are still being assessed."

Those articles are at the top of the page at the NYT, where I went to search for "Iran" after getting the feeling that we'd stopped talking about Iran. I was thinking that absence was a sign that things are going well (compared to the recent uproar and anxiety about WW3 and the return of the military draft). When things go well for Trump (or the U.S.), the next bad story gains prominence. I was thinking that impeachment got moved to the front-burner precisely because the conflict with Iran had gone well.

But here's the Iran story back again. The Ayatollah is speaking, bucking up the crowd for support he doesn't deserve. "God's backing" enabled Iran to give the U.S. that "slap in the face"? Did God help Iran shoot down a passenger plane? Was it God's preference to dole out 11 concussions in retaliation for the killing of Soleimani? Not a very good argument for the purported greatness of God! Khamenei's propaganda is patently ridiculous. Given that he had nothing persuasive to say, he must have felt desperate pressure to speak.