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...


... 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.

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.

"A sense of crisis enveloped the capital of Virginia on Thursday, with the police on heightened alert and Richmond bracing for possible violence ahead of a gun rally next week..."

"... that is expected to draw white supremacists and other anti-government extremists. Members of numerous armed militias and white power proponents vowed to converge on the city despite the state of emergency declared by Gov. Ralph Northam, who temporarily banned weapons from the grounds of the State Capitol. The potential for an armed confrontation prompted fears of a rerun of the 2017 far-right rally that left one person dead and some two dozen injured in Charlottesville, about an hour’s drive from Monday’s rally. The unease increased after the F.B.I. announced the arrest on Thursday of three armed men suspected of being members of a neo-Nazi hate group, including a former Canadian Army reservist, who had obtained weapons and discussed participating in the Richmond rally. The men were linked to the Base, a group that aims to create a white ethnostate, according to the F.B.I. For weeks, discussions about the rally have lit up Facebook pages and chat rooms frequented by militia members and white supremacists. Various extremist organizations or their adherents are calling Monday’s rally the 'boogaloo.' In the lexicon of white supremacists, that is an event that will accelerate the race war they have anticipated for decades."

From "Virginia Capital on Edge as F.B.I. Arrests Suspected Neo-Nazis Before Gun Rally/The three men had obtained guns and discussed traveling to Virginia for protests against new gun control measures, officials said" (NYT).

From a week ago, at NPR, "'Boogaloo' Is The New Far-Right Slang For Civil War" (audio & transcript). "Boogaloo" was originally a song and dance, then a reference to a famously bad movie ("Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo"), and then slang for "any unwanted sequel." Then it got attached to the idea of another civil war — "Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo." The NPR reporter, Hannah Allam says the word is used by "anarchists and others on the far left" as well as "right-wing militias and self-described patriot groups." We hear an audio montage of unidentified persons:
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: So many people are saying that the boogaloo is about to kick off in Virginia.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: When the boogaloo happens, these are the people that you're going to have to watch out for.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #7: Do not think for one second that there aren't people that would love to see this thing to get started, that would love to see this boogaloo start rolling. Personally, I do not want to see that. I don't want it to come to that....
Interesting that all 3 of those persons were talking about those other people over there.

Next we hear from Oren Segal of the Anti-Defamation League, who tells us that pop culture references are "weaponized" to spread an extremist message. Then the NPR reporter, Hannah Allam wraps it up:
ALLAM: For a subset of the far-right, the fringe of the fringe, civil war isn't enough. They're spoiling for a race war. Decades later, boogaloo is no longer about music, but about menace - a word coined by black and brown people now used by some who envision a country without them.
Here's the Urban Dictionary page for the word. There's a graph showing a big spike in May 2019:
Here's the Ringo song from 1971, "Back Off Boogaloo" — "Back off boogaloo/What do you think I'm going to do?/I got a flash right from the start/Wake up, meat head/Don't pretend that you are dead." Get it? The walrus was Paul, and "Boogaloo" was Paul. No. Wait. That's the rumor...
Several commentators have interpreted the lyrics as an attack on Paul McCartney, reflecting Starr's disdain.... Ringo Starr identified his initial inspiration for "Back Off Boogaloo" as having come from Marc Bolan... Over dinner one evening at Starr's home... Bolan had used the word "boogaloo"...  "[Bolan] was an energised guy. He used to speak: 'Back off, boogaloo ... ooh you, boogaloo.' 'Do you want some potatoes?' 'Ooh you, boogaloo!'"
ADDED: It's funny that Ringo's story has Marc Bolan saying "Ooh you, boogaloo." I'd say that reinforces the theory that the Boogaloo was Paul, because one year before that pass-the-potatoes conversation between Ringo and Marc Bolan, Paul put out a song, "Oo, You":

ALSO: There are also Antifa plans to attend that Richmond rally, and not to oppose the conservative gun-rights people, Vice reports:

January 16, 2020

At the Thursday Night Cafe...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"[Film] critic Sheila O’Malley wrote about the phenomenon of 'back-ting,' in which an actor is turned away from the audience...."

"'To this day, I am fascinated by moments when actors turn their backs on the camera. It is actor as storyteller, actor as auteur.' Rewatching... Fight Club, I was surprised by just how many moments of back-ting there were, the most mesmerizing of which occurs in an early scene, when the eponymous club is just starting to gain traction. Tyler Durden (Pitt) is simply walking through a bar to the tune of 'Going Out West' by Tom Waits."

"But in this singular moment, we can see, even from behind, that Tyler has what the unnamed narrator played by Edward Norton lacks: unbridled, unending confidence and a clarity of self. 'All the ways you wish you could be, that’s me' Tyler says later, sitting with the stillness of a coiled snake that’s waiting to strike."

From "Every Brad Pitt Movie Performance, Ranked A closer look at the Oscar-nominated actor’s body of work" by Angelica Jade Bastién (who goes to a lot of trouble)(in Vulture).

In case you're wondering, "Fight Club" is ranked #6. #1 is not "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," the 2019 movie for which Pitt received an Oscar nomination. That is #3. #2 is another 2019 movie, "Ad Astra." And #1 is "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (from 2007)

Anyway... "back-ting"... that amused me. And it fits with today's mini-theme, hyphens (here and here). If you'd coined the word, would you have written "bacting" or "backting" instead of "back-ting"? It's hard to do portmanteau words, and here you need to find a way to make readers see "back" and "act," with the "k" and the "t" in some weird conflict. Worth it though! Because acting while turned away from the camera is something you have to think of noticing.

Ah! Here's the original Sheila O'Malley column, "Back-ting." Excerpt:

"Just want to say hi, America."

ADDED: This explains it:

"For Liz, the loneliness of the weekend is exacerbated by an additional, painful sense that she is not only alone but locked out – 'banned from the weekend'..."

"Between Monday and Friday, she enjoys her neighbourhood, but at the weekend, the streets and parks seem to transform. They become questioning, forbidding, to the extent that Liz wonders if she has 'absorbed' her loneliness from her environment, now full of couples, families, groups. 'What’s interesting to me is that I’ll sit on my own in a cafe easily in the week,' she says. But the same cafe at the weekend is a space she cannot enter. Even walking the dog takes on a different cast. 'I don’t feel conscious at all during the week' – but on a Sunday morning, the same walk feels acutely sad."

From "The agony of weekend loneliness: ‘I won't speak to another human until Monday’" (The Guardian).

"[Pelosi] used a remarkable number of writing implements – more than three trays littered with them – to sign her name on the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump."

"The pens, engraved with her signature, were intended as souvenirs for Pelosi’s allies. She carefully signed the documents, apparently stroke by stroke, using different pens for each portion of her signature. Then she distributed them to impeachment managers and committee members."

From "Pen-t up anger: Republicans pounce on Pelosi over ceremonial writing tools" (in The Guardian), which I'm only reading because I noticed the headline in a sidebar while I was writing a post that was largely about an odd use of a hyphen and I was extra-curious about "Pen-t."

People got angry about pens, and a pun was in reach — "pen"/"pent" — and the headline writer strained for it, deploying that hyphen (putting the pun in punctuation).

It really is a strain, too, because not only was the "t" in "pent" a problem, but the whole idea of "pent-up anger" is wrong. I don't think the pens really made anyone angry. Trump supporters simply jumped at a great opportunity to savage and mock their opponents. And if that counts as anger, it wasn't "pent-up," because Trump supporters have been expressing themselves all along, every chance they get. We're very expressive these days.

Speaking of very expressive, here's Greg Gutfeld:

And Rupar has lost his mind if he believes Gutfeld was losing his mind. Gutfeld was performing an excellent comic riff. It was effective and entertaining, and I presume Rupar knows it and is just rather dully using the boring internet approach of characterizing anything colorful as crazy.

ADDED: Trump's signing of the China deal is not like what Pelosi did at all. He quickly signs his name with one pen then hands a whole lot of pens over to be distributed as the ceremonial pens. Pelosi writes her signature in little segments, switching from pen to pen, so that each pen has the special magic of having been used to sign the document:

"This route."

"Permanent impeachment won't empower Pelosi's Resisters.... It’ll empower Trump's deplorables, because Trump will still need them."

"In effect, impeachment can be the anti-dote to lame duck insularity, reestablishing the accountability to voters that the term limit of the 22d Amendment takes away. I'm not arguing for impeaching every President in his second term. It’s a legalistic, emotion-draining way to try to correct for the ill-advised two-term limit. Usually there are bonds of ideology and party loyalty constraining even popular second-term presidents. Trump seems a special case — someone you really might not want to see unleashed. I'd feel much better voting for him again if he were impeached multiple times."

Writes Mickey Kaus in "Impeach Him Again, Nancy!"

I'm not agreeing with that, but I find it interesting. There are lots of other things you might say about the benefits of impeachment on the pro-Trump side. But having written "pro-"... I'd like to discuss Kaus's writing "anti-dote" — "impeachment can be the anti-dote to lame duck insularity."

Even in the 17th century — I checked the OED — there was no hyphen in "antidote." But the word is, indeed, made out of the prefix "anti-" — which means "against" — and the root "-dote."

It makes you wonder, what is a "dote"?

If you check the etymology of "antidote," you will see that "dote" comes from a Greek verb that means "to give," so an antidote is something that is "given against" something else.

But "dote" is an English word, and writing "anti-dote" — with the hyphen — seems to take us away from the familiar word, "antidote," and ask us to think of something that is against whatever that English noun "dote" means.

I looked it up in the OED. A "dote" is "A foolish, incompetent, or slow-witted person." It's been around about as long as the familiar verb "to dote." The OED has the noun "dote" going back to the 13th century, and it nicely has — among its examples — this from 2018:
2018 @Skeptic_Fashion 11 Apr. in twitter.com (O.E.D. Archive) U should have ur keyboard privileges suspended for a week 4 being a dote.
A tweet! First time I've noticed a tweet preserved as an OED quote documenting the current usage of the word. I like it. We need more mean but gentle insults.

Is Trump a dote? No, but many of his haters think he is, and they may want to give the country an "anti-dote." But to impeach him over and over again? Who's the dote?

And keep in mind: Even when you have a poisoning and want to administer an antidote, that the antidote itself can be a poison:
The effects of many toxic substances within the body are well understood and can therefore be treated successfully with specific antidotes even when those antidotes are often considered poisons in their own right. For example, strychnine is highly toxic but its symptoms can be counteracted with curare, also highly toxic, because both compounds interact with the same receptors in nerves but have opposite effects. Atropine (or belladonna) poisoning can be treated with physostigmine; and physostigmine poisoning can be treated with atropine.
I am showing you some reasoning by metaphor, after Kaus started it, calling up the word "antidote." You're in a figurative wonderworld when you use metaphors, but I'll just say even when you have a workable antidote for a poison, you don't just take lots and lots of antidote! And I think it's crazy to impeach the President and then impeach him again and again.

"This lack of personal involvement in the struggle did not stop Biden, when he was seeking national office, from inventing a civil rights past for himself."

"[Richard Ben Cramer, in his classic account of the 1988 presidential primaries, What It Takes,] reported on his rhetoric in the primaries in 1988: 'Joe was off on his life… how he started in the civil rights movement…remember?… The marches? Remember how that felt?… And they’re nodding in the crowd, and he’s got them, sure.' Even when his handlers warned him to stop saying this because it was not true, he couldn’t help himself: 'Folks, when I started in public life, in the civil rights movement, we marched to change attitudes.' The plain fact, as [Biden’s biographer Jules] Witcover notes, is that 'he avoided street protest or anything else that smacked of civil disobedience.' He was a concerned observer of, not a participant in, the great dramas of the 1960s. So how could Biden imagine himself as the reincarnation of the Kennedys? Those two words: Irish Catholic. His claim to that legacy is not experiential or particularly ideological. It is ethnic and religious. The Kennedys defined an Irish-American Catholic political identity—white (even in their case conspicuously privileged), yet by virtue of the grimness of Irish history and the outsider status of Catholics, supposedly not guilty of the grave crimes of racial oppression. Its promise was to act as the bridge across the great divide of US society, being mainstream enough to connect to the white majority but with a sufficient memory of past torment to connect also to the black minority. Its underlying appeal was to the very thing that Biden would come to embody—'a sense of the depth of their pain' rooted in 'vivid memories of sad times.' This is what Biden chose when he defined himself as he has throughout his public career: 'I see myself as an Irish Catholic.' And this was indeed a choice. Biden is not an Irish name.... So Biden could have presented himself, had he chosen, as an all-American boy. Instead he identified with his mother’s ethnic ancestry...."

From "The Designated Mourner" by Fintan O’Toole (in The New York Review of Books)(discussing Joe Biden's memoir, "Promise Me, Dad").

January 15, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

This is the western view at 7:54, on a day when the "actual" sunrise time was 7:27. The view looking east was solid cloud — a type #1 sunrise. There were some breaks in the clouds to the west, so I turned the camera that way.

"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."

NBC12 reports.

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.

(If you're trying to remember the details of Northam's blackface problem, go here.)

ADDED: Vice reports it this way:
The governor said at a press conference Wednesday that authorities believe “armed militia groups plan to storm the Capitol” during the January 20 rally. He also said that law enforcement had intercepted threats and “extremist rhetoric” similar to what was observed prior to the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in August 2017. “We will not allow that mayhem and violence to happen here,” he said....

Northam acknowledged that the organizers had been planning the rally for some time. “I believe them when they say this is a peaceful event — that’s what democracy is,” said Northam. “Unfortunately, they have unleashed something much larger, something they may not be able to control.”

The impeachment procession.

Religion-like in its solemnity.

"Horticulturalists have a mantra: right plant, right place. For the forty-two-year-old photographer and professional gardener Conrad Ventur..."

"... that place is Participant, where his unassuming, heartfelt exhibition 'A Green New Deal'... includes a working greenhouse filled with a hodgepodge of succulents, bonsai, and carnivorous plants.... Ventur is best known for his indelible portraits of the late Warhol superstar Mario Montez, but an earthier muse is the scene-stealer here: the pathbreaking lesbian filmmaker Barbara Hammer, who looks elated, shortly before her death, early last year, to be climbing a tree."

So writes Andrea K. Scott in The New Yorker, where the copy editing is supposed to be rigorous. It's one reason I subscribe, and I have read the book "Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen" by Mary Norris, the eminent copy editor of The New Yorker.

Do you see the egregious error in the quoted passage?!

There is at least one other thing that needs better editing.

What were those symbols written on Tom Steyer's hand?

It got some attention from viewers of last night's debate, and got him some good press. Here's NBC:
The design is called the “Jerusalem Cross,” and as Steyer wrote on Facebook late last year, he does it “every day to remind myself that ultimately, the truth always wins.”
Also: "to remind myself every day always to tell the truth."

What are you drawing on your hand every day? Well, let's assume you have to draw something on your hand every day — the same thing — kind of like getting a tattoo, but with more day-to-day mindfulness — what would you draw?

Remember when Sarah Palin wrote on her hand?

Here's the Wikipedia article on the Jerusalem Cross. Excerpt:

4 hours ago, I said I wanted to blog the debate transcript to see what was said about the miniature controversy over whether Bernie opined that a woman cannot win in 2020.

So let me follow through. Obviously, I've been in no hurry. I didn't watch the debate past the first question last night, and, though I have the thing recorded, I'm not interested in watching it now. I have the transcript, but I'm not even going to skim the whole thing. I'm only going to read through the part about this one issue, because I've been blogging about it, and I want closure on the subject. I will simulblog my reading of this one portion of the transcript.

"Chicken feet are popular in traditional regional Chinese cooking and are served as snacks to go with alcohol, in cold dishes, in soups or as the main dish."

"They are typically steamed first to make them puffy before being stewed and simmered in abalone sauce."

From a Bloomberg News item about a container of 23.94 tons of "American chicken feet" that went through Chinese customs yesterday, "potentially heralding the start of a new trading era between the two countries just days before they sign a long-awaited trade deal."

We're told that the Chinese refer to chicken feet as "phoenix claws" and we're also shown a graph that refers to them as "chicken paws," so I'm inferring that's the official governmental term.

I looked up "paw," because it's a word I'd only use for the feet of furry mammals (or jocosely for the hands of a human being), so I'm surprised to see that the oldest use of "paw" in English (according to the OED) is, in fact, " The foot or claw of a bird; the foot or claw of a dragon."
c1450 (▸c1380) G. Chaucer House of Fame 541 This egle..with hys grymme pawes stronge..Me..he hente.

"Russian Premier Abruptly Quits Amid Swirl of Speculation on Putin."

The NYT reports.
In a statement issued by the Russian news agency Tass, [Prime Minister Dmitri A. Medvedev], a lawyer who has known Mr. Putin since they worked together in St. Petersburg in the 1990s, linked the unexpected resignations to an overhaul put forward earlier on Wednesday by Mr. Putin.... Mr. Putin, who under current law must step down in 2024, proposed amending the Russian Constitution to expand the powers of Parliament and a body called the State Council, which currently carries little weight....

It was not immediately evident whether the resignations signaled a rift at the top of Russia’s hierarchy or were part of a coordinated but as-yet-unclear plan by Mr. Putin to hold onto power and reshape the political system that has been in place with only minor adjustments since the early 1990s.... Mr. Putin described the proposed constitutional changes in his annual state of the nation address on Wednesday as an effort to enhance democracy..... Russia has been abuzz for months with speculation about whether he would come up with a maneuver to extend his rule — or, if not, who might succeed him.
Term limits are easily portrayed as an enhancement of democracy, even though they are also and even more easily portrayed as detrimental to democracy. The American Supreme Court case showing how that's done is U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton (in which the Justices disagree about whether "the right of the people to choose whom they please to govern them" is helped or hurt by term limits on members of Congress).

"I know that Harry has been a very unhappy man ever since he came out of the army... He has felt that he's this big alpha guy and doesn't really have a place to land."

"And what's happened now is that Prince William and Prince Charles - you've got two heirs, well actually... it's very crowded at the top right now! - and we're in the twilight of the Queen's reign, let's face it, she's not going to go on forever, and they're on this really accelerated flight path now to get ready to be the King and the Prince of Wales.... I do think [the new royal portrait with the Queen and her three direct heirs made Harry feel] 'I'm being edited out'... and I think [Meghan] also minded it. So I think his feeling has been, 'Look, I'm being edited out, therefore I want out.'... The truth is that when you are in the royal family, when you join the royal family, you are an ensemble player. Everyone is supposed to be an ensemble player, you're all there to support one person. There's only one monarch and you're there as the backup troupe.... This year, Meghan and Harry were expected to do 200 royal appearances, all over the place... things like opening hospitals in Guildford... And for Meghan who has a big celebrity of her own, I think she found that a waste of herself as an asset.... [Harry] is a big asset... Harry is the second most popular person after the Queen in the royal family.... Everyone thinks this is 'Meghan has got what Meghan wants'...  I actually do think Prince Harry really wanted out too."

Says Tina Brown, the famous magazine editor who also wrote the terrific book "The Diana Chronicles" (which I read, not because I care about the royals but because I like well-done nonfiction on any subject).

It's interesting, this purported need of Harry's to be a "big alpha guy," because so many people are reacting to "Megxit" with the idea that he's a weak man, manipulated by his wife.

Live-TV tedious excitement over the naming of the House managers for the show trial in the Senate.

I'm overhearing Fox News (with, I'm assured, MSNBC getting recorded) and (as I'm trying to finish my post about Michael Moore's assertion that Elizabeth Warren stabbed Bernie Sanders in the back) I'm seeing the faux-drama in the New York Times...

Nancy Pelosi is about to do a big reveal. How much do you care and how much depends on who the hell the House managers are?

I find this a bit irritating, this political theater.

UPDATE: I watched the announcement, but all I remember is Nancy Pelosi going on about the Constitution and mentioning Abraham Lincoln, Paul Revere, and "These are the times that try men's souls." And somebody said that not only would Trump be on trial, but the Senate is on trial. And Nadler, looking disturbingly green, said Trump is on trial and also democracy is on trial. The frame of what's "on trial" is ever-expanding. What do you think is on trial? I'll just say it's trying my patience. And my patience pleads not guilty.

I'm adding some tags with this update, and I tried to add "Paul Revere," not that I wanted to create a new "Paul Revere" tag, but I'd add the tag if it already existed. Did it? Well... kind of...

AND: Is my use of the term "show trial" apt? It's not the normal show trial, where the predetermined outcome is that the accused will be found guilty and punished. From Wikipedia:
A show trial is a public trial in which the judicial authorities have already determined the guilt of the defendant. The actual trial has as its only goal the presentation of both the accusation and the verdict to the public so they will serve as both an impressive example and a warning to other would-be dissidents or transgressors. Show trials tend to be retributive rather than corrective and they are also conducted for propagandistic purposes. The term was first recorded in 1928.
In the case of Trump's impeachment trial, the show is of hearing the accusations and the predetermined outcome is that the accused will be vindicated and nothing will happen to him. But there is a propagandistic purpose to it, and it's some kind of effort to warn other would-be transgressors. And yet, it's not very scary, is it? Indeed, in the future, the threat of impeachment may lose its power. It's just political nonsense.

Michael Moore leads the way in the "stop Warren" effort... but you have to listen to his podcast to get the details.

I said I wanted to do a separate post about whatever it was Michael Moore said that got Drudge to link with the teaser "MICHAEL MOORE: She Stuck Knife in Back...," but on clicking, I see it's a whole podcast...

... so that's not blog ready. That's a side road I won't take the off-ramp for. I will continue down the highway and go for the debate transcript. I've already done my close analysis of 16 seconds of the after-debate gesturing between Bernie and Warren, and what I really want to do is to see what they said about the miniature controversy that's been stirred up over whether Bernie ever said that a woman cannot beat Trump.

Just as I have no time — well, really, patience — for a podcast right now, I could not put up with sitting through the 2-hour debate last night. I DVR'd it, and I started to watch it, but it didn't begin until 8, and I'd already maxed out my TV-watching capacity on the "Jeopardy!" "Greatest of All Time" show and the Trump Milwaukee rally, both of which started at 7. I watched Trump until there was enough lead time on the "Jeopardy!" recording to skip the ads, then watched "Jeopardy!," then turned to the debate. The first question was so idiotic — an open invitation to just say why you're "best prepared to be commander-in-chief" — that I gave up on pushing myself to watch.

"There is a 'stop Warren' thing going on"/"Oh, well, that makes me want to be for Warren"/"Me too!"

Overheard at Meadhouse... as we look at this Drudge presentation...

... which I know from my minute analysis of the rejected handshake sequence that is 0:11:
Suddenly, EW's fingers burst open into full extension, as if to engulf Bernie's right hand just as it springs into a point. 
That is the most dramatic and most intimate part of the encounter. She wouldn't reach out to his hand when it was offered in the shaking position, but she sprang into receptive openness when he came at her with his aggressive pointer.

Right before that moment her hands were clasped together and held close to her chest, and immediately after that moment, she returned to the clasp. The extended hands can be understood as expressive of a desire to get her ideas out, but the visual is one of his aggressing and her pleading.

We talked about the sexual symbolism and the gender politics of this sequence and this particular freeze frame and who does this help? There are 2 men in the frame, and Steyer looks like the wise, lofty mediator, and he is looking toward Bernie. It does seem like 2 patriarchs are telling the woman she has transgressed.

Looking at the headlines at Drudge...
Warren Refuses to Shake His Hand...
MICHAEL MOORE: Stuck Knife in His Back...
#NeverWarren trends...
I saw a "stop Warren" effort, trumped up out of nothing, and my instinct is to become vigilant and protective as I see this happening in real time. But let me publish this post and make a separate post out of Michael Moore's attack.

Handshake rejected.

0:00 — Elizabeth Warren, looking toward Bernie Sanders, puts her open hand on Biden's upper arm — if not pushing Biden aside at least physically preserving her clear path toward Sanders.

0:01 — EW withdraws her right hand from Biden's sleeve and points upward with her right index finger, which I read as asking for a moment with Sanders. Sanders is stretching out his right hand, an easily recognizable expression of desire for a handshake. Then, still within the 0:01 time frame on this clip, EW pulls her fingers into a fist. For a fraction of a second, it looks as though she'd like to punch him, but she immediately unclenches.

0:02 — The unclenching of EW's fist looks like a thumb's up, then she drops her hand down and clasps it inside her other hand. She arrives in Bernie's handshake zone with 2 hands held together, against her chest. She is talking, he is listening, and his right hand is already drooping down, ready to accept the absence of a handshake. With his left hand, he holds the edge (or the button) of his jacket.

0:03 — EW wrings her 2 hands together as she steps forward toward Bernie.

0:05 — EW is still talking and she pumps her clasped together hands for emphasis. Bernie's right hand is still in the process of falling out of the failed handshake. The left hand is still in the jacket-holding position. He leans forward, listening.

0:06 — EW's clasps hands look like supplication. Bernie's right hand rises. He opens his mouth to speak.

0:07 — With his outstretched right hand, long fingers extended, Bernie, mouth closed again, reaches out as if to touch EW's upper arm.

0:08 — No, he does not touch. His hand waves around. It's Bernie-style talking, which involves hand movements. Both of his hands are stretched out now. EW is still in the hands-clasped position. And suddenly Steyer is there too, horning in on the momentous encounter, touching Bernie on the back.

0:10 — Bernie is still talking and waving.

0:11 — Suddenly, EW's fingers burst open into full extension, as if to engulf Bernie's right hand just as it springs into a point. Then her hands retreat back to a clasp as he continues pointing. Steyer looks back and forth at the 2, like he's the referee.

0:12 — Bernie points at himself then at EW again, then turns away. [ADDED: Just before turning away, Bernie holds both hand up, palms facing EW, in a gesture that seems to say "Enough of you!" or "Stay away!"]

0:13 — Steyer immediately puts his hand on Bernie's shoulder and moves off with his fellow man.

0:15 — Steyer engages Bernie in a hearty handshake, and EW turns toward Buttigieg, who gives a nice smile and receives a pumpy handshake.

ADDED: See why I can't simulblog debates anymore? Either you watch or you don't. 15 seconds is exhausting to observe — truly observe — analyze, and write about. I'm interested in the action at that level. But the hours of talking are deadly if what you're trying to do is to slog through the whole thing. It's impossible!

UPDATE: The audio of the encountered became available:
“I think you called me a liar on national TV,” Warren said to Sanders.

“Let’s not do it right now,” Sanders responded. “You called me a liar.”

Meanwhile, Tom Steyer, caught awkwardly between the longtime friends and colleagues, said: “I don’t want to get in the middle ... I just wanted to say ‘Hi,’ Bernie.”

“Yeah, OK. Good,” Sanders said
So Warren began with confrontation, and he responded with conciliation... and correction.

January 14, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you like.

The sunrise today was, as you can see, the dullest possible sunrise — solid clouds and not even any interesting texture to the clouds. This is what I am calling a type #1 sunrise in my system of classifying sunrises. Yesterday's was also type #1, as were the sunrises of January 3 and December 27th. You get the idea.

Let's talk about Joe Biden's new "Why are you so obsessed with me, Mr. President?" ad.

Some random thoughts:

1. Who is that music supposed to be for? Does it cheer some people up? Make them feel "pumped"? To me, it's so aggressive that I could barely pay attention to the voiceover, and it just seems ludicrously bad, like somebody without musical talent was trying to recreate the MTV theme from the 80s:

2. With my mental space occupied 85% by how irritating the music was, what can I remember without rewatching? It seemed to be a bunch of clips of Trump saying "Biden" and an assertion that Trump is "obsessed" with Biden and that this obsession exists because Biden is the one candidate that Trump believes will be able to beat him. But I'm sure a montage of Trump saying "Sanders" or "Warren" or "Boot-edge-edge" could be assembled. The saying of the name doesn't prove the obsession.

3. Trump is so tricky that if he were sending out the signal that Biden is the one opponent he fears, I would suspect that he doesn't fear him.

4. There were various words on screen and statements by the voiceover telling us Joe Biden is experienced and ready to go on Day One. Basically, he's qualified and he can win. Lukewarm material. Maybe that explains the addition of the distracting, annoying music.

5. We're shown poll numbers indicating Biden would beat Trump in some key states, including Wisconsin. But I remember the most recent Marquette poll showing only one candidate beating Trump in Wisconsin. That person was Cory Booker.

6. I'll rewatch the ad after I put up the post and update with any new impressions.

ADDED: I rewatched. It was very unpleasant. We see lots of pictures of Trump and hear his voice yelling "Biden," "Biden," "Biden," "Biden," "Biden," "Biden," "Biden," "Biden." I think Democrats imagine that there's a successful political move known as "getting under Trump's skin." They've been trying to do that and claiming to have done that for the entire Trump presidency. I think they are deluding themselves. Trump gets energy from opposition. Nothing wears him down. He's not losing it, and the idea that Biden as his opponent would drive him into some sort of self-destructive frenzy is at best silly.

Where's the hate?

ADDED: From the comments at Twitter, just a screen shot:

"You can’t just have it both ways and say, ‘I should be able to do whatever I want without consequences. I should put myself in any situation I want and play victim.'"

"Having voluntary sex with someone even if it is a begrudging act is not a crime after the fact. What happens with #BelieveAllWomen is that we’re just supposed to believe you without any pushback, or questioning, or cross-examination. I think that’s dangerous.... Yes, [Harvey Weinstein is] a powerful guy. But I think that because he’s a powerful guy, they would use him and use him and use him for anything they could."

Said Donna Rotunno, quoted in "She’s Harvey Weinstein’s Lawyer, and She Thinks #MeToo Is ‘Dangerous’/'We can’t have movements that strip us of our fundamental rights,' said Donna Rotunno, who has faced criticism from feminists" (NYT).

"Scientists use stem cells from frogs to build first living robots."

The Guardian reports.
One of the most successful creations has two stumpy legs that propel it along on its “chest”...

Roboticists tend to favour metal and plastic for their strength and durability, but Levin and his colleagues see benefits in making robots from biological tissues. When damaged, living robots can heal their wounds, and once their task is done they fall apart, just as natural organisms decay when they die...

Is Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren lying about whether Bernie said a woman cannot win the presidency in 2020?

I'm reading the story in the NYT, and I'm trying to figure out if it's necessary to say that somebody is lying:
Mr. Sanders vehemently denied making the remark earlier on Monday and accused the Warren campaign staff of “lying” about it, in a statement intended to refute a news report by CNN that relied on anonymous sources. The New York Times and other outlets confirmed the CNN report on Monday afternoon, while the Warren campaign initially declined to comment....
Sanders and Warren had a two-hour meeting in December 2018 in which they talked frankly about how the 2018 race might go, but CNN, this week, decided to put out a story that was very damaging to Sanders, making him sound like a sexist. Sanders had to fly into action and deny everything, and then it became such a big deal that Warren responded:
“Among the topics that came up was what would happen if Democrats nominated a female candidate. I thought a woman could win; he disagreed,” she said. “I have no interest in discussing this private meeting any further because Bernie and I have far more in common than our differences on punditry.”
"I thought a woman could win; he disagreed." That's very starkly put, and I'm skeptical that Bernie would say that a woman cannot win.

I can believe that they talked about the pros and cons of the Democrats going with a female candidate against Trump once again and that Bernie might stress the difficulties a woman would face, while Warren might lean toward the idea that the Democrats need to represent diversity and offer a contrast to Trump.

I can believe what Sanders says he said: He told Warren "that Donald Trump is a sexist, a racist and a liar who would weaponize whatever he could." But I can't believe that Sanders would go to the extreme of taking the position that a woman cannot win.

Nevertheless, in a 2-hour private conversation, in which the 2 power-seekers worked on each other, Sanders could very well have put the words together and announced that a woman cannot win. Didn't he want Warren to stand down and allow him to go forward and run in the left lane?
The existence of the meeting has been public since shortly after it happened in December 2018. The New York Times reported shortly after the meeting took place that Ms. Warren had sought it “as a courtesy,” and that neither party had tried to gain the other’s support or discourage the other from running. But the two senators were the only people in the room, and all reports of what was said had been secondhand....
No one can remember everything that was said in a 2-hour conversation, certainly not verbatim. And in a conversation like that, many things are said hypothetically or for effect, so even a verbatim comment — like "A woman cannot win in 2020" — means very little out of context. That's why it's wrong — speaking of weaponizing whatever you can — to bring that quote/near quote out of the confidential conversation and spring it on the voters.

The real problem here is not that Bernie may have said the words attributed to him, but that Warren's people chose to drag something private into the light for the purpose of making him look like a sexist.

Sweet 16: It's the 16th anniversary of this blog.

I had to look up how I've been spelling "bloggiversary," after mentioning it in the comments yesterday and spelling it "bloggerversary." I just want to be consistent, and I've put a lot of effort into consistency in matters of style (such as not capitalizing "constitutional" but capitalizing "Constitution" but only when referring to a specific constitution (and "a specific constitution" does not refer to a specific constitution)).

Ha ha. That reminds me. 2 days ago it was my birthday, and I saw in my Google alerts that The Boston Globe had mentioned my name:
Thanks, but "legal affairs blogger" feels so off. Even when I was still working as a law professor, I didn't feel like a "legal affairs blogger." Even when I've thought of my blog as partially "law blogging," I haven't thought of it as "legal affairs" blogging. Anyway, thanks, Boston Globe.

I have said this every year on my bloggiversary, and I can say it again this year: I have blogged every single day. No days off — no holidays or sick days or down days in the world of Althouse blogging. In the early years of blogging, that seemed very special, but now, it's super-normal, and not hard to do at all. You might think I have to force myself at least some of the time to keep up this long record — 5,844 days in a row so far — but I don't. Was there ever a day when it was just a chore, an idea of needing to find something to put up on the blog? Actually, no! I love writing on this blog, and I only write about what interests me and only to understand and give meaning to things for myself.

If that works for you, thanks for reading. If you think I should be blogging about things I'm skipping or I should be doing this a different way, I don't know what you are doing here! Nevertheless, it's great fun to write knowing that people are here and reading.

And, so, the new year begins. Year 17.

January 13, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you like.

"Manducate" — it's the word of the day at the OED.

I thought it was one of those neo-words, like "mansplain" and "manspreading," but it goes back to the 17th century, and it means "To chew, to eat; spec. to consume (the consecrated host) at the Eucharist." Examples (from the unlinkable OED):
1624 Bp. F. White Replie to Iesuit Fishers Answere 490 To manducate, that is, to chew or swallow, and to let the Element receiued, passe into their stomach....
1822 Blackwood's Edinb. Mag. 11 161 Whate'er front-tooth can bite, and grinders manducate....
1983 ‘Trevanian’ Summer of Katya (1984) 148 Fell upon the wretched vegetable and manducated it.
"Summer of Katya" is a gothic romance. Isn't it weird that a writer of mere romances would inflict "manducated" on his readers?
How about you? Do you have an appetite for life that ought not to be denied expression? If so, snatch a food item from a living plant, chomp and gnash it, and disgust your companions. Or... any other suggestions on how to display your inner self through outward actions, in the style of a character in a gothic romance?

Stopping by the woods on a snowy morning...


Booker drops out.

The Washington Examiner reports.

ADDED: I clicked on my "Cory Booker" tag. I hadn't written about him since early December, when Cory Booker and Julian Castro were criticizing the Democrats for going all white:
Booker has yet to qualify for the [December] debate. The implication [of Booker and Castro's criticism] is you Democrats had sure as hell better get me into that debate or you're in immense trouble.... It must be so frustrating to Booker (and Harris) to see how many black people just really like Biden. Blond leg hair and all.
And back on November 20, I had: "According to the new Marquette poll, only Booker beats Trump in Wisconsin." Kind of important!

AND: Trump kicks him when he's down:

Worst Trump misspelling yet... or brilliant trap for elitists to look out of touch?

And as long as I'm dealing with Trump and Twitter, there's this, which I'm seeing because it was retweeted by Trump:

ADDED: Good thing I made a screen shot. Trump's "eminent" tweet is now deleted.

Football snippet, Drudge-style.

"So it’s Bernie’s moment, which has sent a wave of panic through the Democratic ecosystem. It’s like waking up from a nightmare..."

"... only to realize that you’re waking up in a nightmare. Which helps explain why Democrats across the country will soon find themselves with a newfound appreciation for the virtues of one Mike Bloomberg, former Republican mayor of New York and billionaire founder of a financial data services empire. He might not have been exactly what they had in mind, but by Super Tuesday he’ll look like Brad Pitt. What people don’t yet seem to have grasped is this: Bloomberg is going to spend an astronomical amount of money on this race. Probably at least $1 billion. Maybe twice that. Possibly even more. Numbers like that upend every model of every presidential race in history. He can buy every news adjacency on cable and local television stations from now until November and not make a dent in his net worth. U.S. politics has never seen such financial throw weight in a presidential campaign....  It isn’t hard to see the nomination as Bloomberg’s for the taking. Democrats believe they will lose to Trump with Sanders or Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Many harbor 'reservations' about Biden. And they know that Buttigieg isn’t going to win the Masters the first time he plays the course. Yes, Bloomberg is a bit dull. He is not exactly charismatic. And he can be a scold. But all the things that would have made him tedious in previous presidential election campaigns make him appealing now.... Trump’s greatest vulnerability is the anxiety he creates... Bloomberg doesn’t make anyone nervous...."

From "Mike Bloomberg will soon be Democrats’ dream candidate" (WaPo).

We talked about this 6 days ago — here. Back then, I started thinking Bloomberg can win, and it's been firming up into a prediction that he will win. But you know me: I'm for Boring.

ADDED: Click on my "I'm for Boring" tag and you'll get to my post from last October when I revealed — after keeping it secret for 3 years — who I voted for in the 2016 election:
I am not a Trump fan. I voted against the guy. I have voted in 12 presidential elections, and in 9 of them, I voted for the Democrat. In the 21st century, there have been 5 presidential elections, and I've voted for the Democrat in 3 of them. There have been 2 Presidents in the 21st century who have won twice and neither of them did I vote for twice. I am a true swing voter (in a swing state). All I want is a very competent, reliable, sensible, good person who can handle the presidency. I don't want your ugliness and hysteria. I don't want to see my fellow citizens cranked up into a frenzy. The very reasons I voted against Trump are getting cooked up into reasons to vote for him — by you, you idiots.

"In today’s world, authoritarian politics and predatory commerce cooperate to exploit 'cultural differences.'"

"Nowhere is this point clearer than in the symbiosis in recent decades between Western corporations and the Communist elite in China. The West offers capital and much-needed technology, while China’s rulers supply a vast, captive, hard-working, low-paid and unprotected labor force. Western politicians, as if trying to justify the unholy collusion, for years argued that rising living standards in China would produce a middle class who would demand freedom and democracy. It is clear by now that that has not happened. The Chinese elite, now far wealthier than before and as in control as ever, can laugh up its sleeve at the Westerners and their visions of inevitable democracy. Instead the West’s own hard-won democracy has become vulnerable. But does the West know it? ... Westerners may think of Xinjiang as a distant and mysterious place, but... Volkswagen, Siemens, Unilever and Nestlé have factories there.... What is it about this remote place... that makes it so attractive? Might a 'culturally different' nonwhite labor force play a role? People in no need of control because a harsh Communist government is already doing that work? In Xinjiang, as elsewhere in China, bosses from East and West have exchanged benefits, formed common interests and have even come to share some values. The chief executive of Volkswagen, which leads China in car sales, was recently asked for the company’s comment on the concentration camps in Xinjiang. He answered that VW knew nothing of such things...."

From "Capitalism and ‘Culturecide'/The idea of ‘cultural differences’ has been used as a justification for some of humanity’s worst crimes," by the artist Ai Weiwei in the NYT.

Anybody want to talk about the Oscar nominations?

They just came out this morning. Here's the list.

I haven't seen much of that stuff, but I did see "Rocketman," and Taron Everton (who played Elton John) did not get a nomination. And I recently streamed "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" on my TV and then restreamed it the next day. Thought that was good, obviously, or I would not have rewatched. It was great for rewatching, because there were lots of details — like the different flavors of Wolf's Tooth dog food (rat, raccoon, etc.) — to pay attention to at your leisure without the distraction of thinking about what's going to happen next.  "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" did very well, with lots of nominations, but I'm in no position to say whether Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt were better than the actors in movies I did not see, and, really, it doesn't matter.

Did you know the New Yorker film critic, Richard Brody, called "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" "obscenely regressive"?
Tarantino’s love letter to a lost cinematic age is one that, seemingly without awareness, celebrates white-male stardom (and behind-the-scenes command) at the expense of everyone else.... ...Tarantino delivers a ridiculously white movie, complete with a nasty dose of white resentment; the only substantial character of color, Bruce Lee (Mike Moh), is played, in another set piece, as a haughty parody, and gets dramatically humiliated in a fight with Cliff [Brad Pitt]....

“Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood” is about a world in which the characters, with Tarantino’s help, fabricate the sublime illusions that embody their virtues and redeem their failings—and then perform acts of real-life heroism to justify them again. Its star moments have a nearly sacred aura, in their revelation of the heroes that, he suggests, really do walk among us; his closed system of cinematic faith bears the blinkered fanaticism of a cult.
I don't agree with much of that, but I won't bore you by explaining why. Instead, here's Brad Pitt feeding his pit bull (Pitt bull) Wolf's Tooth dog food:

"... Benedict has largely remained silent on issues of faith, but differences in the two popes' approaches have emerged..."

"... with Francis' image as a reformer contrasting with more traditionalist elements within the Church. The first major change came when Pope Benedict wrote a letter last year blaming the Church's sexual abuse scandal on the sexual revolution of the 1960s, in a direct contrast to Francis' public stance. On a smaller scale, Francis has rejected a number of traditions, including his predecessor's famed red shoes. Public interest in the relationship between the two men has peaked recently with Netflix's release of The Two Popes, starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce, in December."

From "Retired Pope Benedict warns Francis against relaxing priestly celibacy rules" (BBC).

Here's the trailer for "The Two Popes," which I'm interested in because it sounds like my all-time favorite movie — just 2 men talking to each other about an important subject:

UPDATE: The Oscar nominations came out this morning, and both "Popes" are nominated — Jonathan Pryce (Francis) for Best Actor and Anthony Hopkins (Benedict) for Best Supporting Actor.

"Since Peart’s death, photos of his drum kit—an expansive, fascinating structure of drums, cymbals, and assorted percussive tools—have been circulating around social media."

"Trying to make sense of its maze of components is nearly impossible for anyone not intimately acquainted with drum gear, yet the kit nonetheless communicates, in a glorious and unambiguous way, Peart’s vigor. It must have felt so excellent, ensconcing himself in that golden tower, an ever-expanding assemblage of surfaces to whack!... For decades, the band was hugely uncool. It’s fun to look up the early reviews—peeved critics huffing and puffing about bombast and pretension. How dare this band try so hard!"

Writes Amanda Petrusich in "The Misfit Awesomeness of Neil Peart and Rush" (The New Yorker). Here's that viral photo: