January 25, 2020

At the Saturday Night Cafe...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

Watching the President’s lawyers.

I am, at least for now.

ADDED: I liked the restrained tone and the rhetoric in the form of inviting the Senators to think about various questions.

"Andrew’s personality is like a tuning fork realigning us with something we need to retrieve, taking us back to a more innocent time, making us remember to chuckle...."

"This is not an unserious issue at all, for that chuckle has more power to take us over the line in 2020 than does all the anger in the world. Quite simply, the demon doesn’t know how to eat it. Andrew is light in tone, but he is deep in substance."

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Part 3 of 3: It’s not a transactional politics, but a relational one, that will win in 2020. And that takes me to Andrew. Three personality characteristics define how Andrew comes across. They are self-confidence, levity, and positivity. Many believe these are less important than the details of his stances on health care, the economy, or foreign affairs. But such things are every bit as important as where he stands on those issues, because at a time like this the issues aren’t the only issue. The most important thing is that we win in 2020. Nothing, nothing, nothing is more important. We won’t beat Trump only on the issues; if that were the case, he wouldn’t be president today. We will beat him by forging an emotional connection with the American people that is more compelling than his. Self-confidence, levity and positivity are exactly what America has lost and needs to regain. It’s also what millions of Americans long for. Andrew’s personality is like a tuning fork realigning us with something we need to retrieve, taking us back to a more innocent time, making us remember to chuckle. There was a time, not so long ago, when America was self-confident and positive about our future. This is not an unserious issue at all, for that chuckle has more power to take us over the line in 2020 than does all the anger in the world. Quite simply, the demon doesn’t know how to eat it. Andrew is light in tone, but he is deep in substance. I know from first hand experience the breadth of his intellect and the expansiveness of his heart. That “humanity first” stuff applies not only to his policies but to how he goes through life. Bernie and Elizabeth will make it past Iowa and beyond; I admire them both, but right now they don’t need my help. I’m lending my support to Andrew in Iowa, hopefully to help him get past the early primaries & remind us not to take ourselves too seriously. We need that this year. We need to lighten up on a personal level, because the moment is so serious on a political level. Otherwise the months ahead will be too tough on all of us. The only one who’d be laughing at the end of the year is Trump. And we must not, must not, must not let that happen.

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The President's lawyer Jay Sekulow said the 3-hour presentation today will be “a trailer” — “coming attractions” — for what's to come next week.

And — as the NYT puts it in "What to Watch For in Trump’s Impeachment Trial on Saturday" — "anything they say will resonate over the weekend and could be seized on by Democratic presidential candidates who will be campaigning aggressively ahead of the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3." So "the president’s lawyers are likely to take the opportunity to try out a few sound bites that could foreshadow" the longer arguments we'll hear on Monday and Tuesday.

"I customarily killed old women. They all died, there by the big river. I didn't used to wait until they were completely dead to bury them. The women were afraid of me."

Said "a man from the Aché, an indigenous tribe in eastern Paraguay," quoted in "What happens when we're too old to be 'useful'?" (BBC).
As another anthropologist, Jared Diamond, points out, the Aché are hardly outliers. Among the Kualong, in Papua New Guinea, when a woman's husband died, it was her son's solemn duty to strangle her. In the Arctic, the Chukchi encouraged old people to kill themselves with the promise of rewards in the afterlife....

Some think we'll need a more radical shift in our attitudes to old age. There's talk of retirement itself being "retired". Perhaps, like our ancestors, we'll be expected to work for as long as we're able. But the varied customs of ancestral societies should give us pause, because they appear to have evolved in response to some discomfortingly hard-nosed trade-offs....

Once we relied on elders to store knowledge and instruct the young. Now, knowledge dates quickly - and who needs Grandma when we have schools and Wikipedia?
That last line made me think of this article about Joe Biden I was just reading in The Washington Post, "Joe Biden unspools an endless supply of ‘Bidenisms’ on the campaign trail":
His expressions hark to a humble upbringing in Scranton, Pa., and Wilmington, Del., drawing attention to middle-class roots with sayings that anyone can live by: “Without your word, you’re not a man” (his dad); “As long as a person’s alive, they have the obligation to strive” (his mom).... “My dad had an expression... He said, ‘Joey, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity. It’s about respect.’ ” “My father used to say, ‘, the greatest sin of all is the abuse of power. And the ultimate sin, the cardinal sin, is for a man to raise his hand to a woman or a child’ ”... The family sayings are another iteration of Biden’s unique speaking style, one that is injected with a “folks!” here, a “not a joke!” there and a “here’s the deal” everywhere....
Maybe I need to hope the younger people feel a longing for that sort of folksy oldie thing.

I need to get up to speed on the "head on a pike" story.

I'm trying to read "Schiff refers to CBS 'head on pike' story, infuriating GOP: 'Every one of us knows it is not true'" (Fox News), "Schiff sparks blowback with head on a 'pike' line" (The Hill), "GOP senators incensed by Schiff’s ‘head on a pike’ remark" (AP).

Did Adam Schiff make up another quote?!

At CNN ("See tense moment that left key GOP senator shaking her head"):

After he says "vote against the President and your head will be on a pike," he touches his nose — a tell? — and pauses. He hears murmurs of objection from the Senators and starts talking about "irony" and how he hopes it's not true. The irony he finds is in his own argument that Trump is making himself into a king and putting heads on pikes is a method of governance associated with kings. So if someone associated with Trump said "head on a pike," it would be more support for Schiff's argument that Trump is acting like a king. He made all that up and delivers it in his ultra-serious closing argument to the Senators who are required to sit still and silent and take it.

From the Fox News article:
"I thought he was doing fine with [talking about] moral courage until he got to the 'head on a pike.' That's where he lost me,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who has said she might be open to calling witnesses in the trial, told reporters. “He's a good orator. ... It was just unnecessary.”...

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, considered another key Republican vote, agreed with Murkowski. “Not only have I never heard the ‘head on the pike’ line but also I know of no Republican senator who has been threatened in any way by anyone in the administration," she told reporters.
And here's how The Washington Post presents the story: "Adam Schiff delivered a detailed, hour-long summary of the Democrats’ impeachment case. Some Republicans dismissed it because of one line." Oh! Poor Adam Schiff! He spoke for so long and they focused on one line:
The reference came from a CBS News report that had gone viral earlier Friday, quoting an anonymous Trump confidant claiming that senators were warned that “your head will be on a pike” if they vote against the president on impeachment. The report did not say who had delivered the threat or which senators had been so warned.

“I don’t know if that’s true,” Schiff (D-Calif.) said. “I hope it’s not true. But I’m struck by the irony of the idea, when we’re talking about a president who would make himself a monarch, that whoever that was would use the terminology of a penalty that was imposed by a monarch — a head on a pike.”

Schiff sandwiched the reference between an anecdote about his father trying to get into the military with bad eyes and a flat feet during World War II, succeeding on the third attempt, and a tribute to the late representative Thomas F. Railsback (R-Ill.), who worked to build bipartisan support for President Richard M. Nixon’s impeachment. 
Oh! He sandwiched it. Well, then. So unfair to Schiff not to give him credit for the bread around that nasty filling. That was a shit sandwich on Railsback and flat-footed Dad.

ADDED: What is the history of heads on pikes? Wikipedia says:
Placing a severed head on a spike (or pike or pole) is a custom used sometimes in human history and in culture. The symbolic value may change over time. It may give a warning to spectators. The head may be a human head or an animal head.
The all-time most famous head on a pike was Oliver Cromwell:

It's not just monarchs who do heads on pikes. The French revolutionaries did it:
And Hollywood did it to George W. Bush:

"The president’s freewheeling racism, emanating year after year from the top of the American political order, has made me more hostile toward white folks and whiteness than I’ve ever been in my life."

So begins "My Piece of the American Id/Does equality in the age of Trump mean I can be irrationally angry, too?" by Erin Aubry Kaplan (in the NYT).

Kaplan, we're told, "teaches writing at Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is the author of 'Black Talk, Blue Thoughts, and Walking the Color Line' and 'I Heart Obama.'" She's a "contributing opinion writer" at the NYT and her columns are listed under the heading "Blackness and identity" (e.g., "I’m 57. Am I Grown Up?/I’m childless, still trekking the path to self-realization, and always the first one on the dance floor").

Back to the new column. I'd just recently been thinking that Trump has not given much material to the people who want to portray him as a racist, but Kaplan has him continually "emanating" racism. Whatever it is she's picking up, it's manifesting itself in her own hostility toward white people.
Despite the fact that I’ve written provocatively (so I’m told) about racial matters for years, this hostility is new — and I’m increasingly unafraid to express it.
I do think Trump is making people feel more freely expressive. I've thought that for a long time. Now, here's a college teacher openly stating that she feels race-based hostility (not hiding it from anyone, including her white students who are entitled to equal treatment).
Like all people of color, I’ve been on the receiving end of racial microaggressions for as long as I can remember, but being the perpetrator of this sort of macroaggression is a new and alarming phenomenon. It’s unsettling mostly because it is addictive, like a drug that unlocks a kind of emotional freedom I’ve never been allowed to explore before....

In this Trump age of gross unreason, meeting incivility with civility has felt small to me, and futile.... I want true equality, 2020 style — the right to claim and fully express my own well-earned piece of the American id....
The column features a single anecdote. Kaplan takes her dog to the vet, and, after she checks in, the receptionist tells her "Go sit down" in a tone of voice that sounds "flat" (and she'd just spoken to a white pet owner with "cheer and empathy"). Kaplan openly expresses anger at the receptionist. Later, Kaplan apologizes, and the woman looks away "with a kind of wince."
I don’t know if it was because I’d been a jerk, or because I’m black, or because I was more of a jerk in her eyes for being black. I walked off deeply unsatisfied for not having an answer.
If she really were getting energy from Trump, she would not worry about whether she's being a jerk.

And I doubt that Trump takes umbrage with receptionists and other service workers. He tends to go big when criticizing people who have power. He may seem to be "freewheeling" and to simply spout angry insults, but that is not what he is doing. If you take him as an example and just burst out angrily at random people who set you off, you will and should walk away "deeply unsatisfied."

January 24, 2020

At the Snowfall Café...


... you can talk all night.

"President Trump’s approval rating has climbed to match the highest of his presidency, boosted by majority approval of his economic stewardship..."

The Washington Post reports on its new poll that has Trump at 44% approval, up from 38% last October.
A 56 percent majority approves of Trump’s handling of the economy, up 10 percentage points from September and his strongest rating on his marquee issue since entering office....

The nationwide survey, which overlapped with the start of arguments in Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate this week, finds 47 percent of the public saying senators should remove Trump from office and 49 percent saying they should not.
In December it was 49% for removal and 45% against. WaPo calls these numbers "similar," but Trump went from down 4 percentage points to up 2 percentage points. That's a 6-point change in only one month!
Independents narrowly lean against removal, with 42 percent saying the Senate should remove Trump from office while 51 percent say it should not.
How is that a narrow leaning? That's a 9-point difference! And more generally, independents are shifting toward Trump — from 38% in October to 47% now. On economics, the independents have moved from 46% in September to 60% now.

"President Trump's team is considering using just a portion of the 24 hours they're given for arguments in his impeachment trial...."

Axios reports.
A truncated defense would likely reflect a decision not to contest facts or defend Trump point by point, but rather to try to diminish the legitimacy of Democrats' overall case and end the trial as quickly as possible.
How many "points" are there? Seems to me — and I'm listening to precious little of the proceedings — that the Democrats have been repeating themselves quite a bit.

You can respond on every point in MUCH less time than the Democrats have consumed laying out their case, and I think it's better to be confident and pithy, not to pad and elongate. It makes me think of all the exams I have graded in my life. I usually had a page limit, but students who wrote to the page limit usually seemed to have less to say and to be trying to cover that up by making it LOOK like they had material. I was MUCH happier to see something shorter, where every sentence had strong material and there was no repetition.

Less is more.

Joe Rogan endorses Bernie Sanders and gets attacked as a "white nationalist transphobe."

I'm seeing Joe Rogan trending on Twitter and click through to "Joe Rogan Smeared as a ‘White Nationalist Transphobe’ After Bernie Sanders Accepts His Endorsement" (Summit News).
“Bernie’s campaign cutting a campaign ad with Joe Rogan fucking sucks,” tweeted former Vox journalist Carlos Maza. “Rogan is an incredibly influential bigot and Democrats should be marginalizing him.”

Morning snow.


Time: 7:23. Actual sunrise time was at 7:21. No visible sunrise today, and the snow was verging into rain. At 33°, it was too hot for the jacket I had on, the jacket that worked a few days ago when it was 8°. You really do have to add 15 or 20° to the temperature to decide what to wear if you're going to run, even if, like me, you only run in an casual, unambitious way.

Ah! Here's one of those crazily long sentences that make me want to say Diagram this.

"It’s the 947th case in which we see that every second you spend on Twitter detracts from your knowledge of American politics, and that the only cure to this insularity disease is constant travel and interviewing, close attention to state and local data and raw abject humility about the fact that the attitudes and academic degrees that you think make you clever are actually the attitudes and academic degrees that separate you from the real texture of American life."

From "Joe Biden Is Stronger Than You Think/Here’s why he is still winning" by David Brooks (NYT). He's talking to journalists who've been wrong about Biden's staying power. Their wrongness is, he says, "the 947th consecutive sign" that "the coastal chattering classes" have an "insularity problem."

The symmetry of gender politics.

From "National 2020: Biden and Sanders Battle in Two-Way Race for Democratic Nomination" (Emerson College).
In potential head-to-head matchups for the November election, all top candidates are well within the margin of error, President Trump trails Sanders 51% to 49%, is tied with Warren and Biden at 50% each and leads Buttigieg at 51% to 49%.
Okay, what I want to know then is what's the gender difference in support for the various Democrats. That new Emerson poll seems to nudge Democrats to think they need to focus on whether they want Sanders or Biden. Let's say you're a Democrat and the main thing you want is to beat Trump. It's complicated to try to think about whether you'd want the Democrat who has more appeal for women or more appeal for men, but I'd guess that it would be better to go with the one who has more appeal to men, because there are far more males than females in the category of potential Trump voters.

"The bathroom is simultaneously more personal but less revealing than the bedroom. If you film in your bedroom..."

"... people are going to judge you on what stuff you keep around or what posters you have on your walls, said Joshua King, 14. It can feel too revealing. The bathroom is neutral, even uniform, but still feels intimate. 'It’s quite awkward to film a TikTok, so the bathroom is an easier place to do that,' he said.... The most common bathroom portrayed on TikTok is the type found in millions of suburban middle-class homes. The aesthetic in general is Home Depot: a neutral colored sink and low countertop with a massive fixed mirror above, with composite doors and air-conditioning vents.... Bathrooms with busy wallpaper or yellow lights can be problematic. And TikToks shot in messy bathrooms don’t perform as well. Ryan Ketelhut, 17, said that shooting TikToks has made him clean his bathroom at home more often. 'I keep it cleaner now because I am in there making TikToks,' he said. 'You need to have all your stuff and all your candles and whatever else not strewn everywhere. I had to clean up a little bit before I filmed my last TikTok. I usually have clothes laying in the bathroom. I cleaned the sink out a little with a Clorox wipe and I sprayed down the mirror so it’s not as grimy.'... 'I should be moving to L.A. in the next month or so,' Mr. Alberto said. 'A hundred percent I’m going to make sure that I like the setting of the bathroom. It’s a silly thing, but the videos on my channel that get the most views are in the bathroom.'"

From "We’re All in the Bathroom Filming Ourselves/It’s got lights and it’s got action. The American bathroom is the stage set of the moment" (NYT).

It's interesting that these kids want attention to themselves as individual persons but they do not want to appear within a space that reflects their individuality. They're choosing the neutrality — Clorox-wiped sterility. Don't reveal too much. See me! Don't see me!

ADDED: I'm reading the comments over there, and they're all harping on that "We're all" in the headline. Oh, they're not all saying that. I'm just using a figure of speech, the one the NYT readers are too stodgy to let the NYT use. All that work writing the article, gathering cool new stuff, and the boring readers get stuck on the first 2 words. Eh. Serves the NYT right. That's what you get for thinking you can bring the news about teenagers to the middle aged folks who still read the newspaper.

"Do you screen potential dates or partners for their political beliefs? If so, how? Please include specific examples and funny stories..."

"How do you signal your own values and political beliefs on your dating profile? Are you intentionally leaving off any beliefs? If so, which ones and why? Are there lines you won’t cross when it comes to dating someone who disagrees with you on a politically charged topic — such as, abortion, vaccinations, gun control, climate change, immigration or President Trump? How important are a person’s politics when you’re dating or beginning a relationship? Do you refuse to date outside of your own political party or identity, or are you rolling your eyes at all of this?"

The NYT asks its readers.

This reminds me of the time — back in 2004 — when I did a "normblog profile." One of the questions was "Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own?" My answer was "Sure, if he wasn't an ass about it."

"The clamor is growing for Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. to take an assertive stance in presiding over the impeachment trial of President Trump."

"... Roberts took the appropriate step, after midnight on the first day of the trial, of admonishing the House managers and the president’s lawyers to tone down the rhetoric.... Is Roberts supposed to instruct them to get back in their seats, or else? Come on. This is the U.S. Senate, not a kindergarten class. The chief justice is not there to take attendance... Charles P. Pierce of Esquire [wants Roberts to]  'Be the umpire' [and accuse the President's lawyers of lying].... This seems like the slipperiest of slopes. The chief justice is going to interrupt the trial to question the veracity of arguments being made by the president’s lawyers? Where would this stop? If it started, wouldn’t the chief justice open himself — and, by extension, the court — to claims, in this trial or, heaven forbid, the next, that he is putting his thumb on the scale for one side or the other? There is a difference between enforcing standards of decorum and opining on matters of substance...."

Writes Ruth Marcus in "A more assertive John Roberts would be a bad idea" (WaPo).

Pierce's idea is obviously horrible, but that has to do with intruding on the role of the Senators, who must decide things like who is lying. It would be easy to enforce the rules of decorum — the Senate's own rules about keeping quiet and remaining seated — without switching to making statements about which of the speakers are lying! Yet Marcus visualizes Roberts tumbling down "the slipperiest of slopes." That's one of the worst "slippery slope" arguments I have ever seen.

For background on the behavior of the Senators, see "Sen. Rand Paul works on crossword puzzle, paper airplane during impeachment trial" (Courier-Journal). The article is not just about Rand Paul (who also held up a piece of paper with "S.O.S." written on it). We also hear about Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., apparently sleeping, and Elizabeth Warren playing some sort of "game on paper." Some Senators are "reading non-impeachment materials." (Wouldn't you bring a book?) And then there's the open laughing, such as when "Adam Schiff said he’d only speak for 10 minutes." And when one of the lesser prosecutors got up to speak, it was, apparently, a cue for Senators to "bolt[] for the cloak rooms, where their phones are stored." Some Senators have taken to standing rather than the required sitting. Yawning is seen.

Should Roberts do something about this behavior? You make the call:

Should Roberts do something about this behavior?
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I was going to post about the death of Mr. Peanut...

... but then I saw that Jim Lehrer had died, and it seemed as though it would be in bad taste to talk about what was to me a significant cultural and personal loss on a day when a famous American has passed on. I have my own blogging standards, and I know what they are, but I also know there are people who think that to blog one thing and not another is to make a statement that you think the one thing is more important than the other. I learned in my first year of blogging that I can't let that criticism bother me.

But occasionally I do, on my own, feel that I need to blog X if I'm going to blog Y. And I didn't have anything to say about Jim Lehrer. I looked back in my archive to see what I'd said about him over the years, but it did not turn into a post, and therefore I did not feel free to talk about the death of Mr. Peanut.

But Mr. Peanut has been important to me, personally, and I wanted to talk about him. I'm touched by the circumstances of his death — benevolent sacrifice. He was always such a positive figure. I have never forgotten a time, long ago — I must have been about 15 — when I was in a gloomy mood and a Mr. Peanut TV commercial came on the TV and magically cheered me up. Such pure joy. He's happy, and he's a peanut. Why are you not happy?

I blogged about him in my first year of blogging (2004):
Thanks to Throwing Things for pointing to Advertising Week's vote for all-time best ad icon and best all-time ad slogan. I voted for Mr. Peanut for best icon, because I've been a Mr. Peanut fan for a long time. I feel that Mr. Peanut embodies a poignant eternal human optimism. He's just a peanut, yet he's very high class, and being high class, with charming innocence, has to do with a top hat, spats, and a monocle.

"Imagine arguing that at the turn of the 20th century, female nurses were giving hand jobs to male patients to treat them for psychological problems..."

".... that men didn’t realize anything sexual was going on; that because female nurses’ wrists got tired from all the hand jobs, they invented a device called a penis pump to help speed up the process. Then imagine claiming nobody thought any of this was sexual, because it was a century ago.... But why don’t we think the same story is absurd when it’s about women?... It portrays sexual knowledge as marching on a steady line of progress, from clueless Victorians to today’s sexual sophisticates. It also serves as a feminist fairy tale of sorts, in which women subvert patriarchal society by procuring orgasms from their doctors, paid for by their husbands..... The harmful idea that women are naturally sexually ignorant and that women who do have sexual knowledge and drives are outliers, has been the basis for repressive laws throughout history.... [D]octors didn’t invent vibrators because their wrists hurt from rubbing hysterical women’s clitorises. They invented vibrators as cure-all devices; those devices ended up curing very little, until our great-great-grandmothers put them toward their highest purpose.... "

From "(Almost) Everything You Know About the Invention of the Vibrator Is Wrong" by Hallie Lieberman (in the NYT), author of "Buzz: The Stimulating History of the Sex Toy" and a forthcoming book on "the history of gigolos."

January 23, 2020

At the Thursday Night Cafe...

... you can talk all night.

"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...


... 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...


... 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.


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.


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....


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: