September 19, 2020

At the Forest Light Café...


... you can say what you want.



“Fill that seat” chant goes up as Trump’s rally begins in North Carolina.

I'm watching on YouTube.

He says his nominee will be a woman.... then takes a poll. Woman or man? Woman wins. By a lot.

“It will be a woman. A very talented, very brilliant woman."

ADDED: He’s still going strong, more than an hour and a half later.

AND: He's finally done. Nearly 2 hours. His closing music is not the usual "You Can't Always Get What You Want" but "YMCA." He got out of the airplane with "Macho Man" playing. The show featured 2 Village People songs. 

"[W]hen U.S. Appeals Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett of Chicago came up as Trump was picking a successor to Justice Anthony Kennedy, the president said: 'I'm saving her for Ginsburg.'"

"Trump changes his mind all the time. But Republicans tell us Barrett, 48, a favorite of conservative activists, remains at the top of the White House list. Twitter already calls her 'ACB.'"

From "A court fight for the ages" (Axios).

But also be clear about this: Was Barack Obama wrong to nominate Merrick Garland? You must clearly say that he was or I won't "let you" be clear.

ADDED: From Barack Obama's statement on the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg:
Four and a half years ago, when Republicans refused to hold a hearing or an up-or-down vote on Merrick Garland, they invented the principle that the Senate shouldn’t fill an open seat on the Supreme Court before a new president was sworn in.

A basic principle of the law — and of everyday fairness — is that we apply rules with consistency, and not based on what’s convenient or advantageous in the moment.
How does that basic principle apply to you, President Obama? You went ahead and made a nomination. Why shouldn't the new President follow his predecessor's precedent. What can you say to me that isn't "based on what’s convenient or advantageous in the moment"? It's hard to play the hypocrisy card!


ALSO: Speaking of "what's convenient or advantageous in the moment," why did Senator Kamala Harris vote against Neil Gorsuch?! Here's her statement. Can anyone seriously portray that as based on anything lofty?
Judge Gorsuch's deeply conservative views put him well outside the mainstream.... Given the controversial nature of this nominee, it is deeply unfortunate Senate Republicans took unprecedented steps to ram Judge Gorsuch through the Senate instead of the President working with Democrats and Republicans to find a consensus nominee.
That's a frank claim of power by a Senator. Obama frankly exercised the power that he had to make a nomination, and the Senate majority at the time frankly exercised the power that they had. Why should we expect the current Senate majority to do anything other than to cast the votes it has and confirm? All I can think is that they might become convinced that it will help them win Senate elections if the issue is left open for the election. That could happen, especially considering that they can still complete the appointment after the election and before the Senate and the presidency can change hands.

"Democrats and Joe Biden have made clear they intend to challenge this election. They intend to fight the legitimacy of the election."

"As you you know Hillary Clinton has told Joe Biden 'under no circumstances should you concede, you should challenge this election.' and we cannot have election day come and go with a 4-4 court. A 4-4 court that is equally divided cannot decide anything. And I think we risk a constitutional crisis if we do not have a 9-justice Supreme Court, particularly when there is such a risk of... a contested election.... I think we have a responsibility — a responsibility to do our job. The president should nominate a principled constitutionalist with a proven record and the Senate — it's going to take a lot of work to get it done before Election Day — but I think we should do our job and protect the country from the constitutional crisis that could result otherwise."

Said Ted Cruz, appearing on Sean Hannity's show last night:

Also in that video: Trump's reaction to hearing that RBG had died (discussed in this earlier post).

"What if a modern-day Black American woke up one morning to find herself on a Civil War–era slave plantation?"

"That’s what happens to Eden (played by Janelle Monáe), though the movie opens on her life in captivity and takes a while to reveal its contemporary twist. Antebellum evokes Octavia Butler’s chilling 1979 masterpiece, Kindred, in which an African American woman is mysteriously transported back in time and experiences the deep suffering of her enslaved ancestors. But that novel didn't relish the brutality that its protagonist experienced, and it offered profound insights into power, memory, and the psychology of enslavement. Antebellum isn’t worthy of the comparison. It loads up on visceral scares and disturbing imagery in service of a shallow film that feels like a gory theme-park ride showcasing the horrors of slavery.... Strangely, the whole estate seems to function only as a place for sadistic punishment. The first 40 or so minutes of Antebellum are a ceaseless torrent of violence and abuse.... The terrifying realities of slavery are reduced to horror-movie tropes. This cycle of violence and rape exists only to gin up the viewers’ fury and prepare them for the climactic sequence of revenge.... The middle part of the film snaps the audience back to the present, crucially revealing that 'Eden' is a popular lecturer and writer named Veronica, who has a gorgeously appointed home and a loving family... Here’s where I spoil the big reveal, in case you haven’t already figured it out: The plantation is fake, a present-day re-creation designed by rich racists so that they can act out vile power fantasies. Veronica, the viewer is meant to understand, is the sort of independent and liberated Black person who might draw ire from racists. That’s why she’s been targeted and pulled into their absurd experiment at restoring the hierarchies of the past."

From "Antebellum Is a Shallow Schlock-Fest About Slavery/To make a point about the evils of white supremacy, the film subjects its Black characters to unceasing brutality" by David Sims (The Atlantic).

Let's look at Ginsburg's language: "I will not be replaced until a new president is installed."

That is the form of her dying wish, as told to us by her granddaughter Clara Spera, who is a fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union. It is hearsay, and we don't know for certain that Ruth Bader Ginsburg said those words at all — though of course we assume that the basic idea expressed is something that she did indeed wish. But did she use the verbs "replaced" and "installed"? Is that Spera's paraphrase?

The words sound wrong to me, especially "installed." We normally speak of electing a President. If you look up the words "install" and "president" in the New York Times archive, the relevant hits are about colleges and professional organizations "installing" a president. There, a president is chosen by an elite group, not by the people.

I read through a long page of old NYT headlines and finally arrive at one that looks like it may be a political leader: "Silurians Install President" (April 16, 1963). Who are Silurians?! Is Siluria some country that has escaped my attention all these years?

Click to enlarge and clarify. Key line: "The Silurians is an association of men who have been on New York City newspapers for 25 years or more." Another professional organization, the sort of thing that installs its president.

You see my point. It is a strange and revealing word choice. And if there's one thing you can say about Donald Trump, it's that he was not installed. The 2016 election was a populist expression that gobsmacked the elite. If Hillary had won, it might make some sense to declare that she was "installed."

Ah! And now you see a motivation for Ginsburg's use of "installed." If Biden wins — which is what Ginsburg hoped for (and "a new president" implies) — it really is more of an installation. The Democratic Party elite have been working to install him. It's not his own doing. It was a reaction against the populist expression that had Bernie Sanders winning in the primaries.

When I hear "installed," I think of appliances — dishwashers, refrigerators — that need to be positioned and hooked up by licensed professionals. That resonates with the Biden story... except that no one would install an appliance so superannuated and marginally functional.

And I don't like the use of the word "replaced" either. Ginsburg filled a seat, seat #6, established February 24, 1807. She was the 13th person to sit there. "I will not be replaced until..." suggests a sense that there ought to be a new version of her, someone who will carry on as she would have. But she took over that seat from Byron White. Was there any sense that she was supposed to be like him? She certainly wasn't. The seat belongs to all of us. Just as we control who is elected President, we have a collective interest in that seat, which now needs to be filled.

Justice Ginsburg exercised her own will by holding on to the seat despite grave illness, and there was some ability to choose who would take her place, but the force of nature kept her from completing that task. The Constitution gives the appointment power to the President, and a Supreme Court Justice cannot grab that power from him.

The Constitution has its complicated method for determining who will be President. I won't elaborate on it here, but it does have something to do with what we, the people, want. The last time we cranked through the mysterious process, Trump popped out. It was very weird! But he is the President, and a Supreme Court Justice has vacated a seat.

We can make political arguments that Trump should wait and let us make filling that seat an issue in the election. I'd love to see Trump and Biden debate and give us the question: What kind of Justice we want?

Biden was chair of the Judiciary Committee for so long. Let's grill him about what he did to Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. Let's ask him to show us his list of potential nominees as President Trump has. I think that would be great. But I also think that if the tables were turned and a Democratic President had a Democratic Senate, we'd get the nomination and confirmation quickly and without fussing about inferred principles that have nothing to do with the text of the Constitution.

ADDED: Wikipedia: "The Silurian is a geologic period and system spanning 24.6 million years from the end of the Ordovician Period, at 443.8 million years ago (Mya), to the beginning of the Devonian Period, 419.2 Mya. The Silurian is the shortest period of the Paleozoic Era.... A significant evolutionary milestone during the Silurian was the diversification of jawed fish and bony fish."

But also: "The Silurians are a race of reptilian humanoids in the long-running British science fiction television series Doctor Who.... The first Silurians introduced are depicted as prehistoric and scientifically advanced sentient humanoids who predate the dawn of man; in their backstory, the Silurians went into self-induced hibernation to survive what they predicted to be a large atmospheric upheaval caused by the Earth capturing the Moon."

ALSO: From the OED entry, "install":
1817 S. T. Coleridge Biogr. Lit. I. iii. 60 It is said that St. Nepomuc was installed the guardian of bridges because he had fallen over one, and sunk out of sight....

"Wow. I didn’t know that. I just — you’re telling me now for the first time. She led an amazing life. What else can you say? She was an amazing woman."

"Whether you agree or not, she was an amazing woman who led an amazing life. I’m actually sad to hear that. I am sad to hear that."

Said Donald Trump, quoted in "Donald Trump to put forth nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in coming days: Sources/Mitch McConnell says he does plan to vote on Trump's nominee" (ABC News).

We learned of Ginsburg's death as we were watching Trump's Minnesota rally last night. Trump continued his speech, apparently without learning the news until he spoke with reporters afterwards. There must be a way to relay information to the President while he is doing a speech.

I thought he might learn the news during the rally and speak extemporaneously from the stage. Perhaps he did learn and merely pretended to be hearing the news for the first time as he spoke to reporters, but I'll assume it was genuine surprise when he said, "Wow. I didn’t know that. I just — you’re telling me now for the first time."

Those who think he's a narcissistic weirdo who blurts out inappropriate remarks should take note of the utter appropriateness of what he said with no time to think: "She led an amazing life. What else can you say? She was an amazing woman. Whether you agree or not, she was an amazing woman who led an amazing life. I’m actually sad to hear that. I am sad to hear that."

There was just a slight awkwardness to "Whether you agree or not," which in literal context could be taken to mean, whether you agree that she was an amazing woman. Clearly he meant, whether you agreed with her legal interpretations or not.

ADDED: Here's the video. So evocative, with "Tiny Dancer" just beginning and louder than that voices:

I discussed the "slight awkwardness" to "Whether you agree or not," but it's very clear in the video that he said "Whether you agreed or not," which is much less susceptible to the interpretation that the possible disagreement is over whether she was an amazing woman. He meant whether you agreed with her legal interpretations or not, which I had already thought was clear.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was 5'1", so "Tiny Dancer" feels like a special tribute to her.

AND: The video is so cinematic. You couldn't have staged it, lit it, acted it, and scored it better. Trump's whole-body reaction, the pauses, the double hand gesture — uncannily right. The music is cued perfectly. The backlighting outlining the shoulder. He turns to lumber toward the plane and we see his wide back as the line plays "Ballerina, you must have seen her, dancing in the sand." It makes you cry!

September 18, 2020

At the Friday Night Café...


... we're saying goodbye to the great Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but you should go to one of the 2 previous posts to talk about her and how we will get by without her, so please restrict this post to other topics, all of which are permitted and encouraged.


Photos taken at 6:46 and 7:02. A Type #4 sunrise ripened into an Inky (Type #8). (Here's the post explaining 10 types of sunrises.)

Will Trump and the GOP Senate get a new Justice confirmed before the election?

My first thought was that they won't even try. They'll use the open seat as a political issue — an argument why it is so important to reelect Trump and to keep a GOP majority in the Senate. And the backup plan can be that if Trump loses, they can accomplish the appointment after the election, before the new Senate and President are sworn in. So what if they said something else before the election?!

But then — in discussion here at Meadhouse — the thought came up that this election could be contested. There's so much talk about election fraud and mail-in voting, that there could be Bush v. Gore type litigation arising in various states, and the outcome of the election could well depend on that. Right now, the Supreme Court has only 8 Justices, and though there are presently 5 conservatives and only 3 liberals, a 4-4 tie is possible, with one vote switch, and Trump might want his person on the Court to lock in a conservative majority.

ADDED: The strongest argument for Trump to go right ahead and immediately nominate someone is that President Obama made a nomination in the election year of 2016 when Antonin Scalia died. Obama's nominee was not confirmed, but that was because the GOP controlled the Senate. There was nothing about Obama's lack of support in the Senate that made him more willing to put forward a nomination in an election year. He made the nomination in spite of the lack of support. Why should Trump refrain when he has Senate support?

AND: "McConnell says Senate will move to confirm Ginsburg replacement" (WaPo).
“President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate," McConnell said in a statement hours after the court announced Ginsburg’s death.
Also at that link: "More than 90 minutes after news of Ginsburg’s death broke, President Trump — speaking at a campaign rally in Bemidji, Minn. — seemingly remained unaware of the news.
While closing out the rally, however, Trump alluded to the importance of the Supreme Court’s direction in the upcoming election. 'We will nominate judges and justices who interpret the Constitution as written,' Trump told the crowd, to cheers and shouts. He told his supporters that the next president 'will have anywhere from one to four' vacancies on the Supreme Court to fill. 'Think of that,' Trump said, warning that conservatives would be 'stuck' for decades with a Supreme Court they did not like if the Democrats won in the fall."

And (same link): "Days before she died, Ginsburg told her granddaughter that she felt strongly that her Supreme Court seat not be filled until after the presidential election, according to NPR. 'My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,' she dictated in a statement to her granddaughter, Clara Spera."

Joe Biden ought to come right out and say who he will nominate if he is elected.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died!

I just heard it announced on Fox News.

ADDED: "Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Champion Of Gender Equality, Dies At 87" (NPR).

AND: What a grand figure in the history of American constitutional law! How tenaciously she hung onto life. I remember where I was when I heard that President Clinton had nominated her. I was truly thrilled to have a second woman on the Supreme Court, and I followed her writing so closely over the years. What a giant!


"Many Danes believe children should not be shielded from the realities of life, giving them a lot of unsupervised time to play and explore, even if they might hurt themselves."

"'We recognize the significance of a bruise,' said Sofie MĂĽnster, a nationally recognized expert in 'Nordic Parenting.' 'Danish parenting generally favors exposing children rather than shielding them.' One famous example of how far the Danes take this philosophy was the euthanization and dissection of a giraffe at the Copenhagen Zoo in 2014, where children observed from the front row.... A children’s program featuring naked adults might be taking the Danish approach to the extreme, she admitted. But the Danish way of dealing with easing children’s anxieties over body issues is 'to expose them' to naked bodies....  'On Facebook or Instagram, many people are fashion models,' [a 76-year-old naked woman said to a child who asked why she was doing this]... 'I hope you will understand that normal bodies look like this,' she told the audience, pointing at her naked self.... The recorded episodes, now available in censored clips of the program on YouTube, feature adults with different body types — white, Black, fat, thin, short, tall, old and young. There was John, a person with dwarfism, and Muffe, a man who had small horns implanted under the skin of his bald head.... [and] Rei, who is transgender, had a vasectomy and testosterone treatment, and who identifies as they/them.... 'I’m not used to seeing volunteers butt naked and asking them questions,' [one child] said. 'But we learned about the body and about how other people feel about their bodies.'"

From "A Danish Children’s TV Show Has This Message: ‘Normal Bodies Look Like This’/The program aims to counter social media that bombards young people with images of perfect bodies" (NYT).

"Lena Stringari, the Guggenheim’s chief conservator, said the instructions will be quite easy to follow and are quite complete in addressing questions like how often to change bananas..."

"... (7 to 10 days) and where to affix them ('175 cm above ground'). 'Of all the works I have to confront, this is probably one of the simplest,' Ms. Stringari said. 'It’s duct tape and a banana,' she added. The conservation of conceptual art is not always so straightforward for museums increasingly asked to preserve works made from of all kinds of ephemeral substances, like food. How does one care for a scale model of an Algerian city made out of couscous? A sculpture made of interlocking tortillas? Fruit stuck on a coatrack? (All works the Guggenheim has shown.)... 'Once you think art is an idea and the material is secondary then it does not matter if that material lasts for a long time,”' said Melissa Chiu, director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden at the Smithsonian in Washington. The Hirshhorn has its own conservation specialists who tend to art created from 'time-based' materials that degrade. 'A lot of them are really challenging. The museum’s role in a way is to preserve the work forever.'"

From "It’s a Banana. It’s Art. And Now It’s the Guggenheim’s Problem/Ephemeral works of art, like Maurizio Cattelan’s creation out of fruit, can often pose conservation challenges for the museums that have them" (NYT).

Highly rated comment: "This type of work is infuriating. It puts the rest of us creative types in the awkward position of defending support for the arts when this is what that support is being used for. Sure, in better times, the conversation sparked by the 'work' has value, but the tone deaf absurdity of the thing itself plus its maintenance in this time of national trauma is a bit grotesque."

Maybe work that causes you to think deeply about time and decay is especially valuable during a national trauma.

"Rich guys like rockets, I don’t know, they like rocket, boom."

Context, from "Donald Trump Mosinee, WI Rally Speech Transcript September 17":
We will land the first woman on the moon and the United States will be the first nation to land an astronaut on Mars. And, NASA is now the hottest space center anywhere in the world. And, when I took over three and a half years ago, there was grass growing in the runways, you know that it was closed down, it was a mess. We are now the hottest in the world. You see what’s going up. And, we’ve got a lot of rich guys sending them up too. I liked that better. I said, “Let them do it.” Rich guys like rockets, I don’t know, they like rocket, boom. I see dollars going right up, but they need a good place to launch. We have the best places. We have the best places, so it’s been incredible what we’ve done with NASA.
I'd love to hear Trump's uncensored analysis of rich guys and their rockets. I note the hand gesture. Obviously, it's about masculinity... potency... boom.

"[The real estate agent] took honest photos of the space, capturing the charm, but also the clutter and wear and tear that had accrued over nearly 50 years."

"They listed the loft at $1.99 million, underpriced because of the sale’s many contingencies and complications. The back windows, for example, could not be accessed: one was covered by a metal shutter, a vestige of the building’s industrial past, and the others were obscured by heavy curtains, the path to them blocked by furniture and an unfinished second bathroom.... Ms. Blumstein scheduled two open houses in late January. About 450 people showed up; there were lines around the block. [The owner, Linda] Sampson sat inside, receiving her many visitors and answering questions about her life and the history of the neighborhood. In the end, they received 14 all-cash offers.... With the windfall from the sale, [Sampson] had a rental budget of $6,000 a month, but staying Downtown would have necessitated moving to a much smaller space, which she didn’t want to do. Instead, she signed a two-year lease on a large Tudor-style house in Rego Park, Queens.... 'When someone like Linda leaves SoHo, it loses one of the sparks of light and history,' said her friend, Ms. Albert. 'But then, the neighborhood isn’t what it was. All the people in the arts who had a skill and a talent and a dream, who came and interacted, that’s what made it so special and vibrant. 'Linda and her loft are a piece of the past,' she continued. 'Another piece of the past that’s moving on.'

From "The Last of the SoHo Pioneers/An artist who bought a loft on West Broadway for $15,000 in 1972 sells it for $2.4 million and retires to her home borough of Queens" (NYT). The 18 photographs at the link are fascinating. The clutter is shocking or beautiful, depending on what sort of person you are. Go through the slide show and don't miss photos 12, 13, and 14, which are "virtually staged." That is, you "see" the space completely cleared out and painted white, but all the owner's belongings were still there, and would-be buyers who toured to the place had to wend their way through "pathways" that the agency had "crafted... so people could access the different areas."

Sampson — who is 75 — doesn't really like Rego Park, and she's thinking of coming back to SoHo, even though there's almost nothing left of what made it so great in the 1970s.
"Most of the things I like are gone,” Ms. Sampson said. Dean & DeLuca closed last year and many of the artisan shops that followed in the galleries’ wake disappeared long ago: the fine jewelry stores, Norma Kamali and her famous sleeping bag coats, all the little coffee shops and restaurants. “It’s become very generic,” she said.
I remember when Dean & DeLuca opened. It was 1977. I lived around there at the time. It was the lovely beginning of things getting too upscale. Still, where else can you go? If I were Sampson, with $6,000 a month to spend on rent, I'd pare the possessions down like hell and move back to SoHo.

How can you keep all that stuff at the end of your life? Who will deal with it when you are gone, and how can you yourself keep it in order as you age? I realize she's not a big "order" person, but everyone has their comfort point between order and chaos, and you have to think about where, for you, the balance is tipped.

What just happened?

Trump just leapt 7 points in one day in the "strongly approve" column at Rasmussen.

The change in the approve column was only 2 points. It's the strongly approved that jumped. In one day. Some of that is just the usual imprecision of polls, but that's a huge jump. Did something specific happen? There was the signing of the Middle East agreement. That was 3 days ago.

There was the news that Trump got nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize — for 2 different peace agreements. I see — also at Rasmussen — that "A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 45% of American Adults think Trump should be given the Nobel Peace Prize for the new peace deals and keeping America out of new wars, among other things." 46% say he doesn't, so Biden backers can hold tight to that.

Can it be the 1776 project, designed to go counter the 1619 Project?

"When Christopher Columbus encountered a severe storm while returning from America, he is said to have written on parchment what he had found in the New World..."

"... and requested it be forwarded to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, enclosed the parchment in a waxed cloth and placed it into a large wooden barrel to be cast into the sea. The communication was never found."

From "Message in a Bottle," a Wikipedia article. Lots more message-in-a-bottle stories at that link. Examples:
In December 1928, a trapper working at the mouth of the Agawa River, Ontario, found a bottled note from Alice Bettridge, an assistant stewardess in her early twenties who initially survived the December 1927 sinking in a blizzard of the freighter Kamloops and, before she herself perished, wrote "I am the last one left alive, freezing and starving to death on Isle Royale in Lake Superior. I just want mom and dad to know my fate."...

In 1956, Swedish sailor Ake Viking sent a bottled message “To Someone Beautiful and Far Away” that reached a 17-year-old Sicilian girl named Paolina, sparking a correspondence that culminated in their marriage in 1958. The affair attracted so much attention that 4,000 people celebrated their wedding.
The longest time between a message sent and when it was received, as far as we know, is 151 years. A seaman named Chunosuke Matsuyama sent a message from an island in the Pacific in 1784. It was found in Hiraturemura, Japan in 1935.

The message in a bottle is a popular theme. There's Edgar Allan Poe's story "MS. Found in a Bottle" and there's The Police song "Message in a Bottle":

I'm reading that Wikipedia page after clicking over from "Beachcombing," which turns out to be an extremely interesting subject:


That's a painting by Georgia O'Keeffe. The title is "Coxcomb," and because I like Georgia O'Keeffe, I feel as though I've prevailed in my debate with Meade about whether the name of the flower is spelled "coxcomb" or "cockscomb."

The subject came up in connection with a visual joke I presented in the previous post, which is about a brain wrapped in tinfoil that was found on a beach in Racine, Wisconsin. Along with the brain — which was not a human brain, so don't engage the empathy regions of your human brain — were money and flowers. The visual joke was that that the flowers that belong with a brain are the flowers that look like brains — coxcomb. Or cockscomb.

The truth is, I defer to Meade's spelling. He's the gardener. He's even saying "Celosia," which means nothing to me. In fact, I didn't even know the name "cockscomb/coxcomb." I said something like "What's that flower that looks like a brain?" I knew the flower. Had no idea at all of the name. When he said "cockscomb," I spelled it "coxcomb," and I got my images of the flower all labeled with that spelling. But if you google the other spelling, you get all the images, and now they're labeled "cockscomb."

I was still arguing for "coxcomb" because I'm an aesthete of the visual text, and I think "x" is a great-looking letter. Much lovelier than the "cks" combination. Good for playing Scrabble too — a high-scoring tile. On the other hand, if I say I prefer "cox," I can be accused of shying away from "cocks," that good old-fashioned genitalia word.

But the whole dispute is resolved, I believe, by Georgia O'Keeffe. She spelled it "coxcomb," so "cockscomb" it is.

"UPDATE: Racine police say brain found at park 'not consistent with a human brain.'"

A brain found wrapped in foil Tuesday morning at the beach at Samuel Myers Park was deemed "not consistent with a human brain" according to a Thursday morning email from Racine Police Department Public Information Officer Sgt. Chad Melby.

"At this time it is unsure what type of animal it is," Melby said, noting the Racine County Medical Examiner, who made the determination, is in possession of the brain.
Some people have lost their mind, but others are in possession of the brain.

Imagine beachcombing and finding a brain... a brain in aluminum foil...
Flowers and money were also reportedly found in the package.
A brain in aluminum foil with flowers and money. What kind of flowers? How much money? Small bills? Coins?

ADDED: "At this time it is unsure what type of animal it is." It is unsure? The brain?!! Melby is attributing a high level of cognition to this disembodied brain. You have to do some thinking to reach the state of unsureness. It would probably be more accurate to say that the brain has no thoughts at all — not certitude, of course, but also not uncertainty.

AND: What flower? I'm thinking coxcomb:

Completely debunked?

I understand the fear of Joe Rogan, but don't overstate your factchecking. Business Insider says "Joe Rogan falsely blamed forest fires in Oregon on 'left-wing' activists":
Authorities and fact-checkers have repeatedly debunked the idea that left-wing activists, such as members of the loose-knit antifa movement, have been intentionally setting forest fires.

"FBI Portland and local law enforcement agencies have been receiving reports that extremists are responsible for setting wildfires in Oregon. With our state and local partners, the FBI has investigated several such reports and found them to be untrue," Loren Cannon, the special agent in charge of the FBI office covering Portland, said in a statement posted to Twitter by FBI Portland....

Joy Krawczyk, a representative for the Oregon Department of Forestry, told The New York Times "we're not seeing any indications of a mass politically influenced arson campaign."
But Joe Rogan didn't say there was a "mass... arson campaign."  He said, "They've arrested left-wing people for lighting these forest fires, air-quote 'activists'... people have actually been arrested for lighting fires up there."

While the FBI — as of 9/11/20 — may have "investigated several such reports and found them to be untrue" that doesn't mean that there couldn’t  be other reports that, if investigated, could be true. If you want to "completely debunk" what Joe Rogan said, you have to show that NO LEFT-WING ACTIVISTS HAVE BEEN ARRESTED for lighting any forest fires.

Is this article published yesterday in The Blaze — "At least 13 people have been arrested for West Coast arson crimes" — just a pack of lies? Even if it is, it's enough to make if wrong to say "completely debunked." It names names of 13 persons arrested.

ADDED: The worst problem with Rogan's statement is "these": "They've arrested left-wing people for lighting these forest fires." That could be understood to mean that all of the forest fires are attributable to left-wing arsonists. He talks for hours, so you can hardly expect him to hit rock-solid precision, but it would have been better to say "They've arrested left-wing people for lighting some of these forest fires." If you don't understand "these forest fires" to mean "some of these forest fires," then, of course, it's very easy to go big and proclaim that the claim that you're seeing is "completely debunked." It's 100% untrue that 100% of the fires were set by left-wingers. Duh! But no one is saying that. That's exactly what we call a straw man argument.

September 17, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can write about anything you like.

"After 11 years, Bob Dylan is returning to his fabled Theme Time Radio Hour series, which will take over SiriusXM’s Deep Tracks (Ch. 27) with a brand-new show and a one-week limited-run channel..."

"... featuring every episode of the original Theme Time, starting Monday, September 21 at 12pm ET. First introduced in May 2006, Theme Time Radio Hour was a weekly one-hour radio show hosted by Bob Dylan, with each episode dedicated to a different topic, including Money, Presidents, and Spring Cleaning. The show was among the most-listened-to programs on all of satellite radio. All of Dylan’s classic satellite Theme Time shows will air back to back during the week, including a brand new, never-before-heard episode titled 'Whiskey' a tie-in to his whiskey collection, Heaven’s Door Spirits. In honor of Bourbon Heritage Month, the all-new two-hour episode discusses how whiskey has shaped the world — from music to sports and everything in between.... While Bob Dylan got through three years and 100 episodes without once playing any of his recordings on Theme Time Radio Hour, he did break out a recorder, and launched into Blowin’ in the Wind on one show ('Days of the Week')"

Writes Fred Bals at Medium.

I'm not even real sure I know what a quartermaster is, to tell you the truth.

The OED has a nautical and a military definition for "quartermaster." Nautical: "A petty or warrant officer aboard a warship responsible to the captain for stowing provisions and ensuring the correct trim of the ship, for care of navigational instruments and for steering, and (subsequently) for general discipline." Military: "A regimental officer with the duties of administering barracks, laying out camps, and looking after rations, ammunition, and other supplies." Now... just connect that to ladies clothing, and you're off to the, uh, thing.

"Today is a great day for Trump and football fans. And a bad day for the Coronabros."

Wrote Jason King at Outbreak yesterday.
Donald Trump’s biggest bet is on masculinity.... Midwest people love football, a sport that rouses feelings of toughness, strength and power.... On Wednesday, the President made sure to remind everyone that two weeks ago he called Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren to make the case for the conference to reverse its decision to cancel football season....
There were also "300 phone calls with Big Ten administrators, players, parents and coaches" by "White House representatives."
Almost certainly, Wednesday’s development will impact Trump’s approval rating in the Midwest. The Big Ten includes Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, three states that Trump narrowly won in the 2016 election. Now, during one of the darkest times in recent American history, he’s helped bring back excitement and energy to those states when they needed it most....

Here's that statement from Public Health Madison & Dane County (which doesn't have authority over the UW-Madison campus):

If Madison throws away money on this, we taxpayers should revolt.

I'm reading — and fuming over — "Attorney: Madison City Council could investigate, censure council member for vulgarity" (Wisconsin State Journal).
At one point during a marathon, sometimes tense, online council meeting that stretched from a Tuesday evening to early Wednesday, a man’s voice was heard uttering an expletive right after a Madison resident’s name was read so she could speak during public comment at about 2:45 a.m. Video of the person who said the profanity did not pop up in the Zoom meeting when the word was spoken.
The "expletive" some people hear is "cunt," but it's not clear that's what the man was saying. It could just as well be "Come on," with the "on" not discernible, but if you're told you're about to hear "cunt," you'll probably hear it. So maybe the word was said, and maybe the voice was that of Ald. Paul Skidmore, 9th District. Ald. Rebecca Kemble, 18th District, thinks it was him, and 13 other council members have signed a letter saying it was him and the word said was "cunt."
 They got City Attorney Michael Haas to respond with a 7-page memo:

"I affirm whatever I think has the best chance of working, of being both inspirational and unsentimental, of reasoning across the categories of false division and beyond the decoy of race."

Said Stanley Crouch, quoted in "Stanley Crouch, Critic Who Saw American Democracy in Jazz, Dies at 74/A prolific author, essayist, columnist and social critic, he challenged conventional thinking on race and avant-garde music" (NYT).
Espousing that pragmatism, he found ready adversaries among fellow Black Americans, whom he criticized as defining themselves in racial terms and as reducing the broader Black experience to one of victimization. He vilified gangsta rap as “‘Birth of a Nation’ with a backbeat,” the Rev. Al Sharpton as a “buffoon,” the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan as “insane,” the Nobel laureate Toni Morrison “as American as P.T. Barnum” and Alex Haley, the author of “Roots,” as “opportunistic.”

By contrast, he venerated his intellectual mentors James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray, who, by his lights, saw beyond the conventions of race and ideology while viewing the contributions of Black people as integral to the American experience.

"Evers, a longtime school administrator who’s prone to peppering his speech with 'by golly' and 'holy mackerel' — and who voters chose in part for his no-drama approach to politics — has been thrust into a cauldron of racial tension and violence."

"It’s an awkward fit for the subdued 68-year-old, and the reviews of his response to the turmoil in Kenosha — among other facets of his job performance — aren’t encouraging.... [W]hile Evers is still above water in polls, his approval rating slid 6 points after his handling of the Kenosha unrest. Democrats say it’s obviously better to have Evers at the helm than Walker heading into November.... But interviews with more than two dozen activists, strategists, local officials and voters surfaced serious concern that in such a pivotal year, in such a pivotal state, Evers is diminishing what should be a significant advantage for the party. Rather than act as an attack dog or savvy politico who helps amplify Joe Biden’s message to combat President Donald Trump, they say, Evers instead has allowed Republicans to cast him as weak and ineffective.... Numerous Democrats complained in interviews that Republicans are running roughshod over Evers, including during the Covid-19 crisis. 'Is he governing? Because it doesn’t feel like it,' said one Democratic party activist, who requested anonymity to express his frustrations with Evers candidly.... Former Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, recounted in an interview how his political machine helped John Kerry and Barack Obama carry the state in 2004 and 2008, respectively. 'In both of those elections it was really my political organization that was kind of at the heart of where most of the work was done — most of it was ground work,' Doyle said. That’s not going to happen this time...."

From "Dems fear Wisconsin governor is becoming a liability for Biden/Tony Evers' performance — especially his response to the Kenosha riots — is diminishing what should be a significant edge for the party" (Politico).

Trying to get some work done...

"It’s probably the fastest selling flight in Qantas history. People clearly miss travel and the experience of flying."

Said a spokesperson for Qantas, quoted in "Australian air carrier’s seven-hour scenic ‘flight to nowhere’ sells out in 10 minutes" (WaPo). The plane will take off and land in the same place — no stops along the way — in order to comply with the coronavirus restrictions. People paid $575 and $2,765 (U.S. dollars) for this plane ride. I guess the big price difference reflects the importance of a window seat.

"In recent years, the Justice Department has sometimes acted more like a trade association for federal prosecutors than the administrator of a fair system of justice based on clear and sensible legal rules."

"In case after case, we have advanced and defended hyper-aggressive extensions of the criminal law. This is wrong and we must stop doing it.... We should want a fair system with clear rules that the people can understand. It does not serve the ends of justice to advocate for fuzzy and manipulable criminal prohibitions that maximize our options as prosecutors.... Advocating for clear and defined prohibitions will sometimes mean we cannot bring charges against someone whom we believe engaged in questionable conduct. But that is what it means to have a government of laws and not of men.... If criminal statutes are endlessly manipulable, then everything becomes a potential crime. Rather than watch policy experts debate the merits or demerits of a particular policy choice, we are nowadays treated to ad na[u]seum speculation by legal pundits — often former prosecutors themselves — that some action by the President, a senior official, or a member of congress constitutes a federal felony under this or that vague federal criminal statute. This criminalization of politics is not healthy. The criminal law is supposed to be reserved for the most egregious misconduct — conduct so bad that our society has decided it requires serious punishment, up to and including being locked away in a cage. These tools are not built to resolve political disputes and it would be a decidedly bad development for us to go the way of third world nations where new administrations routinely prosecute their predecessors for various ill-defined crimes against the state. The political winners ritually prosecuting the political losers is not the stuff of a mature democracy.... Our job is to prosecute people who commit clear crimes. It is not to use vague criminal statutes to police the mores of politics or general conduct of the citizenry. Indulging fanciful legal theories may seem right in a particular case under particular circumstances with a particularly unsavory defendant—but the systemic cost to our justice system is too much to bear."

Said Attorney General William Barr at the Hillsdale College Constitution Day event yesterday.

The NYT covered Barr's speech under the headline "Barr Defends Right to Intrude in Cases as He Sees Fit/The attorney general’s remarks scanned as a rebuke of career Justice Department lawyers who have questioned his level of involvement." This article portrays the speech as a response to accusations against Barr:

September 16, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can write about whatever you want.

"For All We Know"... there are 2 songs with this title.

The 1934 song:

And the 1970 song:

I'm listening to both this morning after getting way too involved in the use of the word "for" as a conjunction as opposed to a preposition — after a doctor had said "for my wife and I," which is grammatically wrong if "for" is a preposition there. In the song title — in 1934 or 1970 — "for" is a conjunction... or, no... it's a preposition... right??

The Carpenters' song was in the 1970 film "Lovers and Other Strangers," which I've never seen. It won the best song Oscar that year. The older song is something I've heard many times, by so many different singers. It's much more familiar to me. It seems like the better song: "For all we know/We may never meet again/Before you go/Make this moment sweet again." The kindliest love-'em-and-leave-'em song. It's about living in the present. "So love me, love me tonight/Tomorrow was made for some/Tomorrow may never come/For all we know."

The phrase "for all we know" is an acknowledgment of the unknowability of the future. The older song tells us to be here now, because there may be no future at all. The newer song — I'm calling it newer though it's much older than the 1934 song was in 1970 — imagines a very long future and stresses the love that goes on an on forever: "Let's take a lifetime to say/I knew you well/For only time will tell us so/And love may grow/For all we know." Or does that final "for all we know" reveal the singer's doubt?

ADDED: "Lovers and Other Strangers" was the occasion for the first film appearance of Diane Keaton:

"Residents at a Chinese housing complex who looked forward to living in a verdant 'vertical forest' found themselves in a veritable hell..."

"... with mosquitoes swarming their eco-paradise, according to a report. The experimental green project at Chengdu’s Qiyi City Forest Garden attracted buyers for all 826 apartments, but it also attracted the pesky insects that gave the towers a post-apocalyptic facade...."

The NY Post reports.

This is why you need to test your ideas of paradise.

By the way, aren't there a million stories where people think they have found paradise and then they realize it is hell?

But what I don't understand is — it's China — why don't they just fumigate like mad? I know it's supposed to look like an eco-paradise, but do they really care about the use of insecticide? That surprises me. I'm suspicious of this story. Please entertain me by concocting a conspiracy theory.

"If President Trump defies today's swing-state polls and pulls off another upset, what will we have missed that could have been a clue?"

That's one hell of a "we" from Axios!

The article is "The Trump identity and fashion statement" (Axios) and please click through and see the photograph — just a collection of Trumpsters, but oh, that shirt!

I've put some thought into what would be the thinking of a man who went out in that shirt — true love for Trump? amorphous rowdy enthusiasm? fun getting in the face of those who would call him deplorable? — but then I switched to thinking about the mind set of editors who would choose that man in that shirt to influence readers to feel alienated from Trump supporters — to comfortably read that "we" without stopping to question the us-versus-them presentation.

The answer to the question above — what clue will we have missed? — is:
Trump flotillas ... Trump flags bigger than American flags ... Trump truck rallies ... Trump shirts ... Trump underwear ... lawns that don't have a Trump-Pence sign or two but 50 or even 100 — a forest.
That's a lot of clues. But I get the point.
To his diehard supporters, Trump isn't just a candidate. He's a lifestyle choice and a vehicle for self-expression — a way to continually flip the middle finger at big media, big business, big government ... anything big....

Axios CEO Jim VandeHei: "In your lifetime, do you ever remember a Ronald Reagan flag as big as the American flag in somebody's front yard? Do you ever remember someone spray painting 'Obama' on their boat?"...
The article presents a "bottom line":
Trump touts a "silent majority," and pundits pundit about "shy Trump voters" who may be missed by pollsters. But one of the stories of this election is that the Trump vote is screaming, not silent.
So there are the out-and-proud Trumpsters, but that doesn't mean "the shy Trump voters" are not real. It may make the shy ones even shier to see the overt ones so exuberantly expressive.

"Randy comes to terms with his role in the COVID-19 outbreak as the on-going pandemic presents continued challenges to the citizens of South Park."

"The kids happily head back to school but nothing resembles the normal that they once knew...."

"Every treatment so far shown to help coronavirus patients... is intended only for seriously ill hospitalized patients. Those with mild to moderate disease have had to wait and hope for the best."

But now: "A single infusion of an experimental drug has markedly reduced blood levels of the coronavirus in newly infected patients and lowered the chances that they would need hospitalization, the drug’s maker announced on Wednesday."

Writes Gina Kolata in "An Experimental Drug Protects Covid-19 Patients, Eli Lilly Claims/A so-called monoclonal antibody lowered blood levels of the coronavirus and prevented hospitalizations. The research has not yet been vetted by independent experts" (NYT).

I was trying to figure out why the headline is written to heighten skepticism and imagined that enthusiasm about a new drug is considered Trumpish.
Dr. Myron Cohen, director of the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said he was impressed. “It’s exciting,” said Dr. Cohen, who was not involved in the study. The clinical trial appears to be rigorous, and the results are “really compelling.” Other companies, too, are developing monoclonal antibodies to combat the coronavirus, he noted: “This is the opening of a door.”...

In six months, Eli Lilly isolated an antibody from one of the first Covid-19 survivors, turned it into a drug and began a study, enrolling the first patients on June 17. “It was an all-out effort,” said Dr. Daniel Skovronsky, the company’s chief scientific officer. The goal was to enroll patients as soon as they were infected, but that meant accelerating the usual selection process. Trial sites administered rapid diagnostic tests and moved quickly to enroll eligible patients....

The investigators expected that their drug might produce a reduction in the amount of virus in patients’ blood. They did not anticipate a sharp reduction in patients who needed hospitalization. “This is the first time we have ever seen anything of this magnitude,” Dr. Skovronsky said....
The article ends with this quote from Dr. Cohen:  “For my wife and I, who are older and fatter — we are waiting for drugs like this so we can see our grandchildren.” I know there are bigger problems in this world, but: 1. Don't call your wife fat in the New York Times, and 2. Come on, you're a doctor, get the grammar right. (It's "for my wife and me," not "for my wife and I.")

Also from Eli Lilly: "Anti-inflammatory drug may shorten Covid-19 recovery time/Eli Lilly said it planned to discuss with regulators the possible emergency use of baricitinib for hospitalized Covid-19 patients" (Politico).

September 15, 2020

At the Tuesday Night Café...


... you can write about anything you want.

For some people, only death could tear them away from California.

"President Trump will preside over a White House signing ceremony Tuesday in which Israel will establish formal ties with two Arab states, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, in what Trump calls the flowering of his Middle East peace plan."

"The agreement, called the Abraham Accord in honor of the three Abrahamic religions rooted in what is now Israel and surrounding lands, lays the ground for diplomatic, economic and other ties between Israel and two Persian Gulf neighbors," WaPo reports.

Since it's the Washington Post, it's interesting to check the highest rated comment, which is sure to trash Trump. The only question is how. Here:
Typical Trumpian PR stunt. How can you negotiate a "peace deal" between countries not at war and that have been cooperating with each other for years? This isn't a peace deal but an arms deal disguised as a peace deal in which the UAE and Bahrain get access to the latest American weapons while Israel continues to brutalize the Palestinians. Nor does this stop Israel's annexation of the West Bank because Israel has already annexed the West Bank in all but name with its extensive network of illegal settlements. True peace requires freedom for the Palestinians, the chance to live their lives out from under the boot-heel of Israeli occupation.

"The Columbia University Marching Band announced Saturday it would dissolve due to intrinsic, irreparable damage caused by the club’s structure, which was 'founded on the basis of racism' and 'cultural oppression.'"

The Daily Caller reports.
Following a Sept. 12 meeting to discuss anonymous postings that alleged the band’s involvement in sexual misconduct, assault and racism, among other things, the band “unanimously and enthusiastically decided to dissolve” after 116 years of performance, according to the band’s statement Monday.

“The Columbia University Marching Band apologizes for insult and injury victims have experienced as a result of actions perpetrated in its name,” the statement continues. “The Band has maintained a club structure founded on the basis of racism, cultural oppression, misogyny, and sexual harassment.”

Despite reform efforts, the band found it “impossible to reform an organization so grounded in prejudiced culture and traditions.”

I photograph the sun and a swimmer.


Photo by Meade.

My photo (a bit later):


"A black hole as massive as Earth would be about the size of a Ping-Pong ball and would be exceptionally hard to see."

"No such primordial black holes have been detected yet. But neither has their existence been ruled out. Dr. Scholtz and Dr. Unwin pointed out that an experiment called OGLE, for Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment, based at the University of Warsaw in Poland, had detected the presence of a half-dozen dark objects in the direction of the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Their gravitational fields had acted as lenses, briefly amplifying the light from distant stars that they drifted in front of. Those objects could be free-floating planets, the authors said, with masses ranging from half to about 20 times that of Earth. But they could as easily be primordial black holes floating around the galaxy, the astronomers proposed. If that were the case, the putative Planet Nine could well be a black hole, too, in a distant orbit around the sun.... The prospect of finding a black hole in our own solar system 'is as startling as finding evidence that someone might be living in the shed in your backyard,' [wrote Avi Loeb, chair of the astronomy department at Harvard]. 'If so, who is it, and how did it get there?'"

From "Is There a Black Hole in Our Backyard?/Astrophysicists have recently begun hatching plans to find out just how weird Planet Nine might be" (NYT).

"But after a long day at work I just want the option of coming home and not talking to anyone, making whatever I want to eat and not worrying about anyone else."

"I don't even feel like I sleep as well when I share a bed with my boyfriend; I prefer having sex and then coming home to my own apartment to sleep. Something about being alone truly relaxes me."

From a letter to the WaPo advice columnist, from a woman who does want eventually to marry and have children and who wonders if she needs therapy or if she'll just get over her preference for living alone. The columnist doesn't give much of an answer: You have conflicting needs, so they'll only be met imperfectly. 

I'd say that for some people the traditional answer is their best answer: Don't live together until you marry and don't marry until you're ready to to have kids and put family first. Why should the person who doesn't want to live together unmarried be the one who has to justify her preference?

"A fake FBI raid staged Monday by a notorious right-wing activist and conspiracist turned into an embarrassment for The Washington Post, which briefly reported the faux-event as if it were the real deal."

"The 'raid' on a house in Arlington, Va., actually involved actors recruited by Jacob Wohl, who has a history of making false accusations and has orchestrated dubious events in an effort to smear perceived opponents of President Trump. This time, Wohl recruited actors to pose as FBI agents, telling them they would be participating in a scene for a 'TV pilot,' one of the actors involved told the Daily Beast. The actors donned FBI-style windbreakers and pretended they were raiding a house during early-morning hours. It appears Wohl used photos of the event to trick a reporter into believing that Wohl’s longtime associate, Jack Burkman, was being targeted by law enforcement officials. The intended purpose of the deception was not clear. In a story written by Metro reporter Rachel Weiner, The Post briefly reported Monday that a real FBI raid had taken place. The story was updated about two hours later to note that the raid was a fabrication and later taken down entirely with an editor’s note in its place saying it 'was published because The Post failed to obtain appropriate confirmation.' The story unfolded as a confluence of outright falsehoods by Burkman and Wohl coupled with lapses by Post journalists...."

From "A fake FBI raid orchestrated by right-wing activists dupes The Washington Post" (in The Washington Post).

Here's The Daily Beast report: "Jacob Wohl Staged Fake FBI Raid on Business Partner, Actor Hired for Production Says."

"I fear that former vice president Joe Biden would be a figurehead president, incapable of focus or leadership, who would run a teleprompter presidency..."

"... with the words drafted by his party’s hard-left ideologues. I fear that a Congress with Democrats controlling both houses — almost certainly ensured by a Biden victory in November — would begin an assault on the institutions of government that preserve the nation’s small 'd' democracy. That could include the abolition of the filibuster, creating an executive-legislative monolith of unlimited political power; an increase in the number of Supreme Court seats to ensure a liberal supermajority; passage of devastating economic measures such as the Green New Deal; nationalized health care; the dismantling of U.S. borders and the introduction of socialist-inspired measures that will wreck an economy still recovering from the pandemic shutdown. I fear the grip of Manhattan-San Francisco progressive mores that increasingly permeate my daily newspapers, my children’s curriculums and my local government. I fear the virtue-signaling bullies who increasingly try to dominate or silence public discourse — and encourage my children to think that their being White is intrinsically evil, that America’s founding is akin to original sin. I fear the growing self-censorship that guides many people’s every utterance, and the leftist vigilantes who view every personal choice — from recipes to hairdos — through their twisted prisms of politics and culture. An entirely Democratic-run Washington, urged on by progressives’ media allies, would no doubt only accelerate these trends.... With Donald Trump, I know what I am getting. He wears his sins on the outside...."

From "I never considered voting for Trump in 2016. I may be forced to vote for him this year" by Danielle Pletka, senior vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute (WaPo).

That column has over 12,000 comments. Top-rated: "I'm really tired of closet Trump supporters playing the victim. You know voting for Trump is wrong so you go out of your way blaming others for your bad behavior." Second-highest:
I read this a couple of times and could only shake my head. Lady, you either vote for absolute corruption or a chance to redeem. No other choice now. And if you think the Democrats are forcing you to vote for Mr. Trump, you are either a pretty cowardly person who won't take responsibility for her choices, or you are a fraud. I suspect both. I know you work for a very, very conservative organization. That's ok. What's not ok is blaming someone else for the choices you are yourself ashamed that you will be making. You vote for Mr. Trump? You vote against our country. Period. Own it.

In the scramble to blame the west-coast fires on Trump, the NYT says Trump "scorns science."

The words appear on the front page, "Trump Scorns Science as Fires Rage; Biden Calls Him 'Climate Arsonist'":

You can see the idea they're using: "Climate took center stage in the election as President Trump denied global warming had any role and Joe Biden said this denial had fed the destruction." The NYT is saying that the failure to concede that global warming had some role in the fires is a rejection of science. And I guess we're expected to see Joe Biden as a science devotee for saying the fires are as bad as they are because of the denial of global warming, though "climate arsonist" isn't scientific terminology.

Clicking through to the article, I see the headline is "As Trump Again Rejects Science, Biden Calls Him a ‘Climate Arsonist’/The president visited California after weeks of silence on its wildfires and blamed the crisis only on poor forest management, not climate change. 'I don’t think science knows' what is happening, he said."

If he said "I don’t think science knows," is it fair to say he "scorns science"? I'd say it sounds as though he's interested in the process of science. Yes, he's stressing forest management, but is the NYT denying that forest management has had any role in the destructiveness of the fires? If I talked like the NYT, I'd say the NYT is scorning science for denying the role of forest management. See how that works?

Now, I can see the caginess of saying Trump "blamed the crisis only on poor forest management." Does that mean Trump has said that the fires have only one cause, poor forest management? No, though a quick reader might think it means that, it really only means that the only cause — among all the causative factors — that Trump is talking about is poor forest management. But if he said "I don’t think science knows" the role of climate change, then he is talking about potential other factors.

Ugh. It's so annoying to sift through this. The NYT should present the news in a coolly neutral fashion. But it is my chosen task to pull the propaganda apart, so I will continue. From the text of the article:
A day of dueling appearances laid out the stark differences between the two candidates, an incumbent president who has long scorned climate change as a hoax and rolled back environmental regulations and a challenger who has called for an aggressive campaign to curb the greenhouse gases blamed for increasingly extreme weather....
I don't think Trump has called climate change a hoax! Ridiculous! The "hoax" he talks about has to do with the assertions that human beings have made about climate change. If you actually care about science, journalists, you ought to be scrupulous about your words. You ought to see imprecision like that. So sloppy. So political.

September 14, 2020

At the Blue Mound Café...


... you can write all night.

Secondary vantage point:


Trump is up for Joe Rogan's offer to host 4-hour debate. Is Biden?

"Knowing the date of their death appealed to a little over a quarter of those surveyed, knowing whether their partners were cheating appealed to over half..."

"... knowing if there is life on other planets appealed to nearly three-quarters. There was also great variation in reported willingness to pay for that information, with median bids ranging from $1 for credit card late-fee disclosure to $200 to know if heaven exists."

From "Accused of Ruining Popcorn, Cass Sunstein Wants to Repent," a NYT book review, by Clay Shirky, of Sunstein's new book, "TOO MUCH INFORMATION/Understanding What You Don’t Want to Know."

"Among government reformers and progressive regulators (like Sunstein himself, a decade ago), increasing access to information has been regarded as an obvious goal since Watergate. The book doesn’t replace that generational certainty with a new one, but it does make it impossible to continue regarding information disclosure as an uncomplicated good."

"I was starting on this year's Halloween projects and kept seeing 'Karen' pop up in my news feed and thought, 'Damn this is the real monster of 2020.'"

Said Jason Adcock, quoted in "A Los Angeles artist is selling $180 'Karen' Halloween masks, calling them 'the real monsters of 2020'" (Business Insider).

"[T]here's one major difference between this film and the Steven Soderberghian Contagion-like reality we're all living in."

"Because in this movie, the virus is not fatal. It doesn't even cause a fever or a cough. Instead, the main and only symptom is absolute euphoria. That's it. Everyone it infects experiences unbridled happiness and elation. Its victims begin acting kindly to one another, deferential."

From a "This American Life" segment on a 1968 movie called "What's So Bad About Feeling Good?" Transcript. Audio (recommended).

It's a rom com — with Mary Tyler Moore and George Peppard — about a toucan that spreads a virus in New York City. There's massive infection, everyone feels great, stops smoking and drinking, and the political authorities determine that's bad for the economy, so the immediately find a cure for the disease. George Peppard is cured and confronts the uncured Mary Tyler Moore:
Liz: No. Don't ask me to go back. Pete, remember what we had. Remember it. Cling to it.
Pete: You're kidding yourself. Hinklemeyer's right. You talk about goodness and kindness. Read the front page and try to find some.
Liz: Pete, I can't go back. I couldn't live that kind of life, ever again.
Pete: Okay, you drink your poison, and I'll drink mine.

I invite Trump supporters to make the argument for his reelection based on his actual achievements.

For the purposes of this post, please refrain from making any arguments about Trump's rhetoric, personality, behavior, or how he makes you feel.

Help me make a list of Trump's achievements — stated in a neutral, factual way. These should be real-world achievements of the sort that a more normal-seeming President could have made. No bullshit (or "malarky").

"More American Men Now Wear Bracelets Than Eat Stew" — the meme.

Explained... at Know Your Memes.
On August 12th, 2020, Adam Carolla tweeted, "More American males now wear bracelets than eat stew," eventually gaining over 970 retweets, 2,100 quote tweets, and 6,100 likes.... [There were] parodies imagining the scenario where a man chooses to wear a bracelet over eating stew...

"Plague, fire, economic collapse and the daily reminder that we have a president who isn’t qualified to be head of a local block association … Come on, give me some happy headlines."

That's how Gail Collins begins her conversation with Bret Stephens in "Let’s Fret the Night Together/The Biden campaign and the world it’s playing out in are making us all nervous wrecks" (NYT).

Notice what's not on the list: "Plague, fire, economic collapse and [Trump]." Collins doesn't mention the riots! Sometimes a choice not to say a thing makes it more obvious than if you quietly mixed it in on a list.

I'll read the conversation anyway. At least the headline acknowledges anxiety about Biden.

I'll summarize. Stephens seems to interpret Collins's request for good news as a desire for reassurance that Biden will win. Stephens tortures her with the reminder that the polls were wrong in 2016, and his intuition is that Trump will win. He invites her to "tell me I’m wrong." And all she has is "You're wrong."

Pressed for some substance, she says Trump represented change in 2016 and now he doesn't. Stephens points out that Biden is an ancient Washington fixture, like Mondale and Dole.

Collins switches to complaining about the Electoral College — an old topic and something that has absolutely zero to do with the list of things that "are making us all nervous wrecks." It's more of a retreat into a fantasy world. It's like bellyaching that women have the vote. Or musing about the superiority of a "philosopher king."

They fret about the potential for a contested outcome. Wouldn't a big landslide be nice, saving us from a disturbing battle? They talk about the level of landslide needed to make Trump and his supporters stand down. But what will it take to make the Biden side accept a Trump victory? Did they ever accept the 2016 Trump victory? I think not.

Collins and Stephens muse about what it would take for Biden to "turn this into a romp." Stephens observes that the Woodward bombshell fizzled. He utters the sentence, "What works best against Trump is mockery, not moral thunder." As if there's some mockery of Trump left to be mocked. He's survived it all and responded with better mockery. He's probably the best mocker who's ever existed in the history of the United States, that I can tell you.

Collins says she'd like Biden to challenge Trump to a push-up competition again. It would be "an excellent reminder that whenever the president tries to depict Biden as old and doddering, we’re talking about a physically fit 77-year-old whose age is being attacked by an out-of-shape 74-year-old." Hey, Gail, the worry with Biden isn't about physical strength. It's about the brain.

Bret piles on "'Out-of-shape' is putting it delicately." I'm just about to do an image search on Stephens and Collins. Are they fat? Whether they are or not, most Americans are. Body-shaming is out of touch with America. Doesn't mean I didn't do that image search. Here: Collins and Stephens. Why should I read them if they are — or one of them is — not physically fit? Oh, and isn't there something Hitler-y about this demand for physical fitness?

After this, the conversation goes nowhere. They mention the upcoming debates and recommend trying to relax by watching football, going for walks, and having a dog.

September 13, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can write all night.


"We hope they die" chanted the protesters blocking the entrance to the emergency room for 2 deputies shot in an ambush.

I'm reading "2 California deputies shot in apparent ambush in patrol car" (WaPo):
The 31-year-old female deputy and 24-year-old male deputy... were shot while sitting in their patrol car at a Metro rail station [in Compton, California] and were able to radio for help, the sheriff said.... “The gunman walked up on the deputies and opened fire without warning or provocation,” the department stated. ...

Protesters gathered outside the emergency room at the hospital where the injured deputies were being treated. “To the protesters blocking the entrance & exit of the HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM yelling “We hope they die” referring to 2 LA Sheriff’s ambushed today in #Compton: DO NOT BLOCK EMERGENCY ENTRIES & EXITS TO THE HOSPITAL,” the sheriff’s department tweeted. “People’s lives are at stake when ambulances can’t get through.”

A radio reporter who was near the protest scene was taken into custody, KABC-TV reported. The sheriff’s department later tweeted that the reporter interfered with the arrest of a male protester....
The response from our President:

Is the shooter a child? He/she looks shorter than the top of the car.

This is what it's like...

ADDED: It's like a Jules Feiffer cartoon come to life.

ALSO: I'm reminded of the point in the 2011 Wisconsin protests when it seemed as though things had turned into "some sort of glamour protest."

(Photo by Meade.)

You can watch the sunset of news stories at Mememorandum River.

Memeorandum is my favorite place to find news stories to blog. It displays them according to some mysterious automatic process that reflects what people are talking about. You get the headline with a link, then the names of places that are discussing it — including Althouse, sometimes — all linked.

For example, right now, the top of the page is dominated by the story that Michael Bloomberg is going to spend $100 million to benefit Joe Biden. (Rich people have a right to spend their own money to say whatever they want to say. It's not a contribution, so there is and can be no limit on the amount spent.) That story pushed down what was dominating a little earlier today, the headline "Roger Stone calls for Trump to seize total power if he loses the election."

I don't know if Stone really said that, but I also don't care what Roger Stone says. I'm satisfied to see that story sink, and it made me wonder: What about Woodward? Is he still getting talked about, what with that new book of his and something he heard Trump say last winter, something about Trump knowing Covid-19 was going to be terrible but wanting also to inspire optimism. I searched the Memeorandum front page. Woodward was gone.

Now, a nice thing about Memeorandum is that you can click to reformat it as Memeorandum River. In the River format, the stories that appear on the main page are simply in chronological order. So you see the date and time that a much-discussed article first appeared on Memeorandum. There were lots of stories about the new Woodward book. It was a big deal last week. Has it slipped out of active discussion already? With Memeorandum River, I can see the last time there was anything new. It was 12:10 p.m. on September 11th: "Senate Republicans scramble to contain fallout from Woodward bombshell" (The Hill). Well! I guess the "fallout" is contained. The Hill had collected some bland statements by Republicans. Stuff like: "I just wonder whose vote will be changed by a Bob Woodward book."

In the a.m. of September 11th, there were 3 stories:
9:25 AM Wall Street Journal: Woodward's Non-Revelation — There's no need for the tell-all books. Trump tells us every day...
9:07 AM Howard Kurtz / Fox News: Why Trump talked, though he feared an ‘atrocious’ book from Woodward...
7:25 AM CNN: Vulnerable Republicans avoid criticizing Trump after admission to Woodward about downplaying virus
I won't bother to make links. You can see the story dying in those headlines.

When did the Woodward story begin?, you may wonder. The River answers that question: September 9th. Last Wednesday. Such a bombshell that day! Remember? It lasted 3 days. You can see it rise and fall over at the River.

"The Ambitious Guest."

I was rereading the excellent Roz Chast memoir "Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?" when I got to the page "Dirty Checkers":

This time through the book, I stopped, loaded Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Twice-Told Tales" into my Project Gutenberg app and read "The Ambitious Guest" right then and there. Why live at the base of a mountain that is regularly signaling its willingness to roll down and bury you? They had their reasons. What's the point of moving on? The man who would move on got buried too. And indeed, when they heard the mountain collapsing they ran out of the house, to their safe spot, and the mountain spared the house and flattened them in their safe spot. Maybe stay where you are. If you jump somewhere else, that may be the very spot where you'll get killed.
The next morning the light smoke was seen stealing from the cottage chimney up the mountain-side. Within, the fire was yet smouldering on the hearth, and the chairs in a circle round it, as if the inhabitants had but gone forth to view the devastation of the slide and would shortly return to thank Heaven for their miraculous escape. All had left separate tokens by which those who had known the family were made to shed a tear for each. Who has not heard their name? The story has been told far and wide, and will for ever be a legend of these mountains.... Woe for the high-souled youth with his dream of earthly immortality! His name and person utterly unknown, his history, his way of life, his plans, a mystery never to be solved, his death and his existence equally a doubt,—whose was the agony of that death-moment?