October 3, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...

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... you can write about whatever you like.

"Poetic Justice."

That's the title of the podcast about today's posts, which you can listen to here or wherever you get your podcasts.

With GOP Senators testing positive for covid, "Will the Senate Have a Quorum to Confirm Judge Barrett?"

Asks Jonathan Adler (at Reason):
There are 53 Republican Senators. As of this morning, three Republican Senators (Tillis, Lee, and Johnson) have tested positive. This means there are only 50 Republican Senators who can attend Senate proceedings. (The Vice President does not count for these purposes.) So if Senate Democrats boycott proceedings, they might be able to grind Senate business to a fault....
To a fault? I'm guessing he meant to say "to a halt." Anyway... Adler observes the Judiciary Committee has been allowing members to participate remotely, so it can reach its quorum that way. And someone needs to be present to raise the quorum issue, and that person — one of the Democrats — would be the 51st Senator. So there's a quorum without Tillis, Lee, and Johnson. Also, under Article I, section 5, the Senate can ask the sergeant-of-arms to go get missing Senators and drag them to the floor.* Lastly, they could try to authorize remote attendance for the full Senate and include the quarantined Senators that way (but that has its own procedural difficulties, described at the link). Adler also notes that 2 of the covid-positive Senators seem to have caught the disease at the ceremony announcing the Barrett nomination.

That is the literary device known as poetic justice.
Notably, poetic justice does not merely require that vice be punished and virtue rewarded, but also that logic triumph. If, for example, a character is dominated by greed for most of a romance or drama, they cannot become generous. The action of a play, poem, or fiction must obey the rules of logic as well as morality. During the late 17th century, critics pursuing a neo-classical standard would criticize William Shakespeare in favor of Ben Jonson precisely on the grounds that Shakespeare's characters change during the course of the play. When Restoration comedy, in particular, flouted poetic justice by rewarding libertines and punishing dull-witted moralists, there was a backlash in favor of drama, in particular, of more strict moral correspondence.
 _________________

*In 1988, Republican Senator Bob Packwood was arrested and carried into the Senate chamber:

"The man whose father told him there are only killers and zeros, the man who cruelly castigated others as losers, the man who was taught to fear losing above all else..."

"... has been doing some very public losing of his own. Upsetting as it is to see the president and first lady facing a mortal threat — and the glee and memes from some on the left were vulgar — it was undeniable that reality was crashing in on the former reality star.... Tuesday’s debate pierced another reality that Trump had been hawking on Fox for months — that his opponent was an addled husk who would need performance drugs to stand at the podium, and that Trump would stride in like a colossus and clobber him in a trice. Instead, the ugly reality was there for all to see: Trump was truculent, whiny and nasty, and Joe Biden was fine. Trump was indecent, on everything from white supremacists to Hunter Biden’s addiction, and Biden was decent. And, in the end, the con man in the Oval Office could not con the virus. He was a perverse Pied Piper of contagion, luring crowds to his rallies and events on the White House lawn, even as he mocked the safety measures recommended by his own government, sidelined and undermined Dr. Anthony Fauci, and turned the mask into a symbol of blue-state wimpiness.... It seemed inevitable that Trump would get infected, given his insouciance on the issue of protective measures combined with his age, weight and ambitious travel schedule. He seemed oddly intent on tempting fate...."

That's Maureen Dowd, detailing the narrative arc of tragedy, in "Reality Bursts the Trumpworld Bubble/In a moment that feels biblical, the implacable virus has come to the president’s door" (NYT).

"Department scientists then tried to glue a tracking device to the [murder] hornet, in hopes of following it back to its nest. But the glue didn’t dry fast enough..."

"... and the tracking device slipped off just as they were about to release the hornet. The glue also stuck to the hornet’s wings, rendering it unable to fly....'You do have to be very patient and wait till it dries,' [said Washington State Department of Agriculture entomologist Sven Spichiger. 'But when you’re handling an Asian giant hornet, obviously, it doesn’t want you handling it.' He said the department had peppered the area with 30 traps baited with orange juice and rice wine in an effort catch and tag another live hornet."

From "Washington State Officials Hunt for Colony of 'Murder Hornets'/The search has taken on particular urgency as the Asian giant hornets are about to enter their 'slaughter phase,' during which they kill bees by decapitating them" (NYT).

Rice wine, presumably, because they're from Asia. From last May in the NYT: "In Japan, the ‘Murder Hornet’ Is Both a Lethal Threat and a Tasty Treat/Long before the insects found their way to American shores, some Japanese prized them for their numbing crunch and the venomous buzz they add to liquor."
The giant hornet, along with other varieties of wasps, has traditionally been considered a delicacy in this rugged part of the country. The grubs are often preserved in jars, pan-fried or steamed with rice to make a savory dish called hebo-gohan. The adults, which can be two inches long, are fried on skewers, stinger and all, until the carapace becomes light and crunchy. They leave a warming, tingling sensation when eaten.
The Japanese know how to do stuff. We're out here trying to glue electronic devices to the little devils, and they are finding sophisticated, elegant ways to savor the carapace. I'd like "Savor the carapace!" to replace "Save the liver!" in a remake of this classic comedy routine....


"BPP. That should be the name of the channel. Big Potential Problems."

I say out loud, overhearing CNN heads yammering after the President's doctor gave his little press briefing. There must be problems. They commentators are urgently, fervently trying to scare up some Orange-Man-Bad news. I hear the phrase "big potential problems" and start writing this post. Before I can get to the end, I hear "potentially disturbing revelations." The word "potential" appears over and over. They're so hot to come up with some stories, just brainstorming in front of the cameras. We're laughing.

UPDATE: Now they've reported that Chris Christie — who was involved in Trump's debate prep — has tested positive.

Also on CNN, Dr. Sanjay Gupta nails the serious anti-Trump theme: "It could have been avoided with basic public health measures." Yes, why wasn't Trump scrupulously protected? I presume he chose not to accept the protection, and that protecting the President from disease is not like protecting him from other kinds of physical threats, where security experts overrule the President's preference.

A clearer recording of that birdsong...

Yesterday, I asked for help identifying a bird, but it was hard to hear in the recording. Some listeners thought loon, others screech owl.

Today, I got a much clearer recording:



ADDED: From email sent by "Tom":
100% certain it's a Screech Owl (probably Eastern given your location). Banded many of them when I was doing bird banding (now just monitoring). Ferocious birds for their size. Will take American Robins, Blue jays, etc. They will cache food in American Kestrel nestboxes over the winter (once found 15-20 mice in a box). Would routinely find birds that they had taken headless - a signature tell that a Screecher took that bird.

"Wow. Not a word about Dilbert. I thought I could return to Althouse for the straight skinny on the bizarre Scott Adams meltdown. Guess there’s a lid on Dilbert."

Wrote jacksonjay, in last night's Sunrise Café.

It's more work to pick up an issue that is presented in audio. Am I supposed to transcribe and explain? It's not like blogging the written word, where I can cut and paste and edit down to what's important. When people speak in podcasts, they expand and repeat themselves, so even if I were willing to transcribe, I wouldn't get the kind of text I can get from the written word. So there's a big disincentive to blog.

As for this recent thing — which I take it is Adams's assertion the day after the debate that Trump just lost his vote by not denouncing white supremacy forcibly enough — I thought it was the audio equivalent of clickbait, so I had some resistance to it. I'm supposed to explain it and have a reaction to it? Why? Wait a day and everything changed. He explained that he didn't like that jerks of the left didn't welcome him into their fold, so he was back on Trump's side, because righties, being the unpopular kids, are happy to have anybody halfway like them.

Yeah, that's not a verbatim transcription. That's just my vague memory after listening to 2 or 3 podcasts. Podcasts are evanescent. The written word, now that's something. Just the other day on one of my podcasts — I forget which one — Meade and I were talking about how Trump has built real-world things that have to work and hold up, while the editors of the NYT could not even get from the beginning to the end of a single column without it collapsing into incoherence. The column metaphor was noted at the time. You see it when a physical thing like a building lacks structural integrity, but words are so strong, they stay there on the page exactly as written, no matter how irrational.

But in blogging, you can take that text and demonstrate what's wrong with it. You attack text with text. But if you're doing text — blogging — it's hard to get at anything other than text. It's a text-on-text endeavor, mostly. You could blog podcasts... but for the most part, that's a mug's game.

IN THE COMMENTS: Ralph L questioned jacksonjay's phrase "straight skinny":

"I ask you to blame the Russian Federation for my death."

Wrote Irina Slavina on Facebook, quoted in "Russian editor dies after setting herself on fire" (BBC).
Irina Slavina was editor-in-chief of the small Koza Press news website. Its motto is "news and analytics" and "no censorship". Its website went down on Friday, as news of her death was confirmed. She was one of seven people in Nizhny Novgorod whose homes were searched on Thursday, apparently as part of an inquiry into [the pro-democracy group] Open Russia. Last year, she was fined for "disrespecting authorities" in one of her articles.... In a Facebook post on Thursday, she said 12 people had forced their way into her family's flat and seized flash drives, her laptop and her daughter's laptop as well as phones belonging to both her and her husband....

The investigative committee insisted that Slavina was only a witness in their case - "and neither a suspect, nor accused, in the investigation of the criminal case", a spokesperson told Ria Novosti. That criminal case appears to focus on a local businessman who allowed various opposition groups to use his spoof church for forums and other activities including training election monitors. Mikhail Iosilevich created the so-called Flying Spaghetti Monster church in 2016 whose followers were dubbed Pastafarians....
Here's the Wikipedia article "Flying Spaghetti Monster." There's no mention of Iosilevich, and activities go back to before 2016. It wasn't invented in Russia, but presumably people all over the world take up Pastafarianism as they see fit. In the U.S., it seems to be a way to make fun of serious religion, to make atheism less grim, and to litigate about freedom-of-religion issues. Try to imagine how it would be used in Russia, where the landscape of freedom is completely different.

Irina Slavina was 47 years old, according to Wikipedia, which gives some insight into the seriousness of humor:

October 2, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...

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... you can write about whatever you like.

Watching the helicopter in front of the White House, waiting to take Trump to Walter Reed Medical Center.

Lots of speculation from the TV talking heads. Will Trump walk to the helicopter? Will he speak? Why hasn't he communicated all day? How sick must he be? What's this experimental drug?

Name-changing in Madison.


I have a "Jeremy Ryan" tag but don't know if it's the same Jeremy Ryan. That choice of new middle name suggests that it is. To my ear, it's life saying the Jeremy Ryan. Don't know why the "f" is capitalized.

If it's the Jeremy Ryan I've written about in the past, here's his Wikipedia page.

Waking up to the hot news this morning.

Get ready for Jim Carrey as Joe Biden.

We've kept quiet and waited patiently, and now what we expected to hear is announced.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports:
Madison police announced Friday morning that they were not able to corroborate allegations made by a Madison woman that she was burned by four white men in Downtown Madison in June in what was initially reported as a hate crime.

Althea Bernstein, 18, of Monona, told police she had a lighter fluid sprayed on her and was set on fire on June 24 by four white men after one of them yelled a racial epithet.

But in a statement Friday morning, Madison police said it is "closing the investigation into this case. After an exhaustive probe, detectives were unable to corroborate or locate evidence consistent with what was reported."

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division came to the same conclusion, according to the statement....
In mid-August, I asked:

"Borat 2 trailer reveals Sacha Baron Cohen was the Trump impersonator who interrupted Mike Pence's CPAC speech."

"Vice President Mike Pence didn't know it at the time, but when he delivered his speech at CPAC earlier this year, he was actually taking part in a secret sequel to Borat," Yahoo News reports.

Here's the trailer for the film, which seems to be titled "Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan":

"Harvest Moon Morning."

That's the title of today's audio version of the blog — which you can play here — or subscribe to in various places, including iTunes, where it is up right now. The audio version includes all the text of the blog thus far this morning, plus quite a bit of added commentary, and is only about 25 minutes long. I will update the same episode when there are additional posts.

A new birdsong at dawn on Lake Mendota today — can you tell me what it is?



It's soft but clear at the beginning of this video, which scans the same expanse seen in the "Rainbow Panorama" 2 days ago. And do notice the moon at the beginning of the video. I'll give you a still for reference:

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It did not look yellow to the naked eye. It looked white. It is a full moon. It's the Harvest Moon!

Overheard at Meadhouse: "You don't mind if I have your voice in this video?"/"I don't know — what was I saying?"/"Oh, nothing"/[Squawks]/"It was an unusual Meadsong."

"If Trump and Pence both get very sick, it’s not clear who would be president/President Pelosi? Invoking the Succession Act would lead to chaos."

That's the headline on a May 20, 2020 WaPo article by lawprof Sanford V. Levinson, which is getting tweeted about this morning as there's a lot of wild talk about Nancy Pelosi becoming the first woman President laterally — that is, breaking not the glass ceiling by opening the glass window that never had a working lock anyway.

It's good to have some sober, thoughtful, professional analysis standing by:
Should only the president become ill, then the vice president can take over, following the protocol laid out in the 25th Amendment. But if the vice president becomes incapacitated as well, then we could face a constitutional crisis. It would be triggered by the inadequacies of the Presidential Succession Act passed in 1947 (when there was no vice president, because Harry Truman had succeeded Franklin D. Roosevelt)....

This is hate speech against the disabled — the idea that if you have something physically wrong with you, you can't do your job.

"Over the course of three years, the number of Americans who say that they feel justified in using violence to achieve their political goals has gone up from 8 percent to over 33 percent."

The shocking/not shocking headline this morning is: "Trump Tests Positive for the Coronavirus."

Subheadline — in the NYT — imposes the narrative: "The president’s result came after he spent months playing down the severity of the outbreak that has killed more than 207,000 in the United States and hours after insisting that 'the end of the pandemic is in sight.'"

When did this begin? Was he sick at the debate? I thought he looked weary, and his performance was off. He seemed under-powered at his Minnesota rally the next day. Did he expose Joe Biden? Both Trump and Joe have extra vulnerability.

Can we stop talking about what Trump failed to say exactly right about white supremacy as the debate? That was already over-played.

The VP debate next week looms large. We've been talking about how Kamala Harris is perhaps secretly the real presidential candidate, and now we can say the same thing about Mike Pence.

October 1, 2020

At the Tenacious Tree Café...

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... you can write about anything you want.

"She has always been a night owl, but has recently become nocturnal, typically going to bed around 8 a.m. She attributes the change in her sleep pattern to the news, which she says she watches constantly."

In case you were wondering if it is possible for you to live your life like Stevie Nicks. Yes, it is. Put on the TV news and watch the news all night. Go to bed after a few of the morning shows. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Oh! The glamour!

I'm getting my info from "The moonlight confessions of Stevie Nicks" (Yahoo reprint from L.A. Times).
She does not have a computer. She does have an iPhone, but it doesn’t have cellular service and she uses it only as a camera. Despite her distaste for social media, Nicks has gone viral a few times in recent months. Earlier this week, the internet discovered a TikTok video in which "doggface208" skateboards while singing along to Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams," swigging from a container of cran-raspberry juice and generally living his best life.
Oh, yeah, I saw that. It underscores the notion that Stevieness is accessible to all:

If you think you need to change the rules, you must be revealing that you believe you lost.

That's the meaning of this new Trumptweet:

Sumac, dawn light.

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"Mr. Drudge 'effectively invented clickbait,' wrote the Columbia Journalism Review."

"Frank Rich, writing in The Times in 1999, said he was a 'grandstander whom many, I included, once feared as the Devil of journalism incarnate.'... [Journalist Matthew Lysiak, author of 'The Drudge Revolution'] said in an interview that rival websites are 'licking their chops — they see blood in the water.' But he noted that there may be another factor in Drudge Report’s recent loss of traffic: the rise of social media. 'Matt Drudge was always first at everything, but not anymore, not even close — Twitter’s first,' Mr. Lysiak said. 'For years now, people have been wondering who the next Drudge is, but it isn’t a person. It’s a social media revolution, and he sees that writing on the wall.' But Mr. Drudge has a deep desire, and a talent, for staying relevant, Mr. Lysiak said. Betting big on Mr. Trump did the trick in 2016. Betting against him could work this time around. Mr. Lysiak suggested that readers who expected Mr. Drudge’s site to stay true to one line of political thought were misguided. 'In reality, while Matt Drudge has his own personal political opinions, his website has absolutely no loyalty to any political party or ideology,' he said. 'Now he’s thinking long-term, really putting his political capital on a Biden candidacy. And if that happens, he will once again weaponize his site on behalf of more conservative causes.'"

From "Drudge Report, a Trump Ally in 2016, Stops Boosting Him for 2020/A rift between the president and the online news pioneer Matt Drudge is playing out in pithy headlines and needling tweets as the campaign heats up" (NYT).

But wait... didn't you hear that Matt Drudge sold The Drudge Report (and that's why it changed)? Here's "Matt Drudge rumored to be seeking investors for Drudge Report" (NY Post)(also quoting Lysiak):

"Biden continually interrupts Ryan in a way I find incredibly annoying."

I'm rereading my live-blogging of the October 11, 2012 debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. It's making me view Trump's debate behavior in a different way. I hated the way Biden treated the very polite, earnest Midwesterner Ryan. Excerpts (with timestamps omitted):
Biden is being rude, laughing and mouthing words.... Biden mutters an interruption. When Biden is given a turn, he calls what Ryan said "malarky."... Ryan is speaking earnestly... and Biden is chuckling toothily, his body shaking like Santa Claus.... When Ryan speaks, Biden is laughing clownishly again. It looks just awful... Biden is acting as though he cannot physically tolerate Ryan having a turn to speak!... Biden continually interrupts Ryan in a way I find incredibly annoying.... While Ryan is talking... Biden sighs long and loud... Biden interrupts. Ryan says: "Mr. Vice President, I know you're under a lot of duress to make up for lost ground, but I think everyone will be better served if we don't keep interrupting each other." I love the politeness of "if we don't keep" — we — when Biden has been an interruption machine and Ryan has barely interrupted and only occasionally has talked over to keep from losing his turn. The moderator, Martha Raddatz has done nothing at all to control Biden.... The stress level is rising. Biden is so angry. Why is he yelling? Ryan needs nerves of steel not to lose his cool. I'm impressed that Ryan, when he gets his turn, is able to speak in an even, natural voice. It's hard to concentrate on the policy itself, because the emotional static is so strong... That debate was so annoying! Some of the CNN commentators are talking about how Biden did what he came to do, to fire up the Democrats. "This was not for the independents," says Van Jones. Okay, well, but independents were watching, and Biden was horribly rude. He created this disturbing atmosphere of anxiety.
Debating Trump, Biden got a big serving of what he dished out 8 years ago. Ryan did a fantastic job of maintaining his cool, staying substantive, and going high when Biden went low. And then he lost the election. I'm sure Biden would have been willing to do what he did in 2012 and be completely rude and irritating as hell once again, but he's 8 years older, and, more importantly, Donald Trump is not Paul Ryan. Trump is Trump, and Trump saw the ultra-polished and polite Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan go down to defeat.

There's an audio version of the blog.

If reading is too much trouble or you want to read with your ears — and maybe get some extra commentary — you can listen to today's posts in "The interconnectedness of the frazzlement."

I'll add segments to that episode as there are new posts. You can subscribe to the daily reading of the posts as a podcast. I'm still learning the software.... I had to take down this post while I fixed something. The post is back. The podcast is fixed. 

ADDED: You can subscribe at iTunes now and at other podcast places. Just search for "The Althouse Podcast." I just updated today's podcast to include the newer posts. If you listen, I'd love to get a 5-star rating or a nice review.

"But the people who run our great institutions do not want trouble. They fear controversy. They lack faith in the intelligence of their audience."

"And they realize that to remind museum-goers of white supremacy today is not only to speak to them about the past, or events somewhere else. It is also to raise uncomfortable questions about museums themselves—about their class and racial foundations. For this reason, perhaps, those who run the museums feel the ground giving way beneath their feet. If they feel that in four years, 'all this will blow over,' they are mistaken. The tremors shaking us all will never end until justice and equity are installed. Hiding away images of the KKK will not serve that end."

From "Open Letter: On Philip Guston Now" (Google docs), via "The Philip Guston Show Should Be Reinstated/An open letter, signed by nearly 100 artists, curators and critics, accuses four museums of 'hiding away' from controversy. A long postponement is an admission these institutions are not up to the job" (NYT). We talked about this controversy on the blog a few days ago, here.

The NYT art critic Jason Farago writes:
For as the artists suggest in their open letter, the reason to reinstate “Philip Guston Now” is not, or certainly not only, because he passes some anti-racist litmus test. It is to continue and accelerate the transformation of our museums into institutions that can do justice to the work of all artists and the experiences of all publics. A museum unequipped to exhibit Guston will never be able to show truly “problematic” artists like Paul Gauguin or Francis Picabia — but just as inevitably it will fail [Matthew] Barney’s mythopoetic melding of bodies, [Joan] Jonas’s culturally hybrid meditations on gender and climate, [Adrian] Piper’s exacting probes of self and stereotypes.
Barney, Jonas, and Piper are all signatories of the open letter. The NYT critic says, "Really, a museum unequipped to exhibit Guston is barely a museum at all, or else only a museum in the most derogatory sense: a dusty storehouse of dead things." And then he suddenly, in his last paragraph, talks about... can you guess?

"I don’t know how many other multimillionaires are out there, ready to devote the limitless resources at their disposal to supporting pyramid schemes run by dangerous criminals."

Said Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, quoted in "Clare Bronfman Is Sentenced to 81 Months in Nxivm ‘Sex Cult’ Case/'Will you never stop?' a former member of the group asked Ms. Bronfman, a Seagram’s heir, who used her family fortune to intimidate critics of Nxivm, prosecutors say" (NYT).
Nine victims of Nxivm spoke with emotion about how their lives had been destroyed by Ms. Bronfman, leaving behind ruined marriages, careers and reputations. Some of them said Ms. Bronfman sued them relentlessly, drove them into bankruptcy and even persuaded local prosecutors to initiate criminal charges against them....

"[A]n overhaul of the Army’s physical fitness training field manual... rebranded this week as the FM 7-22 Holistic Health and Fitness manual... has chapters on setting goals, visualizing success, 'spiritual readiness' and, yes, the art of the nap."

The NYT reports.
“Soldiers can use short, infrequent naps to restore wakefulness and promote performance,” the new manual advises. “When routinely available sleep time is difficult to predict, soldiers might take the longest nap possible as frequently as time is available.”...

To promote good sleep, the manual warns soldiers to avoid video games, texting and other screen activity before bed, and recommends winding down by “listening to soothing music, reading, or taking a warm shower or bath” instead. It also says to avoid alcohol before sleep....
 I didn't even know you could take a bath in the Army.  There are bathtubs?
During deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, commanders often failed to prioritize sleep. Changing schedules, long duty shifts and overnight missions led to chronic fatigue that fueled a voracious dependency on energy drinks, which left many troops feeling frazzled....
The article discusses "feeling frazzled," but not suicide and PTSD. The mental problems of military personnel obviously extend to much more serious conditions than the feeling of frazzlement, but this article is trying to be a bit light, perhaps coaxing women into trying on the Army lifestyle:
The manual also has... a section on the importance of spirituality, with entries on meditation, journaling and how the “act of serving others” helps some soldiers realize the “interconnectedness of all things and people.”
The interconnectedness of all things and people — that would include the enemy. I'd like to hear more about how the realization of the interconnectedness of all things and people makes an effective military, but I'm not going to say it doesn't. It's never been my job to be prepared to do violence to my fellow human beings.

On the subject of making the Army woman-friendly, I must add that my mother was a WAC in WWII. I never heard my mother say one word against the Army, and I myself have the highest regard for the Army. I know for a fact that I wouldn't exist if it weren't for the Army, because that's where my parents met. I do have a wistful heart-twinge for the nonexistent offspring of the 2 marriages that would have happened if my mother and father had continued their young lives where they had grown up and gone to college. And that's enough journaling for me right now.

On the subject of feeling frazzled, I wondered where the word "frazzle" comes from. Is it a real word or slang? The OED marks it as "slang or colloquial (originally dialect)." What's it slang for? It comes from "fray" — what happens to the edges of a piece of cloth. "Fray" is used metaphorically to refer to human emotions, just like "frazzle," but "frazzle" sounds more nervous — something about those Zs, like "dazzle" and "sizzle" and "fizzle" and "drizzle."

"I really enjoyed last night’s debate with Sleepy Joe.... The verdict is in and they say that we, we, all of us, won big last night.... In the history of cable television, it had the highest ratings...."

"Last night, I did want [to do what] the corrupt media has refused to do. I held Joe Biden accountable for his 47 years of lie, 47 years of betrayal, and 47 years of failure. I held Joe accountable for shipping your jobs and dreams abroad, and for bowing to the violent mob at home. Can you imagine these people the way they take over these Democrats cities? I don’t even believe it. The whole nation saw the truth.... Joe Biden is too weak to lead this country. You know Biden lost badly when his supporters are saying he should cancel the rest of the debates. Now, I understand he’s canceling the debates. Let’s see what happens. I think that’s not going to be a good move. I don’t think that’s going to be a good move. Television, with those ratings, they’re never going to let them cancel. You don’t know television like that. What are they going to do? Someday, we’re not going to be doing this anymore. What are they going to do without Trump? What are they going to do?... What are they going to do when in eight, 12, maybe 16 years, I said, 'Let’s hang it up. Let’s hang it up.' 16 more years. But what he’s doing is what you do when you lose. So, let’s see what he does. I don’t think he’s going to get that. I’ve got news for Joe. If you ever became president, you have to deal with some of the toughest people in the world, and Chris Wallace is very, very easy by comparison. I will tell you. I know him. I know him well. Liberal media is upset that I took the fight to Biden and exposed his very dangerous agenda...."

From "Donald Trump Duluth, Minnesota Campaign Rally Transcript September 30: Night After First Debate" (REV).

That's the discussion of the debate. He claims to have won because the ratings were so high. That's his measure of success. But he's wrong about the ratings! According to Nielsen, the NYT reports, there was a 13% decline from the first presidential debate in 2016 — 73 million vs. 84 million.  But 73 million is still a lot, and perhaps the Nielsen numbers came out late and Trump was relying on some earlier estimate. Getting the fact wrong isn't as bad as excessive reliance on ratings. People were watching, but what did we think of the event? What did we think of him? I've seen some very negative reviews. Ah, well, you could say that he's forefronting the ratings because it's his best point. Maybe he knows he screwed up.

And he did screw up, in retrospect. He kept up the pressure on Biden — with constant interruptions and abuse — and Biden held up and stood his ground. The strategy failed, and now he has to worry that Biden can refuse to do the other debates. Biden can say he proved what he needed to prove, and Trump proved that he will be abusive, and it would be wrong to give Trump another chance to behave like that.

Trump used to be able to say Joe is hiding in his basement because his people don't want you to see that he's in a state of sad geriatric decline. Now, he's switched to saying the show must go on because the ratings are high. He's talking showbiz: "Television, with those ratings, they’re never going to let them cancel." He knows television: "You don’t know television like that." You don’t know television like I know television. He's a TV star. They can't cancel his show! It's huuge!

He raves "What are they going to do when in eight, 12, maybe 16 years, I said, 'Let’s hang it up. Let’s hang it up.' 16 more years."  Who's the "they"? The media, I think. What will they do without him and his ratings? TV wants Trump to have a second term because Trump is good TV. Everyone wants to watch the show. The Biden show will be so dull. No one will want to watch. You know, some of us think it would be good for Americans to turn away from the politics on television. It really is quite shallow and soul-deadening. But somehow, with Trump, we can't turn away.

If it's all about the ratings, winning the election is getting the show renewed. He'll win because it's a good show. He'll be renewed not just for 8 years but "12, maybe 16 years." Why'd he say 12 or 16 when he's term-limited at 8? Because it's good TV. It gives the talking heads something to talk about. They can't resist. They've already shown that they love to get melodramatic about the potential for Trump to find a way to refuse to leave office when his term is up. That's the kind of junk news TV we steep our brains in night after night. Trump says we're addicted to it, and the media know. They're our suppliers and that's how they make their money. So that's why he'll win the election. They're going to renew The Trump Show.

What a sick, sad delusion! Or... if you get Trump and you're still with him, you can say something like: Trump is a tireless optimist. He knows it went badly for him last night, but he won't feel sorry for himself and he won't give up. He talks about whatever is best. Here, it's the ratings and the greatness of the TV show he's making spontaneously day to day, for us, the people. Yes, he exaggerates the numbers — the ratings, the potential years he can hold office — but the heart of it is true. It is a great show — a cage match. And there should be no feeling sorry for Joe Biden. He deserved a hard fight, and he'd better come back for 2 more fights, and Trump will trash talk and taunt him until he does.

September 30, 2020

At the Rainbow Panorama Café...

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... you can write about whatever you like.

Click image to enlarge.

"The Murder Hornets Come Out at Midnight."

"On Aug. 8, 1974, Lillian Brown, a longtime makeup artist for presidents, was urgently summoned to the White House, where she saw President Richard M. Nixon sobbing."

"Engulfed by the Watergate scandal, he was about to go on national television and announce that he was resigning. If he didn’t stop crying, she knew, his makeup would streak down his face. 'He was in bad shape,' Ms. Brown recalled years later. 'We had six minutes to air, and I thought, What can I do for this man?' She tried humor. She reminded him of the time one Christmas when his Irish setter, King Timahoe, kept bumping into the tree and destroying the ornaments. To get the dog away from the tree, Ms. Brown took him into a bathroom, and somehow, as if scripted by the Marx Brothers, she, the dog and Nixon all ended up locked in the loo by the Secret Service. Nixon burst into laughter. With no time to spare, Ms. Brown made him presentable, and he went before the cameras."

From "Lillian Brown, Makeup Artist to Nine Presidents, Dies at 106/She did more than powder noses; she advised on diction and apparel and helped commanders in chief put their best selves forward for television" (NYT).

Biden tried to aggravate Trump by calling him "man" over and over.

From the transcript: The first thing Biden said as he walked out onto the stage was: "How you doing, man?" Obviously that was planned. Trump returned a more polite: "How are you doing?"

18 minutes in he said: "Will you shut up, man?" The context was that the moderator (Chris Wallace) had asked Biden whether he supported packing the Supreme Court. Biden had refused to answer this question before, as Wallace noted, and he didn't want to answer it now:
Whatever position I take on that, that’ll become the issue. The issue is the American people should speak. You should go out and vote. You’re voting now. Vote and let your Senators know strongly how you feel.
Why shouldn't Court packing be an issue that the American people would take into account as they vote?! He should make clear what Democratic control of the White House and both houses of Congress would mean so that if people do vote for the Democrats, they are saying they want Court packing. And it's not just about the Senators. It takes a statute to increase the number of seats on the Court. This answer is blatantly deceptive. Or is it clear that Biden does support Court packing and just doesn't want to take responsibility for it? Biden could be against it but know that some Democrats would hold that against him.

It's understandable that Trump interrupts here: "Are you going to pack the Court?"

Have you noticed this?

Just a little experiment of mine.

Asked to tell white supremacists to "stand down," Trump said "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by." Stand by?!

Let's look at the transcript of last night's debate:
Chris Wallace: You have repeatedly criticized the vice president for not specifically calling out Antifa and other left wing extremist groups. But are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha and as we’ve seen in Portland.

President Donald J. Trump: Sure, I’m willing to do that.
That's oddly clever. Asked "are you willing," he says "I'm willing." That's very literal, but the question invited him to do it, not to say he's willing to do it. Why not forthrightly take the cue to do it? Say "White supremacists and militia groups: You need to stand down." Just do it. What holds him back? Wallace has to re-prompt:
Chris Wallace: Are you prepared specifically to do it?
He doesn't even say the equivalent of "I'm willing" this time. He could be cleverly literal again and say, "I am prepared" (instead of doing it). But this time he changes the subject to the other side is worse:

"I am strong... I am invincible... I am woman."



Goodbye to Helen Reddy.

With a big spot of dawn sun shining on my hair, I point at a rainbow.

Photo by Meade:

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Photo by me, seconds later:

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"Oh! The market doesn't like that Biden won the debate!"/"Maybe what the market doesn't like is that all we've got now are 2 idiots."

Overheard at Meadhouse.

Asked to explain why he "end[ed] racial sensitivity training" in federal agencies, Trump should have been able to state clearly what Critical Race Theory is.

At the debate last night — transcript — Chris Wallace led by equating "racial sensitivity training" and "critical race theory" and tossed in "systemic racism":
This month, your administration directed federal agencies to end racial sensitivity training that addresses white privilege or critical race theory. Why did you decide to do that, to end racial sensitivity training? And do you believe that there is systemic racism in this country, sir?
Trump began well:
I ended it because it’s racist. 
But he should have said clearly why he regards it as racist! Why would "racial sensitivity training" be racist? I know the argument, but not everyone does, and whether we know it or not, Trump should have capsulized the reason for regarding the kind of training that's been going on as racist. What he said next was:
I ended it because a lot of people were complaining that they were asked to do things that were absolutely insane. 
What things?! It's just a weird assertion, "things that were absolutely insane."

September 29, 2020

Here's a place to talk about the debate.

I probably won't talk about anything until tomorrow, but I'll try to approve comments for at least a little while. I expect to fall asleep. It's starting too late! I don't know how old man Biden — and old man Trump — can take these late hours. And I'm in the Central Time Zone. 

ADDED: My son John is live-blogging here.

Who will stop the sun?

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"Hairstylists recommend using copious amounts of gel, wax, or K-Y Jelly to ensure your hair stays looking as wet as your face does all day."

From a piece at the The Cut about "all the wet-hair looks that walked at Milan Fashion Week": "Models wore hair that ranged from sopping-wet to kind-of-sweaty, adding some much-needed variety and versatility to the general 'wet-hair look.'"

A glimpse of what that looks like:



I remember when the wet head died:

When the great painter Edward Hopper was a teenager, he painted copies of paintings by other artists — an utterly ordinary approach to learning how to paint.

But the NYT is making a weird huge deal out of this insignificant discovery: "Early Works by Edward Hopper Found to Be Copies of Other Artists/A grad student’s discovery 'cuts straight through the widely held perception of Hopper as an American original,' without a debt to others, a Whitney curator said."

Give me a break! These paintings by the teenager are not the Hopper paintings we've known and loved over the years. They're not the basis of any arguments about his Americanness and originality.

Let's look more closely at this article — by Blake Gopnik — and see what's really going on, why this inconsequential information is inflating into an exposé. Now, it is pretty cool that a scholar was able to find the exact images — the rather bad paintings — that teenaged Hopper used in his fumbling early efforts to manipulate oil paint.

Buried in the NYT article is the concession from the scholar (Louis Shadwick) that in those days "artists almost always got their start by copying." The article is marked as "updated," and I suspect that this is the updating. So let's continue:
A Londoner, [Shadwick] especially wants to understand the notion of “Americanness” that Hopper grew up around, and that then grew up around Hopper as his reputation matured; it still rules much of the talk about him....

In our new century, when the country’s place in the world seems less sure by the day and when even Americans are split on the state of their nation — does it need to be made great again or does it need to face up to past failures? — a “national” treasure like Hopper seems to beg for a fresh approach.
So this story is important because it fits the MAGA-versus-BLM theme of 2020?! Hopper embodies sentiments and modes of thinking that need interrogating.

"It wasn’t pretty the whole way. We took a beating sometimes, had ups and downs, and we were able to find a way and sneak in."

Said Christian Yelich, quoted in "Can The Brewers Beat The Dodgers? Christian Yelich Thinks So/Milwaukee's Offense Needs To Turn Things Around If The Brewers Hope To Make A Playoff Run" (Wisconsin Public Radio). The Brewers finished the season — the 60-game season — at .483. They were in 4th place in their division. But somehow they're in the playoffs. They're going up against the Dodgers, who finished the season at .717. But maybe they can "find a way and sneak in."

Here are the predictions for the playoffs at FiveThirtyEight. I don't understand how they're doing the playoffs in this crazy year. Why is the worst team playing the best team at this stage? Here's an explanation:

"The government allows income to be sheltered from taxation for hundreds of different reasons...."

"[T]he formidable complexity of the tax code makes it difficult to tell when wealthy taxpayers have crossed legal lines. For the rich, taxation often becomes a kind of structured negotiation between the taxpayer’s experts and the government’s experts... Mr. Trump claimed a tax refund of $72.9 million in 2010, according to the Times report; the government paid the claim, and then opened an investigation. If Mr. Trump loses, he could owe the government more than $100 million in repayment, interest and penalties. It should not take federal authorities more than a decade to determine whether Mr. Trump has paid the full amount he owes.... On Tuesday night, when Mr. Trump and his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, take the stage for their first presidential debate, both men should be asked what steps they will take to ensure that all Americans pay the full amount they owe...."

So says the Editorial Board of the NYT in "The Picture of a Broken Tax System/Donald Trump’s tax returns illustrate the profound inequities of the tax code and the shambolic state of federal enforcement."

I read the whole thing, and here's what bothers me. First, they suggest that there are too many loopholes in the tax code that rich people take advantage of. The code is so complicated, that motivated tax payers will interpret what they can to their advantage, use it, and argue with the government about it.

It makes me think of my old law school tax professor who liked to say that a tax return is an offer, and you see if the government accepts it or makes a counteroffer. Trump made his offer in 2010, and the government accepted it, and sent him $72.9 million refund but also kept investigating. It's 10 years later, and they're still hovering over him, threatening to take it back — with interest and penalties.

The NYT editors say that the IRS needs more more funding so it can quickly and aggressively enforce the existing tax code. The headline speaks of "the profound inequities of the tax code," but the editors never get around to proposing eliminating loopholes and complexity. Why not? Is it because what they want is to get Trump, and changing the law prospectively is irrelevant to that goal? The only thing that relates to Trump is that the investigation is taking too long. If only the IRS could be more aggressive perhaps they could have figured out by now whether it agrees with Trump's interpretation of the over-complicated law or not.

September 28, 2020

September rain.

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Sean Ono Lennon weighs in.

"GOP senators seek to ban transgender girls from female sports/Under the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act, schools that allow 'biological males' to compete in girls athletics would lose federal funding."

NBC News reports.

Jill Biden at the Daisy Cupcake Cafe!


ADDED:

Grapes.

Why didn't Joe Biden work on changing the tax laws in all those decades in Congress? He's responsible for the system that Trump, as a private citizen, was forced to operate within.


ADDED: It's unAmerican to use the phrase "get away with" to refer to following the law. It's like accusing me of speeding when I'm going 75 in a 75 mph zone. I'm not "getting away with" it. I'm going the speed limit! Change the speed limit if that's the wrong top speed. Crimes are the things that have been defined as crimes. It's particularly irksome for a legislator to talk like that — shifting the blame for the legislature's own failures.

AND: Trump's tweeted response to the tax revelations:
The Fake News Media, just like Election time 2016, is bringing up my Taxes & all sorts of other nonsense with illegally obtained information & only bad intent. I paid many millions of dollars in taxes but was entitled, like everyone else, to depreciation & tax credits..... Also, if you look at the extraordinary assets owned by me, which the Fake News hasn’t, I am extremely under leveraged — I have very little debt compared to the value of assets. Much of this information is already on file, but I have long said that I may release... Financial Statements, from the time I announced I was going to run for President, showing all properties, assets and debts. It is a very IMPRESSIVE Statement, and also shows that I am the only President on record to give up my yearly $400,000 plus Presidential Salary!

"Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have reportedly agreed to film a fly-on-the-wall reality show..."

"The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were initially expected to only remain behind the camera for their multi-year deal with Netflix.... The pair will allow Netflix cameras to follow them for three months in a 'tasteful' docuseries as they go about their new life in ritzy Montecito, California.... Another source insisted that the docuseries will mostly focus on their 'philanthropy rather than what they get up to behind closed doors,' and it is not clear if cameras will be allowed in their new $14 million mansion.... 'We were told they had gone to California for greater privacy so it all appears rather hypocritical,' Ingrid Seward, editor of Majesty Magazine, told The Sun. 'It is extraordinary. This is exactly what they said they wouldn’t do. The more they talk about themselves the more people will want them to do just that and won’t be interested in anything else they have to offer.'... [Piers Morgan said] 'At what point does the penny drop that she came over here, took our prince and now Mrs. Privacy is making a $150 million fly on the wall documentary where every part of their lives is going to be filmed?'"

From Page Six.

How dumb would they need to be to believe they could be paid $150 million to appear on camera doing philanthropy?! Of course, we must get inside their California mansion. But what will make them interesting in there? Him bumbling about and her running the show? Ha ha. I'm picturing something like Season 1 of "The Osbournes."

ADDED: Here's my post from the Harry-and-Meghan wedding day. I observed the body language:


Did anyone count the number of times Harry touched his face?... ... I don't want to be awful... but Harry kept touching and rubbing his face and I just couldn't help thinking about Harry's mother and what I know about the thoughts that rushed through her head on that day that the world watched her bogus "fairytale" wedding.... You can watch all sorts of couples get married — people congregate to witness weddings — but you can't know what the marrying minds are thinking. Is it wrong to look at the outward signs that there is a big disconnect between the spoken words and real person who is enduring the theatrical ritual?
I was trying to be discreet. In the comments, somebody said, "Can’t we just enjoy a wedding?," and I said:
I don't think it's right to enjoy watching the torment of a human being. So, no. But maybe your observation of human facial expression and body language is something you haven't developed or like to turn off when you're trying to have fun, but that's not me!
 Somebody else said, "Let us all aim to spread happiness," and I said:
So it's all about what goal you're hoping to achieve? But even if my main goal were to increase the happiness in the world, I would not believe that the way to do it is to encourage credulous sentimentality about marriage (especially the marriage of royalty).

The effort to cancel the one black person on the Court.

On the front page of The Washington Post right now:



Can you even guess what that's about? I tried and I guessed wrong. I thought maybe there was a prediction that Justice Thomas might be conscious of a likelihood that he'd be leaving the Court within the next 4 years and he might be swayed by a desire to control who appoints his replacement. But, no, that would also be a ground to demand that Justice Breyer recuse himself.

Here's the column. The reason is that he might be carrying a decades-long grudge against Joe Biden for the way he ran the Senate Judiciary Committee in the hearings on his confirmation.

"Ultimately, Mr. Trump has been more successful playing a business mogul than being one in real life."

"'The Apprentice,' along with the licensing and endorsement deals that flowed from his expanding celebrity, brought Mr. Trump a total of $427.4 million.... He invested much of that in a collection of businesses, mostly golf courses, that in the years since have steadily devoured cash — much as the money he secretly received from his father financed a spree of quixotic overspending that led to his collapse in the early 1990s. Indeed, his financial condition when he announced his run for president in 2015 lends some credence to the notion that his long-shot campaign was at least in part a gambit to reanimate the marketability of his name.... There is far more useful information, he has said, in the annual financial disclosures required of him as president... [but] those public filings... simply report revenue, not profit. In 2018, for example, Mr. Trump announced in his disclosure that he had made at least $434.9 million. The tax records deliver a very different portrait of his bottom line: $47.4 million in losses.... [H]e has previously bragged that his ability to get by without paying taxes 'makes me smart,' as he said in 2016. But the returns, by his own account, undercut his claims of financial acumen, showing that he is simply pouring more money into many businesses than he is taking out.... Mr. Trump’s elaborate dance and defiance have only stoked suspicion about what secrets might lie hidden in his taxes. Is there a financial clue to his deference to Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin?... [T]he tax records revealed no previously unknown financial connection...."

From the big NYT article about Trump's taxes, which we started talking about here, last night.

It's very interesting that the NYT, strongly motivated to find tax crimes and connections to Russia, seems to have only found that Trump might be a faker — not the billionaire business genius he purports to be. But, it seems, the main thing he is doing is putting more money into his businesses than he takes out, and that may be a wise or at least legally authorized way to run his affairs. Now, he's forced to explain that to us, and maybe we will be outraged that the tax laws are currently arranged to allow people to escape taxes, but maybe we will accept instruction that the outrage should be directed at Congress... even at Joe Biden.

Why didn't Joe Biden do something about the tax laws — in all those years as a Senator? Is it because laws like that are actually good or because he's been in cahoots with the wealthy for decades?

September 27, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...

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... you can write about whatever you want.

"Donald J. Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750."

"He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made. As the president wages a re-election campaign that polls say he is in danger of losing, his finances are under stress, beset by losses and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due that he has personally guaranteed. Also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the Internal Revenue Service over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund that he claimed, and received, after declaring huge losses. An adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million.."

The NYT reports, saying that it "has obtained tax-return data extending over more than two decades for Mr. Trump and the hundreds of companies that make up his business organization, including detailed information from his first two years in office."

At his press conference today, Trump called this "totally fake news."

ADDED: From "An Editor’s Note on the Trump Tax Investigation": "Some will raise questions about publishing the president’s personal tax information. But the Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the First Amendment allows the press to publish newsworthy information that was legally obtained by reporters even when those in power fight to keep it hidden. That powerful principle of the First Amendment applies here."

"[Cat] Stevens said he had originally wanted to serve as a bridge between two great cultures, yet, while Islam welcomed its famous convert, western audiences were hostile."

"'On the other side, people said, "He is a bit of a traitor." He has "turned Turk," if you like. So I was often used as a bit of a spokesman, and I was useful for certain occasions.... I thought, "Everybody should get this," but it didn’t work out quite like that.'... One of the most upsetting times for Stevens, he reveals, was his portrayal as a supporter of the Iranian fatwa that forced the novelist Salman Rushdie into hiding in 1989. 'I was certainly not prepared or equipped to deal with sharp-toothed journalists,' he said. 'I was cleverly framed by certain questions. I never supported the fatwa. I had to live through that.'... Stevens emphasised the importance music has in his life once more. 'It is a mystical thing still. It is something that permeates our emotion, our soul, sometimes our intellect. Our body moves to it. I didn’t know where I was going but music helped me to get there.'"

From "Yusuf Cat Stevens on Islam, the fatwa and playing guitar again/The singer-songwriter tells Desert Island Discs about walking away from his fans, and the difficulties of following a spiritual path" (The Guardian).

"I never supported the fatwa" — you can believe that or not. He's crying "fake news." I choose to believe him, because I've always loved Cat Stevens.

Anticipating the debate, Trump and Biden call each other dumb.

Source: ABC News.

Biden predicted how Trump would debate and said: "It is going to be difficult. I know — I mean my guess it's going to be just straight attacks. They're gonna be mostly personal. That's the only thing he knows how to do. He doesn't know how to debate the facts because he's not that smart. He doesn't know that many facts."

I think he meant to criticize Trump for making personal attacks, but then he turned around and immediately made a personal attack on Trump: "he's not that smart."

For his part, at last night's rally, Trump said this about debating Biden: "He's a dumb guy. Always known as a dumb guy. But we look forward to seeing him in the debate. He's got a lot more experience. He's got 47 years. I've got 3 1/2 years. So we'll see. But he's got 47 years of experience,"

It seems that Trump is torn between wanting to tear Biden down and wanting to avoid giving him the advantage of low expectations.

Each says the other is dumb, so I'm looking forward to spending Tuesday night watching 2 dumb guys arguing with each other.

"Interviews with more than a dozen Democratic senators revealed broad support for disrupting the Supreme Court confirmation process, even if the strategy yields some collateral damage."

"Yet Democrats facing tough reelections and those who typically spurn delay tactics overwhelmingly support the hardball campaign, potentially putting them at increased risk of losing their seats. 'We know that the votes are not there [to block the nominee], but you do what you can to call attention to it,' said Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent who could be pulled off the campaign trail as a result. 'The issue is that this is a power grab.'"

Politico reports.

The techniques are too boring to quote — Senate procedure stuff. Basically, delay tactics: "[I]f Schumer develops a cohesive strategy and has the support of the entire Senate Democratic Caucus, it could quickly become one of the most disruptive series of delay tactics in recent memory."

"In Russia, the dissident Aleksei Navalny uses withering sarcasm in his efforts to bring democracy to Russia."

"Navalny, now recovering in Germany from what apparently was an attempt by Russian officials to murder him with Novichok nerve gas, responded to Russian suggestions that he had poisoned himself: 'I boiled Novichok in the kitchen, quietly took a sip of it in the plane and fell into a coma,' he wrote on Instagram. 'Ending up in an Omsk morgue where the cause of death would be listed as "lived long enough" was the ultimate goal of my cunning plan. But Putin outplayed me.'... 'The grins of the people are the nightmares of the dictators,' wrote Liu Xiaobo, the Chinese dissident who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 while in prison."

From "To Beat Trump, Mock Him/The lesson from pro-democracy fighters abroad: Humor deflates authoritarian rulers" by Nicholas Kristof (NYT).

"A Man Died After Eating a Bag of Black Licorice Every Day."

"That habit caused his potassium levels to drop precipitously, prompting a cardiac arrest, according to the study. He never regained consciousness after his collapse and died about 24 hours after he arrived at Massachusetts General Hospital.... Aspiring doctors are taught in medical school that black licorice contains glycyrrhizic acid, a plant extract that is often used as a sweetener in candies and other foods and can lead to dangerously low potassium levels if it is consumed in high enough doses. But it is rare to see a case of someone dying as a result of ingesting too much of the candy" (NYT).

Your blogger at dawn.

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Photo by Meade.

A strange image, from Joe Biden: "We got to stop pouring flames on the fire."



Pouring flames? On fire?

The context is his remarks yesterday to the US Conference of Mayors (transcript):
This moment we’re facing now, isn’t a partisan moment. It’s an American moment.... It’s a chance for us to overcome anger and division that has hold [sic] us back of late for far too long. We can emerge from these crises.... If I’m elected, you will have direct access to the White House. I want to thank you all because we need you to build back better. You are the foundation stone, not a joke. You’re the ones leading away.... We got to stop the hate and the division now, we got to stop pouring flames on the fire, we got to start talking straight to the American people.... I’ve never been more optimistic... The blinders have been taken off the American people. They understand what’s going on now. They understand.... They want to get things done... and I want to make sure that your ideas are the ones that are funneled up. They don’t have to go through a state legislature, go through a governor. They can go straight to the federal government, straight to me....
Funneled up? I'm trying to picture that. Don't funnels work only downward, through gravity? Oh, I don't know!



That's a detail from the Hieronymus Bosch painting "Cutting the Stone," which appears at the Wikipedia article "Funnel." There, I learn something about the idea of a funnel working upward instead of downward:
The inverted funnel is a symbol of madness. It appears in many Medieval depictions of the mad; for example, in Hieronymus Bosch's Ship of Fools and Allegory of Gluttony and Lust....
And in "Cutting the Stone." Michel Foucault, "History of Madness," had something to say about that doctor in an inverted funnel hat: "Bosch's famous doctor is far more insane than the patient he is attempting to cure, and his false knowledge does nothing more than reveal the worst excesses of a madness immediately apparent to all but himself."

There's also inverted funnel hat worn by the Tin Woodman in "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz."  It's not mentioned in the text of the book. It comes from the imagination of the the first illustrator,  W. W. Denslow:

"I clerked for Justice Scalia more 20 years ago, but the lessons I learned still resonate. His judicial philosophy is mine too. A judge must apply the law as written."

"Judges are not policymakers and they must be resolute and setting aside any policy views they might hold. The president has asked me to become the ninth justice. And as it happens, I’m used to being in a group of nine, my family. Our family includes me, my husband Jesse, Emma, Vivian, Tess, John Peter, Liam, Juliet and Benjamin. Vivian and John Peter, as the president said, were born in Haiti and they came to us five years apart when they were very young. And the most revealing fact about Benjamin, our youngest, is that his brothers and sisters unreservedly identify him as their favorite sibling. Our children obviously make our life very full. While I am a judge, I’m better known back home as a room parent, carpool driver and birthday party planner. When schools went remote last spring, I tried on another hat, Jesse and I became co-principals of the Barrett E-learning Academy.... Our children are my greatest joy, even though they deprived me of any reasonable amount of sleep. I couldn’t manage this very full life without the unwavering support of my husband Jesse, at the start of our marriage, I imagined that we would run our household as partners, as it has turned out. Jesse does far more than his share of the work. To my chagrin, I learned at dinner recently that my children consider him to be the better cook. For 21 years, Jesse has asked me every single morning what he can do for me that day. And though I almost always say, 'Nothing,' he still finds ways to take things off my plate. And that’s not because he has a lot of free time, he has a busy law practice. It’s because he is a superb and generous husband.And I am very fortunate. Jesse and I have a life full of relationships, not only with our children, but with siblings, friends and fearless babysitters...."

Said Amy Coney Barrett (transcript).

"There is no question some ballots will be mailed to people who have died, or moved or are no longer eligible to vote."

"But that almost never translates into those ballots being returned by someone else as a voted ballot, an act which would be a felony. And even when isolated instances like this happen, they don’t swing presidential elections.... There is also no question that some election administrators... will make errors in handling ballots. There are weak links in our election process.... There are a few steps that election administrators and the media should take given that we are going to have an imperfect election and given that these imperfections may be cynically manipulated by political operatives who want to throw the election results into doubt.... The media need to report claims of misfeasance in elections with caution.... The days leading up to November’s election may be rocky. But competence, patience, transparency and perspective are the best antidote to attempts to manipulate small-scale election problems into a full blown crisis."

From "Don’t fall for claims of voter fraud. Political operatives want to turn errors into a way to throw the election" by Richard L. Hasen (L.A. Times).

"Good lawyers wanna get rid of bad lawyers and dachshunds...."

Organizers of the Proud Boys rally in Portland said they'd have 20,000 people, the sheriff thought there'd be 1,000 or 2,000, but in reality, there were only 200.

NBC News reports.
The Proud Boys, a group of self-declared Western chauvinists, were denied a permit for the planned gathering due to coronavirus social-distancing concerns, but rallied anyway in what they had said would be a free speech event to support Trump and the police and condemn anti-fascists....

The governor used her emergency powers to give the Oregon State Police superintendent and the local sheriff the power to take charge of public safety in Portland for the weekend, a move that would restore the ability of law enforcement to use tear gas as a crowd-control measure.

The state police superintendent said there would be a “massive influx” of troopers in the city beginning Saturday morning. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, said on Twitter this week, “Violence has no home in Portland.”