January 9, 2021

At the Radiator Houseplant Café...


... you can talk all night. But do try to talk about something other than the Trump resistance and the plan to spoil Biden's honeymoon with a big old impeachment trial. Surely, there are other topics! Did you leave the house today? What's something you've been cooking that's easy to cook? When's the last time you wept? Look at this darling baby hearing an echo for the first time. When's the last time you did something for the first time? 

"For many congressional staff members and Capitol workers, in particular people of color, the damage wrought on Wednesday was visceral."

"It will be a long time before they feel safe again at work, they say, knowing that a building once thought to be among the most secure in Washington could be breached by a mob carrying, among other things, a Confederate flag and displaying anti-Semitic iconography.... The Capitol Police have come under fire for seeming, at times, to offer little resistance to the pro-Trump mob. While some experts defended their actions as prioritizing the protection of lawmakers over the securing of the building, many congressional staff members, along with custodial and food service workers, were left wondering whether they were safe.... Black staff members in particular said the rampage had reminded them of the struggles they had often had to come to terms with in order to work for Congress.... One Black congressional staff member who also took a walk through the Capitol to survey the aftermath on Wednesday night said that despite all the damage, he had been stopped in his tracks outside Representative Steny Hoyer’s office, where a poster honoring John Lewis, the congressman and civil rights leader who died in August, had been displayed. It was missing. He looked for it feverishly and found only a broken piece on the ground next to a trash can. The image of Mr. Lewis was gone. All that remained of his celebrated quote, 'Get into good trouble, necessary trouble,' were the final two words — smudged by a boot print."

"Pickles has a comfortable relationship with nihilism.... 'I grew up in the punk-rock scene,' he said. 'And Trump was like punk rock. It’s, like, anti-establishment.'"

"He attended the University of Florida, where he was an English major and a liberal. 'I’ve taken basket weaving and read about the Black prison experience,' he said, with a snicker. (In his shop, Fat Enzo’s, murals of Mark Twain and Hunter S. Thompson share wall space with Huey Long.) He explained that after his father died, in 2015, he sought out new male camaraderie. The Proud Boys filled a vacuum. He claims to have joined not because they are a hate group (as designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center) but because 'they were seeking something.' He said, 'I came to the realization that Trump was awesome, and that I had been brainwashed.' From right-wing podcasts and YouTube, he said, he has learned that 'the pandemic is a scam,' and that 'we live in an inverted dictatorship run by the Deep State and globalists.'"  

The headline goes for alliteration: Palm... Proud... Putsch... Pickles... purveyor... punk.

I've written about the word "putsch" before. Do you remember the day it hit the news? It was June 26, 2015, the day the Supreme Court issue its opinion on same sex marriage, Obergefell v. Hodges. I wrote about it here:
Justice Scalia expresses astonishment at "the hubris reflected in today’s judicial Putsch." A "Putsch" is "An attempt to overthrow a government, esp. by violent means; an insurrection or coup d'état." That's the OED. "Hubris" is "o’erweening pride; and pride, we know, goeth before a fall." That's Scalia himself.

I think Scalia capitalized "Putsch" because he intended to write it as a German word and it's capitalized in German. But it's an English word, with, as noted above, an entry in the OED. The New Yorker has it capitalized in the headline and the word does not appear in the body of the article, so I don't know if The New Yorker would go with the Scaliaesque capitalization. As for meaning, "putsch" is correctly used. A synonym for "insurrection" is what the headline writer intended. 

Whether the participants indeed had insurrection in their mind is another matter, to be examined in articles like this, interviewing particular individuals like Pickles about what they thought they were doing and what they were able to gather about what other people had in mind. 

Pickles seems confused and disturbed by the craziness and the out-of-control escalation: "It happened in the moment. There was just so much momentum. We felt compelled to storm the Capitol. There’s nothing rational about it when you’re caught up in something like that."

Remember when Trump — asked to tell the Proud Boys to "stand down" — said "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by"?

ADDED: Here's a Wikipedia article, "Punk Ideologies." Nihilism is on the list along with anarchism, animal rights and veganism, apoliticism, Christianity, conservatism, feminism, Hare Krishna, Islam, liberalism, libertarianism, neo-Nazism, situationism, socialism, and "straight edge." 

"For a half-century, the trend in political culture has been inexorably in one direction: toward the steady loosening and eventually the near-obliteration of media filters...."

"The erosion of traditional establishment filters — first by such mediums as direct mail, talk radio and cable, later and most powerfully by social media — has been a primary factor in the rise of potent ideological movements on right and left alike.... [T]he decision Friday night by Twitter to permanently ban Trump from its platform... represents an effort to reassert the notion that filters have a place in political communication.... Twitter’s announcement was made with a righteous air, as the company said it was acting 'due to the risk of further incitement of violence'.... The moves comes [sic] at precisely the moment that his movement looked like it had been fatally punctured, due to the cumulative effects of Trump losing the 2020 presidential election, Democrats winning the Senate in Georgia special elections and even once-loyal Trump Republicans expressing disgust with his culpability in Wednesday’s insurrection.... If there is any unifying thread of the conservative movement from Nixon to Rush Limbaugh to Matt Drudge to Newt Gingrich to Trump, it is its resentment of the establishment news media and determination to make its filters obsolete.... "

Those who think they like this new censorship really need to step back and take the long view. Conspiracy theories about taking down Donald Trump will go on for 100 years. All of these efforts at suppression will be woven and rewoven into these theories. Driving the theories off the front pages of social media will make them wilder and crazier, and we won't be able to see them or argue with them. How many millions of serious devotees does Trump have? What will they do now? Why is depriving them of their Twitter connection a wholesome curative? 

"I’ve seen lots of Trump supporters asking why the Chinese Embassy’s account hasn’t been banned for this tweet..."

"In late December, Ms. Ponsetto was caught on video tackling Keyon Harrold Jr., the 14-year-old son of a prominent jazz musician, in the lobby of a boutique hotel in SoHo."

"She had falsely accused him of stealing her cellphone, and can be heard yelling, 'No, I’m not letting him walk away with my phone!' The video, which garnered widespread consternation on social media, was yet another example of Black people in America being confronted with baseless accusations while simply going about their lives. It drew comparisons to an incident in May, in which a white woman called 911 to falsely claim that a Black bird-watcher in Central Park had threatened her life. (Ms. Ponsetto, her lawyer said, is of Puerto Rican and Vietnamese descent.)"

This story would have "garnered" so much more attention — and, of course, "consternation" — if only Ms. Ponsetto had been white. The Times calls it "another example," but it's not really in the category for which examples are being... garnered. Ponsetto is, her lawyer says, of Puerto Rican and Vietnamese descent, and she's not even charged with a hate crime — because, according to the police, "she didn't say anything about that." 

Why is the charge robbery and not assault? Is there evidence that she knew the phone was not hers?

As for that interview with Gayle King, Ponsetto's lawyer says, "She went off script,. She decided to disregard my advice and just go on her own... She was prepared and guided. She apologized, but not in the way she should have. But she said so many other things that it almost blurred her message. It was so disrespectful." The lawyer called her client disrespectful? Am I reading that right?


In the TV interview, Ponsetto wears a cap that reads "Daddy" and says "I consider myself super sweet." The high point of the interview comes at 4:46 when Ponsetto lifts her hand, palm out, toward Gayle King and says "All right, Gayle. Enough." Now, that's not a crime, but it does show a young woman with unusual instincts, instincts also on view in the hotel video (which you can also see in the embedded clip). 

How does a 22-year-old woman acquire that orientation in the world? I'll hypothesize that it has something to do with the self-image "super sweet."

January 8, 2021

At the Friday Night Café...


... you can talk about anything you like.

"There's absolutely a new War on Terror... aimed inward, domestically."

The 7 most violence-inciting statements in Donald Trump's speech to the crowd on January 6th.

Here's the transcript. I read the entire speech — which was over an hour — looking for the sentences that are most subject to the interpretation that he was inciting the crowd to break into the Capitol building or commit any sort of act of violence. I'm doing this because I realized I wasn't seeing quotes from Trump, just assertions that the speech was an incitement and cause-and-effect inferences based on the sequence of events: He spoke and then they acted. 

There are places where he clearly talked about a peaceful protest march. He says: "I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard." And: "So we’re going to, we’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue... So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue."

But here are the 7 most violent statements. Please, if you can find anything more violent or more related to the idea of breaking into the Capitol and physically disrupting the proceedings, let me know, and I'll add it to the list. This is what I've found and have put in order from least to most violent:
7. We’re going walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women. We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong. 

6. To use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with, we will stop the steal…. We will not let them silence your voices.  

5. The Republicans have to get tougher. You’re not going to have a Republican party if you don’t get tougher.  

4. [W]e’re going to have somebody in there that should not be in there and our country will be destroyed, and we’re not going to stand for that.  

3. We will never give up. We will never concede, it doesn’t happen. You don’t concede when there’s theft involved.
2. We’re not going to let it happen. Not going to let it happen. 
1. Together we are determined to defend and preserve government of the people, by the people and for the people. 

Twitter has "permanently suspended" Donald Trump "due to the risk of further incitement of violence."

ADDED: Here's a detailed explanation from Twitter, objecting to the 2 tweets Trump put up today (which we've been discussing here): "To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th" and "The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!" What's so bad about those?

According to Twitter, they violate the "Glorification of Violence policy." It doesn't seem to matter that the words don't refer to violence at all. They "could inspire others to replicate violent acts and determined that they were highly likely to encourage and inspire people to replicate the criminal acts that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021." Twitter expresses fear that there could be violence at the Inauguration because Trump could be understood to be "disavowing his previous claim... that there would be an 'orderly transition' on January 20th." I hadn't thought about this, but Twitter offers the idea that violent Trump supporters could be incited by the information that Trump won't be present at the event! Strangely, Twitter may be giving some people that idea. I don't think I would have published it if I'd thought of it. 

At the Frozen Lake Café...


... you can talk all afternoon... but, once again, let's not use the café post to talk about Trump and the Trump resistance. As I did yesterday, I've given you 7 posts before lunch on Trump topics, so scroll down if you want to talk about that.

There's so much else in the world. Like all this ice. Have you fallen on the ice this winter? Have you slipped or tripped over anything recently? Did you put ice on it? Are your dreams becoming more detailed and interesting? Is your car holding up all right? Is the battery pesky? Could you — if your life depended on it — explain exactly how an internal combustion engine works? What is your favorite kind of hat? How good would a robot dog need to be before you'd pay $10,000 for one? What's your favorite lake?

Is it some notion that government officials deserve a higher level of personal security or an idea that the building that houses government is sacred?

Trump says he won't attend the inauguration.

Just before that tweet, there was this: And last night, this zombiesque performance: AND: Here's the transcript for that zombiesque performance. I saw some people calling this his "concession," but I listened and heard no concession: 
We have just been through an intense election and emotions are high, but now tempers must be cooled and calm restored. We must get on with the business of America. My campaign vigorously pursued every legal avenue to contest the election results. My only goal was to ensure the integrity of the vote.... Now Congress has certified the results. A new administration will be inaugurated on January 20th. My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.... We must revitalize the sacred bonds of love and loyalty that bind us together as one national family....

He's saying the process for challenging the result has concluded and he will not challenge it anymore. It's not that Biden really won, but that the process is really over. What exactly is "concession"? It's not a technical term. Nothing depends on it. It's a nicety. We want a particular locution... but why? Is it like saying "uncle"

From the Wikipedia article "Concession (politics)":

"Some of you will understand why. Some will not. I am sorry, but standing up for election integrity and our right to vote in fair elections is too important for me to not be there."

Said Jeff Taff, a high school social studies teacher, quoted in "Burlington teacher suspended after allegedly directing students to watch video questioning election results" (Wisconsin State Journal).

He told students he would be gone from school Tuesday through Thursday and planned to return Friday. In the online lesson plan, he directed students to review materials that included a video discussing debunked claims calling into question President-elect Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3 election over incumbent President Donald Trump....

"What was already shaping up as a volatile final stretch to the Trump presidency took on an air of national emergency as the White House emptied out and some Republicans joined Speaker Nancy Pelosi..."

"... and a cascade of Democrats calling for Mr. Trump to be removed from office without waiting the 13 days until the inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. The prospect of actually short-circuiting Mr. Trump’s tenure in its last days appeared remote. Vice President Mike Pence privately ruled out invoking the disability clause of the 25th Amendment to sideline the president, as many had urged that he and the cabinet do, according to officials. Democrats suggested they could move quickly to impeachment, a step that would have its own logistical and political challenges. Representative Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, the assistant speaker of the House, said Friday on CNN that the Democrats could get an impeachment vote to the House floor as early as the middle of next week...."

I'd like the Democrats — who have won — to show calm steadiness and grace, not crank things up to higher and higher hysteria! What was the point of dragging old man Biden to the fore and using him — rather than Sanders or Warren — to defeat Trump if not to rope in those of us who just want things to be sensible, moderate, and practical?!

I enjoyed the phrase "a cascade of Democrats" — it could be the collective noun, you know, like "murder of crows" and "exaltation of larks."

Biden won the election because people wanted calm, moderation, and normality.

But it's not enough that he may be a calm, moderate, normal person. He must lead. Where is he now? Can he show his supporters how to gracefully accede to power? Can he unite us? I want an aura of beneficence, dignity, and inclusion! 

5 days ago I noted the promise he made: Commenters mocked me for "believing" this promise. I said (in the comments):
I believe that he made the promise. That's what matters. I will hold him to it and link back to this post whenever I need to. It doesn't matter whether you trust a politician to do what he says. You should still note the promises that are made so you can judge the performance. 

I'm judging.  

When liberals decide men must be in control of their wife...

ADDED: Did the wife do something that should be considered an impeachable offense? It strikes me as very similar to praising the Black Live Matter protests despite the riots that emerged from them. Either we think big street protests are great or we think they risk devolution into chaos. Pick one.

How far will the anti-Trump forces go in crushing their opposition?

That tweet is a response to the news: "Simon & Schuster Cancels Plans for Senator Hawley’s Book/The publisher faced calls to drop the Missouri Republican’s upcoming book, 'The Tyranny of Big Tech,' following criticism of his efforts to overturn the presidential election" (NYT). 
“We did not come to this decision lightly,” Simon & Schuster said in a statement. “As a publisher it will always be our mission to amplify a variety of voices and viewpoints: At the same time we take seriously our larger public responsibility as citizens, and cannot support Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat.”... 

“This could not be more Orwellian,” he said. “Simon & Schuster is canceling my contract because I was representing my constituents, leading a debate on the Senate floor on voter integrity, which they have now decided to redefine as sedition... We’ll see you in court."... 
The subject of Mr. Hawley’s book... is not about the election or Mr. Trump, but about technology corporations like Google, Facebook and Amazon. Its cancellation was remarkably swift and raised questions about how publishers will approach future books by conservatives who have supported Mr. Trump’s efforts to invalidate the election....

ADDED: Here's Hawley's full statement:

I'm not sure what his "First Amendment" theory is, but I'd love to see his explanation. There's a folk meaning of "First Amendment" that simply means "freedom of speech," but Hawley is a Yale Law School graduate who had a clerkship with Chief Justice John Roberts, so we must attribute the highest level of constitutional law understanding to him. I await the explication!

ALSO: Hawley's book about the "tyranny" of Google, Facebook, and Amazon ought to discuss the problem of the repression of freedom of speech, and for all I know, he's got some sophisticated First Amendment theory in there. Send me a PDF of your book, Josh — or just the pages with the First Amendment material. I will give it a sympathetic read!

January 7, 2021

At the Rime and Hoar Café...


... you can talk all afternoon... preferably about things that are not raised in this morning's posts. Please challenge yourselves to discuss anything other than Trump, the last election, and yesterday's events in the Capitol. There are 7 posts this morning on those topics, so scroll down if you want to talk about that.

It's a new year. What have you been up to? Have you embarked on a wholesome sunrise run routine or anything like that? Are you decluttering and "death cleaning"? Have you read any good books? What TV shows are you following these days? What are you cooking? Are you feeling blue? Are your dogs and cats okay?...

"Even if you believe — as David Bernstein states above — that the election didn’t turn on fraud, you should be concerned that so many people do."

"It’s important... that elections not only be free of fraud, but trusted by the vast majority, even among those who lose. We don’t have that, and the huge number of stories about potential election fraud that were running in mainstream media right up until election day indicates that if Trump had been declared the winner, Democrats would be running around screaming fraud. We need a system that is obviously trustworthy enough that the vast majority of people will trust it, and we certainly don’t have that. Other countries do."

Writes Glenn Reynolds, pointing to this post — also at Instapundit — by David Bernstein. 

From Bernstein's post: "There is no evidence of widespread fraud that could plausibly be said to have cost Trump the election, nor even a single state.... And all that is why Trump’s lawyers lost every single case they brought before judges of all parties and ideologies.... Even if you accept any of the not-completely-crazy theories I’ve seen of how the election was 'stolen,' at best that gets Trump to a narrow victory in the Electoral College. Yet the president continues to insist not just that he won, not just that the election was stolen, but that he won in a 'landslide.'... If the election process is a total fraud, then violence is to be expected. Even in the face of the violence yesterday, Trump, while telling the rioters to go home, also continued to insist that he really won in a landslide, thus continuing to foment violence."

"Cotton appeared to be referring to Hawley, his potential rival for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, whose campaign sent out a fundraising email Wednesday..."

"... promoting his plan to object to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes. The email was sent shortly before a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, bringing a temporary halt to the counting of the Electoral College vote and leaving offices and hallways in the Capitol ransacked." 

The Hill says, commenting on this tweet from Tom Cotton (which says "while," not "shortly before"):

"One administration official described Trump’s behavior Wednesday as that of 'a total monster,' while another said the situation was 'insane' and 'beyond the pale.'"

"Fearful that Trump could take actions resulting in further violence and death if he remains in office even for a few days, senior administration officials were discussing Wednesday night whether the Cabinet might invoke the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to force him out, said a person involved in the conversations.... Aides mortified by their boss’s conduct said they were weighing whether to resign or to stay in office to help ensure the transition to the Biden administration.... Considerable internal anger was directed toward chief of staff Mark Meadows, according to four aides, both because of what many view as his incompetence in managing the White House and his willingness to prop Trump up while indulging his false election fraud claims. People who interacted with Trump on Wednesday said they found him in a fragile and volatile state.... As rioters broke through police barricades and occupied the Capitol, paralyzing the business of Congress, aides said Trump resisted entreaties from some of his advisers to condemn the marauders and refused to be reasoned with. 'He kept saying: "The vast majority of them are peaceful. What about the riots this summer? What about the other side? No one cared when they were rioting. My people are peaceful. My people aren’t thugs,"' an administration official said. 'He didn’t want to condemn his people.'... A former senior administration official briefed on the president’s private conversations said: “The thing he was most upset about and couldn’t get over all day was the Pence betrayal. … All day, it was a theme of, ‘I made this guy, I saved him from a political death, and here he stabbed me in the back.'" 

"While this represents the end of the greatest first term in presidential history, it’s only the beginning..."

That's Trump's statement, which, as the NYT puts is, "had to be issued through surrogates since Mr. Trump’s Twitter account was suspended." It "came moments after Vice President Mike Pence affirmed Mr. Biden as the winner of the presidential election shortly before 4 a.m. after the final electoral votes were tallied in a joint session of Congress."

"The disturbing breach of security at the U.S. Capitol is raising serious questions about the safety of lawmakers and staff who work there..."

"... and drawing criticism toward the security services who are meant to keep them safe. Images of a mob scaling walls, breaking down fences, and storming the seat of the country’s Democracy have led to criticism that the Capitol Police should have been better prepared for the possible assault. 'What the hell was law enforcement on Capitol Hill thinking by not having secured the Capitol today?' former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asked on CNBC... 'Everybody knew that there would be a disturbance, everybody knew that there would be people who were interested in doing nothing but creating havoc in the Capitol, and very frankly it was the responsibility of the law enforcement and the Capitol Hill Police to secure the Capitol.'" 

It has been demonstrated how insecure the building is. What happens next time? 

This is not unrelated to the way the police were ineffectual when mobs broke into storefronts last summer. We live our lives as if buildings protect us, but they only protect us until they don't. 

"America’s shellshocked politicians regrouped in sombre mood after the broken glass of the Capitol had been swept up and the blood cleaned from the corridors...."

"... determined to resume the work of democracy. The violence of the mob appeared to have instilled a sense of common purpose that has been sorely lacking during the partisan clashes of the Trump years. Senators reconvened at 8pm and after two hours of debate voted by 93 to 6 to reject the call to oppose Arizona’s results. Members of the House came back an hour later and also threw out the rebellion, by 303 to 121. It was emphatic confirmation that President Trump’s fantasy of overturning the election was as dead as his shredded reputation. There were portentous words at the outset from Mike Pence, the vice-president, back in the chair after being whisked to safety by armed guards almost six hours earlier. 'To those who wreaked havoc today: you did not win,' he said. 'Violence never wins. Freedom wins. This is still the people’s house.'... James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma, then resumed the debate in a more contrite manner from where he abruptly left off while setting out his objections to the results in Arizona. After stating that he believed Joe Biden won the election and all he wanted was a study of claims of fraud, he quickly sat down.... [Defeated Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler said,] 'I fully intended to object to the certification of the electoral votes, however the events that have transpired today have forced me to reconsider and I cannot now in good conscience object... The violence, the lawlessness and siege of the halls of Congress are abhorrent and stand as a direct attack on the very institution my objection was intended to protect, the sanctity of the American democratic process.'"

"In a surreal scene of chaos and glee, hundreds of Trump loyalists roamed the halls, taking photos and breaking into offices."

"No police officers were in view. In a room where there were images of mountains and maps of Oregon on the wall, a man in a leather jacket ripped a scroll with Chinese characters. A young man put a framed picture of the Dalai Lama in his backpack. 'We’re claiming the House, and the Senate is ours,' a sweaty man in a checked shirt shouted, stabbing his finger in the air. Nearby in the first-floor Crypt, the heart of the Capitol building, the police appeared to be overwhelmed. One wiped tear gas from his eyes. When a man approached to ask where the bathroom was, he said softly, 'We just need you guys to get out of here safely.'... Another officer stood by a stairway, watching everything unfold and answering a few questions, including directing a woman to the bathroom. One protester came up to him and shouted in his face, 'Traitor!' When another man approached to apologize to the officer, the officer replied, 'You’re fine.' 'Everybody’s been OK today, except that guy,' he said, motioning to the yeller. Most of the crowd in the Crypt just milled around. A young man in a red Trump hat smoked a cigarette. Several men shouted and screamed. A man in a backpack with two American flags jumped underneath a chandelier, yelling, 'Whose house,' as the crowd answered, 'Our house.'"

The chant "Whose house/Our house" is very familiar to me from the Wisconsin protests in 2011, when opponents of the newly elected governor, Scott Walker, lay siege to the Wisconsin Capitol building (which looks a lot like the U.S. Capitol building):


The text at that video says:
That's In February, I was deeply moved by the fact that in spite of there being 13,000 Protesters at the Capitol, everyone was allowed to enter. I asked my girlfriend how this could be. She replied that the Capitol was "our House." When I returned from a road trip a couple weeks later I, and the rest of the public were all barred from entering Our House though lobbyists could enter without much problem. Walker had stolen the most profound Democratic feeling I've ever had. He had stolen Our House. The "Whose House? Our House!" chants outside Our House grew as did the crowds (to over 100,000). I felt moved to write this song....

January 6, 2021

At the Wednesday Night Café...

... you can do all the talking.

I’ll withhold my comments until tomorrow. It’s been a strange day. I’m waiting for things to settle down.

"I didn't support animal skin guy..."

Less humorously...

Trump's last stand about to unfold in Congress.

Let's watch here: 

This has an excellent healing quality: "Biden to nominate Merrick Garland as attorney general."

CNN reports.

MEANWHILE: From Politico: "The results of the Georgia Senate runoffs aren’t yet final. But left-wing activists are already pressuring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to take advantage of a possible Democratic majority in the Senate and retire.... President-elect Joe Biden has committed to nominating a Black woman to the next open Justice seat... Bakari Sellers, a former South Carolina Representative who has been involved in several presidential campaigns, tweeted Tuesday night that if Senate Democrats win the majority 'I need Justice Breyer to announce retirement at 12:01pm on January 20th.'"

"The Georgia results broke the back of Trumpism. His phone call to Brad Raffensperger was hunker-in-the-bunker bonkers."

"The President’s coattails are toxic. He under-performed all five Republican congressmen in Wisconsin, who won election without difficulty. Had he matched their performance, he would have won the state. Georgia, we should note, elected a Republican legislature in November and until today had two Republican U.S. senators. Republicans in November flipped two Democratic seats to take 10 of its 14 House seats even as Trump lost the state for the first Republican defeat in 28 years..... As for the crazies who would suspend the Constitution in order to install Donald Trump for four more years, they are our version of the Squad and their social justice warriors. Tuesday 2021 is on Donald Trump.... It will take some time for the Republican party to detoxify itself from Trump’s paranoid narcissism. But the man did show the way to a worker-oriented, traditional values political movement. The party’s task is to find someone with the common touch who isn’t batty. So far, Sen. Tom Cotton looks good. Maybe Ben Sasse or Nikki Haley. Like they say after hurricanes, we will rebuild."  

Says David Blaska (on his blog).

It looks as though the Democrats have won control of Congress.

Does this frighten you or is your heart lightened? Surely, it's a complicated mix, whichever side you're on.

If, overall, you support the Democratic Party, yes, of course, you feel good, but what worries you about the prospect of the Democratic Party control of Congress? What's the downside? 

If, overall, you support the GOP, it's got to hurt, but how might your party benefit long term?

I'm asking these questions with the assumption that Joe Biden will be sworn in as President. Please don't use the comments here to bring up the challenge to the Electoral College, which is doomed and which must be blamed, at least in part, for the GOP losses in the Georgia runoff. 

"It's really evidence about the perspective of Officer Sheskey at each moment and what would a reasonable officer do at each moment. Almost none of those things are answered in that deeply disturbing video that we’ve all seen."

"Officer Sheskey felt he was about to be stabbed... All the discussion that [Blake] was unarmed contradicts what he himself has said to investigators," said Kenosha County District Attorney Michael Graveley, quoted in "Prosecutor: No charges against Kenosha police officer Rusten Sheskey in Jacob Blake shooting" (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). 

Blake's lawyer B’Ivory LaMarr said: "We believe all of the elements of attempted homicide were met and we believe the city and community is being deprived of their constitutional right to be the trier of fact. In 2021, it shows one very important thing, and that is that there are three justice systems in America: There’s one for Black and brown people, one for police officers, and one for the rest of the America. And we won’t stop until there is truly one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all."

"You just look at the facts. You see things as they are, not as you want them to be. Then, you make a plan. So, I made my plan to survive."

Said Jonathan Ceplecha, quoted in "A 59-year-old Army veteran was pinned under a tree for four days -- and survived/Jonathan Ceplecha drew on his military training to formulate a plan for survival" (Kare 11). 
He knew that it was only Thursday, and that he might need to wait until the end of the weekend for his children, ex-wife or other family members to realize they had not heard from him, since classes at his school in Marshall would not begin until Monday.... Rainfall on Thursday evening provided Ceplecha about a cup and a half of drinking water.... 
“Breaking stuff down into time periods. That began to occur on Saturday, when things were… difficult. And I would say to myself, ‘well, you think you can survive another half-hour? Yeah, I can do that.’ So I would survive another half-hour.... Think you can make it another five minutes? I would do that periodically.... The nights, if you can imagine it, were more difficult than the days.... 
On the Monday afternoon of Aug. 31, the Redwood County Sheriff’s Office received a request for a welfare check on Jonathan Ceplecha, who apparently had not shown up to work at his school in Marshall...

Maybe don't go cutting trees on your own without telling someone first, but if you do get pinned under a tree, "You have to understand that you are stronger than you think you are. People love you, no matter what. And if you use that as a motivator, you can make it through anything."

Snappy headline undercut by paragraph squirreled away in the lower reaches of the article.

NPR headline: "Conifer Cuisine: Don't Toss Your Christmas Tree Yet! Here's How You Can Cook With It."

Squirreled-away paragraph: "Some Christmas trees are poisonous if eaten — like cypress, cedars and yews. And be sure your tree wasn't sprayed with pesticides and other chemicals. 'So if you have any doubt that you're that your Christmas tree might not have been grown to eat, then maybe don't eat it'..."

"South Carolinians Mock Redesigned Palmetto Tree on Proposed State Flag."

 The NYT reports.

Scott Malyerck, a political consultant who helped create the design as a member of the South Carolina State Flag Study Committee... "It’s hard to come up with a quintessential palmetto tree that everyone will be in favor of.”... 

Ronnie W. Cromer, a state senator who helped create the flag study committee, said... "It would be nice to have a little nicer-looking tree.”... 

[T]he state has not had one official design for the flag since 1940, when the flag code was repealed.... “The idea is just to make it historically accurate and uniform,” Mr. Malyerck said. “Flag manufacturers should not decide what it should look like.” 

Here's the proposed flag, which relied on a 1910 pencil drawing:
And here's the pencil drawing, which was done by a woman:

The new flag designers seem to have gotten caught up in the idea of honoring the woman, and they went quite literal. A flag image needs a stark, shapely outline. A pencil drawing — like this one — can be sketchy, impressionistic, indicating light and shade. That's not going to work for a flag.

To make a good palmetto tree flag, look for some actual flags that use an image of a tree and select the most successful ones, for example this flag of a county in Norway (Vest-Agder) that depicts an oak tree:

January 5, 2021

At the Sunrise Cafe....


... you can talk about whatever you want.

Are you watching the Georgia runoff?

"In city after city, from New York to New Orleans, charters have found ways to reach the children who have been most consistently failed by traditional schools."

"The evidence for their success has become overwhelming, with apolitical education researchers pronouncing themselves shocked at the size of the gains. What was ten years ago merely an experiment has become a proven means to develop the potential of children whose minds had been neglected for generations. And yet the second outcome of the charter-school breakthrough has been a bitter backlash within the Democratic Party. The political standing of the idea has moved in the opposite direction of the data, as two powerful forces — unions and progressive activists — have come to regard charter schools as a plutocratic assault on public education and an ideological betrayal. The shift has made charter schools anathema to the left. 'I am not a charter-school fan because it takes away the options available and money for public schools,' Biden told a crowd in South Carolina during the Democratic primary, as the field competed to prove its hostility toward education reform in general and charters in particular. Now, as Biden turns from campaigning to governing, whether he will follow through on his threats to rein them in — or heed the data and permit charter schools to flourish — is perhaps the most unsettled policy mystery of his emerging administration."

Thick fog made the 3-dimensionality of the sun photographable this morning... or no, it was just an illusion...


 ... wasn't it?

IMG_2060 (1)

"UW-Madison chancellor signs off on removing rock seen by some as symbol of racism."

The Wisconsin State Journal reports. 
The university’s Campus Planning Committee in November unanimously approved recommending the boulder be relocated off university property to a location on or near the National Park Service’s Ice Age Scenic Trail. 
UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank accepted the committee’s recommendation on Monday.... 
The rock’s removal is not yet a done deal. Because the boulder is located on or near a Native American burial site, the Wisconsin Historical Society needs to sign off and all Native Tribes of Wisconsin need to be notified and given time to provide input.... 

Ricky Gervais visualizes his dead body fed to the lions... as a scene like the spaghetti scene in "Lady and the Tramp."


For reference: 

As the tags on this post indicate, there's also a discussion of masturbation... and death.

January 4, 2021

"An Interactive Tour of Everything Hilarious and Bizarre on the Web."

My program of working on some sort of housework every day has me decluttering desk drawers today, and these things that were once strikingly useful are so absurdly useless now...


I've still got the disc for Word when no version number was part of the name...


At the Birdcage Café...


... twitter away.

"If Congress purported to overturn the results of the Electoral College, it would not only exceed [its] power, but also establish unwise precedents."

"First, Congress would take away the power to choose the president from the people, which would essentially end presidential elections and place that power in the hands of whichever party controls Congress. Second, Congress would imperil the Electoral College, which gives small states like Arkansas a voice in presidential elections. Democrats could achieve their longstanding goal of eliminating the Electoral College in effect by refusing to count electoral votes in the future for a Republican president-elect. Third, Congress would take another big step toward federalizing election law, another longstanding Democratic priority that Republicans have consistently opposed. Thus, I will not oppose the counting of certified electoral votes on January 6. I’m grateful for what the president accomplished over the past four years, which is why I campaigned vigorously for his reelection. But objecting to certified electoral votes won’t give him a second term—it will only embolden those Democrats who want to erode further our system of constitutional government."

"More than 225 Google engineers and other workers have formed a union, the group revealed on Monday, capping years of growing activism..."

"... at one of the world’s largest companies and presenting a rare beachhead for labor organizers in staunchly anti-union Silicon Valley.... [U]nlike a traditional union, which demands that an employer come to the bargaining table to agree on a contract, the Alphabet Workers Union is a so-called minority union that represents a fraction of the company’s more than 260,000 full-time employees and contractors. Workers said it was primarily an effort to give structure and longevity to activism at Google, rather than to negotiate for a contract.... [U]nions have not previously gained traction in Silicon Valley. Many tech workers shunned them, arguing that labor groups were focused on issues like wages — not a top concern in the high-earning industry — and were not equipped to address their concerns about ethics and the role of technology in society...."

I love these reviews of sinks in various public bathrooms.

 Here's a link to a page of all the reviews (at TikTok). I'll just embed the one that got me started — a review of the sinks at the Museum of Modern Art:

"Julian Assange cannot be lawfully extradited to the US to face charges over WikiLeaks because of his mental health and suicide risk..."

"... a judge has ruled. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser highlighted the intense restrictions and isolated conditions he would be likely to face in the US, saying they mean extradition would be 'oppressive.'... [S]ection 91 of the Extradition Action 2003.... states that when 'the physical or mental condition of the person is such that it would be unjust or oppressive to extradite him, the judge must order the person’s discharge.' The court heard that Assange has been held at HMP Belmarsh in London since April 2019, and has been under a care plan for prisoners at risk of suicide or self-harm for the duration of his imprisonment. Medical notes record numerous occasions of him telling a prison psychologist and other medical staff that he has suicidal or self-harming thoughts, felt despairing or hopeless and had plans to end his life, the judge said.... District Judge Baraitser said she had accepted experts’ findings that Assange suffers from a recurrent depressive disorder, which is sometimes accompanied by psychotic features. She said she also accepted the opinion that Assange suffers from autism spectrum disorder, 'albeit high-functioning,' and Asperger’s syndrome...."

The Independent reports.   

Note that the decision is entirely based on Assange's mental state and the conditions of detention in the United States. It's not about the substantive merit of the charges against him. The judge said the crimes alleged against Assange are also crimes in the UK and specified that the prosecution is in good faith: "There is little or no evidence to support hostility by President Trump towards Mr Assange and WikiLeaks."

There will be an appeal. What's most disturbing to me is a British judge impugning the conditions of imprisonment in the United States. 

I don't remember reading — before this — that Julian Assange is autistic.

His obsession with computers, and his compulsion to keep moving, both seemed to have origins in his restless early years. So too, perhaps, did the rumblings from others that Assange was somewhere on the autism spectrum. Assange would himself joke, when asked if he was autistic: "Aren't all men?" His dry sense of humour made him attractive — perhaps too attractive — to women. And there was his high analytical intelligence....

If you think that's just a joke, here's a Reason article from 2007: "Could It Be that All Men Are a Bit Autistic?"

"A 33-metre reinforced concrete vagina has sparked a Bolsonarian backlash in Brazil..."

"... with supporters of the country’s far-right president clashing with leftwing art admirers over the installation. The handmade sculpture, entitled Diva, was unveiled by visual artist Juliana Notari on Saturday at a rural art park... In a Facebook post, Notari said the scarlet hillside vulva was intended to 'question the relationship between nature and culture in our phallocentric and anthropocentric western society' and provoke debate over the 'problematisation of gender.'...  Bolsonaro’s US-based political guru, the professional polemicist Olavo de Carvalho, weighed in with a customarily foul-mouthed tweet."

The "foul-mouthed tweet" isn't quoted (in Portuguese or in translation), but I clicked through to Twitter and read: "Por que estão falando mal da buceta de 33 metros em vez de enfrentá-la com um pirocão?" And I have Google-translated it for you: "Why are they talking bad about the 33-meter pussy instead of facing it with a dick?" 

I guess he's suggesting that opponents of the hillside ought to devise a way to rape it, or no, maybe he's just calling for equality and would like another hillside with a sculpture representing male genitalia. Google translates "enfrentá" as "facing," but also as "confronting" or "encountering." 

Obviously, I am incapable of assessing the humor or hatefulness of a Portuguese tweet. One idea is to translate the responses at Twitter. For example: "Professor Olavo, you are a great intellectual and an exceptional teacher. But this compulsion for hostility and bad words related to sexual organs and waste are symptoms of psychiatric disorder. Try to treat yourself, your ideas will gain more strength!"

If you search for monumental constructions that represent genitalia, the vast majority of what you will find is male. Here's the Wikipedia article on "Phallic Architecture." There's no way feminist sculptors could ever carve enough concrete into hillsides even to begin to achieve equity. 

For another example of a monumental vagina sculpture, see "The Dirty Corner," a gigantic construction at Versailles, by Anish Kapoor, who described it as "the vagina of the queen coming into power." The article at the link — from BBC in 2015 — quotes a random German tourist: "It's confusing, a big vagina and a palace. It's one of the most famous places in Paris and I just wanted to see it and I saw this building, this statue, and I don't know what it is." That sculpture has been vandalized, and Kapoor, who is male, has denied calling it a vagina: "I never said vagina—I said ‘she sits here on the lawn’ or something to that effect."

Ah! The difficulties of translation!

January 3, 2021

Goodbye to Gerry of Gerry and the Pacemakers.

The Guardian reports: "Marsden’s family said in a statement on Sunday: 'Gerry died earlier today after a short illness in no way connected with Covid-19. His wife, daughters and grandchildren are devastated.'... And his heart has taken some battering over the years. He had a triple bypass, an aortic valve replacement and ironically he also had a pacemaker.... Gerry and the Pacemakers played regularly alongside the Beatles. Both groups were part of Brian Epstein’s Liverpool-based management stable. They played together for the first time in June 1960 – when the Beatles were still the Silver Beetles – and in December that year they were contracted to play a four-month stint in Hamburg, prompting the group to give up their day jobs to become professional musicians. 'We went over with the Beatles and had a good laugh,' Marsden later recalled. The group’s first hit, How Do You Do It?, was first recorded by the Beatles in 1962, but rejected by them and given to Marsden’s band by the producer, George Martin, becoming their first No 1 in April 1963."


If you have the wonderful book "150 Glimpses of the Beatles" by Craig Brown, please read the delightful fantasy that is Chapter 148, an alternate reality in which Gerry and the Pacemakers and not The Beatles become the phenomenal success:
Why did Gerry and the Pacemakers succeed in overtaking musical rivals like the Dave Clark Five, the Searchers, the Beatles and the Swinging Blue Jeans to become four of the best-known faces in the world of pop? 
For a start, their repertoire was broader than their rivals’: by 1960 they had built up a repertoire of 250 songs, from rockers like ‘What’d I Say’ to ballads such as ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?’ Contemporary Merseybeat groups like the Beatles, who met with similar success in the early years, never possessed quite the same range. Moreover, the Beatles lacked a front man, so had no focal point. It’s hard to imagine, but had things gone differently, the world might now be talking of John, Paul, George and Ringo (the first names of the Beatles) instead of Gerry, Fred, Les and Arthur....

"Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong."


Via "‘I just want to find 11,780 votes’: In extraordinary hour-long call, Trump pressures Georgia secretary of state to recalculate the vote in his favor" (WaPo):
The rambling and at times incoherent conversation offered a remarkable glimpse of how consumed and desperate the president remains about his loss, unwilling or unable to let the matter go and still believing he can reverse the results in enough battleground states to remain in office.
The worst of it is the threat
During their conversation, Trump issued a vague threat to both Raffensperger and Ryan Germany, the secretary of state’s general counsel, suggesting that if they don’t find that thousands of ballots in Fulton County have been illegally destroyed to block investigators — an allegation for which there is no evidence — they would be subject to criminal liability. 
“That’s a criminal offense,” he said. “And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer.”... 

Promise noted.

"The egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some.... The congressional power to reject electors is reserved for the most extreme and unusual circumstances."

"These are far from it.... President Trump’s lawyers made their case before scores of courts; in every instance, they failed.... My fellow Senator Ted Cruz and the co-signers of his statement argue that rejection of electors or an election audit directed by Congress would restore trust in the election. Nonsense. This argument ignores the widely perceived reality that Congress is an overwhelmingly partisan body; the American people wisely place greater trust in the federal courts where judges serve for life. Members of Congress who would substitute their own partisan judgement for that of the courts do not enhance public trust, they imperil it...."

Meanwhile: "Vice President Pence... welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections and bring forward evidence before the Congress and the American people on January 6th."

And, from Ted Cruz: "I think everyone needs to calm down.... I think we need to tone down the rhetoric. This is already a volatile situation. It's like a tinderbox and throwing lit matches into it... That’s not helpful ... at a time when we’re pitted against each other. Just relax, and let’s do our jobs... We have a responsibility to follow the law."

AND: Chuck Todd to Ron Johnson: "Stop! You don't get to make allegations that haven't been proven true."

"I feel alien from myself. It’s also kind of a loneliness in the world. Like a part of me is missing, as I can no longer smell and experience the emotions of everyday basic living."

Said one person quoted in "Some Covid Survivors Haunted by Loss of Smell and Taste/As the coronavirus claims more victims, a once-rare diagnosis is receiving new attention from scientists, who fear it may affect nutrition and mental health" (NYT).

"The Sixties set the stage, the players and the rhetorical range of cultural life. The counterculture became a co-culture, then..."

"... a co-opted culture and eventually a co-opting culture. Cool was absorbed by consumerism, and became a manufactured good, like the battle between liberals and conservatives, or fights between the sexes. The old ferocity and subversiveness was bought off, lobotomized and placed in a zoo. Over half a century, the quality of the animals on display declined. Lenny Bruce became Hannah Gadsby, Joan Baez became Taylor Swift and Malcolm X became Ibram X. Kendi.... There was no Cool left in America by the time the Trump era began, just noise....  Over there: howling patriots, conspiracy lunatics, Nazi bodybuilders, militarized trolls, hustlers and grifters. Over here: brittle liberal worthies, nerds, meritless meritocrats, academic Torquemadas, trust-funded podcasters, pseudoscientific TED speechifiers, hysterical talking heads and way too many lawyers. Not to mention all the creepy racists, the OnlyFans fans, the ‘wine o’clock’ mothers, the whining, weepy- kneeling athletes, the hate-crime fakers, the wannabe Bolsheviks, the acorn-brained influencers, the over-exposed YouTubers, Jerry Falwell Jr’s pool boy, Bret Stephens versus the 1619 Project....  [A]ll the psychotic grouplets of American life studied each other incestuously, searching for their enemies’ blunders and fails.... Cool was an impossibility... Awkwardness and shame brooded over the land...."

I'll take "Manhattan" — copyright-free at long last!


"Manhattan" was written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for the 1925 revue "Garrick Gaieties," Wikipedia explains
The song describes, in several choruses, the simple delights of Manhattan for a young couple in love. The joke is that these "delights" are really some of the worst, or cheapest, sights that New York has to offer; for example, the stifling, humid stench of the subway in summertime is described as "balmy breezes", while the noisy, grating pushcarts on Mott Street are "gently gliding by"... [T]he couple is obviously too poor to afford a honeymoon to the popular summertime destinations of "Niag'ra" or "other places", so they claim to be happy to "save our fares"....
We'll go to Yonkers/Where true love conquers/In the wild/And starve together, dear/In Child's/We'll go to Coney/And eat baloney/On a roll/In Central Park we'll stroll/Where our first kiss we stole/Soul to soul...

At long last in the public domain: "The Great Gatsby"!

New York Magazine on the books — from 1925 — that just entered the public domain:
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time, Sinclair Lewis’ Arrowsmith, Aldous Huxley’s Those Barren Leaves, Agatha Christie’s The Secret of Chimneys....

More here, at Duke's Center for the Study of the Public Domain:

The BBC’s Culture website suggested that 1925 might be “the greatest year for books ever,” and with good reason. It is not simply the vast array of famous titles. The stylistic innovations produced by books such as Gatsby, or [Kafka's] The Trial, or Mrs. Dalloway marked a change in both the tone and the substance of our literary culture, a broadening of the range of possibilities available to writers....
From that BBC article

"In July, Joe Biden released a seven-hundred-and-seventy-five-billion-dollar plan with the tongue-twisting title 'Mobilizing American Talent and Heart to Create a 21st Century Caregiving and Education Workforce.'"

"Biden’s plan aims to expand child care and services for the elderly and the disabled, and elevate the status and pay of caregivers as well. But those goals will remain aspirational without a Democratic majority in the Senate, which is why [Schanchline] Nanje and a dozen other Family Friendly Action canvassers have been knocking on a hundred doors a day in the suburbs north of Atlanta. Their work is financed by the Women Effect Action Fund, a group that promotes economic gender equality and women’s rights. Lisa Guide, the fund’s co-founder, told me that the organization was targeting the Georgia races to show both voters and elected officials the enormous impact that access to child care, as well as services for the elderly and disabled, have on women’s personal and professional lives. 'We’re in Georgia to make sure Georgia voters know which Senate candidates are going to help them through our national care crisis—and who aren’t,' Guide said. 'And we want elected officials and policymakers to understand that voters really care about these issues so they end up rising up the ladder for both Democrats and Republicans.'" 

That made me think about Obama's resistance to concentrating on healthcare jobs, which I blogged (in September 2011) under the heading "Obama's Infrastructure Stimulus — designed to build masculine pride"
Here's a fascinating passage from Ron Suskind's new book "Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President" (pp. 18-19)(boldface added). Obama and his advisers are plotting campaign strategy in August 2007 and the subject turned to the problem of jobs for 10 million low- to moderately skilled male workers. What "sunrise" could the government subsize and stimulate. The advisers hit on health care:
That was where the jobs would be: nurse’s aides, companions to infirm seniors, hospital orderlies. The group bandied about ideas for how to channel job-seeking men into this growth industry. A need in one area filling a need in another. Interlocking problems, interlocking solutions. The Holy Grail of systemic change.

But Obama shook his head.

“Look, these are guys,” he said. “A lot of them see health care, being nurse’s aides, as women’s work. They need to do something that fits with how they define themselves as men.” ...