February 6, 2021

At the Saturday Night Cafe...

 ... you can talk about whatever you want.

I have been reading and trying to get around to blogging "The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election" since 2:10 p.m. yesterday.

2:10 p.m. is not a normal time for me to be blogging. I tend to blog between 4 a.m. and 10 a.m. Sometimes I come back to the computer in the afternoon or evening, but usually not to analyze something complicated. And if other people are jumping on a new item, there's less and less reason, as the hours wear on, to blog the link just to show it to you. I feel more and more obligated to get into some of the complicated layers.

2:10 p.m. yesterday was when I first saw the article and decided it was very important. It's 9:36 a.m. the next day now, and I've put up 7 posts, beginning at 5:30 a.m. But the entire time, I've been putting off what I know I need to do and completely intend to do, blog "The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election." 

This is a long article, and understanding it, for me, involves figuring out why Time published it and understanding the possible bias of the author, Molly Ball. It's hard not to read "saved the... election" as rigged the election. Why is this coming out now, just before the weekend before the impeachment trial begins? Time is openly proclaiming that something "secret" happened in the "shadow"? 

MORE: An excerpt:

"Eyebrows? Who cares? With all the suffering around us, with all of the important things to focus on, it flummoxes me to witness how people waste time and money."

That's the third-highest-ranked comment on a weirdly long WaPo article titled "Our pandemic eyebrows are driving us crazy. Can we learn to love them?" 

All the high-rated comments say just about exactly the same thing. I chose that one to quote because it features my favorite word: flummox. It's a colloquial and vulgar word, according to the OED. "The formation seems to be onomatopoeic, expressive of the notion of throwing down roughly and untidily; compare flump, hummock, dialect slommock sloven." 

The oldest appearance is 1837 in Dickens's "Pickwick Papers": "Ve got Tom Vildspark off that 'ere manslaughter, with a alleybi, ven all the big vigs to a man said as nothing couldn’t save him. And my 'pinion is, Sammy, that if your governor don’t prove a alleybi, he’ll be what the Italians call reg’larly flummoxed, and that’s all about it." 

Italians?! Is that like saying "Pardon my French"
"Pardon my French" or "Excuse my French" is a common English language phrase ostensibly disguising profanity as words from the French language. The phrase is uttered in an attempt to excuse the user of profanity, swearing, or curses in the presence of those offended by it, under the pretense of the words being part of a foreign language. Although the phrase is often used without any explicit or implicit intention of insulting the French people or language, it can nevertheless be perceived as offensive and belittling by Francophone speakers. However, most users of the term intend no such belittlement....

Required cultural reference: 


Bonus fact (from the above-linked Wikipedia article, "Pardon My French"): The word for a French kiss in French is "une pelle." It means "a shovel." Please use that knowledge wisely!

"As a law student, I worked in the mayor's office in Detroit during the 1967 riot, and I can tell you what happens to major cities with sustained increases in violent crime..."

"... Very large parts of them are destroyed. That's what I fear could happen again. It's all the more likely if liberal mayors and their cheerleaders in the press act as many did during the 'mostly peaceful' BLM protests. Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser tweeted that it was 'shameful' for federal police to use force to clear Lafayette Square on June 1. Those overrunning it tried to topple the statue of Andrew Jackson and started a fire in St. John's Church, 'the presidents' church,' just to the north. That civic space was violated just as the Capitol was on Jan. 6.  ... Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton argued in The New York Times for sending the National Guard and federal troops into cities where rioting got out of hand, as was often done from 1967 in Detroit to 1992 in Los Angeles. That common-sense suggestion sent young Times journalists into tears, and they demanded — and got — the firing of editorial page editor James Bennet. It's easy to make fun of the double standard here, with Bowser decrying the active duty military being 'used on American streets against Americans' in June and having no problem with it in January. Or with then-President Trump decrying rioters in June and spurring them on in January."

Writes Michael Barone (at Rasmussen).

"'Originally, I thought the context in which I used this ugly word could be defended.' The science reporter... described the 'n-word' incident..."

"... as having occurred during a dinner discussion about the use of racial slurs, in which one student on the trip asked whether a classmate should have been suspended for using racist rhetoric in a video. 'To understand what was in the video, I asked if she had called someone else the slur or whether she was rapping or quoting a book title. In asking the question, I used the slur itself,' McNeil wrote. He apologized for 'extraordinarily bad judgment' to both the staff of the Times, singling out those he worked closely with, and to the students on the trip. 'I am sorry. I let you all down.'... Times executive editor Dean Baquet had previously said McNeil should be 'given another chance' because his comments were not 'hateful or malicious' in intent, but in a message to staff on Friday, the top editor wrote, 'We do not tolerate racist language regardless of intent.'"

In the old days, a big deal was made of the "use/mention" distinction. It doesn't seem to matter anymore. Even McNeil, defending himself, asserts that he "used" the word.

I understand wanting to say that "intent" shouldn't be decisive, because it presents evidentiary problems. What went on in a person's head? Did he somehow mean well? But the "use/mention" distinction doesn't require a trip into someone's mind. If you have the outward statement, you can know whether the speaker/writer used the word as his own word or was referring to the word as a word. 

You don't need to know whether I think Dean Baquet is a coward to distinguish the statement "Dean Baquet is a coward" from "I can imagine someone saying 'Dean Baquet is a coward.'" And writing that last sentence, I can see why the "use/mention" distinction went to hell!

"A splintered Supreme Court on late Friday night partly lifted restrictions on religious services in California that had been prompted by the coronavirus pandemic...."

"With the pandemic raging, in-person worship services were entirely barred in Tier 1, which covers almost all of the state. In a brief, unsigned opinion, the court blocked that total ban but left in place a 25 percent capacity restriction and a prohibition on singing and chanting. Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch said they would have blocked all of the restrictions. Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented, saying they would have left all of the restrictions in place. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in a concurring opinion, explained why a middle ground was appropriate....  Justice Amy Coney Barrett, in her first opinion, wrote that she would not have blocked the restrictions on singing and chanting based on the available evidence. Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh joined her opinion. Justice Gorsuch, joined by Justices Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr., said the state had favored its entertainment industry over worship services.... 'In the worst public health crisis in a century,' Justice Kagan wrote, 'this foray into armchair epidemiology cannot end well.'"

Here's the opinion. I'll just single out the Gorsuch opinion, which looks at what I find most compelling, unequal treatment. It's one thing for government to choose a strict, risk-averse approach to the epidemic, something else to be strict toward some and generous toward others. Justice Gorsuch writes:
It seems California’s powerful entertainment industry has won an exemption. So, once more, we appear to have a State playing favorites during a pandemic, expending considerable effort to protect lucrative industries (casinos in Nevada; movie studios in California) while denying similar largesse to its faithful. See, e.g., Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley v. Sisolak, 591 U. S. ___, ___ 2020) (GORSUCH, J., dissenting from denial of application for injunction relief ).... 

"Earlier today Air Station Traverse City launched two helicopters to respond to reports of over 60 ice fishermen stranded on an ice floe near Sturgeon Bay, WI."

"The ice had broken free from land, and high winds associated with the approaching winter storm system quickly pushed the floe farther away from shore. Ice continued to crack into smaller sections throughout the crews' time on scene. The helicopter crews lowered rescue swimmers to the ice to help coordinate the rescue as local first responders and other Coast Guard ice rescue assets arrived. After additional assets arrived, the helos continued conducting overflights of the area looking for signs of distress and vectoring ice rescue boats to groups of shanties. Thanks to all our local partners for their swift response and efficient work in evacuating over 60 people from the ice!" 

Here's their view of the broken-away ice:

"Conspiracies at this scale often get exposed and ultimately it took the hasty tweet of Greta, who with other international celebrities suddenly turned sensitive towards farmer issues."

Said one Indian minister, VK Singh, quoted in "Greta Thunberg sparks criminal conspiracy probe in India with accidental tweet" (NY Post). The now-deleted tweet, per Singh, “revealed the real designs of a conspiracy at an international level against India.” 

It looks as though Thunberg passes things along without processing them through her own mind. You can see the deleted tweet here. She says "Here's a toolkit if you want to help" and gives a link to a document, which you can read. 

Apparently, somebody included her in the distribution of the document and she — or whoever does her Twitter posting — thought she could contribute by widely distributing the document instead of crafting an individual post using tips from the document. I'd argue that she's not part of a conspiracy because the sharing of the raw document is evidence that she didn't know what she was doing. She hurt whatever conspiracy there was. She exposed it.

This incident is interesting because it shows the mechanisms of shallow political activism and because India is taking such a strong position in response to the political speech of people outside their country:
Delhi police on Thursday confirmed that it had launched “a criminal case against the creators of the ‘Toolkit document'” that Thunberg shared. “The call was to wage economic, social, cultural and regional war against India,” police said of the plot supposedly taken up by the celebs.

In Germany, they are trying a 95-year-old woman in juvenile court — because she was under 21 at the time of her alleged crimes.

From "Woman, 95, Indicted on 10,000 Counts of Accessory to Murder in Nazi Camp/German prosecutors indicted the woman, who once worked as a secretary to the commander of the Stutthof concentration camp, after a five-year investigation" (NYT). 
“It’s about the concrete responsibility she had in the daily functioning of the camp,” said Peter Müller-Rakow of the public prosecutor’s offices in Itzehoe, north of Hamburg.... 

With the last people involved in carrying out atrocities for the Nazi regime close to death, German authorities have been pushing hard to bring as many of them as possible to justice.... 

“It’s a real milestone in judicial accountability,” said Onur Özata, a lawyer representing survivors in the trial of the former camp secretary. “The fact that a secretary in this system, a bureaucratic cog, can be brought to justice is something new.” 
Something so new, for someone so old, who was once someone so young.

February 5, 2021

At the Friday Night Café...

... you can write about whatever you like. 

"We ought to read only books that bite and sting us. If the book we are reading doesn’t shake us awake like a blow to the skull, why bother reading it?"

Said Kafka, quoted in "Please Don’t Ask Elizabeth Kolbert How She Organizes Her Books" (NYT).

"For $150, Brad Holiday’s customers could purchase and download a package of dating tips and tricks he called his 'Attraction Accelerator.' "

"The batch of files featured advice from Mr. Holiday, a self-styled Manhattan dating coach, about things like the best facial serums and pickup lines, and his thoughts on the viciousness of the opposite sex. But tucked between videos denigrating women and reviews of height-boosting shoes were other guides: how to defeat Communists, expose what he claimed were government pedophilia cabals, and properly wield a Glock... [Holiday, whose real name is Samuel Fisher, has a] large online footprint [that] suggests a fierce devotion to a hypermasculine ethos of chauvinism, grievance and misogyny.... Some experts said men like Mr. Fisher were particularly attracted to Mr. Trump because they see him as emblematic of a certain kind of masculinity. 'The men that are in these movements themselves try to enact that kind of masculinity, and because Trump enacts it they are drawn to him,' said Ronald F. Levant, co-author of the book 'The Tough Standard: The Hard Truths About Masculinity and Violence.' 'He models it. He gives them permission.'"

ADDED: But what is Trump's "certain kind of masculinity"? I have a tag to keep track of that: "Trump's masculinity." Things with that tag in my archive: Trump is mocked for dancing like a woman, Roseanne Barr declares Trump "The First Woman President," Trump was denounced as "the Most Unmanly President," and I opined that "there's something womanly about Trump."

I'm also seeing a post that ends "You may hate Trump, but don't use him as a weapon to attack masculinity. Masculinity doesn't deserve hatred. Find your own mix of masculinity and femininity and respect your own individuality and the individuality of others." There are kinds of masculinity, so let's be specific. 

Is Brad Holiday's pathetic hawking of dating tips the same "certain kind of masculinity" as Trump's? The NYT article doesn't give much detail about Holiday. It's almost all high-level generality like "a hypermasculine ethos of chauvinism, grievance and misogyny." If you hate Trump, his masculinity is easily tossed into the same deplorable basket, but that's sloppy work, as gender analysis goes.

"I started talking to my belly this year. Blowing her kisses and showering her with praises."

"I used to want to cut my stomach off I hated it so much. But it’s literally ME." 

Sometimes, the belly talks back:

"The assignment asked students to answer this question: 'A slave has disrespected his master by telling him, "You are not my master." How will you punish the slave?'"

"The Sun Prairie School District apologized for the 'grave error in judgment' and put the teachers on administrative leave pending an investigation. [Lawyer B'Ivory] LaMarr wants the teachers to be fired, saying he feels their actions were deliberate. LaMarr also says [6th grade schoolchild] Zayvion now feels unsafe and unwelcome in the school. The assignment came on the first day of Black History Month."

From an earlier report about this school assignment: "The question appears to be about the Code of Hammurabi — an ancient code of law, which talked about how to punish slaves thousands of years ago."

The problem seems to have arisen from the babyish form of the question: "How will you punish the slave?" If it's really you, a present-day American, you wouldn't punish the slave or even accept that a person could be a slave. Why didn't they ask "What would happen to this person under the Code of Hammurabi?" Maybe if we saw the larger context, there would be some invitation to the students to imagine that they lived within the time and were bound by the Code. Maybe there's some idea of a classroom exercise that is more vivid and "hands-on" than simply reading about what happened in history. 

UPDATE: The school district identifies that source of the lesson, a website called Teachers Pay Teachers, and says: "We have reached out to the organization Teachers Pay Teachers demanding the removal of this racist activity and a public apology for originating and monetizing it." In response, Teachers Pay Teachers has removed the lesson from its website and denounced it as "unacceptable, inappropriate, and antithetical to TpT’s values," and asserted that "it prohibits any resources that are racist, offensive or 'trivialize traumatic experiences.'"

"Strange branding. I don't associate him with the feeling of getting a good night's sleep."

"Maybe some slogan playing on the idea of 'woke,' like 'Now, the woke can sleep.' Or 'How the woke sleep.'" 

In the photo NBC chose to illustrate its news flash, Hogg looks sleep deprived:

Why would anyone want political meaning in their pillow? Have you ever used politics to try to fall asleep? There's a reason the cliché falling-asleep method is counting sheep — not counting Senators. Though Senators are dull. But they not dull in the right way. 

ADDED: We're told that Hogg's company will sell pillows that are "American-made by union workers," and I see at least one commenter mocking him as stupid — "Can you imagine the cost of a unionized pillow?" That made me think of the old "Look for the union label" ad campaign, which urged Americans to buy American-made clothing and to feel good about paying the extra cost. I rewatched those commercials, and they might make you laugh, but they actually made me cry, and I was trying not to cry. 

"It’s so hard to fit old First Amendment principles into the social media era. This is one of those areas of law that needs to evolve."

Said Greg H. Greubel, a staff attorney at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, quoted in "Students Punished for ‘Vulgar’ Social Media Posts Are Fighting Back/A lawsuit against the University of Tennessee questions when schools can discipline students because of their online speech" (NYT).
According to court papers, the [University of Tennessee pharmacy school's] professional conduct committee, composed of nine faculty members and three students, cited several examples it considered objectionable in [Kimberly] Diei’s [Twitter and Instagram] posts. 
Those tweets, her court papers say, include one in which she was “contributing to a trending discussion on Twitter about the song ‘WAP’ by Cardi B featuring Megan Thee Stallion by suggesting lyrics for a possible remix.” 
Her suggestion — “He ain’t my pops but I call him DAD” because he is good in bed (her wording was less polite) — was “well within the normal bounds of discussion on social media,” her complaint says....

February 4, 2021

At the Thursday Night Cafe...

 ... you can talk about whatever you want.

"I write to you today regarding the so-called Disciplinary Committee hearing aimed at revoking my union membership. Who cares!"

"While I’m not familiar with your work, I’m very proud of my work on movies such as Home Alone 2, Zoolander and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps; and television shows including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Saturday Night Live, and of course, one of the most successful shows in television history, The Apprentice—to name just a few! I've also greatly helped the cable news television business (said to be a dying platform with not much time left until I got involved in politics), and created thousands of jobs at networks such as MSDNC and Fake News CNN, among many others. Which brings me to your blatant attempt at free media attention to distract from your dismal record as a union. Your organization has done little for its members, and nothing for me—besides collecting dues and promoting dangerous un-American policies and ideas—as evident by your massive unemployment rates and lawsuits from celebrated actors, who even recorded a video asking, ‘Why isn’t the union fighting for me?' These, however, are policy failures. Your disciplinary failures are even more egregious. I no longer wish to be associated with your union. As such, this letter is to inform you of my immediate resigning from SAG-AFTRA. You have done nothing for me." 

That's Donald Trump's wonderfully caustic letter to the Screen Actors Guild, reported at Fox News

It's so refreshing to get a new blast of Trump rhetoric. Therefore, I hope he says yes to the letter from the House Managers, reported at CNN: "Two days ago, you filed an Answer in which you denied many factual allegations set forth in the article of impeachment. You have thus attempted to put critical facts at issue notwithstanding the clear and overwhelming evidence of your constitutional offense. In light of your disputing these factual allegations, I write to invite you to provide testimony under oath, either before or during the Senate impeachment trial, concerning your conduct on January 6, 2021."

Snow walk.



"'During the plague, when people were trying to show they were healthy... they would rouge their cheeks. In World War II, there was tremendous privation and women were still trying to appear to be beautiful.' Today..."

"... people are wanting to express 'what they are going through right now,' in a 'visual diary' or 'tiny piece of immediate theater'...." 

From NY Magazine: "Are the Teens Really Jealous of Our Under-Eye Circles?" Quoting various editors:

"One of my childhood friends had an extremely chic mom who always had visible dark circles. They made her look interesting and mysterious, like she’d been up all night with her handsome young lover. So I’ve always thought they were kind of sexy"/"Right, and the people showing off the trend on TikTok all conform to conventional beauty notions in every other way"/"I think the dark circles are more about a rejection of wellness culture, and I like it from that perspective. Like 'heroin chic' in the ’90s"/"So maybe everything is fake … including this trend."

"Seeing a troubled life as a drama, a series of conflicts that, with luck, lead to resolution is one of the ways we reach a state of hard-won grace as we age. "

"Countries invent stories and myth in order to make sense of trauma, too. One reason the scars of the Civil War have never fully healed is that we’ve never, as a nation, agreed on a single narrative about what it was all for. Now we are engaged in a great debate about the lessons and meaning of the Trump era. To progressives like me, the past four years have been a period of mendacity, incompetence, racism and — in the end — insurrection. The wounds are fresh.... [T]he scars of the Trump years are likely to endure.... How can we ever get past Donald Trump, when so many people seem unwilling to let him go? What do we learn from our scars? Are they just a reminder of the traumas we’ve experienced, things that remind us how easily wounded we really are? Or are we to look upon our dents and marks with wisdom, and understand these wounds really did heal with time — that the pain that once defined our lives will not last forever?"

This column — which also includes a story about a physical scar Boyle has from childhood — is more equivocal than I thought it would be. The title made me think that it would demand that we prioritize the way people feel by telling the story that has the most power to heal those who were traumatized. That is, forget the search for truth, we need to get together as quickly as possible embrace the story that works best to lift the spirits and relieve the suffering of the downtrodden. 

But Boyle doesn't quite say that. Not clearly. She does speak of "a single narrative" about the Civil War without which we "have never fully healed."

"Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) apologized for her past controversial remarks and embrace of the QAnon conspiracy theory.... Greene told her colleagues that she made a mistake by being curious about 'Q'...."

The Hill reports, based on 2 sources who were in "a heated closed-door House GOP conference meeting." 

I wish I had a verbatim quote, because I'm interested in whether she used the word "curious" and whether she apologized for being curious

I think we are in a very dangerous phase of cultural development if people are learning that it is wrong to become interested in things and to read and talk about notions that are not the entirely mainstream, agreed-upon stories. Are doors closing, with self-interested, cowardly people taking a stark lesson not even to consider looking at what's in there? Freedom of thought entails a freedom to explore what is out there and to get things wrong and continue in a process of learning and thinking. The message should not be don't take any side roads because, later on, people may see that you journeyed that way, and they'll regard you as tainted and shun you. 

Greene seems to have gone wrong not by being curious, but by passing undigested material along without processing it through her own critical thinking. I haven't read much of the stuff she posted, but I did see the one Facebook post with something about the Rothschilds and California wildfires. It looks like the kind of text that naive people copy and paste because the text itself demands that it be copied and pasted. Quick! It's important! That is so dumb. But the nitwits who do it are probably not malicious. They may think they are helping and not even recognize the signs of, say, anti-Semitism. 

That kind of reckless text propagation is dangerous too, but the solution is not to punish and control people even more and to shut down their curiosity and path of intellectual exploration. It is to encourage people to go deeper and to generate their own questions about everything they read and to keep going. Don't vouch for anything you don't know! Maintain sharp awareness of what you actually know, which often is just that you have only read something, and not that it's true. 

Freezing and focusing on Marjorie Taylor Greene is not going to save us. And by the way, isn't this whole MTG kerfuffle about saving Liz Cheney? You need a prisoner to do a prisoner exchange.

"When you increase the number of female executive members, if their speaking time isn’t restricted to a certain extent, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying."

Said Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, quoted in the WaPo article "Tokyo Olympics chief says women talk too much at meetings, calls it 'annoying'" by Matt Bonesteel. I'm including the reporter's name because I just love it. Matt Bonesteel. 

But how about this Yoshiro Mori character?! When I was growing up, back in the 1950s and 60s, it was stock repartee to say that women talk too much. But it's 2021! You don't just say women talk too much, let alone stake out the opinion that it's annoying! Ha ha ha. 

Speaking of talking too much — Mori really hurt himself. Don't make the same mistake! Don't be saying that women are making your meetings soooo much longer. Just sit there and put up with it. The consequences of complaining are even more annoying than the time that ticks by as you see your life running out — irretrievably! — like sand in the hourglass. 

ADDED: Commenters over at WaPo are quick to present the research

"Finally, a novel about the travails of a successful White guy! What could pull the heartstrings of our afflicted nation tighter than a story of brief, emotional setback suffered by a handsome movie star?"

The first 2 sentences of "Ethan Hawke turns his acting experience — and past infidelities — into brilliant fiction" (WaPo). 

The reviewer, Ron Charles, also seems to be a white male, so his sarcasm may reflect his own anguish at elite America's languishing interest in how white men think and feel. 
... Hawke is... known as the man who cheated on Uma Thurman and offered loutish excuses about the sexual needs of great men like Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and him. 

Now, some 15 years after all that cosmic embarrassment, Hawke has published a novel called “A Bright Ray of Darkness.” It’s about a young movie star who got caught cheating on his stunningly gorgeous wife. This recycled gossip is tiresome, but what’s most irritating about “A Bright Ray of Darkness” is that it’s really good. If you can ignore the author’s motive for creating such a sensitive and endearing cad, you’ll find here a novel that explores the demands of acting and the delusions of manhood with tremendous verve and insight.

That title!  "A Bright Ray of Darkness" — seems like a teenager's idea of profundity, and yet this guy gets his novel published by Knopf and praised like mad in The Washington Post. Clicking to Amazon, I see he got a blurb from Patti Smith. She called it "riveting." Riveting! This towering achievement comes in spite of the burden of being a handsome, rich, white man in America today. 

Amazon does not allow us to look inside the book, so I have no opportunity to see what kind of writing is drawing this attention. I search the review for an example of the author's prose. Here: "My life as a performer is at the absolute core of my sense of self-worth. Inside the play it felt possible that I was not a person defined by his adultery, or his unloving parents, or his lies, his failure as a father." You tell me: Is this man held back or pushed ahead by his status as a handsome white male?

"A Bright Ray of Darkness" makes me think of that old song. We were listening to this yesterday: "Darkness, Darkness"...


You know me. If there's one topic I've been avoiding in crazy present-day America, it's the "My Pillow Guy." But jokes were made on hearing that first line: "Darkness, Darkness/Be my pillow...."

ADDED: Speaking of Ron Charles and highly praised white male novelists...

AND: In the comments, John Henry reminds me that Amazon lets you download the first 20 pages, so I did that and came up with this extract. I'll let you judge the possible brilliance for yourself. Is this Knopf-level fiction-writing?

"Will y’all call me when the 'this isn’t us' talk stops and the 'this is a systematic issue that we need to deeply examine, completely deconstruct, and rectify' conversation begins?"

Said Rissi Palmer, "the singer-songwriter who hosts Apple Music’s 'Color Me Country,' which focuses on the Black, Indigenous and Latino history of country music," quoted in "Country star Morgan Wallen suspended by record label, dropped by hundreds of radio stations after using racial slur" (WaPo).
... TMZ posted a video Tuesday night that showed Wallen loudly returning home with friends this past weekend. A neighbor, apparently annoyed by the racket, started filming the scene and caught Wallen using the [n-word]. 
Wallen released an apology Tuesday to TMZ....

February 3, 2021

At the Pink Steam Café...


... you can talk about anything.

Any chance this is comedy? "Portlandia"-style comedy? Just an idle hope of mine.

"President Trump was not the first Presidential candidate who declared himself cheated out of victory."

"Andrew Jackson, for instance, strongly believed that the 1824 election had been stolen from him because powerful forces refused to accept his candidacy on behalf of the common man. Richard Nixon believed in 1960 that he had been cheated out of the Presidency by widespread voter fraud in Illinois, which he thought secured John F. Kennedy’s victory. And in 2000, Vice President Al Gore and many of his political supporters thought he would have won the Presidency had all of Florida’s votes been properly counted. Yet despite their feelings of grievance, all of these Presidential candidates accepted the election results and acquiesced to the peaceful transfer of power required by the Constitution. President Trump, alone in our Nation’s history, did not." 

What is the significance of this historical record? That there's a tradition of accepting what you believe is abuse, of not speaking about it and rallying supporters? But after Trump won in 2016, there was vigorous speech about the illegitimacy of the election. Is it just that these other candidates "acquiesced to the peaceful transfer of power"? But Trump acquiesced. He left on schedule. He just talked belligerently and had lots of adherents who believed him.

What is the House Managers' point in recounting this history? This section of the memo (at page 44) just concludes that his belief that he won is "no defense at all for abuse of office." Fine, but even if his belief is not a defense against a charge of abuse, is his belief itself an abuse of office? Is his speech about his belief an abuse of office? 

The question is whether he intended to incite the crowd to commit acts of violence. We care about his state of mind. What does his belief that he won have to do with any of that? The memo just moves on to the next issue. I suppose one might say that Trump's assertion that he's the rightful winner was an essential part of the motivation to attack the Capitol, but that doesn't mean that the assertion alone is a call to attack the Capitol.

Is it ever okay to enjoy the suffering of others?

"The nearly 1,400-foot tower at 432 Park Avenue, briefly the tallest residential building in the world, was the pinnacle of New York’s luxury condo boom half a decade ago, fueled largely by foreign buyers seeking discretion and big returns.... [Now, t]he claims include: millions of dollars of water damage from plumbing and mechanical issues; frequent elevator malfunctions; and walls that creak like the galley of a ship — all of which may be connected to the building’s main selling point: its immense height....Wind sway can cause the cables in the elevator shaft to slap around and lead to slowdowns or shutdowns... [One might hear] metal partitions between walls groan as buildings sway, and the ghostly whistle of rushing air in doorways and elevator shafts.... [There can be] creaking, banging and clicking noises in their apartments, and a trash chute 'that sounds like a bomb' when garbage is tossed...."

Last time I was in NYC, in June 2019, I was shocked by the radical change in the skyline as seen from Central Park. I took this photograph of the very tall skinny buildings:


They look like a painted backdrop in a futuristic movie, not like anything reassuringly stable, such as would cause you to think: Home. Actually, that photograph makes New York City look like a diorama in a Natural History of Earth Museum on another planet.

Top-rated comment at the NYT: "This would be hilarious if it didn't disfigure the city's skyline and highlight the hideous inequality of our society."

"How to Draw Literary Cartoons."

Interview with the artist, Amy Kurzweil, here. Sample:
What’s your favorite New Yorker cartoon trope or cliché (e.g., desert island, grim reaper, Rapunzel tower)? 
I’ll go with the Moby Dick trope, because whales are easy to draw, and I like a good metaphor for the unattainable.

Ah, yes... I was just reading those pages in "The New Yorker Encyclopedia of Cartoons":


AND: Here's the video with the title that's in the post title. I've moved it below the fold because it's autoplaying. I hate that. But it's a nice video about the great subject of drawing. And they even talk about the "Seinfeld" episode with the confusion about New Yorker cartoons:

"President Trump was reportedly 'delighted' by the mayhem he had unleashed, because it was preventing Congress from affirming his election loss."

"This dereliction of duty—this failure to take charge of a decisive security response and to quell the riotous mob— persisted late into the day. In fact, when Congressional leaders begged President Trump to send help, or to urge his supporters to stand down, he instead renewed his attacks on the Vice President and focused on lobbying Senators to challenge the election results. Only hours after his mob first breached the Capitol did President Trump release a video statement calling for peace—and even then, he told the insurrectionists (who were at that very moment rampaging through the Capitol) 'we love you' and 'you’re very special.' President Trump then doubled down at 6:01pm, issuing a tweet that blamed Congress for not surrendering to his demand that the election results be overturned: 'These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love & in peace. Remember this day forever!'" 

From the trial memorandum of the House Managers — PDF

It's this stage of the event — what Trump did after we know he knew the crowd had breached the Capitol — that has the most power to convince me that he deserves to be convicted. I can't see the evidence that there was an advance plan to storm the Capitol, and that, if there was, Trump knew about it, and, therefore, that we should read the language of his rally speech in that light. But at some point, we can see that Trump knew the mayhem was in progress, and clearly he ought to have done what he could to stop what his supporters were doing in his name. 

February 2, 2021

At the Sunrise Café...


... finally, a good sunrise!

Talk about anything you like in the comments.

Am I supposed to pay attention to Marjorie Taylor Greene?

I've been averting my eyes from this because it feels bogus to me. But what do I know? 

What I've absorbed — somehow! — without looking is that MTG is a Republican who got elected to Congress and it seems she believes some really stupid things. What are you going to do about that? My conventional response is: Her district voted her in, so that's that until the next election. Fretting about what to do about her seems like a big distraction. I'm not entering that rathole.

But feel free to tell me what I'm missing. Honestly, I don't even know what she said. Okay, I'm setting my timer for 1 minute and will look only that long.

MORE: I have nothing to add. I did spend that minute reading things. 

I hope we open up Pandora's Box!

I'm reading "Lindsey Graham Warns Democrats Against Calling Witnesses In Trump Impeachment Trial/'You open up Pandora’s box if you call one witness,' cautioned the Trump ally, who claimed a lengthy trial of the former president would be 'bad for the country'" (HuffPo). 
“If you open up that can of worms (by calling witnesses), we’ll want the FBI to come in and tell us about how people actually pre-planned these attacks and what happened with the security footprint at the Capitol,” the South Carolina Republican continued, parroting a right-wing talking point that the attack was planned well before Trump urged his supporters at a pre-riot rally to march to the Capitol.
Graham did not mention that Trump ― even before the election ― whipped his supporters into a lie-fueled frenzy about voter fraud. “You open up Pandora’s box if you call one witness,” Graham said. “I hope we don’t call any and we vote and get this trial over next week when it starts.”

It's hard to parse these "warnings." I assume that if a politico warns the other side not to do something, he's worried about damage to his own side. But that's so obvious that the warning should backfire. Does Graham actually want the Democrats to call witnesses and open the door to weeks or months of testimony that might serve the interests of Republicans? If so, wouldn't the Democrats know that and resist the temptation to call witnesses... or does Graham know that and hope to con the Democrats into not calling witnesses? Infinite layers of potential interpretation. 

I don't know what Graham is really up to, but I suspect both parties would like to get this over quickly and avoid a long public trial. But I would love to hear testimony about what really happened. How planned was the break in? Did Trump know of the plan? To me, Trump's guilt depends on whether he knew there was a plan to break into the Capitol. He never directly exhorts the crowd to do anything more than peacefully protest, but there are words that I would see as a signal to violence if there was a specific and widespread plan to break into the Capitol and Trump knew about it. 

Now, back to Graham's warning. I think that if there are no sworn witnesses, it is much easier to vote against conviction. Unanswered questions of fact leave guilt unproved. In that light, I'd read Graham's warning in the most obvious way, as an indication of his awareness that witnesses will increase the chances of conviction and therefore an effort to get Democrats to help Trump's cause.

But I don't know how much evidence there is that the break in was planned and that Trump knew about it. Why don't I know? Did I miss a news report? Is it being suppressed? The easiest guess is that there is no such evidence. But I'm tired of the coyness. Open the Pandora's Box!

ADDED: The House Managers of the impeachment have released their trial memorandum — this 80-page PDF. I've only read the headings, but I'll post separately if I see references to the evidence I'm looking for, which is certainly something more than that Trump encouraged the belief that he had won the election, drew a big crowd to Washington, and cranked up the crowd to march to the Capitol in protest. 

"Evan Rachel Wood Accuses Marilyn Manson of Abuse ... Hours later Mr. Manson’s label dropped him."

 The NYT reports.

“The name of my abuser is Brian Warner, also known to the world as Marilyn Manson,” Ms. Wood wrote in an Instagram post. “He started grooming me when I was a teenager and horrifically abused me for years. I was brainwashed and manipulated into submission. I am done living in fear of retaliation, slander, or blackmail. I am here to expose this dangerous man and call out the many industries that have enabled him, before he ruins any more lives. I stand with the many victims who will no longer be silent.”
Wood was 19 — a teenager — when the relationship began. Manson was twice her age. His Instagrammed response is:
“Obviously, my art and my life have long been magnets for controversy, but these recent claims about me are horrible distortions of reality. My intimate relationships have always been entirely consensual with like-minded partners. Regardless of how — and why — others are now choosing to misrepresent the past, that is the truth.”
From the NYT:

"A young, female executive arrives in.. broadcast television in the 1990s and... is so good at spotting hits that she becomes, at 32, the president of entertainment at ABC...."

"But she fizzles in epic fashion, brought down by corporate dysfunction, unvarnished sexism, self-sabotage, weaponized industry gossip and scalding news media scrutiny.... ABC badly needed fresh hit shows, and Ms. Tarses... had shepherded the cuddly 'Mad About You' and the neurotic 'Frasier”' to NBC’s prime-time lineup. 'Friends,' which she had helped develop, was the envy of every network.... After a year at ABC, Ms. Tarses, who had alienated some colleagues by not returning calls and missing morning meetings, gave the journalist Lynn Hirschberg unfettered access for an 8,000-word cover story in The New York Times Magazine. The piece portrayed Ms. Tarses as 'a nervous girl' who swung erratically between arrogance and insecurity. 'Women are emotional, and Jamie is particularly emotional,' one male agent, speaking anonymously, was quoted as saying. 'You think of her as a girl, and it changes how you do business with her.'... Ms. Tarses resigned in 1999. She left ABC with one popular sitcom, 'Dharma & Greg,' and one comedy that was a hit with critics, Aaron Sorkin’s 'Sports Night.'... 'I just don’t want to play anymore,' she told The Los Angeles Times when she left ABC. 'The work is a blast. The rest of this nonsense I don’t need.'"

"A crash-course in how to smell train."


I'm watching that — and I ordered this — after listening to the Daily podcast, "The Forgotten Sense/What can the coronavirus's strangest symptom teach us about the mysteries of smell," and hearing about "smell training" for the first time.

I've never had covid 19 (as far as I know), but I have had a profound (but not complete) loss of the sense of smell for more than a decade. The loss of smell is getting a lot of attention these days, and it hasn't been taken very seriously in the past. That's something discussed in the podcast, and we're getting the podcast now because the symptom has become so common. Even though I look for stories on this subject all the time, I had never heard of smell training! 

I've often tested to see if my sense of smell is improving by sniffing at various jars in the kitchen cupboard — vanilla, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder, curry powder. I get a little something, almost nothing, but I keep hoping to get a bit more. But I'd never thought to train rather than merely test, and I've never been methodical about it. It would be more of a spontaneous reaction to thinking I'm smelling something. I'll say "I feel like I can smell the bacon." Feel like. Is it just a memory of smell? A vague warmth?! I don't know, but I hopefully sniff at a few jars and try to remember if I'm getting anything more than the last time.

The smell training is methodical. You have 4 essential oils to smell and get "mindful" about, and you do them twice a day for at least 4 months. Don't give up! Keep going for 4 months. I'll let you know how this works.

ADDED: After publishing this post, I scrolled down the front page of my blog, saw the title, and did a double take. Huh? Smell train?! 

I think most of the comments on this post are people riffing on the notion of smelling a train. Meade was kidding around acting like he could smell a train in the house, and it unlocked a memory for me, a song I had not thought about in over 60 years:


The title of the song is actually "In the Middle of the House." It was a minor hit in 1956, and it was something kids loved. There were a lot of novelty songs that kids loved back in the 50s. I'm not talking about children's music, such as you'd find in later decades. Just novelty songs that everyone loved. They kind of competed with rock and roll music, and, in fact, at least to me, as a kid, they made rock and roll music seem like more novelty music. What puts "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Pink Shoelaces" in different categories?

"When I saw people putting in their windows, it just felt like this fluffy, billowing feeling of potential and growth and things happening again."

Said Angelica Palmer, quoted in "Can Cute Windows Resurrect a Depressed Town in Upstate New York?/A project in Cherry Valley, a longtime artists’ haven, is brightening storefronts and telling the world, 'We’re still here!'" (NYT). 
[O]ver the last eight weeks, several hundred people have come to Cherry Valley to see the windows and visit the pop-up boutiques, traveling from Cooperstown, Sharon Springs, Albany, even New York City. It’s premature to suggest that this small number of visitors would be enough to help reverse Cherry Valley’s economic fortunes....

Never has there been such clear proof that I don't read every paragraph of the articles I blog about.

Yesterday, I blogged about "Pellet Ice Is the Good Ice" — a New Yorker article by Helen Rosner. I'd read the paragraph that said "industrial pellet ice machines are the size of dishwashers, and (like most heavy-duty restaurant appliances) can cost thousands of dollars." 

So when some commenters said they owned an ice-making machine called the G.E. Opal, I said: "But the main thing I'd like to know is whether this [ice] is the same thing the New Yorker writer is raving about." 

Freeman Hunt gave me this gentle nudge — "The writer seems to think so" —  and eventually I get around to looking back at the article. Well! The entire last paragraph — 201 words — is about the G.E. Opal... 
... a hulking countertop appliance that makes a pound of pellet ice per hour and, relative to its commercial counterparts, costs a mere four hundred and ninety-nine dollars....  The G.E. Opal was an absurd purchase, unnecessary and indefensible. But it brings me the good ice....

I confess! I link to things all the time that I haven't completely read. I've always partially read these things. I don't link just based on headlines, and I'm actually quite likely to jump to the middle of articles, where, I believe, the coolest/strangest stuff is buried. But, wow, I really missed the whole paragraph about the G.E. Opal. The article now feels as though it's an embedded ad for the G.E. Opal, though I trust The New Yorker to mark it "Sponsored" if that were indeed the case. And I missed my chance — which I'll take right now — to give you an Amazon Associates link to to the G.E. Opal. The thing is $499. That was a real opportunity for me that I squandered. Such is the fast-moving world of blogging. And yet it's slow enough for me to begin a day — at 5 a.m. — with a confession of my own sloppiness and an a late-breaking shot at making a percentage of $499.

But I do see at Amazon that some buyers are complaining about the sound the thing makes: "The squeals and squeaks from my unit, are unbearable" (with video, including audio of the sound). Does it make that sound all the time? It's a bit like the sound my refrigerator makes — occasionally and briefly — in its ice-making cycle. Yes, I have an ice-maker, but I'm considering paying $499 for a bulky countertop appliance so I can get "the good ice."

February 1, 2021

At the Monday Night Café...

 ... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Everything that has happened in this country just in the last year has proved that Black people have no reason to trust the government."

"My mantra is, if you can do it for yourself, you shouldn’t trust other people to do it for you. Because I can’t see for myself what’s going on in that building, I’m not going to trust somebody else to keep my children safe." 

Pro-se Trump?

I'm reading "Trump Names Two Members of Impeachment Defense Team/The announcement came a day after he parted ways with five lawyers, and with his trial looming next week" (NYT):
Mr. Trump has told advisers he wants the defense to focus on his baseless claims about election fraud, a person familiar with the discussions said. A person close to the former president disputed that that was the case, but conceded that Mr. Trump had dismissively said the case was so simple that he could try it himself and save money.

Just to save money? Or does he think he's the one best able to put the case in the form that seems right to him: simple!

I wouldn't put it past him. After all, he decided that he could do the whole President-of-the-United-States job. The weirdest thing that's happened in my lifetime is Trump becoming President. I can totally see the Senate doors opening and Trump strutting in, with just a page of notes tucked into his jacket pocket. 

I floated the pro-se Trump theory yesterday, here.

"Do not nod along when you hear the following: That Abraham Lincoln’s name on a public school or his likeness on a statue is white supremacy."

"(It is not; he is a hero.) That separating people into racial affinity groups is progressive. (It is a form of segregation.) That looting has no victims (untrue) and that small-business owners can cope anyway because they have insurance (nonsense). That any disparity of outcome is evidence of systemic oppression (false). That America is evil. (It is the last hope on Earth.)" 

From "10 ways to fight back against woke culture" by Bari Weiss (NY Post). 

You can read the list for yourself. It's not as exciting as Jordan Peterson's "12 Rules," but you might like it. Much of it reads as advice to a particular sort of person, approximately the sort of person I picture reading the New York Times, a middle-aged, affluent women in New York City:  "Become more self-reliant. If you can learn to use a power drill, do it.... Learn to... shoot a gun.... Worship God more than Yale.... Getting your child into an elite preschool is not essential....."

If you can learn to use a power drill...? Who can't learn to use a power drill?

Looking for a link for Jordan Peterson's "12 Rules," I ran across this snappy digest of the book that's not at all friendly to Peterson but really brings out how much more exciting Peterson's list is than Weiss's. Here's how the digester — John Crace in The Guardian — summarized Peterson's Rule 10, "Be precise in your speech": "Confront the chaos of Being. Don’t try to beat about the bush. Things are going to be terrible. Oedipus killed his Dad. You may well kill yours. Get over it. Face up to the real horrors of the world."

"Facebook’s 2019 renovations marked a strategic pivot away from its News Feed and one of its most significant platform alterations in years. It emphasized content from Groups..."

"... elevating it in the stream of material it served to users. Giving priority to Groups, Facebook said, would help people make meaningful connections with like-minded friends. The shift came as Facebook faced criticism that News Feed was susceptible to foreign interference and other manipulation.... In a 2020 Super Bowl ad, it celebrated amateur-rocketry buffs, bouldering clubs and rocking-chair enthusiasts—brought together through Groups. Nina Jankowicz, a social media researcher at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., said she became alarmed after hearing a Facebook representative advise a European prime minister’s social-media director that Groups were now the best way to reach a large audience on the platform. 'My eyes bugged out of my head,' said Ms. Jankowicz, who studies the intersection of democracy and technology. 'I knew how destructive Groups could be.' The problem, she said, was that Facebook wasn’t stepping up oversight along with its algorithmic promotion of Groups. Recommendations could take a user from an alternative-health Group to an anti-Covid-lockdown Group to a militia Group in a few clicks.... If Facebook didn’t rethink its approach, she warned, Groups could undermine democracy.... Many of the most successful Groups were under the control of administrators that tolerated or actively cultivated hate speech, harassment and graphic calls for violence, it said, noting that one top Group 'aggregates the most inflammatory news stories of the day and feeds them to a vile crowd that immediately and repeatedly calls for violence.'"

Much as I deplore violence and worry about terrible people organizing quickly, when I read "aggregates the most inflammatory news stories of the day and feeds them to a vile crowd," I thought: Oh, no, that's what my ex-friends say about me!

"Unlike standard ice, it doesn’t clink; instead, it makes a soothing, gently percussive shuffling sound, like someone shaking an afuche-cabasa in the apartment next door."

From "Pellet Ice Is the Good Ice" (The New Yorker).
Pellet ice is cylindrical, with smooth sides and rough ends, as if each piece had been snapped off of a long dowel of ice. Unlike most ice, which is either carved from a larger block or frozen in a mold, it is made from paper-thin flakes of ice that are pressed into a solid mass—a method familiar to anyone who’s packed soft fresh snow into a dense, compact snowball—and then pushed through round holes punched in a metal sheet, creating a fragile cylinder that breaks off into pieces. Here’s where pellet ice differs from crushed ice, with which it is often erroneously conflated: the compression of the nuggets creates flaky layers, which, as in a well-laminated pastry, render the ice pellets lightweight and airy, with crevices and tiny caves into which your drink can penetrate, and a yielding texture perfect for chewing. The ice is small, each piece only about a centimetre long and narrower in diameter, so it fills a glass more efficiently than lumbering cubes or half-moons, and somehow, in a quirk of thermodynamics, it allegedly melts more slowly.
It's the part about the sound that interests me the most. I have a quirky dislike for the sound of ice cubes clinking in a glass. I'm familiar with the alternative of omitting ice altogether, but this soothing, gently percussive shuffling sound is revelatory. Given my very low sense of taste and smell, I care more than most people about the texture and temperature of things I eat and drink, but rarely use ice, so I sacrifice a dimension of coldness because of a mild aversion to ice. But if ice brought cold and not merely silence but a soothing, gently percussive shuffling sound.... 

January 31, 2021

At the Sunday Night Cafe...

 ... you can talk about whatever you want.

"John Weaver, a longtime Republican strategist and co-founder of the prominent anti-Trump group the Lincoln Project, has for years sent unsolicited and sexually provocative messages online to young men..."

"...often while suggesting he could help them get work in politics, according to interviews with 21 men who received them. His solicitations included sending messages to a 14-year-old, asking questions about his body while he was still in high school and then more pointed ones after he turned 18.... [M]any of them described feeling preyed upon by an influential older man in the field in which they wanted to work, and believing they had to engage with his repeated messaging or lose a professional opportunity. Mr. Weaver sent overt sexual solicitations to at least 10 of the men and, in the most explicit messages, offered professional and personal assistance in exchange for sex. He told one man he would 'spoil you when we see each other,' according to a message reviewed by The New York Times. 'Help you other times. Give advice, counsel, help with bills. You help me … sensually.'"

What should sound weird?

I'm reading "Amanda Gorman showed us how civic ceremonies can have prayer without invoking God" by Kate Cohen (WaPo): 
Hearing a grown-up ask God for something should sound as strange to me as hearing him plead with Santa or Superman. “We seek your faith, your smile, your warm embrace,” should sound weird. But it doesn’t. I was raised in America, where pledging allegiance “under God,” spending money stamped with “In God We Trust” and ending speeches with “God Bless America” are so automatic that “gracious and merciful God” sounds like “blah blah blah.” 
But is “blah blah blah” what we want from our ceremonial language? Leaving aside constitutionality — as, unfortunately, the courts continue to do — unless every American actually believes that we need to ask a supernatural being for help, then appealing to God robs these prayers of their rhetorical power. Either because they sound meaningless or because what they mean, fundamentally, is that He is the agent of change, not we.

Cohen argues that there are ways to elevate and solemnize civic occasions that don't use God. As you can tell from the title of her column, Cohen indulges in the adoration of the young woman who read a poem at the inauguration. I did not read or listen to this poem so I have nothing to say about the poet other than that the people who are overly enthused about her feel patronizing — if not idolatrous — to me. Which is why I didn't watch. I didn't want to be soppy or judge-y.

But Cohen's point is that the poet was able to use words like "The new dawn blooms as we free it" and "there is always light" to create a religion-y vibe. So there is a way, if that's what we want and need. Leaving God out is what Cohen says she needs "to make eternal truths shimmer." 

But verbiage like "new dawn blooms" and "there is always light" would in time sound just as "blah blah blah" as "gracious and merciful God." It's a government ceremony. It doesn't really matter. Find your deep inspiration away from government. That's the real separation of church and state. 

"Like baseball, everyday reality is an adventure that begins and ends at home base, where we are safe."

"No society can police everything all the time, least of all a democratic society. A healthy society rests on a consensus about what is a deviation and what is normal. We venture out from the norm, but we know the difference between the outfield and home, the reality of everyday life. Without that, as we have now experienced, things fall apart.... Society renews itself as common sense evolves. This requires trustworthy, transparent, respectful institutions of social discourse, especially when we disagree. Instead we are saddled with the opposite, nearly 20 years into a world dominated by a political-economic institution that operates as a chaos machine for hire, in which norm violation is key to revenue. Social media’s no-longer-young men defend their chaos machines with a twisted rendition of First Amendment rights. Social media is not a public square but a private one governed by machine operations and their economic imperatives, incapable of, and uninterested in, distinguishing truth from lies or renewal from destruction. For many who hold freedom of speech as a sacred right, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s 1919 dissenting opinion in Abrams v. United States is a touchstone. 'The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas,' he wrote. 'The best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market.' The corrupt information that dominates the private square does not rise to the top of a free and fair competition of ideas. It wins in a rigged game. No democracy can survive this game."

A very small sample from "The Coup We Are Not Talking About We can have democracy, or we can have a surveillance society, but we cannot have both" by Shoshana Zuboff, an emeritus professor at Harvard Business School (NYT).

The "coup we are not talking about" is the way internet companies have engineered "surveillance empires" with "unaccountable power" —"a fundamentally anti-democratic epistemic coup." 

"The Capitol complex is a place where Americans can go to watch their representatives, to speak with those representatives, to petition for the redress of grievances."

"The building and its grounds also are part of the fabric of the city. Streams of bikers pass through on morning and evening commutes. Tourists gather for concerts on the lawn. When it snows, the front face of Capitol Hill becomes a popular sledding spot, with neighborhood children sometimes transforming discarded protest signs into makeshift sleds. This is not just an amenity for neighbors and visitors. It is the tangible manifestation of the idea that the government is a part of American life, rather than something separate and apart." 

They're reacting to the statement by the acting chief of the Capitol Police, Yogananda Pittman: "In light of recent events, I can unequivocally say that vast improvements to the physical security infrastructure must be made to include permanent fencing...." 

The NYT description of the Capitol grounds makes me think of our state capitol grounds here in Madison. Such an important gathering spot. To lose it to fencing would sacrifice a lot and send a terrible message about the accessibility of government and the ineffectuality of the police. It feels like giving up.

But, you know, you used to be able to walk around on the White House lawn. From a 2014 WaPo article:

"Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman... released a short film in January outlining his plans for the Line, a postmodern ecotopia to be built on the kingdom’s northwest coast."

"It will be a narrow urban strip 106 miles long with no roads, no cars and no pollution. M.B.S.... calls the Line a 'civilizational revolution' to be inhabited by one million people 'from all over the world.'... To watch the crown prince’s promotional video is to be immersed in a distinctively Saudi form of arrogance, blending religious triumphalism and royal grandiosity. The film begins with a fast-moving montage of the 20th-century’s greatest scientific and technical breakthroughs, including an incongruous image of Saudi Arabia’s founding king — as if he’d been a Steve Jobs-style innovator rather than a camel-riding desert warrior.... As M.B.S. conjures this brave new world — no journey will take more than 20 minutes! zero carbon emissions! — you get the sense that his chutzpah is nothing short of metaphysical. He appears to believe that nature itself is at his command.... The film’s final words, spoken as a multicultural parade of faces flickers across the screen, are deliciously preposterous: 'A home to all of us — welcome to the Line.'" 

Here's my screen shot, showing "The Line":

"Let’s get one thing straight: there’s nothing 'respectable' about representing Donald Trump in his impeachment trial. Trump doesn’t have any legal right..."

"... to be represented by a lawyer in this context: it’s not a criminal trial, and if no real lawyer is willing to represent him, well that’s just too bad.  The notion that someone like Trump has a 'right' to have lawyers help him out in this context is a particularly perverse abuse of the concept of the right to counsel. If you represent Trump in this context it’s either because you think what Trump did on January 6th was affirmatively good, or you like money — or more realistically the promise of money — enough to overcome your distaste for murderous sedition."

Writes lawprof Paul Campos, (at Lawyer, Guns & Money). He finds it "funny" that Trump's "entire legal team quits. He's laughing at Trump's loss of legal representation and condemning any lawyer who would step up to provide representation. He says it's perverse and abusive even to think that there is a right to counsel at this thing called a trial that is to take place in the Senate. Everyone already knows in advance that Trump is guilty of "murderous sedition." 

It's very creepy, this aggressive enthusiasm for seeing one's enemy deprived of a defense.

Is Trump pathetically lawyerless or is he planning the power move of all time — representing himself on the Senate floor?

The conventional wisdom is, of course, that you never want to represent yourself — but that's in reference to the conventional setting, where you are in court and it's a law-based affair. Trump faces a trial in the midst of 100 Senators, with no Chief Justice presiding — no separate decision-makers of law and fact — and a complete tangle of law and politics, with politics taking precedence over law. 

Think about the stakes: What does Trump risk if he loses? Disqualification from running for office again? The real stakes are history — who writes it and whether Trump, in this next chapter, is a has-been holed up in Florida or the biggest, ballsiest man in American history, fighting 100 pompous politicos on the floor of the Senate. What a wildly entertaining movie! You say he's a narcissist? A reality-show star who somehow burst into the highest level of politics, where he boldly, recklessly proceeds on instinct and optimism? 

I'm sketching out these thoughts after seeing this glaring headline at Drudge this morning:

That links to a milder headline I'd seen yesterday: "First on CNN: Trump's impeachment defense team leaves less than two weeks before trial" (CNN).

Why do you think he's using these lawyers, then sending them on their way? Do you think they are abandoning him because he wants them to do things that they can't ethically do?
Former President Donald Trump's five impeachment defense attorneys have left a little more than a week before his trial is set to begin, according to people familiar with the case, amid a disagreement over his legal strategy. It was a dramatic development in the second impeachment trial for Trump, who has struggled to find lawyers willing to take his case.... 
He's down. His enemies see him as already defeated. Pathetic. Even his lawyers won't touch him. The 100 Senators are setting up to destroy his reputation, to write him down in history as The Worst President....