April 9, 2022

At the Sunrise Café, you can talk about whatever you like.

It was a clear, bright sunrise:


I liked this hot-and-cold look — sunrise light on red and orange branches and — in the foreground — dead things with powdered-sugar snow.


The scilla that invaded long ago is a pleasant enough guest, good enough to bloom earlier than anything else in our garden:


"There was a particularly difficult day and all these people I knew were like, 'Oh God, I lost Wordle today. I’m devastated.' I was just like, 'Oh, that’s very normal for me.'"

Said Doug Dodson, a 39-year-old classical singer in Atlanta, quoted in "LOSER/When you fail at Wordle for the first time, it may affect you more than you think" (Slate)
Dodson said he even finds it amusing to occasionally post his losing grids on social media: “If I didn’t get it in some spectacularly embarrassing way, I will share it.” 
“There was one where I got the first, third, and fourth letters correct on the first try and then never was able to fill in either of the other two letters,” Dodson said.  When that happened, a friend was so baffled at how he still managed to lose that she reached out to him. “She was like, ‘I would love to know what words you guessed,’ ” he said. 
Eric Allix Rogers, a 36-year-old who works at a nonprofit in Chicago and is a multiple-time Wordle loser, said he believes in sharing his losses online for almost philosophical reasons: “It violates that expectation of curating an image of success and perfection on social media, the posting your Ls.”

"Some imagine that they should spend their final years doing as much world travel as possible. They want to see new places and smell new things, and taste new fish..."

"... and I can’t see the point because all you’re doing is creating memories you’ll never be able to savour. There’s a similar problem with reading. You’re filling your head with new things that will never be of any use. Because while you’ll have the facts to hand, you won’t have the mental agility to use them to form worthwhile opinions. And even if you do, who’ll listen?...  I started going for walks in the pandemic, mainly because if I was far from the house I was far from the fridge. This is something I hated as a young man. I couldn’t see the point of 'going for a walk' if I was simply going to end up back where I started. But I love it now because I can see the hedgerows changing with the seasons.... [W]hen you are old, you no longer need to make the best use of your time. You need to waste it. You need to fill the hours and that’s why gardening now holds some appeal. I bought some secateurs the other day and find them mildly arousing.... All the stuff I used to think was boring is now a 'lovely' way of passing the time. I haven’t fallen into the jigsaw wormhole yet and I haven’t taken up bridge or golf. Nor have I felt compelled yet to spend any time sitting in the Volvo in a 'viewing area' at a beauty spot drinking tea from a Thermos. But I will."

From "Jeremy Clarkson on growing old and his fear of death/On the brink of turning 62 — and outliving his father and several of his closest friends — Clarkson takes a long, hard look in the mirror" (London Times).

This made me want to link once again to "10 reasons to live like a grandma" (TikTok).  And "Let's talk about grandmacore."

"[O]n a patch of grass lay part of a Tochka-U ballistic missile, about 6ft long, twisted and broken at one end. On the side, someone had daubed 'For the children' in white paint..."

"... a perverse inversion of reality that seemed to paint the attack as revenge for the imagined deaths of children at Ukrainian hands. Ukraine’s defence ministry said the missile had carried cluster sub-munitions, which are designed to kill and maim indiscriminately over a large area and whose use has been widely condemned.... As the warhead detonated, spraying shrapnel across the concourse, it took a horrific toll. Thirty-nine people were killed at the station, another 13 died in hospital.... Stanislav Zagursky, the local police chief, showed me a photograph, taken moments after the blast, of a boy in jeans and a blue coat lying on his back on one of the green-painted benches dotted around the station, his feet tucked up next to him. His head had been blown off. 'The boy was eight years old'... Moments after the attack, a pro-Russia separatist channel claimed Russian forces had launched a strike on what they said were Ukrainian military targets at the train station in Kramatorsk. The post was deleted after the extent of the civilian casualties became clear. Then the Russian defence ministry claimed that Russia did not possess Tochka-U rockets, despite the fact they had been paraded in training exercises in the months before the war...."

From "Civilians from Ukraine went to Kramatorsk station to escape Russia’s attacks. It turned into a killing zone/Putin’s troops targeted a busy railway station with cluster munitions, killing women and children fleeing the violence in Donbas" (London Times).

"Since his inauguration, Biden has spent only 12 weekends in the capital... In the same period, he’s spent 31 weekends back home in Delaware and 16 at Camp David."

"He’s hosted no state dinners. Sightings around town are few, and often involve a quiet trip to church.... Nowhere was Biden’s implicit promise of dullness more popular than inside the Beltway, a place traumatized by Donald Trump. But it turns out that what the city wanted was less back-to-sleep than back-to-normal.... 'The president could be a Cardboard Box and I think Washington wouldn’t be boring,' says Jamie Weinstein, known for putting together soirees with high-profile guests. '... If you depend on who occupies the Oval Office to define whether D.C. has a great social scene, you are doing something wrong.'... [T]he real impact of having an elderly, not-here-on-weekends president during a pandemic may be to hustle up other trends that were already happening, a move away from big events and formal dinners to socializing that’s more low-key.... 'I get invited to these embassy events and I sometimes forget to go,' is how one of my pals, a longtime local partygoer, puts it. 'And then I’ll look on social media to see who was there and it’s like, "Eeew."'"

I'm impressed that Michael Schaffer got a whole long article out of this material: "Joe Biden’s ‘Cardboard Box’ Presidency/The president promised to be boring. He’s over-delivered" (Politico).

"Since this time last year, New York City rents have risen 33 percent, nearly double the national average...."

"In affluent neighborhoods, it’s worse: at the height of the pandemic, in Williamsburg in Brooklyn and on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, for example, the median asking rent fell about 20 percent. Since January 2021 it has charged upward by about 40 percent in both places, according to StreetEasy. In SoHo the median rent jumped 58 percent in the fourth quarter — from $3,800 to $6,002... Behind the extreme hikes in rent is a rental market crunch driven in part by Covid expats flooding back, attracted once again to a revitalized city or recalled by office jobs." 

From "The New York Dream of Cheap Rent and No Roommates? It’s Over. The city is thriving, but many who scored a deal now face rent-renewal sticker shock. Rents rose 33 percent between January of 2021 and January this year, according to an online listing site" (NYT).

I found the first sentence of this article really alienating: "The hallmarks of feeling like you’ve made it in New York City are often as follows: navigating the subway sans map, a maitre d’ who knows you by name and living alone, at last, in your own apartment." 

I lived in NYC from 1973 to 1984 (and in the Fall 2007/Spring 2008 academic year) and I can say with certainty that I never gave a damn about a maitre d’ knowing me — by name or otherwise. And I've also never thought in terms of whether I'd "made it." Are young people not young anymore? I'm old now, and I can't identify with the oldness of the purported youngness expressed in that sentence. What an incredible drag! 

ADDED: I was inspired to research "make it" in the OED. The original meaning of this phrase is nautical. To "make it" is to cover the intended distance. Then it got figurative:


I'd have to check the text, but I think when "They went to a parking lot in broad daylight..and there, he claims, he made it with her in nothing flat," she was not the maitre d’.

"Some years ago I evolved what I called the Small Ball Theory to assess the quality of literature about sports."

"This stated that there seems to be a correlation between the standard of writing about a particular sport and the ball it utilizes -- that the smaller the ball, the more formidable the literature. There are superb books about golf, very good books about baseball, not many good books about football or soccer, very few good books about basketball and no good books at all about beach balls...."

Wrote George Plimpton — in 1992 — in "The Smaller the Ball, the Better the Book: A Game Theory of Literature" (NYT). I'm reading that not because this weekend is The Masters, but because I stumbled across a 1996 piece "Bad Sports," by Michiko Kakutani (NYT), about the "hippie psychobabble" that had taken over golf writing:

Consider the ur-text of New Age golf writing, ''Golf in the Kingdom'' (1972), by Michael Murphy, a founder of Esalen. In the course of the book, the reader is introduced to a guru-like golf teacher named Shivas Irons, who spouts aphorisms like ''let the nothingness into yer shots,'' and is pelted with a boggling array of metaphors: golf as ''the new yoga of the supermind,'' golf as a recapitulation of evolution and golf as a Rorschach test of character....

Two recent novels -- ''The Legend of Bagger Vance,'' by Steven Pressfield, and ''Follow the Wind,'' by Bo Links -- give us Shivas wannabes, who tell their disciples to find their ''troo self.''... Perhaps sappiest of all is Jeff Wallach's ''Beyond the Fairway,'' a series of essays that purports to be a golf version of ''Zen in the Art of Archery'' when in fact it's closer to one of those business manuals that try to adapt the principles of Sun Tzu's classic ''Art of War'' to corporate back-stabbing....

I'm reading Kakutani's old essay because I was looking up "The Art of War" in the NYT. And I wasn't doing that out of any sort of thought that the Russians are botching the art of war in Ukraine, but because I wanted to do a post in honor of the 50th anniversary (tomorrow) of the discovery of the Yinqueshan Han Tombs, which contained "a nearly complete Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD) copy of The Art of War, known as the Yinqueshan Han Slips, which is almost completely identical to modern editions." 

Back to Kakutani (whose name is misspelled in the NYT scan of her ancient article):

Zen golf, [Wallach] writes, is ''a way of transporting yourself to a new dimension, gaining access to new perspectives, and maybe racking up a few birdies along the way.'' The problem with such passages isn't just the bad writing (which pretty much negates George Plimpton's famous ''Small Ball Theory'' that the smaller the ball the better the writing), the sanctimoniousness or even its startling trivialization of Zen. The problem is that such writing takes sport out of the lovely pure realm of the physical, where talent and strength and discipline are measured in unforgiving inches and lifetime stats, and plunges it into the warm recovery movement realm of subjectivity and self-esteem.

Little did Kakutani know, the very year she wrote, 1996, a new phenomenon would take over golf. Tiger Woods went professional that year, and just about ever since, the main thing about golf has been how is Tiger doing? An in-the-flesh icon overwhelmed the old hippie psychobabble of "The Legend of Bagger Vance." 

But they did make a movie out of "The Legend of Bagger Vance" — "Time [Magazine] called it one of the most 'embarrassing' films of recent years for its treatment of African Americans and the use of a 'Magical African-American Friend.'" 

Matt Damon's magical friend was, of course, Will Smith: 

Who recruited you? Holiday Inn?

That Holiday Inn ad is real: "Holiday Inn drops transsexual ad that premiered at Super Bowl" (AP, January 28, 1997).

""[T]he Russian forces tramped about the [Chernobyl Exclusion Zone] with bulldozers and tanks, digging trenches and bunkers — and exposing themselves to potentially harmful doses of radiation ..."

"At just one site of extensive trenching a few hundred yards outside the town of Chernobyl, the Russian army had dug an elaborate maze of sunken walkways and bunkers.... The soldiers had apparently camped out for weeks in the radioactive forest.... At one dug-in position, Russian troops had burrowed a bunker from the sandy side of a road embankment and left heaps of trash — food wrappings, discarded boots, a blackened cooking pot — suggesting they had lived in the underground space for an extended time. Nearby, a bulldozer had scraped away the topsoil to build berms for artillery emplacements and a half-dozen foxholes. The forest around had recently burned, suggesting a fire had swept over the area during the Russian occupation, adding radioactive smoke to the exposure of the Russian soldiers, along with dust from disturbed ground." 

From "Russian Blunders in Chernobyl: ‘They Came and Did Whatever They Wanted’/Tank treads ripped up the toxic soil, bulldozers carved trenches and bunkers, and soldiers spent a month camped in — and dug into — a radioactive forest" (NYT).

Also, we're told, the Russian solders left "appliances and electronic goods on roads in the Chernobyl zone" — including a washing machine — "apparently looted from towns deeper inside Ukraine and cast off for unclear reasons in the final retreat."

The shocking and absurd ineptitude made me think of something I read last night in "Nine ways Russia botched its invasion of Ukraine" (WaPo). Item #2, "Not preparing their troops": 

Testimonies of captured Russian soldiers suggest many troops had not been told they would be invading Ukraine. Some said they were told they were participating in a military exercise... That meant they were psychologically unprepared to be shot at and blown up, as happened almost instantly, which took an immediate toll on troops’ morale....

April 8, 2022

At the Snowdrop Café...


... you can talk all night.

"I do not tolerate people who hold views that can be harmful to others.... I am tolerant of other people’s views, but only if those views are not offensive...."

Here are the actual questions on that free-speech survey we were talking about yesterday — the one the University of Wisconsin system decided to delay until next fall. 

 Please go to the link and view all the questions — it's quite long! — then answer my survey:

Is this poll distorted to get a particular result?
pollcode.com free polls

"A federal jury acquitted two men of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and deadlocked on the case against two others, apparently agreeing to some degree with defense claims that FBI agents entrapped the men..."

"... in a violent plot shortly before the 2020 election. The trial in Grand Rapids, Mich. has been closely watched as a test of the U.S. government’s ramped-up efforts to combat domestic terrorism, and the verdict is a partial defeat for the Justice Department. The men’s arrest in October 2020 raised alarms about the possibility of politically-motivated violence as the nation was increasingly divided over a bitterly contested presidential race.... A mistrial was declared for Fox and Croft, and federal authorities said they plan to go to trial a second time. The case marks one of the rare instances in which an entrapment defense was even partly successful in a terrorism case."

WaPo reports.

Top-rated comments over there: "Jury nullification, just like Kyle Rittenhouse. When even governors aren't safe, our nation has a cancer"/"Hoo boy this country is in trouble"/"If your peers are also sympathetic to domestic terrorism, then there is a problem. Obviously there is a problem in many parts of the US."

"While walking along the edge of the embankment, it appears that the ground beneath her collapsed, bringing her down the bank along with clay and rocks... Clay banks are always unstable..."

"... and can be undermined in areas not visible from above. When hiking, please stay on marked trails and observation areas. If you choose to hike alone, always make sure someone knows your route of travel and when you plan to return." 

Said the Iron County Sheriff's Department, quoted in "Wisconsin doctor fell to her death on solo hiking trip when clay bank collapsed underneath her: sheriff/Kelsey Musgrove was a cardiothoracic surgery fellow at the University of Wisconsin" (Fox News).

From WaPo's Fact Checker: "Unraveling the tale of Hunter Biden and $3.5 million from Russia."

 Glenn Kessler writes: 

We interviewed people familiar with the transactions, reviewed property and real estate documents and probed for leads in the emails contained on a hard drive copy of the laptop Hunter Biden supposedly left behind for repair in a Delaware shop in April 2019. None of our sources would speak on the record because of continuing investigations of Hunter Biden and his business practices, but we sought confirmation from corporate filings and other records.

The flimsiness of the allegation was apparent from the start merely by carefully reading the Senate GOP report itself.... It’s a complicated story, involving a web of corporate entities, that eventually leads to the purchase of millions of dollars worth of real estate in Brooklyn by the Russian billionaire. We found no evidence that Hunter Biden was part of those transactions....

My commenters jumped when I quoted the word "Caucasity," but my question is whether the proper spelling isn't "Caucacity."

Here's the context of my quotation. NY Magazine writer Choire Sicha wrote "For obvious reasons (Caucasity), most of these reporters are on the joyless, scold-y White Twitter...."

In the comments, Lucien said: "'Caucasity'? Is that like 'whiteness'?"  And Clyde said: "'Caucasity'?! What bilge!" 

To answer Lucien's question, "Caucasity" clearly means "whiteness." Why use an odd word when there's a more common word? I'd say it's just for humorous effect. It actually takes race less seriously. "Caucasian" used to have a somewhat elevated quality, when race was palmed off as a biological science. To seize upon the big word and to further enlarge it with an ending is a standard humor move. It's actually quite old fashioned.

But I just want to question the choice of ending — "-sity," rather than "-city." I've googled Caucasity" and got thrown into the Urban Dictionary entry "Caucacity" — with the "c," not the "s":

"Yesterday afternoon, President Joe Biden hosted a good old-fashioned bill-signing ceremony at the White House.... None of [the politicians crowding around him] wore a mask, although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi carried one around her wrist like a handbag..."

I'm reading "A Push for Normalcy Tests the Gerontocracy/As those around the president fall ill, the White House—and the nation—must adjust expectations" by Russell Berman (The Atlantic). Pelosi, as you probably know, just tested positive for Covid. As have a bunch of other Washington politicians.

This afternoon [Biden] watched alongside his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, as the Senate confirmed her to the bench. The two embraced, and neither wore a mask. Biden’s current relaxed posture toward the virus may represent a political imperative for the president heading into an election season that is already expected to be difficult for his party; the public, Biden acknowledged last month, is “tired, frustrated, and exhausted” after more than two years of pandemic life....

Most recent infections among public officials, even those in Biden’s age bracket, have been mild.... [G]iven how close the virus is coming to Biden, and how little alarm the White House is (publicly) expressing, a positive test result wouldn’t be surprising; it might even be, well, normal.

"Science isn’t Burger King; you can’t just ‘have it your way.' Take notes, Madame Speaker. I’m about to define what a woman is for you. X chromosomes, no tallywhacker. It’s so simple."

Said Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), quoted in "Republicans thought defining a ‘woman’ is easy. Then they tried. Josh Hawley, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Madison Cawthorn opened their mouths and accidentally showed how complicated it is to define womanhood" (WaPo).

The article is by Monica Hesse, who writes:

And this is where I got the poor OED editor involved, just to make sure I understood exactly what Cawthorn was talking about. She explained that “tallywhacker” is likely an Americanism, a variant of the word “tallywag,” which means “the testicles; the male genitals,” though Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “a sea bass of the Atlantic Coast.”

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) was asked by a HuffPost reporter to define “woman,” and replied, “Someone who can give birth to a child, a mother, is a woman. Someone who has a uterus is a woman. It doesn’t seem that complicated to me.”

When the reporter asked him whether a woman whose uterus was removed via hysterectomy was still a woman, he appeared uncertain: “Yeah. Well, I don’t know, would they?”

[W]hen these lawmakers attempted to show how much smarter they were on gender science than a judge who takes things seriously for a living, what came out was gobbledygook.

Anyway, congratulations to Ketanji Brown Jackson for getting through the hazing process. I had to avert my eyes. I knew she'd make it, and so did everyone else who knows the game. Spare me the part of the game where you assert that your party had to do it because the other party did it that other time.

What else can an art exhibit do about climate change other than to be "trite" and "alienating"?

I'm reading this WaPo piece by Kelsey Ables: "‘Coal and Ice’ exhibit won’t help you understand climate change/At the Kennedy Center, giant photos of glaciers and coal miners do little to overcome a trite, alienating narrative about the climate crisis." 

Divided into sections titled “Coal Miners,” “Landscapes” and “Human Consequences,” the installation aims to visualize the connection between coal and ice. It’s an alluring artistic idea: the mines’ grime contrasting with the Arctic’s white. But it’s unlikely that the average viewer will feel immediately invested in either — especially without the help of wall text, which the show strangely avoids...

It’s not that “Coal and Ice” doesn’t have powerful images. It features work by dozens of photographers.... But from the start of the show, there’s a disconnect, a protective layer between you and the kind of stirring, substantive emotion that sticks with you.... It’s difficult to connect....

Why do we ever connect with art? Or is the problem here that we might very well connect with the art — dramatic, beautiful photographs — but that connection doesn't launch us into environmental activism. Oh, God help us, if art had the power to launch us into activism! Isn't the complaint here that the human mind doesn't yield so easily to propaganda?

The show caters to flickering attention spans....

By the way why is contrasting the "mines’ grime... with the Arctic’s white" "an alluring artistic idea"? On other days, in other contexts, the critics would be saying that this white good/dark bad concept belongs in the dustbin labeled Things That Are Too Close to Racism. But that trite, alienating meme has been alienated from this discussion. 

"Today, New York Times honcho Dean Baquet ordered a company-wide 'reset' in how his staff should think about Twitter...."

"Most of the people who work for him are very bad at being on Twitter, and their tweets truly are just not good. And then their bosses are so obsessed with Twitter too, and on edge about it. A cycle of humiliation ensues. They spend all that money on editors and then people just write stuff willy-nilly online? Whatever for?! Twitter looms prominently for journalists because it’s how they get jobs, distribute their work, and make friends. Twitter also helps journalists feel and be seen inside a system that will otherwise make them feel invisible.... Reporters confuse their Twitter audience for the actual world. For obvious reasons (Caucasity), most of these reporters are on the joyless, scold-y White Twitter, which is the opposite of all this.... There’s a meme, certainly popular inside the Times, that Twitter instills some kind of self-feeding censorship. Baquet might hate this most of all; he despises fearfulness."

Writes Choire Sicha in "Journalism’s Twitter Problem Is the Journalists" (NY Magazine).

Does Sicha really know Baquet's motive? Here's more about Baquet's memo at The Hill. The memo made Twitter and other social media optional, and the reason given was that journalists were relying "too much on Twitter as a reporting and feedback tool" and creating "echo chambers." It said those who do stay on Twitter ought to "meaningfully reduce" the time they spend there.

There's also the question of disparate impact: If women are more likely to be harassed on social media — or even if they just worry that the are — then a requirement (or near-requirement) — to tweet is something management might want to avoid. If efforts are made within an organization to create an inclusive, comfortable climate for different kinds of workers, then perhaps it should avoid forcing them into the hostile environment that is Twitter.

There's a certain way that people talk at each other on Twitter — that is rewarded on Twitter — so a requirement to tweet favors the kind of people for whom that kind of talk comes easily. Why would you want that to infect the structure of success in your business? 

To return to Sicha's hypothesis: "Baquet... despises fearfulness." He could just as well be yielding to fearfulness. There is complexity to the fear of social media!

April 7, 2022

At the Golden Café...


... you can talk about anything you want. 


Photos taken in the early afternoon today, in very light rain, in Olbrich Gardens.

"The University of Wisconsin System’s free speech survey, which was set to go out Thursday to all undergraduates, has since been pushed back to fall 2022...."

"The survey asks about self-censorship, opinions toward viewpoint diversity, perceptions of campus climate, knowledge of the First Amendment and consequences of expressing oneself.... Tyler Katzenberger, press secretary of Associated Students of Madison, said... 'We get what the survey’s trying to address and we think it's an important cause to discuss, but why is there not a survey addressing diversity issues in the System?... Why are we prioritizing this over other more pressing diversity issues?' Katzenberger said ASM additionally questioned the legitimacy of the survey because it received an exemption from UW-Stout’s institutional review board, which protects the rights and welfare of human research subjects. However, Eric Giordano, executive director of the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service, said in a statement that representatives from most other campus institutional review boards (IRBs) also 'reviewed the project and determined that the research did not qualify as human subjects research.'..."

The Capital Times reports.

Interesting that the student leader speaks of "diversity issues" repeatedly, apparently without noticing that the survey is about an issue that is labeled "diversity": "viewpoint diversity." Maybe for students, "diversity" is a term of art, and it only means diversity of identity groups and has nothing to do with the life of the mind. 

Anyway, they're censoring the censorship survey. 

"With Musk on the board, the employees said his views on moderation could weaken years-long efforts to make Twitter a place of healthy discourse, and might allow trolling and mob attacks to flourish...."

"When asked for comment, a Twitter spokesperson repeated a statement from Tuesday that the board 'plays an important advisory and feedback role across the entirety of our service,' but daily operations and decisions are made by Twitter's management and employees. 'Twitter is committed to impartiality in the development and enforcement of its policies and rules,' the spokesperson said. Some employees that Reuters spoke to were not so sure about the company's commitment to this. 'I find it hard to believe (the board) doesn't have influence,' said one employee. 'If that's the case, why would Elon want a board seat?'... 'If Donald Trump was actually rich, he would have liked to have done the same thing but he couldn't afford it. So Elon is doing what Trump would have liked to have done,' said Guidehouse Insights analyst Sam Abuelsamid. 'I wouldn't be surprised' if Twitter restores Trump's account now that Elon owns nearly 10% of the company,' he said."

Reuters reports.

"According to Der Spiegel, a man believed to be a Russian soldier said in a radio message: 'You question soldiers first, then you shoot them.'"

"Another described shooting a civilian off his bicycle, echoing a photograph of a dead man next to a bicycle that drew international condemnation.... Sources in Germany said the 'material suggests that the troops spoke of the atrocities as though they were simply discussing their everyday lives.' Officials reportedly said that this 'indicates that the murder of civilians has become a standard element of Russian military activity, potentially even part of a broader strategy.'"

From "Russians intercepted ‘casually discussing’ killing of civilians/Evidence of atrocity mounts as West pushes UN to punish Putin" (London Times).

UPDATE: "The U.N. General Assembly voted Thursday to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council amid mounting concerns that Moscow’s troops are committing grave war crimes in Ukraine. The vote came as global outrage over the killings of civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha intensified" — WaPo reports.

"I thought it was a shame, and I kept asking why isn’t she doing something about it? Why isn’t Nancy Pelosi doing something about it? And the mayor of D.C. also."

"The mayor of D.C. and Nancy Pelosi are in charge. I hated seeing it. I hated seeing it. And I said, ‘It’s got to be taken care of,’ and I assumed they were taking care of it."

Said Donald Trump, about the January 6th riot, quoted in "Trump deflects blame for Jan. 6 silence, says he wanted to march to Capitol/The former president struck a defiant posture and repeated false claims in an interview with The Washington Post" (WaPo).

Trump, speaking Wednesday afternoon at his palatial beachfront club, said he did not regret urging the crowd to come to Washington with a tweet stating that it would “be wild!” He also stood by his incendiary and false rhetoric about the election at the Ellipse rally before the rioters stormed the Capitol. “I said peaceful and patriotic,” he said, omitting other comments that he made in a speech that day....

"If SCOTUS rules on regulation without a hearing or argument, the administration should simply ignore it and state that, in the absence of a normal process judicial review, it sees the court’s judgments as advisory but not binding."

"The court famously has no enforcement authority. It’s authority is based in acceptance of the court’s legitimacy. But it can’t do whatever the hell it wants however it wants and expect deference. [E]xecutive ought to brush off the court’s junta-like attempts to rule by edict." 

Wrote Will Wilkinson, quoted in "Reporters call for White House to 'simply ignore' Supreme Court decisions/SCOTUS ruled 5-4 on Wednesday to reinstate Trump-era rule" (Fox News).

The typical Constitutional Law casebook addresses this topic within the first 25 pages. I bantered about this subject with law students for decades. We always considered the apocryphal Andrew Jackson line — "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!" — and why didn't Richard Nixon react to the Watergate tapes case by destroying the tapes?

So what's the answer, Professor Althouse? Oh, that's not how we do it.

"You dishonor him by calling him 'liberal media critic.' He did not discriminate in his keen criticism of lazy journalism. Your choice of words to describe him is exactly the kind of thing he decried."

Writes one commenter on the Washington Post article "Liberal media critic Eric Boehlert dies in bicycle collision."

It's strange to put "Liberal" in the headline like that. For one thing, it's ambiguous. It could mean that he was liberal — which is correct — but it could also mean that he was a critic of liberal media. 

But also, it's odd to put someone's political persuasion in the headline, especially when the newsworthy event is so vaguely and confusingly described. Did 2 bicycles collide? No. We learn in the third paragraph that Boehlert was riding a bike, and he was hit by a train.

Condolences to his family.

"In fact, Joshua Tree has been drawing artists, musicians, architectural experimentalists, self-identified 'weirdos' and others seeking inspiration and self-actualization for decades. But..."

"... part of what was different... was the way that many transplants were funding their dreams — by putting glamping setups or cabins on home-sharing websites.... Around that time, something else was changing that would set the stage for the rental gold rush: an appetite for an emerging aesthetic that some called 'high desert boho' or 'the Joshua Tree Look' on Instagram.... By 2018, there were so many renovated Joshua Tree rentals with the same metal cowboy tubs and wicker swings that an Instagram account emerged to mock them. Photos of these carefully curated spaces drew a new type of visitor, encouraging still more short-term rentals...."

From "Are 1,818 Airbnbs Too Many in Joshua Tree? A short-term rental gold rush is fueling concern for the area’s signature trees and debates about whether the nature of life in the desert of southeastern California is changing forever" (NYT). 

There's a link on "Instagram account" in "an Instagram account emerged to mock them," but it does not go to a mocking Instagram account. It goes to a place where you can book stays at Joshua Tree places.

I'm not sure what to make of the NYT article. It's awfully snooty! It seems to be trying to enlist the reader — presumably sensitive to environmental concerns — into serving the interests of the very rich. Is it really so bad to have rental cabins in the area near Joshua Tree National Park? Are we stepping on the privilege of our betters if we think it would be nice to stay somewhere like this or this for a few days?

David Mamet talks to Joe Rogan about why we need the Bible.


"To go back to the Enlightenment... If the human being is the measure of all things, what does that mean? Our reason. And our reason is completely flawed. All of us do things every day which are unreasonable, sinful, wrong, and absurd. Right? And the reasonable person says, wait a second, why'd I do that? What do I have to refer to in my confusion and my self-loathing? Well, the Bible was a pretty good bet.... Let's talk about human nature: You really aren't that smart. You really aren't in charge of the world. You really aren't. Although you think you are. You think that 'cause you're human. But God's in charge of the world, and there's a certain way things are, and if you'd like to get out of your wretched self-consciousness and self-delusion, you'd better get your ass into church."

"A court in Turkey transferred the trial in the murder of the Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia on Thursday..."

"... a move almost certain to end the last case that held out hope of serving some measure of justice for a heinous crime that drew global outrage. The Turkish decision was a blow to human rights advocates who had hoped the trial in Turkey would at least make public more evidence of who was involved and how Mr. Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by a Saudi hit squad in 2018 inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone to get paperwork he needed to marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. 'Let’s not entrust the lamb to the wolf,' Ali Ceylan, a lawyer for Ms. Cengiz, told the court on Thursday before the decision was announced. 'Let’s protect the dignity and honor of the Turkish nation....'"

From "Turkey Transfers Khashoggi Murder Trial to Saudi Arabia/The move will almost certainly end the last trial aimed at serving justice for a heinous crime that caused global outrage" (NYT).

"This was not a church service. It was worship for a new kind of congregation: a right-wing political movement powered by divine purpose..."

"... whose adherents find spiritual sustenance in political action. The Christian right has been intertwined with American conservatism for decades, culminating in the Trump era. And elements of Christian culture have long been present at political rallies. But worship, a sacred act showing devotion to God expressed through movement, song or prayer, was largely reserved for church. Now, many believers are importing their worship of God, with all its intensity, emotion and ambitions, to their political life.... 'What is refreshing for me is, this isn’t at all related to church, but we are talking about God,' said Patty Castillo Porter, who attended the Phoenix event... [One woman, Tami Jackson, said] 'This is a Jesus movement.... I believe God removed Donald for a time, so the church would wake up and have confidence in itself again to take our country back.'"

From "The Growing Religious Fervor in the American Right: ‘This Is a Jesus Movement’/Rituals of Christian worship have become embedded in conservative rallies, as praise music and prayer blend with political anger over vaccines and the 2020 election" by Elizabeth Dias and Ruth Graham (NYT).

Is this something new or is this how Americans generally behave? I tend to think the latter, but rather than musing on that topic, I just want to publish this quickly because I can see that I've got tags that will pull up whatever I've blogged about this sort of thing over the years.

"I finally understood the most important thing: You need to love yourself and live for yourself. Finally I will live the way I want."

Said Iryna Filkina, 52, who had reached out to a makeup artist named Anastasiia Subacheva to ask about makeup classes. 

Filkina was, according to Subacheva, hoping to get more Instagram followers, and talking "about what she would wear and how she would do her makeup" for "an upcoming concert by the Ukrainian pop diva Olya Polyakova." 

The quotes are from the NYT article: "A makeup artist recognized this Bucha victim’s picture by her manicure." 

At the link, you will see the photograph of the dead woman's hand. 

I will give you this, from Olya Polyakova:

Do not approach the fox! I see "The tale of a wild fox on Capitol Hill had captivated those who live and work there."

In the NYT: "The Capitol Fox, Euthanized After Attacks, Tests Positive for Rabies/The tale of a wild fox on Capitol Hill had captivated those who live and work there. Then a congressman and several others were bitten, the fox was captured and she turned out to be rabid."

Oh, humans of Washington — you who think you know what's good for us people who live outside your charmed circle —  what do you know of how the world works? Did you think you were lucky that a cute fox was happy to walk up to you? Did you experience it as a testament to your charisma?

Here's an article from April 5th, before the fox tested positive: "'Have You Seen the Capitol Fox?'Animal control officers descended on Capitol Hill after reports of lawmakers, staff members and reporters being attacked by a wild fox believed to have been nesting on the Capitol grounds" (NYT).

April 6, 2022

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.


Photos taken this morning at 6:27 and 6:39 — with the camera pointed toward the west to catch a break in the clouds. It got nicely sunny and warm a few hours later, then declined into a dark, windy afternoon.

"The OW Hook (in Oh Why) is the central part of the song and reflects the song’s slow, brooding and questioning mood. ... [T]he OI Phrase (in Shape of You) plays a very different role..."

"... something catchy to fill the bar before each repeated phrase ‘I’m in love with your body’. The use of the first four notes of the rising minor pentatonic scale for the melody is so short, simple, commonplace and obvious in the context of the rest of the song that it is not credible that Mr Sheeran sought out inspiration from other songs to come up with it. As to the combination of elements upon which the defendants rely, even if Mr Sheeran had gone looking for inspiration, then Oh Why is far from an obvious source, given the stark contrast between the dark mood created by the OW Hook in Oh Why and the upbeat, dance feel that Mr Sheeran was looking to create with Shape.” 

Wrote the judge, quoted in "Ed Sheeran wins Shape of You copyright court case" (London Times). 

Sheeran is also quoted in the article. He wants people to know how much it hurts to be sued for copyright infringement, to be portrayed as a “magpie.” He's hoping that because he took on the burden of fighting the lawsuit rather than just settling, there will be fewer claims like this in the future.

Here, I put the 2 songs together in a playlist so you can compare. Sheeran admits he understands why the writers of "Oh Why" thought he'd ripped them off, but he had not, he says, heard the song before he'd come up with the idea used in "Shape of You."

If Ivanka wasn't garrulous, why bring up the concept of garrulousness?

I'm reading "Ivanka Trump Testifies to House Panel Investigating Jan. 6 Attack" in The New York Times. Key sentence:

It was not immediately clear how revelatory her testimony was for the committee, but those familiar with the interview said Ms. Trump did not seek to invoke any privilege — such as executive privilege or the Fifth Amendment, as other witnesses have done — and broadly, if not garrulously, answered the panel’s questions.

And what's with "not immediately clear how revelatory"? It sounds like she testified simply and straightforwardly, but there was nothing interesting. Why act like later something might be revealed? It's such lame titillation. What was unclear?

What is the function of "if not garrulously"? It strikes me as vaguely sexist, as though you would expect her to chatter inanely.

"Newcomer Laura Simkin, who distinguished herself from her opponent as a supporter of police in schools, will join the Madison School Board after winning the district’s only contested race in Tuesday’s election."

Wisconsin State Journal reports.

Louis CK won a Grammy, undoubtedly because his comedy album was clearly the best comedy album, and mainstream media responds by reading Twitter for us.

I'm just reading NPR and the NYT:

NPR: "Louis C.K. cancels his cancellation, wins a Grammy and triggers a backlash." This just quotes some tweets, e.g., "The Grammys are a great reminder that 'cancel culture' doesn't exist and no white dude has ever been successfully cancelled for anything terrible that they do."

NYT: "Louis C.K.’s Grammy, After ‘Global Amounts of Trouble,’ Draws Backlash/Some comedians are questioning how the Recording Academy saw fit to bestow an award to someone who had admitted to sexual misconduct." We're told "his name trended on Twitter" and given examples, e.g.:

“Every woman who has been harassed and abused in the comedy business, I hear you and see you and I am so, so angry,” the podcast host Jesse Thorn, who interviews comedians, wrote, followed by several expletives.

"The Covid pandemic caused many Americans to reconsider whether they really wanted or needed to keep working."

"Fear of infection or lack of child care kept some workers home, where they discovered that the financial rewards of their jobs weren’t enough to compensate for the costs of commuting and the unpleasantness of their work environment. Older workers, forced into unemployment, decided that they might as well take early retirement. And so on."

That's the myth of "the great resignation," recounted by Paul Krugman in "What Ever Happened to the Great Resignation?" (NYT).

Krugman shows that the great resignation did not happen and observes that's a reason for 1. higher interest rates and 2. more immigration.

Sean Penn — who's making a documentary about Ukraine — goes on Sean Hannity's show and right off tells him "I don't trust you."

"In four days of Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, the phrase 'child porn' (or 'pornography' or 'pornographer') was mentioned 165 times."

"There were also, according to transcripts, 142 uses of 'sex' ('sexual abuse,' 'sexual assault,' 'sexual intercourse,' 'sex crimes'), 15 of 'pedophile,' 13 of 'predators,' 18 of 'prepubescent' and nine of general pornography.... The Republican fixation on pornography continued during Monday’s round of statements by senators before the committee advanced Jackson’s nomination to the Senate floor. A preliminary transcript showed 41 mentions of 'porn' or 'pornography' and 32 mentions of 'sex offenders,' 'sexual assault' and the like.... Republicans on the committee congratulated themselves for avoiding 'personal slanders' of the sort they said Democrats inflicted on Brett M. Kavanaugh after women accused the Donald Trump nominee of sexual misconduct. Yet, they opposed Jackson with the most grievous of personal slanders... Graham: 'Every judge who does what you’re doing is making it easier for the children to be exploited.' Cruz: 'I also see a record of … advocacy as it concerns sexual predators.' Blackburn: 'What’s your hidden agenda? Is it to let … child predators back to the streets?' And, of course, there was Hawley, who previewed the hearings by saying Jackson’s record 'endangers our children.'"

From "Senate Republicans’ unhealthy fixation on child porn, by the numbers" by Dana Milbank (WaPo).

What goes around, comes around. Oh, but it came back around in a different form! An unhealthy and fixated form....

It's different but is it worse?

Who am I? Why am I here?

"[Trump] seemed particularly ebullient before watching the film, saying he was looking forward to its screening more than 'Citizen Kane,' 'Titanic' and 'Gone with the Wind.'"

"'Would you like some Trump wine?' a Mar-a-Lago employee cooed to every guest as they entered the patio. Guests walked past Trump’s private quarters as they moved from one small, crystal-chandelier-packed ballroom for dinner through an outdoor concourse, past Trump’s private residence, to another crystal-chandelier-packed, larger ballroom for the movie screening.... Trump spoke both at the dinner and before the premiere — repeatedly telling the crowd that Russia would not have invaded Ukraine if he was president, that there would be fewer civilian deaths, and that inflation and gas prices would be lower if the election was not 'rigged.' 'It just would have never happened,' he said, after describing grim civilian deaths in Ukraine that he had seen on television and saying the 'rigged' election fueled it.... Trump repeatedly signaled to the crowd he might run for president again, and they whooped and hollered. 'We'll make America great again, again,'"

From "2020 election claims dominate lively night for Trump, allies at Mar-a-Lago" (WaPo).

Below is the trailer for the movie (and I think you can watch the whole thing here).

"How was a middle-aged non-student allowed to live in a college dorm?"

That's the highest-rated comment on "Sarah Lawrence sex-cult trial shows devastated young lives/Lawrence Ray is accused of manipulating and abusing his daughter’s college friends and others he brought into his circle" (WaPo).

It's such a crazy story. You wonder how could this happen. But I think everyone who attempts to read about it will stop at that threshold question. The article says:

"Russia wants to turn Ukrainians into silent slaves..... They steal everything from food to gold earrings they just rip out with blood."

"We are dealing with a state that turns the right of veto in the UN Security Council into a right to kill. Which undermines the whole architecture of global security. Which allows evil to go unpunished and spread the world. Destroying everything that can work for peace and security. If this continues, the finale will be that each state will rely only on the power of arms to ensure its security, not on international law, not on international institutions. Then, the UN can simply be dissolved. Ladies and Gentlemen! Are you ready for the dissolving of the UN? Do you think that the time of international law has passed? If your answer is no, you need to act now, act immediately... If you do not know how to adopt this decision, you can do two things. Remove Russia as an aggressor and a source of war from blocking decisions about its own aggression, its own war. And then do everything that can establish peace. Or show how you can reformat and really work for peace. Or if your current format is unalterable and there is simply no way out, then the only option would be to dissolve yourself altogether." 

From the official translation of Zelensky's speech yesterday to the UN Security Council.

ADDED: Here's the WaPo article on the subject, including the response from Russian U.N. ambassador:

“We place on your conscience the ungrounded accusations against the Russian military, which are not confirmed by any eyewitnesses.” 

Russia’s goal in Ukraine, he said, was “not to conquer lands” but to bring “peace to the blood-soaked land of Donbas,” the largely Russian-speaking eastern Ukrainian region where Russian troops and mercenaries have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014. “We need to root out the cruelty, cut out the malignant Nazi tumor,” Nebenzya said. “We will achieve that goal.”

April 5, 2022

At the Early Spring Café...


... you can talk about whatever you like.

"How qualified do you have to be?"

Said Cory Booker, quoted in "Cory Booker demolishes GOP attempts to smear Ketanji Brown Jackson" by Jennifer Rubin (in WaPo). 

I don't know about "demolishes" — or "smear" for that matter. But I agree with the Booker's implication. The question for the Senate is basic qualification. The President has the appointments power, and the Senate isn't in the position to ask who would it pick, if it had to single out somebody.

Booker ended on a high note, quoting a Maya Angelou poem: “You may try to write me down in history with your bitter twisted lies … but still, like dust, I rise.”

Were there bitter twisted lies about KBJ? All Rubin cites is the charge that she's "'soft' on crime and child pornography." That's a characterization of the facts. It might be overdone, but I don't see the lies. And I don't think a strong stance against crime and child pornography is bitter or twisted. I loathe that sort of hyperbole. 

That's why I like Booker's "How qualified do you have to be?"!

Cracker Jack introduces Cracker Jill.


At the product's website, it says: "Sometimes all it takes to believe you can do something is to see someone who looks like you do it first. It is in this spirit that Cracker Jack proudly introduces Cracker Jill. A team of new faces showing girls they're represented even in our most iconic snacks." 

What is the something you're supposed to believe you can do? Eat caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts? I think we knew that all along. And I've always felt represented by iconic snacks. I mean, Mary Jane made me feel like I could...


... simper and squirm like a complete idiot.

"The 'satanic panic' of the 1980s, a frenzy of accusations of ritual child abuse that resulted in the conviction of dozens of innocent people, was driven in part by deep anxiety..."

"... over working women and day care. Four decades later, the country is once again in a moral panic about monstrous things being done to children, with teachers and entertainers accused of 'grooming' them for abuse. And once again, it’s driven in large part by unease over rapidly changing gender roles and norms. ... Many middle-aged liberal parents I know have different ideas about gender than their more radical adolescent kids, and I assume the gulf must be even larger in many conservative families. Christopher Rufo, the right-wing activist leading a crusade against Disney for its opposition to the Don’t Say Gay bill, told me a friend of his sent his middle-school daughter to an all-girls choir camp over the summer, 'and a third of the girls came back saying that they were nonbinary or queer or gender nonconforming.' Faced with a gender landscape that they find unnerving or worse, conservatives are trying to use schools to turn the tide.... The Trumpist website American Greatness recently celebrated the term 'groomer' as a right-wing attempt to do 'what the left always does: coin a novel political epithet.'"

From "Why Are Seemingly Functional Adults Falling for the ‘Furries’ Myth?" by Michelle Goldberg (NYT). The headline refers to the gullibility of some conservatives who believe some schoolkids are identifying as cats or dogs and that teachers are taking this seriously pursuant to a trans-friendly policy.

Musk advances, promising significant improvements.

ALSO: Dillon is CEO of The Babylon Bee.

Things so inconsequential I've never heard of them.

I had to look up space hopper:

"You got to remember, there are very few people left, even in our tribe, who can talk Salish. For him to know how much he does without actually being taught in our classrooms and schools or spending time with the older people who still speak it is pretty amazing."

Said Vance Home Gun, quoted in "The remarkable brain of a carpet cleaner who speaks 24 languages" (WaPo). 

The hyperpolyglot carpet cleaner is Vaughn Smith. He began learning Salish because he liked its word for chicken — "skwiskws."

Vaughn makes an effort to get to know people in the language that shaped their lives. In return, they shape his. Welcoming him. Accepting him. Appreciating him....

But why hasn't his incredibly strong language skill led to a better job?

“Of course, I have tried,” he says. “But nothing has worked out.” Some days, he doesn’t necessarily want it to. He likes dressing casually, wearing one of the same 10 T-shirts from his favorite vacation spot, Bar Harbor, Maine. He likes being able to make his own schedule, where he can spend the day talking on the phone with his girlfriend who lives in Mexico. Or painting landscapes. Or working on his model train set. Or developing film photography. Or making brisket for his friends. He wants to be free to take his mom, whom he lives with, to the doctors treating her Parkinson’s disease. He wants to sit in coffee shops, drinking quad espressos and listening for accents that might lead to a connection with someone new.

There are people like this. 

"Sarah shocked many when she endorsed me very early in 2016, and we won big. Now, it’s my turn!"

"Sarah has been a champion for Alaska values, Alaska energy, Alaska jobs, and the great people of Alaska. She was one of the most popular Governors because she stood up to corruption in both State Government and the Fake News Media. Sarah lifted the McCain presidential campaign out of the dumps despite the fact that she had to endure some very evil, stupid, and jealous people within the campaign itself. They were out to destroy her, but she didn’t let that happen. Sarah Palin is tough and smart and will never back down, and I am proud to give her my Complete and Total Endorsement, and encourage all Republicans to unite behind this wonderful person and her campaign to put America First!"

Said Donald Trump, quoted in "Trump Finally Remembered That He Owes Sarah Palin a Favor" by Ed Kilgore (NY Magazine).

"Finally Remembered"... he endorsed her 2 days after she declared.

Kilgore ends with: "But Trump’s support gives her a chance to join the MAGA caucus in the House, in which she would barely stand out at all." A chance? Just a chance? Barely stand out? People like Kilgore make it too much fun to see the reemergence of Sarah Palin.

"Alexander Skarsgård recently divulged that he believes he used to have trouble booking roles as a result of being extremely good-looking."

"In an interview with The Sunday Times, Skarsgård said that being 'tall and blond' (i.e., Swedish) may have gotten in the way of his career. 'I was on a stupid "sexy hunky hot list,"' he said, 'and then people didn’t take me seriously. If you want characters with depth but have been labeled "a dude who takes his shirt off," you’re not going to get those offers.' I’m sorry, what was that? A sexy hunky hot list? Is that a Google doc? And you’re telling me you … don’t want to be on it?"

From "Actor Bravely Admits to Being on ‘Sexy Hunky Hot List’" (NY Magazine). 

Ha ha. Made me think of Joey on "Friends" and the infamous "Don't hate me because I'm beautiful!" commercial. But also, more tragically, how badly Marilyn Monroe wanted to be thought of as a serious actress. 

Clearly, there is affirmative action for beautiful people. It's no wonder that the less beautiful look at them and develop theories about their lack of actual skill and depth.

Here's a line from Dorothy Parker that I just ran across in a book: "Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone."

"They needed Bruce Willis … and Willis may have needed them. There may have been a sincere effort..."

"... on the part of his agents and managers to keep him busy and engaged, as a way to delay the worst of what his disease would eventually bring. However, at a certain point, most likely sometime in the last two years if reports are correct, a health line seems to have been crossed. But the work continued." 

Writes Joe Ferullo in "Hollywood failed Bruce Willis" (The Hill). 

Willis made 21 movies in the last 4 years.

Directors were asked to keep the star’s dialogue short and his days on set to a minimum. Even that reportedly was sometimes challenging for the actor. Despite all this, film roles kept coming.... The majority were low budget efforts, often $10 million or less, compared to an average $65 million budget for a mainstream studio production. The movies were typically violent action stories that sell well internationally.... Independent producers — working outside the big studio system — have to raise the money on their own for these films. The most important sales tool they have is the movie’s poster.... It’s far easier to get backing if your poster includes the face of a well-known actor....
There's an old term: "exploitation film."

"What you are about to read is a direct translation of an article written by a russian propagandist. This is what real #Russia wants. Please read and share."

Here, at Medium. Via Memeorandum, so I do think it is what it purports to be, support for the Russian government's invasion of Ukraine.


"For all his accomplishments, Musk has no history of investing in mature companies."

"He’s the ultimate entrepreneur, having started, and this is a partial list, payments titan PayPal; rocket-maker SpaceX; brain-machine-interface start-up Neuralink; and the Boring Company, which aims to dig transport tunnels in big cities. Despite a claim on Tesla’s corporate website, Musk did not start Tesla. But he did invest early on, and Musk became Tesla’s driving force....  His tweet Monday following the disclosure of his Twitter stake was the cryptic 'Oh hi lol.'... He might simply feel he can do a better job at running Twitter.... Twitter also provides a potential launchpad for bitcoin, another of Musk’s obsessions.... It’s equally possible Musk isn’t serious about taking over Twitter and that instead he is probing, goofing, needling and otherwise entertaining himself, his fans and his antagonists.... Would owning all of Twitter give Musk more or less leverage with the SEC? Might his friendly relationship with the powers that be in China, where Tesla operates a factory, help Twitter enter that market, where it is now banned?"

From "Why Elon Musk is buying up Twitter" by Adam Lashinsky (WaPo).

Who can know the mind of Elon Musk? I realize I'm mainly just hoping he'll be a benefactor. I want free speech on Twitter.

Here's the #1 comment over at WaPo: "If Musk really wants to serve this planet he should buy Fox News. Then kill it."

My fellow citizens don't love free speech, so I'm looking to the mogul to protect what I can't trust democracy to protect. What a tenuous situation!

The second-highest-rated comment is: "Musk wants to own Twitter, so he can dictate the rules of self expression. I.e. provide a platform to Trump, without limitation. The ultimate libertarian dream!"

I don't think that commenter and its up-voters share the free-speech dream. I think they hate it! And I don't think the article-writer even mentions freedom of speech!

ADDED: Jack Shafer has this at Politico: "Why Elon Musk Is Buying into Twitter/Like other billionaires, Musk can’t resist the siren call of owning big media." 

Twitter is largely self-sustaining and needs no billionaire help to regain lost glory. Instead, Musk is that obsessive Twitterer who so loves its milk he wants to buy the cow.

The WaPo article-writer also used the milk/cow idea (which, by the way, is offensive to women). He said it's unclear "why Musk would need to own the cow when he drinks so freely of the milk."

Back to Shafer, who at least gets to the right point: "Musk look[s] like the person who doesn’t like the way Twitter censors messages, hence he’s buying the messenger." Yeah, cows make the same milk regardless of who owns them. A speech-platform is quite different.

April 4, 2022

At the Sunrise Cafe…


… you can write about whatever you want. 

Grateful to Nana and Pop.

"Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Mitt Romney of Utah on Monday become the second and third Republicans to announce support for Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court..."

"... clinching the votes Jackson needs to secure confirmation later this week to become high court’s 116th justice — and its first Black woman."

WaPo reports.

Murkowski noted Jackson's "independence" and "important perspective," and Romney called her a "well-qualified jurist and a person of honor."

"[W]e continue to underestimate the problem of loneliness... because we define loneliness too narrowly. Properly understood..."

"... loneliness is a 'personal, societal, economic, and politica' condition—not just 'feeling bereft of love, company, or intimacy' but also “feeling unsupported and uncared for by our fellow citizens, our employers, our community, our government.'... Sociologists who are skeptical about whether loneliness is a growing problem argue that much modern aloneness is a happy, chosen condition.... Ironically... celebrating single women as avatars of modern female empowerment has made things harder, not easier, for lonely women, by encouraging the view that their unhappiness is of their own making.... [T]he plight of lonely, sexless men tends to inspire more public concern and compassion than that of women. The term 'incel' was invented by a woman hoping to commiserate with other unhappily celibate women, but it didn’t get much traction until it was appropriated by men and became a byword for sexual rage."

From "How Everyone Got So Lonely/The recent decline in rates of sexual activity has been attributed variously to sexism, neoliberalism, and women’s increased economic independence. How fair are those claims—and will we be saved by the advent of the sex robot?" by Zoë Heller (NY Magazine).

If there's  more concern about "lonely, sexless men," it's not because there's more empathy for them. It's because we're afraid that — unpaired with women and thus untamed — they'll do destructive things.

"I can no longer keep my blinds drawn/And I can't keep myself from talking."


"Vibrations bounce in no direction/And lie there shattered into fragments." 

Just a song that came to mind today. It looked great on "Ed Sullivan," but the single version is sweeter. Here, I found it on Spotify and made a playlist based on it:

I've got 5 TikTok selections for you today.

1. Goodbye to Estelle Harris — George Costanza's mom. Some excellent clips.

2. An aging woman in her LSD shirt.

3. A comic interpretation of how they fire you in L.A. versus how they fire you in NYC.

4. The woman who has overheard how men talk about woman.

5. "Are we supposed to know what we're doing? No?! Great! Just checking."

At 7:02 this morning, by the shore of Lake Mendota, a bald eagle took fight.

Does Biden, posing with Mack Trucks, say "I thought I was going to get to drive one of these fuckers today"?

Here's the video I found after I was watching a bit of the event live:


Did you hear the line? "I thought I was going to get to drive one of these [???] today." I hear "fuckers."

I'd just run into the live event on TikTok, and I was surprised at all the abuse the TikTok users were putting in the live comments. Here's a screenshot I took: 


There was a very fast moving stream of comments. Very nasty. It's just by pure chance that the screenshot ends with "Where's Will Smith when you need him?"

I got some background on the event from Washington Examiner. Biden was talking about trucking as "a national priority, including improving training and employment standards." And apparently, back in 2017, Trump had an event where he was "photographed in the cab of an 18-wheeler Mack honking the horn and pretending to drive before a listening session with executives and their employees on healthcare," so that may have prompted Biden to express disappointment at not getting to sit in the truck. I'm guessing his handlers were afraid it might look weak rather than strong (like Dukakis in the tank).

Oh! I see the Washington Examiner fills in the blank with "suckers." You tell me. I think if you watch believing you'll hear "suckers," you will hear "suckers," but when I didn't have a text, I heard "fuckers" every time (and listened 10 times).

"Republican excuses for rejecting Ketanji Brown Jackson are absurd"/"The GOP won’t be honest about opposition to Judge Jackson."

Those are 2 different pieces ranking in the top 5 most-read opinion pieces in The Washington Post. 

I'm going to read them so you don't have to. Really, I want to test my hypothesis. There's frustration that Republicans aren't presenting a bigger target. The desire is to accuse them of rejecting KBJ because of her race, but there's nothing blatant, so effort must be put into teasing out the racial insinuations. Of course, Biden was blatant about race in making his choice, but that's what makes it so frustrating that Republicans aren't jumping at the bait.

Now, I'll read.

1. "Republican excuses for rejecting Ketanji Brown Jackson are absurd" by the WaPo editorial board. Overheated headline aside, this piece just says that the Senate should always confirm the President's nominee as long as basic qualifications are met. I pretty much agree with that, but it's not surprising that Republicans are paying back the Democrats for opposing President Trump's well-qualified nominees. The WaPo editors briefly acknowledge this un-absurd reality. The last paragraph asserts that Republicans will look "unattractive... in the history books," because their "almost entirely White caucus" is "rejecting the first Black woman."

2. "The GOP won’t be honest about opposition to Judge Jackson" is a piece by Jennifer Rubin. She speculates "that the GOP base is so infused with white supremacy that any vote for a Black woman would simply be unacceptable to the MAGA crowd." Doesn't the "MAGA crowd" love Clarence Thomas? Rubin's last paragraph begins: "We should not be surprised that in service of making Democrats appear to be an existential threat to America, Republicans will say anything to justify their opposition — the more venomous the better." Yeah, but we also should not be not surprised when, in service of making Republicans appear to be an existential threat to America, Democrats will say anything to justify their opposition — the more venomous the better.

The NYT art critic wrote an elaborate review of the new Whitney Biennial. The review was published 4 days ago. It has a comments section. There isn't one comment.

Here. See for yourself.

That's some amazing apathy. I'm sure the critic, Holland Cotter, said some provocative things. I mean, I scanned the text and looked for something. I was thinking maybe...

As the curators have emphasized in statements about the show, the idea of boundaries, and getting rid of them, were important to their thinking about this biennial, starting with questions (also addressed by the 2019 edition) of how to break down the geopolitical borders that have traditionally defined and delimited the Whitney’s version of “American art.” 

The idea of boundaries, and getting rid of them.... 

You know what's a boundary? A museum. We're just not traditionally defined and delimited enough to care.

The NYT checks in on Wisconsin: "An unmown lawn in Appleton, Wis. By letting the grass grow long, plants typically identified as weeds were able to flower, providing important spring food for bees."

I'm quoting a caption for a photograph that shows a lot of dandelions blooming and going to seed.

The article's headline is "In Wisconsin: Stowing Mowers, Pleasing Bees/Can the No Mow May movement help transform the traditional American lawn — a manicured carpet of grass — into something more ecologically beneficial?" 

Appleton’s No Mow May initiative had a clear purpose: to save the bees — and not just honeybees (which are European imports), but also native bees, such as bumble bees, mining bees and sweat bees. Lawns typically provide poor habitat for bees. But if allowed to flower, lawn weeds — perhaps better characterized as plants other than grass — can provide rare spring food for bees emerging from hibernation.....

I think dandelions are a special problem. Why not sow clover?

Joni at the Grammys.


It's a long walk across the stage with a cane, but she finds a way to dance.

"Musk, who last month challenged President Putin to 'single combat' over Ukraine, appeared to take exception to the word 'peace' attached to the nightclub’s façade..."

"... in big letters stuck along a row of windows. 'They wrote PEACE on the wall at Berghain! I refused enter,' Musk claimed on Twitter. He later tweeted philosophically: 'Peace. Peace? I hate the word. Those who do care about peace (myself aspirationally included) don’t need to hear it. And those who don’t care about peace? Well…'"

From "Elon Musk joins fetish crowd on tour of Berlin clubs" (London Times).

Berghain is a nightclub in Berlin.

Looking that up, I stumbled upon some much more important news about Musk: "Elon Musk Takes 9.2% Stake in Twitter After Hinting at Shake-Up" (Bloomberg).

"We won a victory so big that you can see it from the moon, and you can certainly see it from Brussels."

"The whole world has seen tonight in Budapest that Christian democratic politics, conservative civic politics and patriotic politics have won. We are telling Europe that this is not the past, this is the future." 

Said Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, quoted in "Hungary’s pro-Putin PM Orban claims victory in national vote" (AP).

Also: "In a surprise performance, radical right-wing party Our Homeland Movement appeared to have garnered more than 6% of the vote, exceeding the 5% threshold needed to gain seats in parliament." (Yes, I know, that word, but it's too awful for such trivial notations.)

Zelensky at the Grammys.


"Our musicians wear body armour instead of tuxedos. They sing to the wounded in hospitals — even to those who can’t hear them. But the music will break through anyway. We defend our freedom to live, to love, to sound. On our land, we are fighting Russia, which brings horrible silence with its bombs — the dead silence. Fill the silence with your music. Fill it today to tell our story. Tell the truth about this war on your social networks, on TV."

Does a world leader belong on an awards show? Who knows?! You could criticize the logic: Why would the glamorous celebrities at their awards show be the ones to tell what Zelensky calls "our story"? He's inviting others to appropriate his people's story. And yet, as he says, they are silenced, so he chooses to rely on others to get the story out. Whether they can do it skillfully or not, he is desperate, and he means to convey desperation. Stop what you are doing — enjoying the pleasures of peace and freedom — and make my cause yours!

And there is a music tradition of singing about the needs of others.


ADDED: I wanted to call up a Spotify playlist that highlights white artists in the 1960s who sang in support of the civil rights movement, but that's not easy to do! The list I've embedded has many black artists, and I think if I want an all-white playlist of civil rights movement songs, I'd have to put it together myself. 

HERE: I made a modest effort:

April 3, 2022

What a difference 31 minutes make — sunrise at 6:31 at 7:02.

The colors completely changed:



J.K. Rowling is too busy to retweet all the death threats she gets, but this one's an exception.

You can watch the video here, at YouTube.

"Is this genocide?"/"Indeed. This is genocide."

Robot dog guards Pompeii.

"Last year, Tropicana introduced a marketing campaign called 'Take a Mimoment,' which showcased hidden mini-fridges around the house where parents could sneak a mimosa made with Tropicana juice."

Sobriety advocates quickly called the brand on it — after all, hiding drinks generally signals a drinking problem. Tropicana apologized, and celebrities including Molly Sims and Gabrielle Union took down their Instagram posts promoting the Tropicana mimosa. But it seems that we are still struggling with drinking..."

From "Women, Do We Need an Intervention?" by Ericka Andersen (NYT).

Ugh! Can you imagine thinking it's a good move to pass along that Tropicana promotion? It's easier to get that some "celebrities" were dumb than it is to understand how Tropicana saw fit to portray hiding liquor around the house as cute.

You can see the Tropicana promotion here, discussed at AdAge:

The woods at dawn — 6:36, 6:38.



"Who are these half-Biblical, half-science-fictional figures, with their button-like nipples and dark tufts of pubic hair, their bodies splayed jarringly against an indifferently cheerful landscape?"

"What is the purpose and meaning of the obscure rituals that Dunham paints these characters engaging in, with their eyes averted from the viewer, as if reluctant to have their private customs disturbed or even looked at?"

Questions asked by Naomi Fry in The New Yorker, in "Carroll Dunham’s Paintings Make You Squirm/The artist discusses his most recent work, how the art world resembles a cult, and what it’s like having a famous child."

The artist — Lena Dunham's father — gives some answers: 

Did "Saturday Night Live" do something good with the Will Smith incident?

I've reviewed the clips from last night's show — hastily, I admit — and I think the only really entertaining thing was this long rap about the unwillingness to put up with lengthy movies:

"And while the president has never communicated his frustrations directly to Mr. Garland, he has said privately that he wanted Mr. Garland to act less like a ponderous judge and more like a prosecutor..."

"... who is willing to take decisive action over the events of Jan. 6... The Jan. 6 investigation is a test not just for Mr. Garland, but for Mr. Biden as well.... Complicating matters for Mr. Biden is the fact that his two children are entangled in federal investigations, making it all the more important that he stay out of the Justice Department’s affairs or risk being seen as interfering for his own family’s gain... Justice Department officials do not keep Mr. Biden abreast of any investigation, including those involving his children.... The cases involving Hunter Biden and Ashley Biden are worked on by career officials, and people close to the president... have no visibility into them.... The Justice Department has given no public indication about its timeline or whether prosecutors might be considering a case against Mr. Trump.... Even in private, [Garland] relies on a stock phrase: 'Rule of law,' he says,'means there not be one rule for friends and another for foes.'... Quiet and reserved, Mr. Garland is well known for the job he was denied: a seat on the Supreme Court.... His critics say that his... years as an appeals court judge made him slow and overly deliberative...."

From "Garland Faces Growing Pressure as Jan. 6 Investigation Widens/The inquiry is a test for President Biden and Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, who both came into office promising to restore the Justice Department’s independence" (NYT).

I hope Garland is true to his "stock phrase." To call it a "stock phrase" is to suggest it's an insincere platitude. Those who are disappointed that Garland doesn't seem to be abusing his power should be ashamed of themselves.

"The vast majority of those leaving Ukraine are women and girls and the vast majority of those trafficked are women and girls so you can see the math is not good. It’s a toxic cocktail of risk."

Said Val Richey, "a special representative for combating human trafficking at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe," quoted in "Ukraine refugees go from one hell to another as abusers exploit women and children/People traffickers pretending to be doctors and Good Samaritans are taking advantage of border chaos to deceive evacuees" (London Times).

Some young Ukrainians are taking matters into their own hands. Every day after online lessons, Tymur Tsaplienko and his best friend Dasha Griban, both 16, head to Warsaw Central station where they don hi-vis jackets and hand out blue and yellow leaflets to arriving refugees, warning them not to travel alone and to photograph numberplates of cars.

"The smaller Ukrainian force was vastly underestimated. 'It’s really been kind of astonishing, in the sort of the cynicism, the stupidity with which the operation was carried out.'"

From "How Kyiv Has Withstood Russia’s Attacks" (NYT). The internal quote is from Scott Boston, senior defense analyst at RAND Corporation. 

At the link, the text is accompanied by excellent graphics — including "street view" maps. Highly informative.

Some excerpts: 

Russian leadership was deluded that Ukraine would collapse at the first sign of fighting, and that President Volodymyr Zelensky would flee, said Nick Reynolds, a military analyst at the Royal United Services Institute....