August 20, 2022

At the Saturday Night Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"One of the biggest things that stuck with me was condo developments dotting the country side but no supporting infrastructure what so ever. Food, retail etc."

"Absolutely not normal when developing a new neighborhood and it stuck with me. When I got back to [my friend's Chinese] city we met up again and I asked her about it and she said it's something she shouldn't talk about. But she did and said that those buildings may lead to to a collapse for two reasons. They have a large population of laborers they need to keep busy and people who want to invest. You can buy them but you can't live in them or rent them. Eventually it will fail."

A comment on the Reddit post, a video titled "China demolishing unfinished high-rises."

"He nervously unwrapped the burrito and took a small bite while I pretended to not be watching. He tells me 'I think I had a mushroom but I'm not sure. It's good anyways!' and I was just !!!!!!!!! so proud!!!!!"

 A touching tale of brotherly love and ARFID (at Reddit).

(ARFID is avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder.)

"I later went down a Larry McMurtry rabbit hole, and barely escaped, after reading 'Lonesome Dove'...."

That's the most interesting line in Hugh Hewitt's account of his life history of reading, misleadingly titled "What I’m reading this summer" (WaPo). 

The years lost to Larry McMurtry seem to have been when Hewitt, who is 66, was in his 30s. He offers no explanation for why McMurtry books were a rabbit hole and does not examine what life would have been like if he hadn't escaped from it. 

I was only distracted by that because I'm in the middle of reading 2 Larry McMurtry books — "Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections on Sixty and Beyond" and "The Last Picture Show" — and I'd never even considered reading McMurtry until this year. 

Did I fall into a rabbit hole? I've been reading the first book, WBATDQROSAB, for months and can't remember why I started, and I've been reading TLPS because I happened to finally, after all these years, watched the movie, and I had a few questions — Did Ruth have an abortion? — and I wanted to find the answers — No, she had a mild case of breast cancer.

What is a "trail"?

There's a proposal to build permanent 2-way bike paths in the Youghiogheny River canyon in Maryland, WaPo reports.

There's a 1968 state law declaring the Youghiogheny a wild and scenic river and state "regulations require that its 'primitive' natural state remain intact and 'inaccessible except by trail.'"

What is a "trail" within the meaning of law about a "wild and scenic" river? 

Mitt Romney is running for President.

And in the most subtle and elegant way possible.

Mitt Romney is running for President!

Read the quote. He's specifically withholding encouragement from Liz Cheney as she teases a run for President. But he's also not encouraging anyone to run. He disapproves of what Trump did to the GOP, thinks Trump will get the nomination if he runs, and thinks that if Trump does not run, the GOP will nominate some Trump-like person. A counter-Trump voice needs to emerge and compete with Trump.

Who? And how? My hypothesis is that Romney believes that he may be the one. He's not going to declare himself to be a candidate. But he dismisses other anti-Trump possibilities as inadequate, and he awaits the call. The party will have to come to him, but isn't it obvious that he is the one person to call upon as the alternative to Trump? Experienced, vetted, mature, handsome, exalted...

Everyone else stand down. Romney stands by.

"Norah Vincent, Who Chronicled Passing as a Man, Is Dead at 53/Her best-selling 2006 book about that experience, 'Self-Made Man'..."

"... made her a media darling. But it cost her psychologically," says the headline to The NYT obituary.  
["Self-Made Man"] drew comparisons to “Black Like Me,” the white journalist John Howard Griffin’s 1961 book about his experiences passing as a Black man in the segregated Deep South.... Ms. Vincent was a lesbian. She was not transgender, or gender fluid. She was, however, interested in gender and identity.... 

"My party has changed a great deal over the last decade.... I can’t tell you how, but I think we’ll have more voices than one at some point."

"But right now one voice, and that’s President Trump’s voice, is the loudest and the strongest and bucking him is something people will do at their peril."

Said Mitt Romney, quoted in "What Mitt Romney says about Liz Cheney possibly running for president" (Deseret News)

Romney clearly doesn't think that Liz Cheney could be the new strong voice to lead the GOP away from Trump:

"By 1532, Giulio Camillo, a professor at Bologna, suggested a means for transforming the mind through a uniquely powerful memory system of his own creation."

"The Memory Theater of Giulo Camillo, as it came to be known throughout sixteenth-century Europe, consisted of a wooden memory palace shaped in the form of a Roman amphitheater."

Writes Richard Restak in "The Complete Guide to Memory: The Science of Strengthening Your Mind," pointing to this visualization:

Restak continues:

Miniature effects.

Beautiful attention to detail. Touching, actually. And I recommend the movie, "That French Dispatch," which I watched a few weeks ago. I found that "making of" video because I was looking for something specific in that movie, a view of the outside of a multistory building, where you follow a character walking up various stairways, through rooms, up to the top. You can see part of that sequence at 1:00.

I wanted to see that because, just by chance, I was watching the 1958 movie "Mon Oncle" last night, and there's this sequence, which is clearly what "The French Dispatch" was paying homage to:

"The French Dispatch" is a Wes Anderson movie. "Mon Oncle" is Jacques Tati. I did not realize, when I was watching "The French Dispatch," how much of it was done with miniatures. I have no idea how Jacques Tati made his movies. I'm not sure I want to know! Maybe there should be a spoiler alert on that "Miniature effects" video, because it would be better not to know what, exactly, you're looking at. The old saying is that it's better not to know how sausage is made.

I don't like to use clichés, but I'm saying "better not to know how sausage is made" because it fits with something in "Mon Oncle." Obscure humor at 5 in the morning. It shouldn't be obscure.

You can stream "Mon Oncle" on the Criterion Channel.

FIXED: The second video is now the right one. I'd had the first video repeated. I deeply regret this mistake! 

August 19, 2022

The second half of today's sunrise.






Write about anything you want in the comments.

I've picked out 8 TikToks for you. Let me know what you like.

1. When you fall asleep at a classical music concert.

2. Are we going to be impressed by this guy's construction out of chocolate?

3. I never cook pork chops, do you? Well, look at this.

4. Dogs at the meeting about all the barking

5. Remember that little boy with the corn I showed you on August 5th? Now, here he is, with musical accompaniment.

6. Why do you call when you can text?

7. The snowboarding toddler is just floating.

8. Bear in a bath.

"In the roughly 130-year history of football helmets — from leather skull caps to plastic orbs to single-bar face masks to full face masks — nothing ever has looked quite like..."

"... the newly mandated Guardian Caps... pillowy, padded shells affixed to the outsides of their helmets.... According to the league, the spongy additions reduce the severity of an impact by at least 10 percent if a player involved in an on-field collision is wearing one, and by at least 20 percent if both players involved are in caps.... 'It was different to get used to,' veteran Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward said.... 'Obviously, they don’t look pretty. When you go to tackle, it almost feels like there’s a pillow on your head.' Though the caps are an odd sight — modern American gladiator headwear turned into Toad from Mario — they produce a sound even more foreign on a football field than their look. In drills, linemen crash into one another, and what used to be a CLACK! of helmets is now muffled by the crunching of padding."

WaPo reports.

The longnose gar.

Here's a picture from the mid-18th century, titled "The Green Gar Fish (Esox osseus)":

The "green gar" is, these days, called the longnose gar. Do fish have noses? I don't know, but the longnose gar can breathe air.

Lake Mendota at 5:48 a.m.

A lone canoer, photographed by me:


And a lone blogger, photographed by Meade:


"In past columns, we have discussed the litany of 'slam dunk' crimes that Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe has declared as established against former President Donald Trump..."

"This week, Tribe insisted... that Trump yet again is facing a 'slam dunk' criminal conviction over the raid on Mar-a-Lago.... Just last month, Tribe declared Trump clearly guilty of the attempted murder of Vice President Mike Pence on January 6, 2021. Tribe again insisted that the case could be prosecuted 'without any doubt, beyond a reasonable doubt, beyond any doubt, and the crimes are obvious.' I guess there is no doubt. There is also no compelling legal basis for the claim. Nevertheless, Tribe promised more if needed: 'There are other crimes that have been proven. Those are plenty to start with.' It is a curious thing that none of these prior 'proven' crimes have been charged...."

"I think appearance, with no meaning just appearance, is more interesting to me."

"Florida officials have arrested and charged 20 people with felony convictions and charged them with illegal voting, Florida governor Ron DeSantis said on Thursday...."

 The Guardian reports.

“They did not go through any process, they did not get their rights restored, and yet they went ahead and voted anyways. That is against the law and now they’re gonna pay the price for it,” DeSantis said. He also said all 20 had convictions for murder or sexual offenses, crimes that continue to result in a lifetime voting ban in the state....

The article says the rules for getting one's voting rights back can be confusing, but that's no response to DeSantis's point that these were people who did not go through any process. 

"For years — and long after segregation ended — the Montpelier Station, Va., post office operated in a building where signs reading 'White' and 'Colored' hung over two separate doors."

"The signs are not meant for people to follow, but rather intended as features of a museum exhibit about the country’s era of racial segregation. No matter: The U.S. Postal Service is done being associated with it. Over the summer, the Postal Service shut down its small, one-employee operation housed within the building, telling news outlets in a statement this week that it 'determined the display at the site was unacceptable to the Postal Service.'"

These weren't doors inside in some display but the entrance doors to the building, the building you needed to enter to get to the post office. It's one thing for the government to offer to teach people about the history of racism in a museum setting, which they may choose to visit, quite another to confront people with it as they go about their ordinary business and need to interact with the government.

Presumably the idea was that it was good to impose this lesson on white people, but there are at least 2 big problems with that idea. First, members of a minority group matter, even if they are a small proportion. And second, how do you know the white people are taking the message the right way? Are they solemnly chastened or improperly amused or smug or even feeling superior? It's too negative a message to assume people are taking it the right way and responding correctly.

CORRECTION: The building is in Montpelier Station, Virginia, not Montpelier, Vermont, which probably didn't have signs like that. Montpelier Station is in Orange County, which has a population that is about 12% black.

August 18, 2022

The western sky at sunrise.



Open thread in the comments.

"Donald Trump and his allies are reportedly talking about releasing Mar-a-Lago surveillance footage showing FBI agents searching the Florida resort."

"This will supposedly show jackbooted FBI thugs swarming over the former president’s home, graphically illustrating his long-running complaint of political persecution. Trump absolutely should release that footage. It would totally Own the Libs...."

Sunrise — 6:03, 6:08.


Talk about whatever you want in the comments.


"When Jen receives an accidental transfusion from her cousin Bruce Banner (Marvel’s original Hulk, played by Mark Ruffalo) she suddenly becomes She-Hulk."

"While Bruce’s Hulk is a cinder block of a man — or as Maslany put it, 'a roided-out gym maniac, to such a cartoonish degree' — Jen’s transformation, triggered by anger, looks different. Only some muscles bulge. Her breasts — not muscles! — bulge, too. Her waist whittles. Her hair straightens.... Maslany described She-Hulk’s bearing as heavier, less fidgety, more centered in the pelvis. 'The weight of She-Hulk brings her down into her loins in a different way,' she said. This might be the way a woman moved if she felt safe in the world, if she knew that no one could hurt her.... This new show suggests that a woman could be angry, and that the world would really like it.... 'She transforms into a hyper beautiful, hyper feminine version that might be more palatable in that anger,' Maslany marveled...."

From "As She-Hulk, Tatiana Maslany Is Beautiful When She’s Angry/The 'Orphan Black' actor described the giant, green protagonist of 'She-Hulk: Attorney at Law' as 'weirdly, the closest thing to my own experience I’ve done ever'" (NYT).

Attorney at Law! So... a lawyer gets very very angry and sprouts extra-large breasts. It's just so embarrassingly dumb. The fantasy is that anger makes a woman especially attractive. I've never watched any Hulk shows or movies, so I'm just going to guess what Hulks — He-Hulks and She-Hulks get angry about: crime? Superhero stories are all about fighting crime, right? Anyway, I love this idea that when women become angrily powerful we become more centered in our "loins." 

I tried watching the trailer, but it was too hard to get a look at the transformation, so I'm not going to embed it. For some weird reason, the audio was "Happy Together" by The Turtles. That's the polar opposite of anger. The skies'll be blue.

"'Breaking History' is an earnest and soulless — Kushner looks like a mannequin, and he writes like one — and peculiarly selective appraisal..."

"... of Donald J. Trump’s term in office. Kushner almost entirely ignores the chaos, the alienation of allies, the breaking of laws and norms, the flirtations with dictators, the comprehensive loss of America’s moral leadership, and so on, ad infinitum, to speak about his boyish tinkering... with issues he was interested in. This book is like a tour of a once majestic 18th-century wooden house, now burned to its foundations, that focuses solely on, and rejoices in, what’s left amid the ashes: the two singed bathtubs, the gravel driveway and the mailbox. Kushner’s fealty to Trump remains absolute. Reading this book reminded me of watching a cat lick a dog’s eye goo."

"The tone is college admissions essay. Typical sentence: 'In an environment of maximum pressure, I learned to ignore the noise and distractions and instead to push for results that would improve lives.' ... You finish 'Breaking History' wondering: Who is this book for? There’s not enough red meat for the MAGA crowd, and Kushner has never appealed to them anyway. Political wonks will be interested — maybe, to a limited degree — but this material is more thoroughly and reliably covered elsewhere. He’s a pair of dimples without a demographic."

"Rachal Dollard placed a balloon pellet filled with methamphetamine in her mouth and gave it to her inmate boyfriend by kissing him, the authorities said. He later died of an overdose."

"Mr. Dollard then swallowed the balloon, apparently planning to retrieve it from the toilet after using the bathroom, the department said. But the balloon later ruptured in his body, and Mr. Dollard died of an overdose.... The case came as prosecutors across the country increasingly treat overdose deaths as homicides, using laws devised to go after drug dealers to now charge friends and partners, and hold someone criminally accountable.... Ms. Dollard would face up to 60 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000 if convicted."

"Instead of addressing the real causes of the opioid crisis, like pill mill doctors, illegal drugs and regulators asleep at the switch, plaintiffs’ lawyers wrongly claimed..."

"... that pharmacists must second-guess doctors in a way the law never intended and many federal and state health regulators say interferes with the doctor-patient relationship."

"While that statistic felt true — and transgender women of color are more likely to be murdered than their cisgender female peers, experts say — it’s false."

"Experts worry that this statistic gives trans people, especially Black trans people, an expiration date on their lives and creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. 'What you are doing is creating huge levels of fear, which causes high levels of stress, which will actually cause people to die younger,' said Laurel Westbrook, a professor of sociology and the author of 'Unlivable Lives: Violence and Identity in Transgender Activism...."
From "For years, Black trans women have been told their life expectancy is 35 years. That’s false. While there’s no evidence to support the statistic, experts do worry that it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy for Black trans women" (The 19th).

One researcher believes he's traced the false statistic to a 2015 report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on violence against LGBTQ+ people in Latin America, which relayed what was only an anecdotal assertion and didn't even purport to be about the United States.

"The Japanese government has launched a nationwide competition calling for ideas to encourage people to drink more alcohol..."

"... after a change in attitudes among the young resulted in a slide in tax revenues....  The competition... calls for 'new products and designs' as well as ways to promote home drinking.... 'As working from home made strides to a certain extent during the Covid 19 crisis, many people may have come to question whether they need to continue the habit of drinking with colleagues to deepen communication,' an official at the agency told the English-language newspaper at the time. 'If the "new normal" takes root, that will be an additional headwind for tax revenue.'"

"You're saying you're content with the left-wing conspiracy to prevent somebody being democratically re-elected as President?

That's a question provoked by something Sam Harris says in this video. His instant answer is "It's not left wing. Liz Cheney is not left wing." 

Pushed with the question, "You're` content with a conspiracy to prevent somebody being democratically elected President?" Harris stutters and gets out: "It was a conspiracy out in the open." Then: "But it doesn't matter — what part's conspiracy, what part's out in the open." More stumbling, then a retreat into outer space: "If there was an asteroid hurtling toward earth and we got in a room together with all of our friends and had a conversation of what we could do to deflect its course, is that a conspiracy?"

The video clip I'm seeing on Twitter ends there. I would respond to "Is that a conspiracy?" with Is that an analogy? 

"Over the last week, Libs of TikTok tweeted and retweeted 14 posts about Boston Children’s Hospital in five days, spreading misinformation and fear mongering..."

"... about the hospital’s gender-affirming care practices. In a statement, the Children’s Hospital told Teen Vogue they have 'been the target of a large volume of hostile internet activity, phone calls, and harassing emails including threats of violence toward our clinicians and staff.' In one tweet, Libs of TikTok called for the hospital to be shut down and in another, they claimed the hospital was providing hysterectomies to 'young girls' though PolitiFact deemed that claim false. 'To qualify for a gender-affirming hysterectomy at Boston Children's Hospital, patients must be 18 or older and must have a letter from a medical doctor stating they have "persistent, well-documented, gender dysphoria," PolitiFact explained.['] But the viral tweet continues to make rounds online and feed into a growing moral-panic about gender-affirming healthcare stoked by right-wing personalities and politicians.... Social and legal affirmation, according to the [American Academy of Pediatrics], like haircuts and name and pronoun changes, can happen at any age, while treatments like puberty blockers typically start at the onset of puberty and certain affirming surgery, while sometimes performed on teens, typically takes place in adulthood."

[CORRECTION: I'm rewriting the post from this point onward, because I mixed up Facebook and Twitter, and what I had was confusing. I'm trying to retain the idea worth discussing while correcting the factual error.]

Here's a tweet from Libs of TikTok about how it was suspended from Facebook, told it was a final decision, but then reactivated. I don't know if that had to do with recent posts relaying video Boston Children's Hospital put out to promote its own program. I don't think it's hate speech to repeat someone else's speech, giving it higher profile and opening it up for debate among a larger and more diverse group.

Repeating speech and sending it out to a bigger, more diverse set of people should be basic freedom of speech on social media. Facebook and Twitter ought to adhere to viewpoint neutrality. They do need to censor direct threats to individuals, but I don't think Libs of TikTok made any threats. It only passed along the hospital's speech, and that speech was so controversial that it made other people generate "a large volume of hostile internet activity, phone calls, and harassing emails including threats of violence." If the reaction of other people counts against the sharer of speech, it would mean that the most outrageous speakers have a privilege not to be shared by anyone who has an audience who might become outraged. An illusion of agreement would be created around the worst ideas.

I see that Libs of TikTok — just 4 hours ago — passed along video labeled "Yale Pediatric Gender Program director says she treats kids as young as THREE on their 'gender journey' including medical intervention." So it seems they are back in action, inviting everyone to absorb the message and think for themselves. There's nothing in the text of the tweet that can be characterized as misinformation (unless you're going to expand that term to include encouraging people to think their own thoughts instead of passively receiving the speech the way the speaker hoped you would receive it).

Is that what was different about the Boston Children's Hospital tweet? Did it contain a factual misstatement about the treatment?

And here's something Libs of TikTok retweeted 10 hours ago — Joe Rogan talking with Seth Dillon (of the Babylon Bee) about the censorship of Libs of TikTok:

August 17, 2022

Sunrise — 6:07.


Talk about whatever you want in the comments.

Here are 7 TikToks to while away the next few minutes. Let me know what you liked best.

1. Ricky Gourmet goes sugar mode.

2. Whatever happened to the boy who played Charlie in "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"?

3. I'm not sure if it's right to do this, but I think all versions of Obama look just great.

4. Spending the night with your irascible Southern grandma.

5. Committing to a "capsule wardrobe."

6. Why do some women knowingly marry gay men?

7. "Fly Me to the Moon."

Sunrise — 5:59.


Write about whatever you want in the comments.

"For 75 years, C.D.C. and public health have been preparing for Covid-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations."

Said Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, quoted in "Walensky, Citing Botched Pandemic Response, Calls for C.D.C. Reorganization/Among other flaws, the public guidance during the coronavirus pandemic was 'confusing and overwhelming,' the agency said" (NYT).

"Her plan... was short on specifics...."

"It’s all really interlinked, choosing a pair of leggings which causes discomfort and which in turn draws attention to the labia and the need for surgery."

Said plastic surgeon Dr. Richard Swift, quoted in "'Designer vagina' surgery doubles in 2022 thanks to tight leggings" (NY Post).

The article repeatedly uses the word "vagina" for "vulva," with ludicrous lines like: "Called a labiaplasty, the procedure shrinks the labia minora — otherwise known as the flaps on the inside of the vagina — with a price tag of more than $4,000."

"It was on a trip to Lebanon in 2018 to visit his father that Hadi changed from a popular, loving son to a moody introvert...."

"'The first hour he gets there he called me, he wanted to come back. He stayed for approximately 28 days but the trip did not go well with his father, he felt very alone.... I was expecting him to come back motivated, to complete school, to get his degree and a job. But instead he locked himself in the basement. He had changed a lot, he didn't say anything to me or his sisters for months. I couldn't tell you much about his life after that because he has isolated me since 2018. If I approach him sometimes he says hi, sometimes he just ignores me and walks away. He sleeps during the day and wakes and eats during the night. He lives in the basement. He cooks his own food...."

Al Franken reemerges — as a comedian — guest-hosting "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

Sample joke: "Today, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, which is a huge achievement. It makes the single biggest investment in addressing climate change ever. While I’m here, I — I really should talk about some of the other existential threats facing our nation: the enormous gaps in wealth and income, the threats to our democracy. But I really think one of the most serious issues facing our country today is just how big a dick Ted Cruz is."

"As the righteous energy of #MeToo fades into a more ambiguous debate, we’ve reached a point where it’s become obvious that consent and figuring out what you don’t want..."

"... is just not enough. What does it mean to go beyond consent and discover what you do want?...  Understanding our authentic desires has long been hopelessly stymied by politics.... 'Every woman here knows in her gut,' wrote the writer and anti-porn feminist Robin Morgan in 1978, 'that the emphasis on genital sexuality, objectification, promiscuity, emotional noninvolvement and coarse invulnerability was the male style and that we, as women, placed greater trust in love, sensuality, humor, tenderness, commitment.' If male-centered ideas about sex hardly encouraged self-actualization, neither did this new strain of feminism."

Writes Nona Willis Aronowitz in "I Still Believe in the Power of Sexual Freedom" (NYT). The words that follow "neither did this new strain of feminism" are so convoluted and abstruse that I almost ended the quote with the Robin Morgan quote. But consider whether Robin Morgan said it better than anyone else as you read Willis Aronowitz's effort to say it was wrong. I'm beginning with the very next sentence, and quoting without ellipsis, because I want you to experience how weirdly impenetrable it is. Sorry to bias you, but I'm begging for help. I'm struggling to read it:

Do you "live in dread of" Alzheimer's disease?

I'm reading this Guardian article, "Stop drinking, keep reading, look after your hearing: a neurologist’s tips for fighting memory loss and Alzheimer’s/When does forgetfulness become something more serious? And how can we delay or even prevent that change? We talk to brain expert Richard Restak."
Neuroscientist Dr Richard Restak... in The Complete Guide to Memory: The Science of Strengthening Your Mind, homes in on the great unspoken fear that every time you can’t remember where you put your reading glasses, it’s a sign of impending doom. “In America today,” he writes “anyone over 50 lives in dread of the big A.” Memory lapses are, he writes, the single most common complaint over-55s raise with their doctors, even though much of what they describe turns out to be nothing to worry about.

Anyone over 50 lives in dread of the big A?!  Maybe he meant that as hilarious hyperbole. Maybe some people dread the big, famous diseases, and surely some of us fixate on Alzheimer's in particular, but we're not all disease-phobic. What's the point of wanting to stay alive and grow old if you're angst-ridden about what could go wrong when obviously something will go wrong?

Anyway, I like this about reading fiction:

"A Saudi student at Leeds University who had returned home to the kingdom for a holiday has been sentenced to 34 years in prison for having a Twitter account..."

"... and for following and retweeting dissidents and activists. The sentencing by Saudi’s special terrorist court was handed down weeks after the US president Joe Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia, which human rights activists had warned could embolden the kingdom to escalate its crackdown on dissidents and other pro-democracy activists.... Salma al-Shehab, 34, a mother of two young children, was initially sentenced to serve three years in prison for the 'crime' of using an internet website to 'cause public unrest and destabilise civil and national security.' But an appeals court on Monday handed down the new sentence – 34 years in prison followed by a 34-year travel ban – after a public prosecutor asked the court to consider other alleged crimes.... By all accounts, Shehab was not a leading or especially vocal Saudi activist...."

"Execute drug dealers/Move homeless people to outlying ‘tent cities’/Deploy federal force against crime, unrest and protests/Strip job protections for federal workers/Eliminate the Education Department/Restrict voting to one day using paper ballots."

Those are "Six drastic plans Trump is already promising for a second term."

That's a WaPo article warning readers: "In recent speeches, the former president has begun specifying new policies he’d pursue if he returns to the White House, with an emphasis on crime, voting and shrinking the government."

Are you alarmed? Does it all sound fine to you? I'll make this a poll. You can click as many as you like (but only click the last one if you rejected all the others).

Which of Trump's new policies sound good to you? Click as many as you like or just the last one. free polls

Liz Cheney "could easily have" won in Wyoming again, she said, acknowledging the landslide against her.

"The path was clear. But it would have required that I go along with President Trump’s lie about the 2020 election. It would have required that I enable his ongoing efforts to unravel our democratic system and attack the foundations of our republic. That was a path I could not and would not take."

Much like the remarks she delivered at the Jan. 6 committee’s hearings, it was a speech that seemed directed not just at Republican voters, but at a wider national audience. 

August 16, 2022

Sunrise — 5:41, 5:58, 6:07.




Write about anything you want in the comments.

6 TikToks for you this evening. Let me know what you like.

1. The Japanese grandmother's house.

2. The table representative at the group dinner.

3. The baby has a high emotional IQ.

4. Medieval doodling in official court records.

5. Back when only 20% of us were on the internet, Jeff Goldblum did an Apple ad.

6. How old is she?

"There can't be one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans. So the question 'What about her emails?' is an appropriate one."

"Mocking it is no answer. Neither is the cliche 'two wrongs do not make a right.' A second wrong doesn't justify or excuse the first, but unequal treatment of two comparable wrongs should raise concerns about fairness and equality. Unequal treatment of two equal wrongs is a third wrong. The 'whataboutism' argument applies as well to the manner in which Trump loyalists such as Peter Navarro, Roger Stone and Paul Manafort were arrested. In comparable cases involving similar charges, the defendants weren't handcuffed, shackled or subjected to restraints generally reserved for those who pose a risk of violence or flight.... It is often argued that presidents aren't above the law, but neither are they beneath deserving fair treatment, as Bill Clinton can attest.... Just as [Hillary's] actions don't excuse Mr. Trump's, his don't excuse hers.... [U]ntil Mr. Garland fully and specifically answers the hard questions about what appears to be unequal application of rules and practices, 'what about her emails?' will be a pertinent question."

 Writes Alan Dershowitz, in "'But Her Emails'? A Defense of 'Whataboutism'"/Mrs. Clinton should take her hat off. Treating like cases alike is crucial to the equal protection of the law" (Wall Street Journal).

"Attorney General Merrick Garland deliberated for weeks over whether to approve the application for a warrant to search former President Donald Trump’s Florida home..."

"... people familiar with the matter said....  The decision had been the subject of weeks of meetings between senior Justice Department and FBI officials, the people said.... The decision whether to pursue criminal charges promises to be a defining one for Mr. Garland, a former federal judge who, as a Justice Department staffer in the late 1970s, helped codify changes intended to restore trust in the institution and address presidential abuses of power. 'He’s both extremely careful and he understands the critical role of an attorney general in these circumstances,' said former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, who was Mr. Garland’s boss when they served under President Bill Clinton. 'He appreciates the context in which this is occurring. I don’t think he considers politics at all, but I do think he recognizes the seriousness of actions against a former president.'... 'The only pressure I feel, and the only pressure that our line prosecutors feel, is to do the right thing,' Mr. Garland said earlier this year. ...  Inside the Justice Department, Mr. Garland is known by colleagues as a contemplative, by-the-book leader who, after roughly a year-and-a-half at the helm of the agency, has slowly begun to shed the cautious and consensus-based approach he followed as a federal judge for the more decisive posture expected of a law-enforcement officer...."

"The world is getting louder, and we are listening (and performing) music louder than we ever did in the past."

"I recently attended a wedding reception at which the sound level was an average of 105 decibels. I had to leave the event, and felt shocked the next day. I heard a performance of Mahler's 5th Symphony last year. Again, 99-105 decibels -- on the opposite side of Carnegie Hall. Movies and Broadway shows are even louder. And these levels are louder than the subway station at Lincoln Center. Here's the main thing: People around me didn't react! They didn't notice..... Our children are going to grow up with significant hearing losses! Protect your ears, and those of your loved ones! You won't notice that you are losing your hearing until you start to develop tinnitus, and start to feel the pain that won't go away."

The top-rated comment — from "a professional musician in NYC" who wears ear plugs "whenever I am on the street, on the train, or in loud indoor settings" — at "Are Earbuds Damaging My Hearing? And if so, are they more harmful than other headphone styles?" (NYT).

"The espionage act was abused from the beginning to jail dissenters of WWI. It is long past time to repeal this egregious affront to the 1st Amendment."

Said Rand Paul, quoted in "Sen. Rand Paul wants to repeal the Espionage Act amid the Mar-a-Lago investigation" (NPR).

The Espionage Act was passed in 1917, a few months after the U.S. entered World War I. The original law made it illegal for people to obtain or disclose information relating to national defense that could be used to harm the U.S. or benefit another country....

Roughly 1,000 people were jailed for criticizing World War I....

"Littlefeather’s 60-second plea for justice resulted in immediate and enduring personal backlash. She says that in the wings, John Wayne had to be restrained..."

"... from storming the stage to physically attack her, while in the aftermath, her identity and integrity were impugned (the rumors were so abiding that in 2012, Dennis Miller mocked Elizabeth Warren by calling her 'as much Indian as that stripper chick Brando sent to pick up his Oscar'). Littlefeather, who had acted in a few films before her infamous moment, says that the federal government threatened to shut down any talk shows or productions that put her on the air."

 From "Academy Apologizes to Sacheen Littlefeather for Her Mistreatment at the 1973 Oscars/Nearly 50 years after suffering harassment and discrimination for protesting Native American mistreatment, the activist will be the guest of honor at an evening of healing and Indigenous celebration hosted by the Academy Museum on Sept. 17" (Hollywood Reporter).

From the Academy's apology letter: “The emotional burden you have lived through and the cost to your own career in our industry are irreparable. For too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged. For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration.”

There are times when I am moved to tears by the meticulousness of the Oxford English Dictionary.

You may think I'm hardworking and meticulous, blogging at 5 a.m., answering a question that came up in the comments to a post about how some Kamala Harris supporters "got caught up in the stan-ification of politics that became widespread in the extremely online political circles of the 2020 Democratic primaries."

I didn't think the word "stan-ification" merited attention, but more than one commenter showed what looked like genuine puzzlement, so I wrote:

"Stan" just means fan — an especially big fan. Originally, it was a stalking fan character in an Eminem song titled "Stan," someone you wouldn't want to be. But it's just a cutesy way to say "fan" now — like "rabid fan." You wouldn't want to be rabid, literally, but it became a trite way to say "big fan."

The "-ification" ending is too familiar to need explanation. Rush Limbaugh used to talk about the "chickification" of politics, so "the stan-ification of politics" should be easy. That's why I didn't expound on it in the post.

Now that I'm writing this post, I see that "stan" itself is actually in the OED, but what I looked up that led me to write this post was "fan." There are examples of "fan" — for fanatic — in the 17th century, but the current usage begins in the late 19th century. There is separate attention paid to "fanboy" and to "fangirl." I love the quotes the OED finds to illustrate the usage over time, and I noticed, under "fangirl," an obscure example from 2002, "I'm the crippled writer; she's the obsessive fangirl," from something called "Shit Magnet." I googled the quote, and look at this. I found the original "Shit Magnet" text and exactly one other thing, that OED entry:

I am so moved by the meticulousness of the OED, finding this, presenting this, telling us about Shit Magnet.

August 15, 2022

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.


"I would never, ever say that I regret supporting the first Black woman vice president, ever. But the disappointment is real."

"I was obsessed with the idea of this person who could undo the systemic, the systematic racism and sexism and heterosexism in government with one fell swoop, and now I’m thinking to myself, did I just make up a person in my head who could do those things?"

Said "one self-described former member of the #KHive, who requested to speak anonymously so as not to alienate themselves from friends made through the movement," quoted in "The KHive Retreats as Kamala Harris’ Popularity Vanishes/As Kamala Harris’ popularity has waned, so too has her support among her most rabid and online followers" (Daily Beast).

"All told, Whole Foods terminated workers in at least six states for wearing BLM apparel, according to a complaint brought by the National Labor Relations Board...."

"NLRB officials are now prosecuting Whole Foods, seeking a change in policy and reinstatement for the workers. The company’s defense has yielded one of the stranger spectacles in contemporary US labor law. Whole Foods not only denies doing anything wrong, it’s also effectively putting BLM on trial. 'At one point, President Trump referred to Black Lives Matter itself as, quote, "a symbol of hate," and like it or not, a significant number of the former president’s supporters share his view,' company attorney Michael Ferrell said during his opening statement at the NLRB trial in Boston this spring. Yes, Ferrell said, Whole Foods believes Black lives matter, but the BLM movement is 'controversial,' its protests have been marked by looting and violence, and the company had good reason to worry that stores would become dangerous if workers were allowed to show their support on the job. If Whole Foods is forced to permit employees to wear BLM logos, Ferrell said, then why not let them wear Confederate flag masks, or go shirtless?...'It is for Whole Foods’ leadership to decide,' Ferrell said. “It is not for the hourly store team members.' That’s a point the NLRB’s top prosecutor, General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo, is eager to litigate.... 'I’m not sure that all circuit court judges, or even district court judges for that matter, fully understand all the nuances of labor law,' she says. 'We try to educate them as best we can.'"

I'm not sure what "would become dangerous." Is it that workers who didn't choose to wear the slogan could be threatened? Is it that customers might go ballistic? Was Ferrell talking about physical danger or some sort of emotional "danger"? Some people might feel hated when they read the slogan "Black Lives Matter" — is that a "danger"? I'm thinking of the vogue concept that words are violence. But stepping back from that puzzling word "danger," I can see that management has to worry that some customers may sense hostility and decide to shop elsewhere. The mask itself already embodies the hostility of the deadly virus. Writing an aggressive — or merely confusing — message on the mask has a synergistic effect. 

"Zhu and Davies are two ambitious young men, by all descriptions exceedingly smart, who appeared to understand the structural opportunity of digital currency rather well..."

"... that crypto is a game of creating virtual fortunes out of thin air and convincing other humans with traditional forms of money that those virtual fortunes deserve to be real-world ones. They built social-media cred by playing the part of billionaire financial geniuses, translated that to actual financial credit, then put billions of dollars in borrowed money to work in speculative investments they could cheerlead to success with their large, influential platforms. Before you know it, the pretend billionaire is a real billionaire shopping for super-yachts. They grokked the game, and the plan worked perfectly — until it didn’t."

ADDED: I haven't seen "grok" in a while.  That's a word coined in 1961 by Robert Heinlein in "Stranger in a Strange Land." It's not based on any other word, just, as the OED puts it, an "arbitrary formation."

"Solitude has become such a habit that it is disturbing to find I no longer notice anything or anyone except the things I wish to see."

"It was so disturbing today—this habit—that at the Tate I forced myself to take notice of the shape of the room I was standing in: because, like a dream or a fog, I existed and the paintings existed. Everything else melted like water. In a crowd I suddenly waken from an interior life and force myself to see and recognize the faces."

I like this comic strip in WaPo by Hyesu Lee.

The headline is a little clunky — "Travel can show us that the grass isn’t always greener" — though it does call out to me, a travel skeptic.

The cartoonist is exhausted by NYC and considering moving away, then takes a trip to the country — upstate New York — and sees things she doesn't like in the country, comes back home, and still doesn't like the city either. A simple idea — and probably a simple truth — but the drawings are very good and the simple story is told with fresh spirit. 

I recommend it. Click through and read (and here she is on Instagram).

Here's one panel to show you the style:


Fissures emerge!

Here's the article at The New York Times: "Some Republicans Make a More Restrained Case for Defending Trump/When some G.O.P. members of Congress attacked the nation’s top law enforcement agencies immediately after the F.B.I.’s search of Mar-a-Lago, it underscored deep fissures within the party."

Here's the front-page teaser that had us laughing: "As Republicans Move to Defend Trump, Deep Fissures Emerge in the Party."

Why was that so funny?

1. "Fissures" is an unusual enough word that it gets your attention. It's a metaphor, but what do you picture? Something going wrong with a fleshly body? A landscape? It's a new image, anyway, not something overused — like the "walls" that are forever "closing in."

2. The teaser version has the fissures showing up for the first time — emerging. But the Republicans have been fissure-ridden over Trump for years. The headline at the article page is more accurate: There were already "deep fissures," but the deep fissures became even more pronounced — they were "underscored" when some Republicans strongly defended Trump and other Republicans preferred to speak in a more "restrained" way.

3. In the text of the article, it says "deep fissures were visible," which doesn't sound as though the pre-existing fissures were changing at all. It was just another occasion for us onlookers to see the fissures. 

4. Why is this even a subject for an article? When I started this post, it was the top left headline on the front page, the most important news story. But it's just a story about how different Republicans express themselves with different degrees of intensity or subtlety over the Mar-a-Lago raid. We're told that the first Republicans to speak "reacted with fury" — saying things like “gestapo” and “tyrants.” But later, "more moderate voices in the party chastised their colleagues for the broadsides against law enforcement, making a more restrained case for defending Mr. Trump while also carrying out oversight of the Justice Department." It's a story because it's a chance to reframe Republicans attacking the FBI and the Justice Department as Republican attacking each other.

5. Yeah, I'm done laughing at "fissures emerge." 

August 14, 2022

At the Sunday Night Café...


... you can write about whatever you want.

For Sunday night, I'm taking the TikTok selections all the way to 11. Let me know what you like.

1. What does your dog do when you drop the leash?

2. There's this really creepy bird.

3. The nerve of this thing....

4. Let's tell President Clinton how much we love The Internet.

5. College kids are glued to The Facebook Dot Com.

6. Camille Paglia on pronouns. [ADDED: Linked deleted because the video has been removed. It was a clip from this longer video from 2017.] 

7. Trump, the cab driver, talks about nuclear.

8. Perfect Ring-camera joke-telling technique.

9. Using nonsense words to ask AI for images.

10. Creating a weird sound for each state.

11. A tortoise finds love.


"Rarely has an issue been handed on a silver platter to Democrats that is so clear-cut. It took an election that was going to be mostly about inflation and immigration and made it also about abortion."

Said Anna Greenberg, a Democratic pollster, quoted in "Why Abortion Has Become a Centerpiece of Democratic TV Ads in 2022/Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Democrats have spent nearly eight times as much on abortion-related ads as Republicans have" (NYT).
Some abortion ads use the specific words and positions of Republican candidates against them. Some are narrated by women speaking in deeply raw and personal terms. Some use Republicans’ unyielding stances on abortion to cast them more broadly as extremists....

Democrats aim to connect abortion messaging to the broader argument that hard-line Republicans are seeking to strip away fundamental freedoms. “The arguments Democrats are using in those ads don’t stay contained to the abortion space,” said Jennifer Palmieri, the former White House communications director under President Barack Obama and a longtime party strategist. “You’re telling them something about their temperament, their judgment and their values.”

"Though 'obscurantism' may be a word that is, well, obscure, to Americans, [Macron] is right. The line between the fight for freedom..."

"... and the surrender to hatred is absolute. The assault on Rushdie only clarifies its contours."

Writes Adam Gopnik, reacting to what Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, said on Friday evening:
“For 33 years, Salman Rushdie has embodied freedom and the fight against obscurantism. He has just been the victim of a cowardly attack by the forces of hatred and barbarism. His fight is our fight; it is universal.”

High-level cogitation.

Tribe's link goes to the latest Maureen Dowd column. It's kind of funny to be railing against Trump for making lemonade out of the lemons his enemies foisted on him. Joyce Carol Oates's alternate universe is more amusing, even though comparing what is to what might have been is always a hotbed of delusion.

"As the day is long."

I'm exploring the phrase "as the day is long" as a consequence of becoming interested in the word "daylong," which the NYT used to describe the raid on Mar-a-Lago — "the daylong search of the former president’s home." I've been using the word "raid," which I'm sure is utterly correct, because I researched it, when I saw, immediately after the news broke, that it was a talking point to say that it was not a raid. 

That talking point dropped out of the conversation. I didn't even get a chance to use my research: the OED defines "raid" as "A sudden or vigorous attack or descent upon something for the purpose of appropriation, suppression, or destruction; spec. a surprise visit by police to arrest suspects or seize illicit goods."

But that doesn't mean that supporters of the raid want to use the word "raid." There's the word "search," but is that adequate? The NYT seems to have worried that "search" alone called too much attention to the the avoidance of "raid," and — I'm just guessing! — they appended "daylong."

Meade noticed that first, and when he texted the quote to me with the word "daylong" circled, and the note...
For NYT, “raid” = “daylong search” 
I replied:
like it was gentle and leisurely… like a day at the beach 
as legit as the day is long

The lookism that's still just fine (and I admit I laughed).

"Most news about government sounds as if it were federally mandated."

Wrote P. J. O'Rourke in his 1992 book "Parliament of Whores."

I ran across that quote this morning because I was looking up the word "news" in the OED. It's the last of the quotes listed under the definition, "The report or account of recent (esp. important or interesting) events or occurrences, brought or coming to one as new information; new occurrences as a subject of report or talk; tidings... esp. such information as published or broadcast."

I got interested in the history of the word "news" as I was reading "How ‘pink slime’ journalism exploits our faith in local news/The disappearance of local news outlets has been weaponized by partisan interests" by Ryan Zickgraf (in WaPo). That begins:
The 17th-century word “courant,” which once meant “newspaper,” is obsolete, according to Merriam-Webster, except in the rare case of the title of a periodical. Papers with that moniker in their masthead got grandfathered in because they were founded hundreds of years ago. Hearing something called “courant” today, I imagine a time-tested media institution anchored in a specific city or region, such as Connecticut’s Hartford Courant, which is a decade older than the United States government....

"One man brought in his own box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, a carton of milk and some Entenmann’s mini crumb cakes before passing out face down on a table."

"Afterward, he rolled spliffs as nearby, paying customers tried to enjoy their lattes and Frappuccinos. A mentally disturbed man in a black trench coat talked to himself and screamed obscenities at the communal mirror near the bathrooms for 30 minutes. 'There’s a guy over by the bathrooms making people really uncomfortable,' one customer told an employee behind the counter."

"Normally I would believe the FBI, but I have lost all trust in them. I don't like Baldwin, but the FBI has no ethics anymore."

"Can't trust anything they say. All local police departments have overseeing agencies, like Internal Affairs, Civilian Complaint Review Board, Inspector General etc, who do [you] call to make a complaint on an FBI agent?"

"Climate activists in southern France have filled golf course holes with cement to protest against the exemption of golf greens from water bans..."

"... amid the country's severe drought.... Golf officials say greens would die in three days without water. 'A golf course without a green is like an ice-rink without ice,' Gérard Rougier of the French Golf Federation told the France Info news website.... In a petition, the activists said the exemption showed that 'economic madness takes precedence over ecological reason.' While residents cannot water their gardens or wash their cars in the worst-hit municipalities, golf courses have escaped the nationwide restrictions."

"The country is on fire. What can I do to reduce the heat?"

That was the message Trump conveyed to Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, just before Garland made his public statement that he personally authorized the Mar-a-Lago raid and characterized it as a last resort.

Reported in "Trump Lawyer Told Justice Dept. That Classified Material Had Been Returned/The lawyer signed a statement in June that all documents marked as classified and held in boxes in storage at Mar-a-Lago had been given back. The search at the former president’s home on Monday turned up more" (NYT).

"Many of the comments on the Rushdie affair over the past 24 hours have pointed out that for many years he has been living quite freely..."

"... that the fatwa had been revoked by Iran (although the bounty remains) and that society has moved on from the dark days of book-burning, even if lone attackers remain a threat. I would suggest that this is delusional, a fantasy conjured up by western liberals to distract from a more sinister truth: over 30 years they have worked as the de facto accomplices of the ayatollah, assisting in the task of dismantling free speech, sending fear through those who dare to criticise or ridicule religion or anything else. Rushdie, in this sense, is not — and never was — a historical affair but a live scandal running through the veins of British life, not to mention other western societies.... For initially noble motives related to the fear of giving offence to minority groups, we have committed the most grievous offence on our way of life. 'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it' was the view attributed to Voltaire by his most famous biographer. We must resurrect its spirit, reclaim its beauty. For today, with Rushdie hooked up to a ventilator, we continue to sleepwalk towards disaster."