December 31, 2023

Sunrise — 7:25.


"There are implications for the wider culture in derogating our appetites. We are effectively telling people... not to trust their bodies..."

"... in ways that smack of gaslighting. Imagine a world where we could override our need to sleep with a medication far more powerful and long-lasting than caffeine: a new class of amphetamines, say, that could suppress the need to sleep for days if not weeks. And so we come to pronounce ourselves afflicted with 
'sleep noise,' rather than simple human tiredness — thereby depicting normal bodily need as weakness and the drugs to treat such weariness as a solution to this non-problem. The idea of billing our body’s pleas for rest as mere noise — and hence as something that ought not be listened to — borders on dystopian...."

Writes Kate Manne, in "What if 'Food Noise' Is Just … Hunger?" (NYT). 

"Food noise" is current slang for thinking about food — for "hearing" food calling out to you.

"You won’t hear President Biden talking about it much, but a key record has been broken during his watch."

"The United States is producing more oil than any country ever has. The flow of huge amounts of crude from American producers is playing a big role in keeping prices down at the pump, diminishing the geopolitical power of OPEC, and taming inflation.... The politics of oil are particularly tricky for Democrats, whose chances for victory in the 2024 elections could hinge on whether young, climate-conscious voters come out in big numbers. Many of those voters want to hear that Biden is doing everything in his power to keep oil in the ground.... Trump recently told Fox News’s Sean Hannity that he would act as a dictator only on the first day of his presidency in 2025, in part because he wanted to 'drill, drill, drill' for more oil. The former president has constantly attacked Biden’s clean energy agenda and accused him of squandering America’s prior 'energy independence' because of allegiance to 'environmental lunatics.'"

WaPo reports.

"A girl being like, 'Um this guy didn’t report.' Is the most female ref way to ruin a game."

A tweet I found after Meade put some time into trying to explain what happened in that Lions game, but I got tired of the explanation. First time I'd ever heard of this "report" concept. In any event, I'd seen this headline earlier this morning — "Lions rip refs for penalizing first 2-point try: 'don’t want to talk about it'" — and got excited reading the first 2 words, then realized it was about football and got bored.

"What’s in the best interest of the country is not to have an 80-year-old man sitting in jail that continues to divide our country."

"What's in the best interest of our country is to pardon him so that we can move on as a country and no longer talk about him."

The day 123123 is here at last.

"[T]he one class I hated was hula. It was mostly because the instructor was a flamboyant gay man and it scared me. That was my own internalized homophobia."

Said Patrick Makuakān, describing the "cultural exploration camp" he attended when he was 10.

"Some New Yorkers harbor fantasies that instead of building more, we can meet our housing needs through more rent control, against the advice of most economists..."

"... or by banning pieds-à-terre or by converting all vacant office towers into residential buildings, despite the expense and complexity. Given the enormity of the crisis, such measures would all be drops in the bucket, leading many to worry that if we were to actually build the hundreds of thousands of homes New Yorkers need, we would end up transforming the city into an unrecognizable forest of skyscrapers... New York could add dwellings for well over a million people — homes most New Yorkers could afford — without substantially changing the look and feel of the city."

Writes Vishaan Chakrabarti, "founder of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, a New York City architecture firm, and the former director of planning for Manhattan," in "How to Make Room for One Million New Yorkers" (NYT).

Click through to see visualizations of architecture projects that add housing without "substantially changing" the various locations. Some are improvements. At least one is an atrocity. I like a parking lot replaced by a mid-sized building, but loathe the low-rise apartment building stuck in the one empty lot in a neighborhood of single-family houses.

Chakrabarti's firm has identified over half a million locations for new apartments in New York City.

December 30, 2023

Sunrise — 7:26, 7:27, 7:32.




"A Times investigation found that troops were disorganized, out of position and relied on social media to choose targets. Behind the failure: Israel had no battle plan for a massive Hamas invasion."

"Where Was the Israeli Military?" (NYT).
[A] New York Times investigation found that Israel’s military was undermanned, out of position and so poorly organized that soldiers communicated in impromptu WhatsApp groups and relied on social media posts for targeting information. Commandos rushed into battle armed only for brief combat. Helicopter pilots were ordered to look to news reports and Telegram channels to choose targets.

And perhaps most damning: The Israel Defense Forces did not even have a plan to respond to a large-scale Hamas attack on Israeli soil, according to current and former soldiers and officers. If such a plan existed on a shelf somewhere, the soldiers said, no one had trained on it and nobody followed it. The soldiers that day made it up as they went along....

"This was the year... that artificial intelligence went from a dreamy projection to an ambient menace and perpetual sales pitch."

"Does it feel like the future to you, or has A.I. already taken on the staleness and scamminess of the now-worthless nonfungible token?... I suppose there was something nifty the first time I tried ChatGPT — a slightly more sophisticated grandchild of Eliza, the ’60s therapist chatbot — though I’ve barely used it since then; the hallucinatory falsehoods of ChatGPT make it worthless for journalists, and even its tone seems an insult to my humanity. (I asked: 'Who was the better painter, Manet or Degas?' Response: 'It is not appropriate to compare artists in terms of ‘better’ or ‘worse,’ as art is a highly subjective field.')... I remain profoundly relaxed about machines passing themselves off as humans; they are terrible at it. Humans acting like machines— that is a much likelier peril, and one that culture, as the supposed guardian of (human?) virtues and values, has failed to combat these last few years.... I spent a lot of this year thinking about ​​stylistic exhaustion, and the pervading sense that, in digital times, culture is going nowhere fast.... [I] wonder if... these perpetual mediocrity machines, these supercharged engines of cliché, end up pressing us to revalue the things humans alone can do...."

Writes Jason Farago, in "A.I. Can Make Art That Feels Human. Whose Fault Is That? A fake Drake/Weeknd mash-up is not a threat to our species’s culture. It’s a warning: We can’t let our imaginations shrink to machine size" (NYT).

"I still to this day call it the worst meeting I have ever had. He was 99 or 100 at the time."

"We said, 'We think what you did was absolutely incredible and we would love to make a film about that particular moment in your life.' He said, 'Oh, no one else needs to know what I did. No one else. Anyone who needs to know about this, already knows about it.'"

"Those favoring the disqualification of Mr. Trump insist that there is nothing antidemocratic about constraining the presidential choices of the national electorate."

"The Constitution, after all, contains a number of provisions that deny the people the right to elect whomever they wish. Article II, Section One, for example, prevents the people from electing anyone who is under age 35 or who is a foreign-born candidate. Those qualifications are expressly declared in the text, and they received robust vetting and debate in the ratifying conventions. In the case of Section 3 [of the Fourteenth Amendment], the Supreme Court is being asked to impose new constraints on the democratic process by way of textual implication and in the absence of any public debate whatsoever.... At best, the text of Section 3 is ambiguous regarding the office of president. The Supreme Court should limit the clause to its historically verifiable meaning and scope. Let the people make their own decisions about Donald Trump."

Writes lawprof Kurt Lash, author of "A Troubled Birth of Freedom: The Struggle to Amend the Constitution in the Aftermath of the Civil War," in "Trump Should Not Be Disqualified by an Ambiguous Clause" (NYT).

The fundamental principle is "the people should choose whom they please to govern them." Ambiguity must be resolved in that direction.


There's a WaPo article with the headline, "How to give up smoking weed (or other toxic habits you’re tired of)/Quitting marijuana, cigarettes and alcohol was tougher than the writer expected. She shares what works and what didn’t." The last line of the article is: "When I gave up toxic habits, I had room for something more beautiful to take their place."

And the comments are loaded with people resisting the notion that marijuana is "toxic":
"Again, the Post treats addiction to alcohol and nicotine the same as the use of the non-addictive cannabis. Why the lie? Why the supposition cannabis use by adults is 'toxic'? I don't use any intoxicants. Haven't for more than three decades. Cannabis is medicine."

"Trump’s victory is by no means assured...."

"But the past few years of Trump, Trump, Trump have taught me, if nothing else, that hoping for the best is not necessarily a winning strategy. With American democracy on the line, I’m taking the only defensible position toward the New Year: full-scale dread. I plan to pull up the covers and hide under my pillow as long as possible come January. It’s going to be a long twelve months."

Writes Susan B. Glasser, in "The Year We Stopped Being Able to Pretend About Trump/The story of 2023 wasn’t the search for another Republican leader—but the Party’s embrace of the one it already has" (The New Yorker).

Dread as the alternative to hope.

How could dread be a "winning strategy"?

Are Democrats arriving at the belief that Trump is inevitable? What strange power that man has!

"One common tipping complaint is some variation of the truffle conundrum."

"Why should we tip more on the pasta with truffles than on the one without? Call it a wealth tax. There’s also a celebrity tax. One waiter, whose diners have included Selena Gomez, Jon Hamm, and Matthew Macfadyen ('He ordered two entrées successively,' he recalled. 'I was impressed'), said that those who are rich and identifiable typically leave thirty to fifty per cent. 'Robert Plant tipped me twenty per cent, which I respected,' he said. 'There’s this paranoia of being despised by the waiter, and they overtip to compensate. I always thought that was pathetic.'"

From "Has Gratuity Culture Reached a Tipping Point? Paying extra for service has inspired rebellions, swivelling iPads, and irritation from Trotsky. Post-pandemic, the practice has entered a new stage" (The New Yorker). Lots more about tipping in that article. My excerpt isn't a summary, just something random that interested me.

December 29, 2023

Sunrise — 7:36.


"My wife and I live in a country where we have a first amendment. We’re dealing with consensual adult sexuality. The regents are overreacting.”

"They’re certainly not adhering to their own commitment to free speech or the first amendment.... I got an email last night saying I was terminated. I wish I would have had the opportunity to have a hearing. When reasonable people understand what my wife and I are creating, it calms them down."

Said Former University of Wisconsin-La Crosse chancellor Joe Gow, quoted in "Wisconsin university chancellor claims he was fired for appearing in porn videos/Joe Gow says that his free speech rights were violated after the Universities of Wisconsin board of regents decided to fire him" (The Guardian).

"New York Times' Nikole Hannah-Jones tweets the North didn't fight to end slavery in Civil War."

A Fox News headline from last year, interesting today in light of Nikki Haley's recent comments on the Civil War.

On [May 21, 2022], Hannah-Jones tweeted out a quote from her controversial 1619 Project...

"Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) struck down a bill that would have banned gender-affirming care for minors..."

"... preserving such care for residents beyond his state as well, because families of transgender youths who live in states with bans have been traveling to Ohio for treatment.... Ohio’s Saving Adolescents From Experimentation Act, or SAFE Act, would have prohibited hormone therapy, puberty blockers and gender reassignment surgery for people under 18. The measure also would have prohibited transgender girls from playing on sports teams designated for girls and women in high school and college.... While minors who are already receiving gender-affirming care would’ve been allowed to continue, other parents 'would be criminals, if they seek care for their child after the bill becomes effective. It’s crazy,' [said one father of a transgender child]...."

WaPo reports.

DeWine defended his veto in pro-life terms: "Ultimately I believe this is about protecting human life.... Many parents have told me that their child would not have survived, would be dead today, if they had not received the treatment they received from one of Ohio’s children’s hospitals."

"I think you had one side of the civil war that was fighting for tradition and one side of the civil war that was fighting for change."

"At the end of the day, what I think we need to remember is that, you know, everyone’s supposed to have their rights, everyone’s supposed to be free, everyone’s supposed to have the same freedoms as anyone else. So I think it was tradition versus change. ['Tradition versus change on what?'] On individual rights and liberty of people."

Said Nikki Haley, in 2010, quoted by The Guardian back in February 2023, in "Nikki Haley: video shows Republican candidate saying US states can secede/Contender also says civil war – fought over slavery – was one side ‘fighting for tradition’ and the other ‘fighting for change.'"

Here's the video:

I'm looking at that today, because I see that a lot of other people are going back to that video, relevant as it is to the seemingly inane answer she gave this past Wednesday when asked "What was the cause of the Civil War?" Now, I think I was too charitable in calling her recent statement a "word salad," as if she were unprepared, inept, and pretty much what Trump called her — a "bird brain."

It seems she's really thought about the Civil War for a while and come up with a political position that she'd said out loud quite clearly on at least one other occasion.

Yes, she was talking to "a pro-Confederate group," but: 1. She talked to a pro-Confederate group, 2. She gave them what, presumably, they wanted, and 3. She's repeated this bullshit/true belief.

"When people see an age gap, they tend to imagine there is something intrinsically unequal about it — that the older partner wants someone they can control..."

"... and the younger partner has daddy issues or is just out for money.... And even if the older partner is calling all the shots, or some of them, that isn’t necessarily abuse. While Me Too made us all too aware of the way power dynamics can be and have been exploited, it didn’t do away with the fact that desire for these dynamics continues to exist. (Daddy, for instance, was the most-searched term on the porn site xHamster among women in America in 2018.) Sex-advice columnist Dan Savage, who is seven years older than his husband and 22 years older than his boyfriend, has found much of the conversation about age gaps to be fundamentally unrealistic about what human relationships are. 'We are status-obsessed, power-obsessed primates always jockeying for control — socially and also in our interpersonal relationships,' he said. 'There’s no interpersonal relationship without power differentials, without advantages or disadvantages on both sides. And if you want to correct for that, or eliminate that, you have to eliminate human relationships.'" 

Sooner than never?

A Daily Beast headline I didn't click on: "Why Trump May Find Himself in Jail Sooner Than He Thinks."

ADDED: That post title — I thought — it sounds like a bad album title. Googling, I see...

December 28, 2023

At the Thursday Night Café....


... you can write about whatever you want.

(The photo is another photo from the plane yesterday afternoon. I didn't wake up for the sunrise today. It's as if I was jet-lagged, but I'd only gone to Texas and had not changed time zones.)

How "Ode to Billy Joe" could become the U.S. national anthem.


When is it Chris Christie's turn?

I'm reading "Christie pushes back on calls for him to drop out..." (CNN).

It must be very frustrating for the poor man. He saw all the hopes and dreams of anti-Trumpsters poured into Ron DeSantis, a product that just wouldn't move. Then all the money flowed to Nikki Haley, and here she is living up to Trump's epithet for her.

And they're telling Christie to drop out? Isn't he the only one left? When is it his turn? The anti-Trumpsters need someone. He's been trying for so long to be that person. 

Here he is world, here's Chris! [I'm envisioning a parody of "Rose's Turn."]

Now, what?

I see "Haley, Asked About the Cause of the Civil War, Avoids Mentioning Slavery/A pointed question, at a town hall in New Hampshire, raises a complicated topic for Nikki Haley, who as governor of South Carolina wrestled with issues stemming from the Confederacy" (NYT).

Asked — at a town hall — "What was the cause of the United States Civil War?" she served an insane word salad:
"I mean, I think it always comes down to the role of government and what the rights of the people are,” she said eventually, arguing that government should not tell people how to live their lives or “what you can and can’t do. I will always stand by the fact that I think government was intended to secure the rights and freedoms of the people.... It was never meant to be all things to all people."...  After a quick back and forth with the questioner, she said, “What do you want me to say about slavery? Next question.”

Key words: "What do you want me to say...?" Does this woman have a mind at all? Is she saying what [somebody] wants her to say? If so, why didn't they program in a stock answer about the Civil War? 

So much money has just been thrown at this person. Now, what?

ADDED: Here's the full video. The NYT summary is merciful, if anything. 

"Nobody will ever hear me say I’m glad she’s dead or I’m proud of what I did. I regret it every single day."

"She didn’t deserve that. She was a sick woman and unfortunately I wasn’t educated enough to see that. She deserved to be where I am, sitting in prison doing time for criminal behavior."

Said Gypsy Rose Blanchard, quoted in "Gypsy Rose Blanchard released from prison early after serving time for the murder of her abusive mother/Blanchard, 32, was released from the Chillicothe Correctional Center at 3:30 a.m. Thursday. She had been serving a 10-year sentence for the June 2015 slaying of her mother" (NBC News).

December 27, 2023

At the Sky High Café....


... you can talk about whatever you want.

Goodbye to Tommy Smothers.

“Tom Smothers, Comic Half of the Smothers Brothers, Dies at 86/Though he played a naïve buffoon onstage, he was the driving force behind the folk-singing duo’s groundbreaking TV show” (NYT).

This is a very sad one for me. Not only did I love the old TV show, I am the world’s biggest fan of “Get to Know Your Rabbit.”

I’m blogging this from the air. A first time experience for me.

"Even for dedicated fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the amount of prerequisite knowledge required to watch any M.C.U. movie or show nowadays is tantamount to a college course."

"And it seems like audiences are tiring of the constant homework assignments.... These franchises are spelling their own downfalls, as the price of entry into the fandoms has become frustratingly high for the dedicated disciples of these worlds, and not at all worth it for casual viewers or prospective new fans. This year has been a prime of example of what happens when a pop-culture movement takes hold of an industry and then overreaches.... In 'The Flash,' Barry Allen (the hero’s alter ego) has to explain to an alternate version of himself that they can’t keep manipulating the time stream. 'These worlds,' Barry says, looking at the C.G.I. representations of space and time around him, 'they’re colliding and collapsing.' 'We did this,' he continues. 'We’re destroying the fabric of everything.'"

From "Is This the Endgame for the Age of Heroes? Audiences are showing fatigue when it comes to Marvel’s box office behemoths of recent years. Based on what they were served in 2023, it’s hard to blame them" (NYT).

"Gérard Depardieu is probably the greatest of all actors.... When people attack Gérard Depardieu in this way, they are attacking art... France owes him so much."

A quote from the letter described in "Gérard Depardieu: dozens of celebrities denounce ‘lynching’ of French actor/Signatories of open letter include Charlotte Rampling, Carole Bouquet, and former French first lady and singer Carla Bruni" (The Guardian)("Depardieu, who has made more than 200 films and television series, was charged with rape in 2020 and has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by more than a dozen women").

"You're Joe Biden. Suppose your goals are to a) get reelected, b) in the process let in as many migrants as you can, because you..."

"... and many of your supporters think it's a good thing. You've made impressive progress on (b), letting in migrants at a rate that’s now at least around 2 million a year,. But now goal (b) is conflicting with (a) as the massive surge of illegals at the border has become a 'sucking wound' on your 2024 chances. What to do?"

Writes Mickey Kaus, in "Biden's Border 'Briar Patch'/'Please, please, don't fix my most serious political problem for me!'" (Substack).

"[T]he abrupt rise in digital interaction following the arrival of the pandemic made knowledge work more tedious and exhausting..."

"... helping to fuel the waves of disruption that have followed.... So long as these new and excessive levels of digital communication persist, more haphazard upheavals will inevitably follow. We need to get serious about reducing digital communication—not just small tweaks to corporate norms but significant reductions, driven by major policy changes.... [Business owners] could declare that, from now on, e-mail should be used only for broadcasting information, and for sending questions that can be answered by a single reply. One implication of this system would be that any substantive back-and-forth discussion would need to happen live; to prevent an explosion of new meetings, managers could simultaneously introduce office hours, in which every employee adopts a set period each day during which they’d be available to chat in person, online, or over the phone, with no appointment needed. Discussions that seem likely to take fifteen minutes or less should be conducted during office hours, minimizing the number of intrusive meetings and freeing everyone from endless back-and-forth e-mail threads.... The need to constantly monitor ongoing chats can be even more disruptive than frequent e-mails and meetings.... [Businesses could] opt out of chat services completely...."

Writes Cal Newport, a computer science professor, in "An Exhausting Year in (and Out of) the Office/After successive waves of post-pandemic change, worn-out knowledge workers need a fresh start" (The New Yorker).

"We’re in a season of hand-wringing and scapegoating over social media, especially TikTok...."

"Young people are overwhelmingly unhappy about U.S. policy on the war in Gaza? Must be because they get their 'perspective on the world on TikTok' — at least according to Senator John Fetterman, a Democrat who holds a strong pro-Israel stance. This attitude is shared across the aisle. 'It would not be surprising that the Chinese-owned TikTok is pushing pro-Hamas content,' Senator Marsha Blackburn said.... Consumers are unhappy with the economy? Surely, that’s TikTok again, with some experts arguing that dismal consumer sentiment is a mere 'vibecession' — feelings fueled by negativity on social media rather than by the actual effects of inflation, housing costs and more.... Why don’t we know more about TikTok’s true influence, or that of YouTube or Facebook? Because that requires the kind of independent research that’s both expensive and possible only with the cooperation of the platforms themselves... [U]ntil politicians and institutions dig into the influence of social media and try to figure out ways to regulate it, and also try addressing broader sources of discontent, blaming TikTok amounts to just noise."

Writes Zeynep Tufekci — a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University — in "Avert Your Eyes, Avoid Responsibility and Just Blame TikTok" (NYT).

Why did Trump share this word cloud?

The word cloud was produced by The Daily Mail to visualize the results of its survey, which asked 984 American voters to summarize Trump's plan for his second term — in one word. The same question was asked about Biden, and Biden's cloud has the word "NOTHING" in the center. Trump didn't share the Biden cloud though, perhaps because the answer "nothing" probably didn't mean they thought Biden was a nothing — or had zero plans — but simply that the person polled couldn't think of anything. You can see that "nothing" appears in Trump's word cloud too.

Why do you think Trump wanted to share that cloud? Did he like the sequence of words? Does he expect us to see "dictatorship" as the word chosen by hysterical, hyperbolic antagonists? Is he into the ambiguity, which requires us to keep talking about him? 

Does he believe — or like to tease — the idea that dictatorship is good? Politico bolsters that interpretation: "Trump has... lavished praise on authoritarian leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and North Korean strongman Kim Jong-un." Lavished. Really?

December 26, 2023

At Just This Café...


... what else are you going to do?

"Trump augurs divisive year in angry Christmas rant" — as CNN sees it.


The article quotes this Truth Social post of Trump's:

I don't like the all caps, but does that strike you as unjustifiably angry?  

“Through the magic of fat-washing, clarification and infusions, umami-heavy drinks that taste like specific dishes…”

“…will proliferate as our collective palate shifts from super sweet to savory. Already, in New York you can order a cocktail that tastes of Waldorf salad at Double Chicken Please in New York or a Caprese martini at Jac’s on Bond. Or would you prefer a Thai beef salad drink from the Savory Project, in Hong Kong, or an Everything Everywhere cocktail with smoked salmon-infused gin, vermouth and caper brine accented with everything bagel spice from the Anvil Pub and Grill, in Birmingham, Ala.?”

"He works in venture capital. I’m the writer. And all I have the bandwidth to do at the end of the day..."

"... is read aloud to her from books other creative people have written, even if their plots feature a 'good little mother' who spends her days cheerfully whipping up delicious meals of roasted penguin and being praised for her frugality and Christian values. [My husband had] not only come up with a brand-new story, but also... a rhyming riddle...? Just whom had I married? I started to cycle through the stories of other women who’d also found themselves living with men who harbored deep secrets, from Rosemary’s Baby to Jane Eyre. Was he communing with the devil? Did he have a first wife hidden in the coat closet? 'It’s ChatGPT,' he whispered, with a shrug, after he tiptoed out and found me slack-jawed and panicky. 'I just feed in [our daughter's] insane prompts and it spits out a story.' Oh...."

From "I was shocked: my husband was using AI to write our children’s bedtime stories/I was impressed as his stories grew ever more inventive and responsive to our kids’ demands. Then I learned his secret" by Sophie Brickman (The Guardian).

Are AI books better because they can include whatever elements the child — with her limited real-world associations — comes up with? Why wouldn't it work just as well to invent your own story with those elements? The daughter in question asked for a funny story about "mowing lawns in a place called Bananaland, and a festival, and monkeys." It's not hard to make up this story on your own, but you may be interested, for a few minutes, in how AI might do it. But is this the new way to do bedroom stories? I think a child is more likely to respond to a story told spontaneously, from an active human mind connected to the voice. Brickman does not disagree.

"Harvard University faculty are calling for members of its governing board to step down as a way to reset the university as it struggles..."

"... with historic reputational damage and demands for the resignation of its embattled president, Claudine Gay.... Faculty who fretted for years that the school is ceding ground on free speech to appease advocates of diversity, equity and inclusion feel newly empowered to raise their concerns...."

From "As Pressure on Harvard President Increases, University Board Feels the Squeeze/Critics of Harvard Corporation call for resignations, fault the board’s insularity for recent missteps" (Wall Street Journal).

"Whatever advantage Mr. Biden held over Mr. Trump on the issue of who would be more likely to bring about order, stability and calm..."

"... it has surely been erased at this point. And indeed, many voters are beginning to look back longingly at the Trump era.... This is why, already, Trump is beginning to work to portray himself as the safer, more stable pick, and to go to great — even misleading — lengths to claim that Mr. Biden actually wants chaos and has created a world filled with more terror. He has already produced ads suggesting that Mr. Biden’s inability to lead is directly responsible for the global disorder that threatens American security, and it is a message voters have begun to echo in polling.... [I]nstead of clamoring for someone to blow everything up, they are instead crying out for someone to put things back in order. Voters wanted this from Mr. Biden and clearly feel he didn’t deliver...."

Writes Kristen Soltis Anderson, in "Could Voters Conclude That Biden Is the Riskier Bet to Restore Order?" (NYT).

December 25, 2023

I'll have the usual!


Or unusual! Comment on whatever you like..

And merry Christmas, everybody.

Significant chunks.

I don't (want to) believe this:
"There are significant chunks of the American populace that will find it very hard to respect a supreme court decision that keeps Trump off the ballot, and there are significant chunks of the American populace that will find it very hard to respect a supreme court decision that keeps Trump on the ballot."
That's a quote from lawprof Steve Vladeck that appears in this Guardian article, "'Did you just hear John Roberts scream?': US supreme court to have outsized influence in 2024 election Court temporarily waved off request from special counsel prosecuting Trump, but it’ll likely soon have to wade into fray."

It's Christmas, so I'm not delving into the status of the Supreme Court's mystique in the chunky Mind of America. 

After that last post, you may be anticipating that I'll veer off into a discussion of the word "chunk." But I did that, so extensively, in 2020 — replete with a survey of old posts of mine, historical quotes from the OED, an embedded video of the vintage Arnold Stang commercial for Chunky (the candy), and a photograph of a record I inherited from my father that had "a chunk taken out of it, and so I can't listen to Count Basie's 'One O'Clock Jump' or Dinah Shore singing 'Buttons and Bows.'"

I can't do that again!

"Born in 1943 to a New York family of tactile pragmatists (her father helped invent the X-Acto knife), Glück, a preternaturally self-competitive child..."

"... was constantly trying to whittle away at her own perceived shortcomings. When she was a teenager, she developed anorexia — that pulverizing, paradoxical battle with both helplessness and self-control — and dropped to 75 pounds at 16. The disorder prevented her from completing a college degree. Many of the poems Glück wrote in her early 20s flog her own obsessions with, and failures in, control and exactitude. Her narrators are habitués of a kind of limitless wanting; her language, a study in ruthless austerity. (A piano-wire-taut line tucked in her 1968 debut, 'Firstborn': 'Today my meatman turns his trained knife/On veal, your favorite. I pay with my life.') In her late 20s, Glück grew frustrated with writing and was prepared to renounce it entirely...."

From the NYT's annual roundup of short essays about people who died in the past year — "The Lives They Led" — I've chosen a bit of Amy X. Wang's essay on the Nobel Prize-winning poet Louise Glück.

I loved the X-Acto/exactitude theme — the whittling away, the meatman and his trained knife, and the potential to end up with nothing.

ADDED: I wondered if — in 20 years of blogging — I had ever before used the word "exactitude." It's a great word, and I thought, perhaps I'd never used it. But I see I've used it twice, both times in 2018.

December 24, 2023

None of this matters....

IMG_4685 (1)

It ain't over 'til it's over....

IMG_4694 (1)

One day you're here...

IMG_4809 (1)

And the next day you're gone...

IMG_4702 (1)

Austin faces.


Talk about whatever you want in the comments.


"The unbroken tradition of not exercising the supposed formidable power of criminally prosecuting a president for official acts — despite ample motive and opportunity to do so, over centuries — implies that the power does not exist."

Says the brief for Donald Trump.

Quoted in "Trump Asks Appeals Court to Toss Election Case on Immunity Grounds/The court filing was the latest development in a battle between Mr. Trump and the special counsel, Jack Smith, over whether the former president can be prosecuted for his actions while in office" (NYT).

This is the case that the prosecution has been trying to speed up. The Supreme Court rejected an effort to skip the Court of Appeals stage. The trial judge has the case scheduled to go to trial on March 4, which hardly seems possible, even if the Court of Appeals is expediting its work. There's still the Supreme Court stage. 

If the trial were to be pushed into the summer, it would coincide with the homestretch of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign. Obliged to be in Washington each weekday for two or three months, the former president would almost certainly bring his campaign to the courthouse steps, turning the proceeding into even more of a media circus than it already promises to be.

That's rich, blaming Trump for the spectacle of the criminal trial. Then there's also the problem of Trump's other 3 criminal trials. Where to cram them in before Election Day?

"Laura Lynch, a founding member of the country music group the Dixie Chicks, died in a car crash on Friday.... She was 65...."

I'm reading the New York Times obituary, which does not update the famous name "The Dixie Chicks" to the revised version of the name — "The Chicks" — that I'm seeing in some, but not all, other publications. We are told in paragraph 4 that the band is "now known as The Chicks," and Lynch left the group in 1995, long before the name change.

"In an angry dissent, Justice Annette Ziegler, one of three conservatives on the panel, denounced the liberal majority as 'robewearers'...."

From "Justices in Wisconsin Order New Legislative Maps/The ruling, coming just months after liberals gained a 4-to-3 majority on the State Supreme Court, could undo gerrymanders that have given Republicans lopsided control of the State Legislature" (NYT).

On the other side:
Justice Jill J. Karofsky, writing for the majority, said that Wisconsin’s current maps violate a requirement in the State Constitution “that Wisconsin’s state legislative districts must be composed of physically adjoining territory.”

“Given the language in the Constitution, the question before us is straightforward,” she wrote. “When legislative districts are composed of separate, detached parts, do they consist of ‘contiguous territory’? We conclude that they do not.”

I see that Democrats are exulting, but why would more compact, contiguous districts help Democrats? Their problem has been that Democratic voters are concentrated in urban areas. If the court's decision means what that Karofsky quote says, won't more Democrats end up packed into districts that already had a safe Democratic majority?

Our former governor, Scott Walker, said "This is not the win the left thinks it is." 

"The diamond industry is going through an existential crisis... [now that] technology and the human imagination have been able to replicate nature perfectly."

Said Jean Dousset, a great-great-grandson of Louis Cartier who is pushing the luxury end of the "lab-grown" diamonds business.

Quoted in "Lab-grown diamonds go luxury — and rock the industry" (Axios).

"Millennial women," we're told, are interested in these diamonds — they're real diamonds! — that don't come from diamond mines. One is quoted saying "I want a pretty fat ring."

How about I want the best price? No, apparently, the idea is you pay the same price you'd pay for the diamond from a mine, but you get a bigger ring. Bigger, not cheaper. Or will bigger scream "lab grown"? But who will care? Maybe it's in bad taste to expect people to mine diamonds. If you get a small lab-grown diamond, people might think you're connected to exploitation. So you simply must get the big fat one. And who cares if things are fake these days? No one comments on fake nails, fake eyelashes, hair extensions, breast implants.

And yet, that's not the point with the lab-grown diamonds. They have been determined to be real diamonds. That's why there's an "existential crisis." 

December 23, 2023

At Tomorrow's Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.


"The two biggest 'Housing First' initiatives for the homeless in Madison don't have enough money to continue operating and could be closed...."

"[T]he 60-unit Rethke Terrace project for homeless singles and veterans on the East Side and the 45-unit Tree Lane Apartments for homeless families on the Far West Side... ran into trouble, and [were] declared  chronic nuisances due to a high volume of police calls, which often involve nonresidents, a lack of security and other issues.... Now come the challenges of determining exactly how long the projects will stay open, supporting tenants and figuring out what happens if or when the projects are shuttered and sold...."

From "2 biggest Madison homeless projects could close within months, leaving city scrambling" (Wisconsin State Journal).

"Therapy llamas patrol Portland airport to relieve passenger stress."

 WaPo reports.

Airports around the globe use a variety of methods to inject some Zen into one of the busiest travel periods of the year. They decorate their halls in holiday lights, host carolers and concerts, and bring in therapy dogs for group canine counseling.

Portland does all of the above. True to the city’s quirky spirit, it also invites local camelids to the airport to canoodle with passengers....

Traipsing around Austin.





"Empire creates a greater potential for revolution than did the modern regimes of power..."

"... because it presents us, alongside the machine of command, with an alternative: the set of all the exploited and the subjugated, a multitude that is directly opposed to Empire, with no mediation between them."

Wrote Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, quoted in "Antonio Negri, Philosopher Who Wrote a Surprise Best Seller, Dies at 90/He became famous twice: first in 1979, for his imprisonment related to the murder of a former Italian premier, and then 20 years later, for his influential book 'Empire'" (NYT).

"Meet the biggest and baddest new power broker in the 2024 presidential contest: an unelected and unenthusiastic U.S. Supreme Court."

"If this thought sits a bit uneasily, blame the lawfaring leftists who engineered the sandbagging of the nation's top jurists.... Embittered by electoral losses, unwilling to trust the will of voters, the left now routinely turns to extraordinary legal action in hopes of pressing the courts to impose its political objectives by judicial fiat. Every party to these high-stakes, highly speculative cases knew exactly where this would end. And not one cares a whit for the consequences for the high court.... The biggest question now is whether the three liberal justices understand the grave risks of this lawfaring agenda... Do they sign up for the campaign with opinions that justify novel legal theories and the judicial usurpation of elections -- in the process inviting more special counsels, more rogue court decisions, more litigation? Or do they recognize this game for what it is, acknowledge the sound legal reasons for why no one has attempted such reckless prosecutions and lawsuits before, and send a message it needs to stop?"

Writes Kimberley A. Strassel in "Sandbagging the Supreme Court" (Wall Street Journal).

"Trump denied that he intended any racist sentiment with his 'poisoning the blood' comments, and he pointed to his strong poll numbers with African American and Hispanic voters."

"Asked again specifically about the Hitler comparisons, Trump said: 'First of all, I know nothing about Hitler. I’m not a student of Hitler. I never read his works. They say that he said something about blood, he didn’t say it the way I said it either, by the way, it’s a very different kind of a statement.'"

From "Trump: ‘I’m not a student of Hitler’" (The Hill)(summarizing things Trump said on Hugh Hewitt's radio show yesterday).

They say that he said something about blood.... Trump opponents should find the Hitler quotes about "blood," put them next to Trump quotes about "blood," and compare the meaning — seriously and accurately. There's a great anti-Trump argument to be made, if the material aligns very well. If the argument is not made, I'm going to presume it can't be made. I put a little effort into this task myself, and the Hitler "blood" quotes I saw were about interbreeding and mixed race children. The Trump "blood" quotes seem to be about immigrants who don't speak English and don't share — or want to learn — our values. I'm wary of the Trump-is-Hitler propagandists, but if they do the hard, honest work of developing their argument, I will listen. If they don't, I'm holding it against them.

"He really is willing to stop at the current positions. He’s not willing to retreat one meter."

Said a "former senior Russian official... relaying a message he said the Kremlin was quietly sending." 

"This has been the mystery of the Trump era — every time we think this is the final straw, it turns into a steel beam that merely solidifies his political infrastructure."

Said Eliot Spitzer, a man who resigned for nothing more than using prostitutes.

I think the reason Spitzer — and let's throw in Al Franken — didn't stand their ground and fight is that they were beholden to their political party. Trump never was in thrall to other Republicans. He took over the party. Who holds sway with him? 

The article also has this quote from Trump: "Other people, if they ever got indicted, they’re out of politics. They go to the microphone. They say, ‘I’m going to spend the rest of my life, you know, clearing my name. I’m going to spend the rest of my life with my family.' I've seen it hundreds of times.... I can tell, you know, it’s backfired on them."

Maybe some of these others — Spitzer, Franken — would have prevailed if they'd fought. But it's hard to believe that other beleaguered politicians will fight like Trump. The Trump example shows that by fighting, you attract endless woes — multiple impeachments, felony charges, efforts to confiscate all of your wealth, the most miserable smears on your character. But Trump fights, and it's an amazing spectacle.

"[Trump] was such a bro and so cool and so with it. I think he's... upper 70s. I couldn't believe how smart and sharp the guy was."

Said UFC Fighter Bo Nickal, about golfing with Trump: I'm just exploring why "Joe Rogan" is trending on X. There's also this, with Tim Dillon, discussing how much Hunter Biden has gotten away with: There's also Joe attributing a Trump glitch to Biden — quickly corrected and probably caused by a video clip where Biden is quoting Trump:

December 22, 2023

In the land of LBJ.

We drove out into the hill country to see the birthplace of President Lyndon Johnson:

"It has always been inconvenient that Harvard’s first Black president has only published 11 academic articles in her career and..."

"... not one book (other than one with three co-editors). Some of her predecessors, like Lawrence Bacow, Drew Gilpin Faust and Lawrence Summers, have had vastly more voluminous academic records. The discrepancy gives the appearance that Dr. Gay was not chosen because of her academic or scholarly qualifications, which Harvard is thought to prize, but rather because of her race...."

Writes John McWhorter, in "Why Claudine Gay Should Go" (NYT).

"The Supreme Court declined on Friday to decide for now whether former President Donald J. Trump is immune from prosecution on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election."

"The case will move forward in an appeals court and most likely return to the Supreme Court in the coming months. The decision to defer consideration of a central issue in the case was a major practical victory for Mr. Trump, whose lawyers have consistently sought to delay criminal cases against him around the country.... Jack Smith, the special counsel prosecuting Mr. Trump, has asked the justices to move with extraordinary speed, bypassing a federal appeals court."

No justice dissented.

Smith had argued: "The public importance of the issues, the imminence of the scheduled trial date and the need for a prompt and final resolution of respondent’s immunity claims counsel in favor of this court’s expedited review at this time."

Trump’s lawyers argued: "Importance does not automatically necessitate speed. If anything, the opposite is usually true. Novel, complex, sensitive and historic issues — such as the existence of presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for official acts — call for more careful deliberation, not less."

"A Proclamation on Granting Pardon for the Offense of Simple Possession of Marijuana, Attempted Simple Possession of Marijuana, or Use of Marijuana."

From Joe Biden.

My intent by this proclamation is to pardon only the offenses of simple possession of marijuana, attempted simple possession of marijuana, or use of marijuana in violation of the Federal and D.C. laws... This pardon does not apply to individuals who were non-citizens not lawfully present in the United States at the time of their offense....

"Migration sells.... My public is a public that wants a dream."

Said Manuel Monterrosa, who "set out for the United States last year with his cellphone and a plan: He’d record his journey through the dangerous jungle known as the Darién Gap and post it on YouTube, warning other migrants of the perils they’d face."

I'm reading "Live from the Jungle: Migrants Become Influencers on Social Media/TikTok, Facebook and YouTube are transforming global migration, becoming tools of migrants and smugglers alike" (NYT).
In his six-part series, edited entirely on his phone along the way, he heads north with a backpack, leading viewers on a video-selfie play-by-play of his passage across rivers, muddy forests and a mountain known as the Hill of Death. He eventually made it to the United States. But to his surprise, his videos began attracting so many views and earning enough money from YouTube that he decided he no longer needed to live in America at all.

So, Mr. Monterrosa, a 35-year-old from Venezuela, returned to South America and now has a new plan altogether: trekking the Darién route again, this time in search of content and clicks, having learned how to make a living as a perpetual migrant....

The journey is everything. 

"It tires me to talk to rich men. You expect a man of millions... to be a man worth hearing; but as a rule they don’t know anything outside their own businesses."

Said Theodore Roosevelt, quoted in "Theodore Rex" by Edmund Morris (commission earned). 


Feliz Navidad.

"I do not believe Donald Trump should be prevented from being president of the United States by any court. I think it’s bad for the country."

Said Chris Christie, whose campaign for the nomination is based on despising Trump.

Quoted in "Disqualifying Trump may be legally sound but fraught for democracy, scholars say/Experts say there’s a strong basis for the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to bar Trump from the ballot, but the larger political context makes the question one of the thorniest in recent memory" (WaPo).

I'm not going to touch the bait "Experts say." You don't need to point it out. I see it.

I've already said what I want to say, but because I hear my own opinion in Christie's, I'm going to reprint what I wrote on January 26, 2021, when Democrats were impeaching the former President and defending it on the ground that a conviction would provide a basis for disqualifying him from running again. Of course, the Senate did not convict Trump, and today's disqualification effort would make a lot more sense if it had. 

At the time, I wrote:

[I]t's extremely important to remember that there is a "fundamental principle of our representative democracy . . . 'that the people should choose whom they please to govern them.'" 

I'm quoting the Supreme Court case rejecting term limits for members of Congress, which was quoting a case about Congress's power to exclude someone the people have elected. 

The internal quote — "the people should choose whom they please to govern them" — comes from Alexander Hamilton, arguing in favor of ratifying the Constitution

After all, sir, we must submit to this idea, that the true principle of a republic is, that the people should choose whom they please to govern them. Representation is imperfect in proportion as the current of popular favor is checked. This great source of free government, popular election, should be perfectly pure, and the most unbounded liberty allowed.

I think the presumption should always be against a constitutional interpretation that would restrict the power of the people to choose whom they please. 
The Senate would need to strain the other way to disqualify Private Citizen Trump from running for office again, and that betrays a lack of respect for the people, for the "fundamental principle of our representative democracy." 
Enough fretting that the people can't be trusted evaluating Trump as one of our options. Let the members of Congress get on with proving that they deserved the trust we the people put in them.

And, now, let the various candidates for President prove we ought to trust them and not Trump.

The people should choose whom they please to govern them.

"I wake up in the morning and sometimes I look at myself and I give myself the finger!"

That's tweeted by RNC Research, and I guess they think this hurts Adams, but I think it's charming and cool. The NYC mayor must make difficult choices, and there's no way to make everyone happy. Mayor Adams feels your pain. This story is a trifle, but Adams's antagonists are trying to use it against him. (Here's The Washington Examiner straining to make something of it.) It's nothing. Why blog it? Because I have a tag for "the finger."

"A raunchy celebrity-filled party in Moscow has drawn the ire of Russian politicians and fervent Christian Orthodox activists..."

"... who are urging law enforcement to punish the event’s guests and organizers for violating laws prohibiting 'gay propaganda' — the latest testament to the country’s sharp shift toward a closed-off, conservative society at the behest of President Vladimir Putin."

From "Raunchy celebrity party in Russia draws outrage over ‘nude illusion’ theme" (WaPo).
The party, a costume ball with a “nude illusion” theme hosted Wednesday night by one of Russia’s most popular Instagram influencers, Anastasia Ivleeva, was attended by some of the most prominent Russian celebrities who have remained in the country since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, including some who have not supported the war.

The guests paid a hefty entrance fee of about $11,000 to frolic in outfits of flesh-colored mesh, lace and lingerie, with Ivleeva wearing a diamond body chain worth about $250,000 and one guest, the rapper Vacio, paying homage to a 1980 Red Hot Chili Peppers record cover featuring the band members wearing nothing but a sock.

Some of the outrage comes from a desire to maintain a somber demeanor during wartime, and some of it, we're told, is about disapproval of homosexual behavior. What does the illusion of nakedness have to do with homosexuality? Perhaps it's just the appearance of sexual liberation, but we're told that men were seen kissing.

WaPo provides some background, which I think is written to encourage readers to disapprove of American politicians and commentators who argue for traditional values (they're like Putin):

"The desire of Saint Mary’s College to show hospitality to people who identify as transgender is not the problem. The problem is..."

"... a Catholic woman’s college embracing a definition of woman that is not Catholic. I urge the Board of Trustees of Saint Mary’s College to correct its admissions policy in fidelity to the Catholic identity and mission it is charged to protect and to reject ideologies of gender that contradict the authoritative teachings of the Catholic Church regarding the human person, sex and gender."

Wrote Kevin Rhoades, the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of South Bend, Indiana, quoted in "Catholic women's college reverses plan to admit transgender biological men" (Washington Examiner).

December 21, 2023

At the Austin Café...


... you can write about whatever you want.



"Once again, Democrats find themselves looking toward American institutions to stop Mr. Trump, whom they view as a mortal threat to democracy."

"For many, it may be more pleasant to think about a judicial endgame that stops Mr. Trump than envisioning the slog of next year’s likely rematch against President Biden. And this time, with Democrats now well aware of how easily he can bend the country’s fragile guardrails — and of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, which includes three Trump appointees — their optimism is tinged with trepidation."

I'm reading "Democrats Keep Hoping It’s Curtains for Trump. He’s Still Center Stage," by Reid J. Epstein, in the NYT. Subtitle: "As Donald Trump faces a new threat to his political future, this time over the question of ballot eligibility, Democrats again find themselves looking toward American institutions to stop him."

I'd like to think that passage was written with a sense of humor: Democrats out to save democracy long for a solution to Donald Trump that is anything other than defeating him democratically. The judiciary is supposed to swoop in and rescue Democrats from the task of winning the votes of the people. But the Supreme Court isn't stacked with judges who lean in the political direction that disfavors the candidate they loathe. So their hope for a nondemocratic alternative to the next election is pre-crushed.

Is there evidence in that article that the humor is intentional? There are some quotes from Democrats that made me laugh. Especially this, from Biden: "It’s self-evident. You saw it all. He certainly supported an insurrection. No question about it. None. Zero." 

"Always get a kick out of fellow boomers declaring how much younger they look. Many even assign flattering ages: I'm 80 but look 65. Doubtful."

"My experience is yes, there can be considerable differences in how people age. But most people do look their age, it's just that you can look good or not so good at any given age over 50. Try to take care of yourself, stay current and lose the 'I look so much younger' bit."

That's a comment at the NYT article, "What’s Your ‘Biological Age’? New tests promise to tell you if you have the cells of a 30-year-old or a 60-year-old. Here’s what to know about them."

For some reason — vanity — the comments are sidetracked into the question how young you look. The article is about "tests for around $300 that [purport to] calculate your biological age by analyzing your blood or saliva and comparing changes in your epigenome to population averages."

Anyway... there's a difference between declaring how young you look and simply quietly admiring what you subjectively perceive as your relatively youthful appearance.

"Are the Secret Service okay with the polar bears?"

My last post linked to my "I'm for Boring" tag, and I clicked on it and read a bunch of old posts. The ones from the last few years are nearly all about Biden.

Feel free to check them out. I just wanted to quote one thing I wrote in a post on March 3, 2020:
By the way, I had a dream about Donald Trump last night. I was at some sort of artsy song and spoken-word performance, in an intimate pink room with long comfy sofas. There were several polar bears reclining on a sofa, along with Donald Trump. This was right next to me, and I wanted to get some personal conversation with Trump, something I could remember and talk about. He was enjoying the show and singing along, being quite charming and talking to everyone. I leaned over and asked him, "Are the Secret Service okay with the polar bears?"

"The neutral-tinted individual is very apt to win against the man of pronounced views and active life."

Wrote Theodore Roosevelt, quoted in "Theodore Rex" (available atAmazon, whence I earn a commission).

He was referring to Alan B. Parker, who became his adversary in the 1904 presidential election, and I quote the passage from the book in full because it seems to have something to do with how we react to candidates today and because I have liked colorless politicians (and judges) — perhaps too much:

December 20, 2023

Views of Austin.




Talk about whatever you want in the comments.

"But there are good reasons modular housing has remained the next big thing for a long time."

"One basic problem is that houses are large objects, and unlike cars or airplanes, they are not designed to move. The result is that the savings from factory production are partly offset by the cost of transportation. (Some companies reduce transportation costs by shipping homes in smaller pieces, an approach pioneered by Sears and other retailers of 'build your own home' kits in the early 20th century, but that just shifts the cost from transportation to assembly.)"

I'm reading "Why Do We Build Houses in the Same Way That We Did 125 Years Ago?" (NYT).

What's the connection between sounding like Hitler and having read "Mein Kampf"?

I'm reading "Trump, Attacked for Echoing Hitler, Says He Never Read ‘Mein Kampf'" (NYT).
But he said on Tuesday night in a speech in Iowa that undocumented immigrants from Africa, Asia and South America were “destroying the blood of our country,” before alluding to his previous comments.

“That’s what they’re doing. They’re destroying our country,” Mr. Trump continued. “They don’t like it when I said that. And I never read ‘Mein Kampf.’ They said, ‘Oh, Hitler said that.’”

If not having read "Mein Kampf" were an excuse for those who don't want to be considered Nazi-like, then a lot of Nazis would be off the hook. Here's what William L. Shirer wrote in  "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" (p. 81):

Not every German who bought a copy of Mein Kampf necessarily read it. I have heard many a Nazi stalwart complain that it was hard going and not a few admit— in private— that they were never able to get through to the end of its 782 turgid pages.

Who's read "Mein Kampf"? It doesn't mean anything one way or the other not to have read "Mein Kampf." There are Nazi stalwarts who haven't read it and Nazi opponents who should have. To continue with the Shirer quote:

"Will the U.S.Supreme Court Keep Donald Trump Off the Ballot ? Some Initial Thoughts."

From Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog. 

It is... imperative for the political stability of the U.S. to get a definitive judicial resolution of these questions as soon as possible. Voters need to know if the candidate they are supporting for President is eligible....

In the end the legal issues are close but the political ramifications of disqualification would be enormous.... 

Voters need to know if the candidate they are supporting for President is eligible.... and voters need to know if they need to fight for the candidate they are supporting on the substantive merits and not just rely on his opponent's being "disqualified" on some wild legal theory.

December 19, 2023

"The Colorado Supreme Court has issued an unsigned opinion disqualifying Trump from the ballot...."

From the NYT article about the case:
The Colorado Supreme Court is the first court to find that the disqualification clause applies to Mr. Trump, an argument his opponents have been making across the country. Similar lawsuits in Minnesota and New Hampshire were dismissed on procedural grounds. A judge in Michigan ruled last month that the issue was political and not for him to decide, and an appeals court affirmed the decision not to disqualify him. The plaintiffs there have appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court. 
The cases hinge on several questions: Was it an insurrection when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, trying to stop the certification of the 2020 election? If so, did Mr. Trump engage in that insurrection through his messages to his supporters beforehand, his speech that morning and his Twitter posts during the attack? Do courts have the authority to enforce Section 3 of the 14th Amendment without congressional action? And does Section 3 apply to the presidency?....

Sunrise — 7:12, 7:15, 7:25.




Write about whatever you want, and please do your Amazon shopping through the Althouse Portal. It's a way to divert a commission to me as you go about spending your money.

"A federal judge in New York has ordered a vast unsealing of court documents in early 2024 that will make public the names of scores of Jeffrey Epstein's associates."

ABC News reports.

The documents are part of a settled civil lawsuit alleging Epstein's one-time paramour Ghislaine Maxwell facilitated the sexual abuse of Virginia Giuffre. Terms of the 2017 settlement were not disclosed.

"Already hampered by problems at the Panama Canal, shipping companies are now steering clear of the Suez Canal to avoid being attacked in the Red Sea."

The NYT reports.

The Houthis, an armed group backed by Iran that controls much of northern Yemen, have been using drones and missiles to target ships since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7.... [T]aking the Cape of Good Hope route could add roughly $1 million, or around a third, to the cost of a round trip from Asia to Europe... A portion of that additional cost could be passed on to consumers just as inflation is slowing in the United States and Europe. The attacks have already appeared to push up the price of oil.... The economic impact has increased the pressure on the United States and other countries to stop the attacks by the Houthis....

The problem with the Panama Canal is entirely different: "The lack of rain has reduced the amount of water available to fill the locks."

"Poll Finds Wide Disapproval of Biden on Gaza, and Little Room to Shift Gears/Opinion is split between those wanting the war to end and those pressing for a definitive Israeli victory, and the divide is starkest among older and younger generations."

The NYT reports.

The war is such a disaster that it seems puny to say what a disaster for Biden. But this is the top story at the NYT right now. It's a new poll, and the results are stark.

On the up side, since there is no position that will please the disparate factions, Biden may find his most opportune political position is to do what he believes is right. Does he know what that is?

ADDED: Some excerpts:

"One​ of the abiding mysteries in presenting music from the past is what the singers sounded like."

"There is no evidence for it, apart from written descriptions, all of which fall far short of telling us anything precise. What is one to make of this description of the singing in the Chapel Royal in 1515, written by the Venetian ambassador to Henry VIII’s court and included in Andrew Parrott’s The Pursuit of Musick? ‘More divine than human; they were not singing but jubilating [giubilavano].’ The exact meaning of ‘giubilavano’ has been long debated, to no avail. Or what does this résumé of national styles, written in 1517, tell us? 'The French sing; the Spaniards weepe; the Italians, which dwell about the Coasts of Genoa, caper with their Voyces; the others bark; but the Germanes ... doe howle like wolves.'"

From "Hickup over the Littany" (London Review of Books).

I don't remember ever seeing the spelling "hickup" before. If you'd asked me for a variant spelling of "hiccup," I'd have written "hiccough." It's not an American-vs.-English distinction: The OED presents "hiccup" as the main spelling... with "hiccough" secondary. The OED offers this ancient advice:
1626 It hath beene obserued by the Ancients, that Sneezing doth cease the Hiccough.
F. Bacon, Sylua Syluarum §686
By the way, before "hiccup," long ago, the English word for the unsettling spasms was "yex" — or "yox," "yucks," "yicks," "yecks," "yokes," "yesk." "Yucks" seems to have lasted:
1888 Why Tommy, you've a-got the yucks—drink some cold water.
F. T. Elworthy, West Somerset Word-book at Yucks

"Yucks" is our word for laughs. Oddly enough, "yex" started out meaning a sob.  

"If I'm going to rebrand myself, it would be maybe 'America's shaman' because the QAnon label has been stigmatized with the number of sub-labels or subcategories..."

"... conspiracy theories, white supremacists, terrorists.... I don't want to be associated with anything that the media has already maligned."

A shaman is someone who — to quote Wikipedia — "interact[s] with the spirit world through altered states of consciousness, such as trance."

Chansley is apparently interacting with the media to receive his messages and inspiration. The media are not the spirit world. Alignment with whatever the media tell you — dissociating yourself from everything the media have maligned — is not a special state of consciousness. I wish it were. 

ADDED: The OED entry for "shaman" led me to a 1979 piece in the London Review of Books, "'Darkness Visible' is William Golding’s first novel for twelve years/John Bayley thinks it is his best, and thinks of him as a magician":
Borges​ has written (and it is certainly true of Borges) that the writer is like a member of a primitive tribe who suddenly starts making unfamiliar noises and waving his arms about in strange new rituals.

"So, in Poor Things, Emma Stone’s character is basically a woman with a child’s brain. And in this particular scene, she’s encountering dance and music for... the first time."

"How did you start to develop this dance? It’s such an interesting concept."

The choreographer answers: "It’s described in the script as a dance that is really going off because she’s just finding out [about dance]. So, with that in mind, I tried to create. [The director] was not convinced about some things; it looked too much like acting. When we passed it to the actors, then it grew and took shape. Emma Stone also had really good suggestions about her character because she was working, already, on this way that she moves. She brought in locking the knees. That gave shape to this dance as well."

Stone's character is a Frankenstein creation, so we may well compare the dancing to the Frankenstein in "Young Frankenstein":

That Frankenstein monster is able to dance smoothly, but his singing is very rough. That's the joke, and that gets to the question I was googling when I found that Emma Stone dance: Why do dancers always try to look as though what they are doing is very easy (for them) and pure joy (for them) while singers often act as though it's quite difficult and even painful? That's a big difference between singing and dancing, and I don't think it's because singing is more arduous and hurtful. Perhaps it's because the opposite is true, and the dancer must hide his feelings lest the audience turn away. But we don't turn away when a singer displays a horrible struggle and deep pain. We like that. What's our problem?!

I formulated my question after watching Fred Astaire and George Murphy in the first part of "Broadway Melody of 1940" (now streaming on the Criterion Channel). The first musical number is "Don't Monkey With Broadway" (modeling, for future satirists, how 2 men dance together in formalwear while wielding canes):

The men are unhappy with their job. We see them complaining back stage before they stride out beaming with joy — joy that does not exist but that the audience demands.

December 18, 2023

At the Monday Night Café...

 ... you can't talk about whatever you want.

No photos today. It was too windy for traipsing through the woods. But I hope you will nevertheless send me Amazon commissions by doing your shopping through the Althouse Portal.

"I'll just say it: Biden's too old.... We need... mental competency tests for politicians...."

Who would you trust to devise and administer the "mental competency test"? 

The mental competency test for politicians is the one we, the People, impose through our demand that politicians speak publicly and submit to serious questioning. We individually judge whether the candidate has failed the test when we vote. 

I'm more concerned about the mental competency of voters, but there's no mental competency test for voting and no politician daring to suggest that there should be.