May 6, 2023

At the Saturday Night Café...

 ...  you can talk about whatever you want.

"Koontz writes terrifying stories of murder and mayhem, yet is incapable of watching a gory movie. He hasn’t flown for 50 years..."

"... after a flight he was on encountered serious turbulence and a nun on board proclaimed, 'We’re all going to die.'... Mostly, Koontz stays put in Orange County. Easier, safer. He installed a towering fence, which partially obstructs the view, to protect his golden retriever Elsa from rattlesnakes. His 12,000-square-foot art-filled manse features the latest innovations to guard against wildfires....  'When the writing is working, nothing stops me,' he says. He worked 36 hours straight — twice.... Koontz... doesn’t read emails... and won’t open a browser, even to check facts or the news. 'I never go online. Never. I don’t trust myself,' he says. 'I know I’m a potential obsessive, and I don’t want to waste time.' Head down, nose to keyboard.... He starts with characters.... 'Life Expectancy'... opens with a deranged, chain-smoking, aerialist-abhorring menacing clown named Beezo in a 1970s maternity waiting room. 'I give the characters free will,' he says. 'The novel becomes organic and unpredictable and much more interesting to me.'"

And that's how you write: You're afraid of everything and you plant yourself firmly in one rattlesnake-proof place, you posit a handful of traits for a character — scary/odd things (like the abhorrence of aerialists) — then you dig in and write write write. Never stop.

I had a sincere, but odd question, so I decided to ask ChatGPT.

In one second, it began writing what became — 3 seconds later — a lucid 5-part answer.

My question:
Why wouldn't most people decide the best way to live is to be as inconspicuous as possible?
There could be several reasons why most people may not decide to live an inconspicuous life. Here are some possible explanations:

"One Twitter user dubbed the woman 'Insurrection Eva Braun'.... Someone called her 'fascist Matilda'..."

"... and several users made jokes about her being a character from a Wes Anderson movie. 'Emily in-carceration,' read one of the joke tweets referring to the show 'Emily in Paris.' There were a couple of comparisons to April Ludgate, the character played by Aubrey Plaza in NBC’s 'Parks and Recreation.' The clothing designer’s friend was among them: 'He’s always on Twitter, and he said something like, Yo, check out this chick.'  That night, after tipping off the FBI, the clothing maker took to his own Twitter account, quote-tweeting the FBI’s post. 'I use to date this girl in 2019 LOL,' he tweeted, attaching an old picture of [Jennifer Inzuza] Vargas, wearing a red ski hat.... 'We were hooking up for a few months.' Toward the end of those months, the designer said, Vargas posted on his Discord that she was reading ['Mein Kampf.'].... 'I was just instantly turned off, like, Yo, I don’t think this is going to work out....'"

From "Jan. 6 rioter in pink beret identified after ex spotted her in a viral FBI tweet/'It’s just going to be one of those things for me. I dated this girl that was on the FBI’s most wanted list" (NBC News).

Here's the FBI tweet:

Envisioning the absent Meghan.

By Rachel Tashijian, confabulating in "Kate, our flower crown princess" (WaPo):
The rare moment of pathos was provided by the Ascension Choir, a selection of gospel singers from England, belting “Alleluia (O Clap Your Hands)” and swaying. You could almost see Meghan, whose 2018 wedding to Harry also famously included gospel music, smiling victoriously as the sun began to rise in southern California. (Perhaps she’s even pajama-clad on Oprah’s sofa for a watch party?)

AND: Visions of those who are on the outs but were in there nonetheless (and what they wore): 

We're just not existing at the same speed as the birds.

Let's just slow down that birdsong so we can really hear what's going on:

Via Metafilter, where somebody says, "Reddit is a terrible place to learn things, because any comments with real info gets lost in thousands of silly puns and cultural references. But the video comes from this Instagram account with many more videos of the birb."

So Metafilter is the place where they just have to say "birb" for "bird" and they get snooty about Reddit, and,  I guess, Instagram is the best choice for finding the originator of the material.

And TikTok is where you go to find a guy who comically portrays Redditors as the ones who are snooty.

"Susan Benesch, the executive director of the Dangerous Speech Project, said that genocidal leaders often use fear of a looming threat..."

"... to prod groups into pre-emptive violence. Those who commit the violence do not need to hate the people they are attacking. They just need to be afraid of the consequences of not attacking. For instance, before the Rwandan genocide in 1994, Hutu politicians told the Hutus that they were about to be exterminated by Tutsis. During the Holocaust, Nazi propagandists declared that Jews were planning to annihilate the German people. Before the Bosnian genocide, Serbs were warned to protect themselves from a fundamentalist Muslim threat that was planning a genocide against them. 'I was stunned at how similar this rhetoric is from case to case,' Ms. Benesch told me.... 'It’s as if there’s some horrible school that they all attend.'...  Fear speech is much less studied than hate speech.... The 'nontoxic and argumentative nature' of fear speech prompts more engagement than hate speech...."

Is this a suggestion that "fear speech" should be censored? No. What Angwin recommends that social media companies do more fact-checking, add "context and counterpoints to false fear-inducing posts," and rely less on the kind of "engagement algorithms" that promote "outrageous and divisive content." She'd also like us, the users of social media, to notice fear speech and to challenge it ourselves, to provide our own counterspeech — "not necessarily to change the views of true believers but rather to provide a counter‌narrative for people watching on the sidelines."

That's a big part of what I try to do with this blog.

"Trump claimed in a deposition that he couldn’t remember if he was seeing Marla Maples before his divorce. It would be quite a thing to forget."

That's the subheadline for "Trump’s affair was huge tabloid news. Now it’s apparently news to him" by Aaron Blake (WaPo).
At one point, [E. Jean] Carroll’s attorney asked Trump a basic factual question: “Isn’t it true that you were seeing Ms. Maples before you were divorced from Ivana Trump?” 
Trump responded, amazingly, “I don’t know,” in the sworn deposition. “It was towards the end of the marriage. So I don’t know, really. It could be a lapover, but I don’t really know.”...

It was such bullshit he had to invent a word: "lapover." 

Or... wait... Google says it is a word:

"Riders on the subway deserve to have a ride where they don’t feel threatened. And the mentally ill deserve to have the treatment and the protection..."

"... that would allow them to work out their struggles in the protected space. We can’t have a subway system that’s both a system of transportation and housing for the homeless. Those are incompatible goals."

 Said Gregory Umbach, associate professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, quoted in "After homeless man choked on subway, NYC grapples with treatment of mentally ill" (WaPo).

The incident makes me think of Bernhard Goetz, and reading on, I see he's briefly mentioned in the article:
One of the most famous incidents occurred in 1984, when Bernhard Goetz, a White man, shot four Black teenagers he said he believed were going to rob him. Goetz became a folk hero in a city dealing with sky-high crime. The media called him the “Subway Vigilante.”... 

It would be good to say more about why he became a folk hero. It is, I think, evidence of how oppressed ordinary people felt about what they had been forced to endure on the subway — or felt forced to endure. Goetz represented the idea of somehow fighting for your right to be left alone in this public space. 

But the Goetz case was different. The young men he shot were simply criminals, robbers, on the subway to find victims. Neely was, it seems, mentally ill and on the subway for shelter. 

Are you watching the Coronation?

(The tag "Prince Charles" is no expression of hostility to the King, just another manifestation of continuity on this blog.)

A glimpse of the next 2 generations seems exciting:

Special walls are brought out to enclose the King, so the annointing with holy oil is out of view:

In view, various rituals occur, one involving bestowing a jeweled sword on the King and then the King giving it back:

The orb:

(My screenshots.)

May 5, 2023

At the Sunrise Café...

IMG_1225 3

... you can talk about whatever you want.

Does your floor have a soul?

I'm reading "Gray Floors Elicit Visceral Reactions. So Why Are They Seemingly Everywhere? Fueled by social media, a hatred for trendy gray flooring is thriving. But for many people, living with gray floors isn’t a choice" (NYT).
Lucía Massucco, a 28-year-old artist, is no fan of the flooring. “It’s impossible to have a warm, cozy ambience with them,” said Ms. Massucco. “They have a very soul-deprived and clinical feeling.”.... 
Claire Lower, a 36-year-old editor at Lifehacker, a blog for life hacks, bought her Portland, Ore., home, which came with gray floors, in 2020. She called the floors “soulless” and “corporate neutral,” but noted that they were, at least, easy to clean....

Do you think people are unconsciously relating "soul" to "soil"? Do your intimate inanimate objects seem imbued with "soul"? Should they? What would cause that perception? It's perception only, an association with something that you think or would like to think is part of the human being. Is the perceived soullessness of your floors a sign that you feel as though you have lost — or never had — a soul? Is it that gray floors are a trend, so when you see your own gray floors, you're seeing yourself as a mere follower of crowds, a minuscule fiber caught up in a drifting dust bunny? But what can you do? You're only catching up to the decline of the gray floor trend. To fight the gray is to follow the crowd, you lost soul, you.


Via Metafilter, where many comment "Wow"... because Owen Wilson says "Wow."


"Gen Z-ers grew up with hypercautious parenting that exaggerates the dangers in life."

"They grew up in a media culture that generates ratings and clicks by generating division and anger. They grew up in a political culture that magnifies a sense of menace — that presumes that other people are toxic — in order to tell simplistic us/them stories and mobilize people’s fears.... People who grow up in this culture of distrust are bound to adopt self-protective codes of behavior.... People who grow up in a culture of distrust are bound to be pessimistic about life....People who grow up with this mentality are also less likely to believe they can control their own destinies.... As a certified middle-aged guy, I’m glad that the members of Gen Z behave... responsibly.... Politically, they lean left, but dispositionally they are cautious and conservative. But the sense of exaggerated menace has its downsides.... It’s always good to be on guard against a dangerous creep, but you may miss out on meeting the person who could be the love of your life."
Writes David Brooks in "What Our Toxic Culture Does to the Young" (NYT).

"I’m going back to New York. I was falsely accused by this woman, I have no idea who she is – it’s ridiculous."

"I’ll be going back early because a woman made a claim that is totally false, it’s fake.... [The judge] doesn’t like me very much, he was appointed by Bill Clinton... It’s a disgrace but we have to do it, it’s a part of life. It’s a fake claim like all the other claims, just like 'Russia Russia Russia.'... Because of that, I have to leave Ireland and I have to leave Scotland where I have great properties, I have to leave early. I don’t have to but I choose to. It’s a disgrace that this is allowed to happen."

Is he planning to testify? I think his lawyers have already informed the court that he will not testify. The way he's phrased it, it seems perhaps the idea is to sit at the table during closing argument, which might have an impact on the jury.

Ah! Here's this at Yahoo:

"Putting any kind of public pressure on Ms. Feinstein has been criticized by the former House speaker Nancy Pelosi and others as sexist."

"'I’ve never seen them go after a man who was sick in the Senate in that way,' Ms. Pelosi said last month. It’s true that the Senate, which has always been entirely or mostly male, has experienced long absences by some of its male members. In the 1940s, Senator Carter Glass of Virginia was absent for four years because of heart trouble. Senator Karl Mundt of South Dakota had a stroke in 1969 and never really came back in the following three years. In 2001, when he was 98, Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina was wheeled to the Senate floor to cast votes, despite widespread concern about his mental fitness. In all of those cases, as with Ms. Feinstein, the senators ignored concerns about their capacity and pleas from their colleagues as long as they could. This Senate tradition should have been discarded long ago. Senate seats are not lifetime sinecures...."

Writes the NYT Editorial Board, calling on Dianne Feinstein to resign from the Senate.

But isn't Pelosi right? Something has been done badly by men for a long, long time, and suddenly it just has to stop... because a woman is doing it? Pick a different occasion for standing on lucid, sensible policy! Dianne Feinstein is no more in the way than Glass and Mundt and Thurmond. They received an old-fashioned sentimental Senatorial respect. Perhaps that respect is ridiculous. Perhaps it's just inconvenient. But use this newfound principle first against a few men or it's evidence of sexism. Pelosi's right.

I can't remember ever seeing the term "judicial activist" to refer to anyone other than a judge supposedly engaging in "judicial activism."

But here's The Washington Post using the term to refer to a political activist who concerns himself with the judiciary: "Judicial activist directed fees to Clarence Thomas’s wife, urged ‘no mention of Ginni’/Leonard Leo told GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway to bill nonprofit, then use money to pay spouse of Supreme Court justice."*

Who's Leonard Leo? The first sentence of the piece calls him "Conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo," and the third paragraph calls him "a key figure in a network of nonprofits that has worked to support the nominations of conservative judges." He's not a judge, and he's not, at least not openly, a proponent of judicial activism.

In the 18-year archive of this blog, Leo's name has come up exactly once, back in 2006, when the NYT invited various legal writers to offer questions that could be asked of Samuel Alito at his confirmation hearing. I wrote:

Leonard A. Leo, the executive vice president of the Federalist Society, asks the one that Robert Bork gave his most damaging answer to: "why do you want to be on the Supreme Court?" (Bork said he thought it would be "an intellectual feast.")

"Satirizing the attention-seeking culture wrought by social media is almost as difficult as impersonating Donald Trump..."

"... the source material is already so cartoonish and despicable that most attempts to mock it seem obvious to the point of being dull. Perhaps no screenwriter could have imagined a character as controversial as Jameela Jamil, the British actress who’s been vocal about her various afflictions, which have included shellfish allergies, celiac disease, mercury poisoning, partial deafness, and a history of run-ins with bees. And perhaps no performance artist could have staged a hoax as elaborate and culturally radioactive as Jussie Smollett’s...."

Speaking of social media and the difficulty impersonating Donald Trump (because he's already so funny in the original version), here's a woman on TikTok who — like Sarah Cooper to Donald Trump — lip-syncs to the voice of Joe Biden:

"[T]hree different sets of jurors have concluded that Jan. 6 was no spontaneous riot. It was planned, organized, incited..."

"... and led by individuals and groups in a conspiracy against our democratically elected government... Evidence at the trial showed that three of the men convicted Thursday of seditious conspiracy — Ethan Nordean, Joe Biggs and Zachary Rehl — led a group of about 200 Proud Boys away from the Ellipse rally and toward the Capitol even before Trump had finished speaking, or ranting. The defendants themselves did not participate in the worst of the violence at the Capitol; Tarrio wasn’t even in Washington that day. But prosecutors argued — and jurors agreed — that Tarrio, Nordean, Biggs and Rehl were the leaders who sent other Proud Boys to commit some of the most violent acts of the day.... Trump... complains that the Justice Department is persecuting patriotic Americans who were doing nothing more than exercising their right to peacefully protest. That is an outrageous, disgusting lie.... Jurors are getting it right. Leaders of the insurrection should face the most serious charges and suffer the most severe punishments. Now we wait to see whether the man without whose incitement Jan. 6 never would have happened — Donald Trump — is made to face his day in court as well."

I did not sit through the trial and don't know what evidence was presented, but Robinson asserts that the "[e]vidence at the trial showed" the defendants led a large group — known to be members of the Proud Boys — to the Capitol where and that group went beyond vocal protesting and committed acts of "violence." I still have the question: What evidence proved that this was "sedition"? I'm trying to understand how political protests come to be understood as "sedition." 

Here's a post of mine from January 2022, quoting Jeannie Suk Gersen in a New Yorker article asking whether a sincere belief that the election would undermine the charge of "sedition":

May 4, 2023

Sunrise — 5:49, 5:50.

IMG_1219 2

IMG_1223 2

Talk about whatever you like in the comments.

Asked at deposition about whether it's "True with stars that they can grab women by the pussy," Trump said...

"Well, historically, that’s true with stars... Well, that’s what — if you look over the last million years, I guess that’s been largely true. Not always, but largely true. Unfortunately or fortunately.”

"I am obviously very happy with the outcome of the case. At the same time, I am unbelievably frustrated that baseless claims like this are allowed to go to court at all."

"We have spent the last eight years talking about two songs with dramatically different lyrics, melodies and four chords which are also different and used by songwriters every day, all over the world. These chords are common building blocks which were used to create music long before ‘Let’s Get It On’ was written and will be used to make music long after we are all gone. I am just a guy with a guitar who loves writing music for people to enjoy. I am not and will never allow myself to be a piggy bank for anyone to shake."

Sunrise — 5:43, 5:47.


IMG_1216 2

"As Elvis Costello pointed out back in 2021 when social media users accused Olivia Rodrigo of lifting elements of 'Pump It Up' for her song 'Brutal'..."

"... most songs borrow from what came before them to some degree. (After all, there are only so many chords!) 'It’s how rock and roll works,' Costello said. 'You take the broken pieces of another thrill and make a brand new toy.'"

"This honestly feels like a new low: not being able to clearly condemn a public murder because the victim was of a social status some would deem ‘too low’ to care about."

Tweeted Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, quoted in "Mayor Adams rips AOC for rush to conclude that Jordan Neely was 'murdered'" (NY Post).
The city medical examiner ruled Wednesday that Neely’s death was a homicide due to “compression of neck (chokehold).” Witnesses say that Neely was having a mental episode when another straphanger, identified as a 24-year-old Marine from Queens, took him down from behind and placed him in a chokehold for about 15 minutes. Still, Adams stressed that there are “so many unknowns at this time.”

"I talked with Nader about his role much later, and he basically said the outcome was Gore’s fault for being a bad candidate."

"This conversation took place when the country was bearing down on the 2016 election, and Nader vowed not to vote for either Trump or Clinton. 'They’re not alike,' he acknowledged, but added, 'they’re both terrible.' Think that was the last time I ever consulted Ralph Nader."

Writes Gail Collins in "Repulsed by Biden vs. Trump? Tough" (NYT).

It was bad enough to go through the 2020 campaign once and it's bad to go through any presidential campaign twice, but to go through the 2020 campaign twice is just such an outrage. Why aren't people kicking and screaming as we're dragged into this?!

Gail Collins belabors what, of course, I already knew was the answer to my question. Just put up with the disgusting reality that we've got 2 parties, they do their thing, and you obediently vote for the better of the 2, even though Ralph was right and they're both terrible. 

CORRECTION: This post originally had Ruth Marcus for Gail Collins. I need to think about why I'd merged these 2 writers!

"So much of loving dogs is learning to tolerate repulsion. You live knowing that this beloved muzzle is..."

"... at once devoted to licking you up with adoration, and at the same time shoving itself into as much urine, feces and fellow dog butt as it can find.... But is that truly less hygienic than plain old human-kissing?"

So says the NYT ethicist, John Hodgman, responding to a man whose wife "has taken to kissing the dogs" before she kisses him goodbye in the morning (including giving "one of the dogs 'raspberries' on his belly before expecting a goodbye kiss from me").

The ethicist is pretty unsympathetic to the man, though he doesn't get around to the obvious twist on "So much of loving dogs is learning to tolerate repulsion": So much of loving humans is learning to tolerate repulsion. 

I wonder if the man tried talking to the wife about his feelings. Maybe they had a funny conversation about it and composed the letter to the ethicist together. But if he's suffering from disgust on his own, then coming up with the idea of writing the ethicist as a solution, then he really is in a terribly beta position vis a vis his wife. And she's consciously or subconsciously openly expressing it with that order of kissing. Does he even get raspberries on his belly?

By the way, it's totally legit to feel repelled by dogs and to decline to "learn to tolerate" it. If that's you and you want community, I recommend the subreddits r/Dogfree and r/TalesfromtheDogHouse.

"Courts have long recognized that reporters are entitled to engage in legal and ordinary news-gathering activities without fear of tort liability — as these actions are at the very core of protected first amendment activity,."

Wrote the trial judge, Justice Robert R. Reed (State Supreme Court in Manhattan), quoted in "Judge Dismisses Trump’s Lawsuit Against The New York Times/Former President Donald J. Trump, who had sued The Times, three of its reporters and his niece over an investigation into his tax returns, was ordered to pay The Times’s legal expenses" (NYT).

Times spokesman Charlie Stadtlander said: "It is an important precedent reaffirming that the press is protected when it engages in routine news gathering to obtain information of vital importance to the public." 

Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, said they'd "weigh" his "options," but not specifically whether he'd appeal, and they continue to assert that the Times "went well beyond the conventional news-gathering techniques permitted by the First Amendment."

Whoa! My bad law talk alarm went off! Don't say "permitted by the First Amendment."

The Times was free to do what it did unless there's some valid law that forbids it. Trump made a claim that what the Times did was not permitted because it violated tort law. If he was wrong about that and no tort law or other law was violated, then what the Times did would be permitted, regardless of constitutional law. Fortunately, the First Amendment protects against encroachments on freedom of speech and freedom of the press that might occur if tort law limits what is permitted. If. If tort law or other law doesn't limit, then you don't need permission from the First Amendment. The First Amendment is the defense against encroachment, not the source of permission!

I like the quote from Justice Reed because it's precise about the role of the First Amendment: It relieves us of the fear of aggressive interpretations tort law.

Bear! (Maybe this isn't shocking to you where you live, but it is to me.)

"If you look at the Minsk accords, which the Russians offered to settle for, that looks like a really good deal today."

"Let’s be honest: it’s a US war against Russia... to essentially sacrifice the flower of Ukrainian youth in an abattoir of death and destruction for the geopolitical ambition of the neocons, oft-stated, of regime change for Vladimir Putin and exhausting the Russian military so that they can’t fight anywhere else in the world. President Biden has said that was his intention — to get rid of Vladimir Putin. His Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, in April 2022, said that our purpose here is to exhaust the Russian army. What does that mean, 'exhaust'? It means throwing Ukrainians at them. My son fought over there, side-by-side with the Ukrainians and we’ve sacrificed 300,000 Ukrainians. The commander of the special forces unit in the Ukraine, which is probably the most elite fighting force in Europe, has said 80% of his troops are dead or are wounded and they cannot rebuild the unit. Right now, the Russians are killing Ukrainians at a ratio of either 1:5 or 1:8, depending on what data you believe...."
Said Bobby Kennedy, quoted at RCP. I've made small edits to the transcript based on the video that's also at that link. The transcript continues. Excerpts:

May 3, 2023

Sunrise — 5:50.


"I now feel happy and satisfied with my legs, but I’m hit by a wave of hate on the Internet. It hurts me a lot."

"With the leg-lengthening procedure, I found myself and finally overcame my old trauma from being bullied. And now I’m being bullied again. Why am I subject to so much hate?"

Why would you think bullying will stop if you respond by changing yourself? Here, a woman has had painful surgeries to add 5.5 inches to her legs. And she wasn't even short. She was 5'6" (if my reading and math are correct). Now, she's 6' tall, disproportionately leggy. As the headline shows, there is an absurd sex claim: "I have become very flexible with my legs and have more room to maneuver in bed."

"A couple of weeks ago, I was watching video of people fighting on the street in Washington. A group of Trump guys surrounded an Antifa kid..."

"... and started pounding the living shit out of him. It was three against one, at least. Jumping a guy like that is dishonorable obviously. It’s not how white men fight. Yet suddenly I found myself rooting for the mob against the man, hoping they’d hit him harder, kill him. I really wanted them to hurt the kid. I could taste it. Then somewhere deep in my brain, an alarm went off: this isn’t good for me. I’m becoming something I don’t want to be. The Antifa creep is a human being. Much as I despise what he says and does, much as I’m sure I’d hate him personally if I knew him, I shouldn’t gloat over his suffering. I should be bothered by it. I should remember that somewhere somebody probably loves this kid, and would be crushed if he was killed. If I don’t care about those things, if I reduce people to their politics, how am I better than he is?"

"Fiction matters more now, in a world increasingly deracinated by technology. A.I. will never pose a threat to the real thing..."

"... to writing with convictions, honest doubts, riddling wit, a personal vision of the world, rawness and originality. Another word for these qualities is soul, which is exactly what ChatGPT lacks. Left wholly naked in front of the A.I. onslaught may be the writers of certain formulaic best sellers, but that’s a matter for their agents."

"Going home after a long day, I cannot help but observe that those of my colleagues who were protesting so vigorously that the Court’s judgment today will do it irreparable harm..."

"... have spared no pains – in a veritable blizzard of separate dissents – to assist that result. Even to the point of footnote 4 in Ruth’s offering (I call it the Al Sharpton footnote), alleging on the basis of press reports 'obstacles to voting disproportionately encountered by black voters.' I am the last person to complain that dissents should not be thorough and hard-hitting (though it would be nice to have them somewhat consolidated). But before vigorously dissenting (or, come to think of it, at any other time) I have never urged the majority of my colleagues to alter their honest view of the case because of the potential 'damage to the Court.' I just thought I would observe the incongruity. Good night. Sincerely, Nino."

Wrote Justice Scalia to the rest of the Supreme Court on December 12, 2000, quoted in a CNN article by Joan Biskupic, "New documents show how Sandra Day O’Connor helped George W. Bush win the 2000 election."

To paraphrase: I'm all for vigorous dissents — I do them myself — but I dissent to tell the truth as I see it, and you just did it to say we ought shrink from the truth. Ha!

ADDED: That headline is terrible.  The article is about how Sandra Day O’Connor kept Chief Justice Rehnquist from having a majority for deciding the case the same way on a different legal theory. Either way Bush would win, so she didn't "help him win."

"The notoriety would no doubt rob this child of peaceful existence."

Said Brent Langdon, lawyer for Hunter Biden, opposing the changing of Hunter's daughter's last name to Biden, quoted in "Hunter Biden’s Child Support Dispute Touches on Political Discord/A legal fight over a request to reduce child support payments has brought up controversies surrounding President Biden’s son, as the mother of his 4-year-old child seeks his financial records" (NYT).

The court has to decide what's "in the best interests of the child" — the 4-year-old Navy Roberts.   

"The child should have the opportunity for input at a time when the disparagement of the Biden name is not at its height," Langdon said.

The mother's position is that the name Biden is "now synonymous with being well educated, successful, financially acute, and politically powerful" and that to be called Biden would tell the world what the Biden family is bent on hiding, that Navy is a "member of the prestigious Biden family."

Hunter's own lawyer used the word "notoriety." I hear connotations of negativity. From Merriam-Webster:

"Twelve people who had been living on the streets of Seattle are now snug in 12 tiny houses tucked into backyards throughout Washington’s largest city."

"And each little dwelling is likely the most sustainable house on its block. Solar arrays on the roofs of the homes provide more than enough power for heating, lighting and cooking, even in Seattle’s not-so-sunny climate. And all the materials and fittings — from the juniper wood for the exterior of the 230-square-foot structures to the induction cooktops in the kitchenettes — were chosen to meet the highest environmental standards.... Each Block home piggybacks on the homeowner’s water bills... and is hooked up to the grid via the homeowner’s account with the local utility.... The homes are built as permanent housing but are designed so they could be deconstructed and moved elsewhere. So far, all the structures have stayed put."

"He sent a message to the world that we’re not just a bunch of lumberjacks and hockey players up here. We’re capable of sensitivity and poetry."

Said Geddy Lee of Rush, in a 2019 documentary about Gordon Lightfoot, quoted in "Gordon Lightfoot’s 10 Essential Songs/The Canadian singer-songwriter, who died on Monday at 84, brought his rueful baritone to memorable, melancholy material" (NYT).

I hadn't really thought enough about Canadians to have the notion that they were bunch of lumberjacks and hockey players or even to have noticed that they might feel sensitive about our thinking of them like that, if, in fact, we do think about them much, which, as I just said, I did not. Mostly, we — I, anyway — think about Canadians on an individual basis, when one of them serves up some excellent artistry and hand delivers it to us. We're not distracted by second-rate Canadians. In that light, they seem quite great. Take heart, Geddy Lee. Don't have an inferiority complex based on how other people think about your country. And, by the way, what's wrong with lumberjacks? It seems to me, America loves lumberjacks. I invite people to think of Wisconsin as full of lumberjacks. And hockey players. And sensitive artists.

A state judge who previously served in the legislature as a Democrat rules against the Democrat who was ousted from the legislature by Republicans.

I'm reading "Judge Rejects Montana Lawmaker’s Effort to Return to House Floor" (NYT).
The lawmaker, Representative Zooey Zephyr, was ousted... after making impassioned comments against a ban on hormone treatments and surgical care for transgender minors....

Ms. Zephyr, a Democrat from Missoula who is transgender, filed the lawsuit on Monday.... “I’m determined to defend the right of the people to have their voices heard,” she posted on Twitter....

Judge Mike Menahan, who served in the House as a Democrat before being elected to the state’s First District Court a decade ago, said... he did not have the authority to intervene in the legislative dispute.

It's somewhat encouraging to see a judge decide against a political figure from the party he is/was associated with, but — to resist overpraise — this was probably an easy case.

"A base knowledge in history and civics is critical for students to become engaged, informed citizens, particularly amid misinformation on social media platforms..."

"... said Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of... an organization focused on youth civic engagement. She cited a recent TikTok campaign against an Alaska oil project, which resulted in a misguided petition urging President Biden not to sell Alaska. 'You need some basics to understand what’s even verifiable: Does it even jibe loosely with what I learned?' she said, noting that the president does not have executive power to sell a state."

I think it's interesting that the NYT thought its readers needed that explanatory phrase, "noting that the president does not have executive power to sell a state."

It's hard to believe in the future of democracy in American when you realize how little grip voters have on even the most basic facts and concepts. Why are we asking ourselves who should govern us? We're idiots.

"The Alzheimer’s treatment donanemab, which is made by Eli Lilly, significantly slowed progression of the mind-robbing disease..."

"... according to clinical trial data released Wednesday by the company. Patients who received the monthly antibody infusion during an 18-month study demonstrated a 35% slower decline in memory, thinking and their ability to perform daily activities compared to those who did not receive the treatment, Eli Lilly’s data showed."

May 2, 2023

Sunrise — 5:54, 6:08.

IMG_1191 2

IMG_1194 2

Write about anything you like in the comments.

CORRECTION: Originally, this post was titled with the quote you see below and consisted entirely of that tweet. I wrote over it by accident, but the comments are still there, beginning this thread. As rewritten, it's an open thread, so those old comments, by chance, fit. 

"What [E. Jean] Carroll did not do that day in the lingerie department dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman, where she says Mr. Trump pinned her against a wall..."

"... pulled down her tights and shoved his fingers and then his penis into her vagina, is scream. 'I’m not a screamer,' she testified in civil court last week, when asked by an attorney for Mr. Trump why she hadn’t cried out. 'I was too much in a panic to scream. I was fighting.'... Not screaming was the cause, in 2017, for a sexual assault case being tossed out in Italy. It was a backdrop to a widely publicized 2018 criminal rape trial involving two well-known rugby players in Belfast, Northern Ireland, who were acquitted. And while experts in trauma and sexual assault, such as the psychologist James Hopper, have repeatedly shown that not screaming or crying out — freezing, essentially — is a common brain response to danger, the screaming myth endures."

Writes Jessica Bennett in "Why Didn’t She Scream? And Other Questions Not to Ask a Rape Accuser" (NYT).

The reason to scream is for help. At Bergdorf's, there were, presumably, people within earshot who would have burst in and interrupted whatever was going on. Help was available. From the failure to summon help, you could infer that Carroll believed it was a situation best handled privately. She chose to do her own fighting, she testified, but she also says she was in a panic, perhaps unable to come up with the strategy of summoning help.

"The first in the procession to enter Westminster Abbey will be representatives from the Jewish, Sunni and Shiite Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Bahai and Zoroastrian communities..."

"'During the service, four peers from the House of Lords — a Muslim, Hindu, Jew and Sikh — will hand to Charles objects of the royal regalia. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, a Hindu, will read from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians.' At the ceremony’s end, the king will receive a 'spoken greeting in unison' — that is, not a prayer — from religious leaders of other faiths."

I'm reading "Latest coronation ‘update’ shows that the palace still doesn’t get it" (WaPo).

The quote I selected has nothing to do with the not "getting it" referenced in the headline. That has more to do with royalty in general. But I don't see how royalty itself is supposed to manifest that it "gets it." If you were royalty and you saw through to some utter absurdity or inequity, but you intended to keep your position, wouldn't you act exactly as though you didn't see it at all? 

Unless I'm addressing my immediate family (dad mom), I can't ever seem to use anyone's name. Even when I'm talking to some of my friends..."

"... I can't bring myself to say their names. I don't have a problem saying names if I'm having a conversation about someone with someone else. Just when they are with me. Normally I just position myself so that it is obvious who I am speaking to when I say something. I don't really expect any advice since I know I just have to get over it. But I was wondering if anyone else does this and why it seems like such an impossible thing to overcome."

I have this "problem" too, and I don't even think it's a problem. People who throw the name of their interlocutor into the conversation seem conniving and insincere. When I'm reading comments, for example, if I see "Ann" added to whatever it is they're saying, I get suspicious — What bullshit is this? 

I think it has to do with way parents address children using their name, so with experience as a child and, perhaps, as a parent, we come to feel that to say the name of the person you're talking to is to adopt the parental role and to cast the other person as the child. 


"Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. just wants you to know: The leaker didn’t come from the conservative wing of the court...."

Writes Ruth Marcus in "The aggrieved Justice Alito points fingers but offers no proof" (WaPo).
Alito didn’t name names but freely assigned motive. “It was part of an effort to prevent the Dobbs draft … from becoming the decision of the court,” he said. “And that’s how it was used for those six weeks by people on the outside — as part of the campaign to try to intimidate the court.” 
Nice work, because this is the kind of inchoate smear that is impossible to defend against....

Ah! Can we have a general rule against inchoate smears?! They're impossible to defend against, so it's scurrilous to make them. Think hard before agreeing to the rule. How will you feel when it's used against you or someone you like? And what about the unintended side effects? If smears must be not be inchoate,* then sometimes, instead of blind items or silence, you'll get names.

For the annals of servitude.

1. "2 Wisconsin Republicans want 14-year-olds to be allowed to serve alcohol in restaurants" (Insider). There's currently a labor shortage, and the bill would only allow the 14-17-year olds to serve alcohol to those who are seated at tables, not those at the bar. Oddly enough, in Wisconsin, underage kids can drink alcohol, even at the bar, if they're with a parent! Anyway, 14-17-year olds already work in restaurants and wait on tables. To let them deliver the drinks to the table would simply enable them to do all the ordinary tasks that are part of the job. What are we afraid of? Child labor? But they're already waiting on the tables. That they might, if entrusted with a small tray of drinks, surreptitiously sip on one? It can't be that we feel a need to protect them from a drinking environment, because they are already working in restaurants. They already see people imbibing. It's not as though we're letting them see an orgy.

2. "Black waiter forced to serve N-word spewing diners decked in Confederate flags: report" (Raw Story). As one server tells it: "A party full of people wearing Confederate flag gear just tried to f---ing come eat in our restaurant. One of our Black servers had to take them.... They’re N-word this, N-word that, while he’s there at the table. They’re not even trying to stop." The black man who waited on the table said that it was a reservation for 11, and he'd started working on the table after only a few had showed up, "including a baby wrapped in a Confederate coat," but he didn't really notice until more arrived. Then, the managers asked if he had "any issues with this table," and he continued until someone addressed him as "boy." He "couldn't return to the table, after which the group demanded the managers force him to return and correct their orders." We're told the "managers tried to defuse the situation," but "he's considering a lawsuit," presumably against his employer. ADDED: Assuming the accuracy of this account, I think the managers ought to have told the customers they had to leave. It shouldn't have depended on the server's declaring an inability to soldier on.

Thank you, Gordon Lightfoot.

ADDED: Here's the NYT obituary, which says he wrote his first song when he was in high school, during the hula hoop craze. It contained the line: "I guess I’m just a slob and I’m gonna lose my job, ’cause I’m Hula-Hula-Hoopin’ all the time."

At Facebook, my son John wrote: "Here’s a live performance of his beautiful song 'If You Could Read My Mind' (1970), which he wrote about his divorce. In this video he sings, 'I’m just trying to understand the feelings that you lack,' which is in the original recording too. Later on when he played it live, he changed one word at his daughter’s request, instead singing '…the feelings that we lack.' He realized that the deeply personal subject matter had prevented him from being objective enough to think of that improvement."

Should a man run his writings past a woman to benefit from insight about what might offend women? We were just talking about a woman who gave a draft of her writing to her ex-husband and then rejected all his suggestions about how to soften the harshness toward him. The editor said his corrections would weaken the story. 

The song was "If You Could Read My Mind," so I don't know why it's a problem to be "prevented... from being objective." And why is subjectivity ever a problem for a singer? Imagine if Bob Dylan submitted "Positively 4th Street" to whoever the hell that song is about? Bob sticks to his point of view, which includes a wish that the person he's talking about could read his mind and know what a drag it is to see him.

Joni Mitchell said: "There came a point when I heard a Dylan song called 'Positively Fourth Street' and I thought 'oh my God, you can write about anything in songs.' It was like a revelation to me."

May 1, 2023

At the Monday Night Café...

IMG_1186 2

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"The 5,000-square-foot Insectarium... features a slew of digital exhibits and maps, along with artfully pinned butterflies and beetles, oversized models of bees and mosquitos..."

"... and an 8,000-pound resin model of a beehive. It also houses 18 different species of live creatures, including giant cave cockroaches and spiny flower mantises. Visitors also can pass under a transparent sky bridge to see 500,000 leaf-cutter ants transporting pieces of blackberry bramble to create their colony’s fungal food.... On three of the four floors open to the public at the new center, floor-to-ceiling glass displays reveal a slice of the 4 million specimens that are housed in the building — from butterflies collected by 'Lolita' author Vladimir Nabokov to 'cleared and stained' sea horses in jars....."

From "New $465M American Museum of Natural History center is crawling with bugs" (NY Post).

This post was written for good luck!

By the way, what's the stupidest argument you ever got into with a smart person? I won't name the person, but he objected to my categorization of butterflies as insects. I couldn't believe I had to argue about this. I remember, at what point, saying, "Well, what do you think they are? Birds?!"

"He still believed the [Google and OpenAI built] systems were inferior to the human brain in some ways..."

"... but he thought they were eclipsing human intelligence in others. 'Maybe what is going on in these systems,' he said, 'is actually a lot better than what is going on in the brain.' As companies improve their A.I. systems, he believes, they become increasingly dangerous.... Until last year, he said, Google acted as a 'proper steward' for the technology, careful not to release something that might cause harm. But now that Microsoft has augmented its Bing search engine with a chatbot — challenging Google’s core business — Google is racing to deploy the same kind of technology. The tech giants are locked in a competition that might be impossible to stop, Dr. Hinton said.... But Dr. Hinton believes that the race between Google and Microsoft and others will escalate into a global race that will not stop without some sort of global regulation."

"The Supreme Court on Monday said it would take up a case that could do away with a decades-old precedent that tells judges to defer to federal agencies..."

"... when interpreting ambiguous federal laws, a deference long targeted by conservatives concerned about the power of the administrative state. As the Supreme Court has become more conservative, the justices have grown less likely to defer to federal agencies under the 1984 precedent in Chevron U.S.A. v. Natural Resources Defense Council. But lower courts are bound to rely on the precedent because the Supreme Court has never officially renounced it. A split panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit used the Chevron doctrine in deciding the case the Supreme Court added to its docket Monday: whether [the National Marine Fisheries Service] can force herring fishermen off the coast of New England to [pay the salaries of the] federal monitors [that the Magnuson-Stevens Act requires them to make room for on board]...."

"ChatGPT doesn’t just get things wrong at times, it can fabricate information. Names and dates. Medical explanations."

"The plots of books. Internet addresses. Even historical events that never happened. When ChatGPT was recently asked how James Joyce and Vladimir Lenin first met — there is no evidence they ever did — this is how it responded: 'James Joyce and Vladimir Lenin met in Zurich, Switzerland in 1916. Both men were living in exile in Zurich during World War I. Joyce was a writer and Lenin was a revolutionary. They met at the Cafe Odéon, a popular gathering place for artists and intellectuals in Zurich.' Fabrications like these are common...."

From the comments over there: "It's interesting that the chatbot brought Lenin and Joyce together in Zurich, just as Tom Stoppard's play 'Travesties' imagined them both in the Zurich library during World War I. I'm guessing chatbots scrape their information from available fiction as well as non-fiction? And what we get is Webster's literal definition of travesty: 'a debased, distorted, or grossly inferior imitation.'"

Ha ha ha. Great comment. And I love the play "Travesties." Here's what I wrote in 2014 when we saw the play (twice!):

"People threatened employees with guns, knives and sticks. They flung food, screamed, fought and tried to defecate on the floor..."

"... according to records of 568 emergency calls over 13 months, many depicting scenes of mayhem. 'Male w/machete is back,' the report on one 911 call states.... A man with a four-inch knife attacked several security guards, then sprayed store employees with foam from a fire extinguisher, according to a third...." 

"This term, 'biological males,' is everywhere now. And it’s not used only by right-wing politicians."

"People of good faith are... uncertain about when, and how, sex matters, and just how biological it is. Some want to draw a bright line in areas where maleness and femaleness might matter most — in sports, or locker rooms, or prisons. Others are trying to blur lines that used to be clearer...."

Writes Jennifer Finney Boylan in "To understand biological sex, look at the brain, not the body" (WaPo).

"The modern men’s perm is loud for a hairstyle so soft. On TikTok, the hashtag #menperm... has garnered more than 20.7 million views."

"Those videos often begin with a man in a salon chair, pictured from the shoulder up. The camera orbits around his head just before a final shot of his crown: silky, voluminous waves lacquered with the aplomb of K-pop boy bands...."

I'm reading "Why Are More Men Getting Perms? The modern male perm is softer, more natural and has taken off, thanks to K-pop and TikTok" (NYT).

TikTok is very powerful. Videos don't just get views. They garner them.

"My heart is with this 8-year-old little boy. I don’t care if he was here legally. I don’t care if he was here illegally. He was in my county."

Said Sheriff Greg Capers, quoted in "'Zero Leads': Dragnet Continues for Man Sought in Fatal Shooting of 5 in Texas" (NYT).
As survivors and the community came together at a vigil, hundreds of law enforcement officers were searching for Francisco Oropesa. The victims were all from Honduras, officials said. Gov. Greg Abbott’s office said that Mr. Oropesa and [Wilson] Garcia and his family were all in the United States illegally.


April 30, 2023

Trout lilies.


From the 27th. Today was rainy. Tomorrow: May!

Write about whatever you want in the comments.

"Ambient music is the great wellspring — but also the bane of my existence. It’s this superficial form of panacea weaponized by digital platforms..."

"... shortcuts for the stress of our world. They serve a simple function: to 'chill out.' How does it differ from Muzak 2.0, from elevator music?... What is the function of music? Is it to serve as a background for a WeWork, efficiency world, for someone who just wants to code? Or is it for driving down a foggy road at night, wanting that experience amplified?”

Here's the new album:

A man from a place called Dildo has taken a photograph that turns everyone into a comedian.

Link to CBC.

And, yes, Dildo is a real place. I looked it up. It's on the island of Newfoundland. Wikipedia:

"Reporters who profess to support women and denounce deadbeat dads have either ignored this story or belittled her mother, Lunden Roberts."

"Roberts is widely dismissed as a 'former stripper.' That appears how she met Hunter, but it is often used to paint her in the same way that the media gleefully reported Hillary Clinton denouncing women involved with her husband as mere 'bimbo eruptions.'... " 

"President Biden, who has frustrated some reporters with his lack of press conferences, showed up with jokes (and some serious remarks) to the White House correspondents’ dinner."

Writes Paul Farhi (at WaPo).

The best joke isn't quoted in the WaPo article!

"They say I'm over the hill. Don Lemon would say: That's a man in his prime."

The complicated woman and the complicated man.

My son John comments on a NYT post at Facebook.

This is a variation on a point I've made a few times: The mainstream media present whatever is true of the woman as good. If the same quality were found to be true of a man, it would be presented as bad.

In this case — complicatedness — is something that — in a woman — feels intriguing and sophisticated. But what the hell is a "complicated man"? We're not wasting our time exploring his psyche. Screw him. He's an asshole.

But the complicated woman....

I was deeply puzzled by "Here’s the real reason the Vikings left Greenland/A new study found some Viking settlements experienced up to 10.8 feet of sea level rise over four centuries."

By Kasha Patel in The Washington Post.

The sea rose 10.8 feet? How could that have happened? Maybe it's already obvious to you, but I didn't have a clue — because of the way this is written — until the 10th paragraph. The first 9 paragraphs say speak in terms of the sea level rising — which I presume is intended to resonate with today's fears of climate change. To collect all the references in a compact block of elided text:

"[A] man... had been suffering from schizophrenia for more than a decade. And everything had been tried for him..."

"... all the medication, all the psychotherapy. But he was still hearing nursery songs all the time, all day long. And that drove him absolutely crazy. So he made a request for a MAID [medical assistance in dying]. And then after a week in our inpatient clinic, my colleague, he re-diagnosed him with, apart from schizophrenia, that there was also obsessive compulsive disorder. And he started an SSRI — really simple antidepressant — and some cognitive behavioral therapy. And that patient recovered within a month..... So those experiences really made me think twice about MAID in psychiatric suffering and about if this is such a good idea...."

"To many women, Mr. Trump has come to represent male sexual entitlement. I heard this repeatedly as I researched my book about why accusers are often doubted."

Writes Deborah Tuerkheimer, lawprof and author of "Credible: Why We Doubt Accusers and Protect Abusers," in "The Importance of E. Jean Carroll’s Lawsuit Against Donald Trump" (NYT).
One woman I spoke with, Marissa Ross, who has written about sexual assault and harassment in the wine industry, explained her quite typical reaction to the notorious “Access Hollywood” videotape that surfaced during the 2016 presidential campaign, in which Mr. Trump brags: “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” including “grab” women’s genitals. When she heard the tape, Ms. Ross told me, “I didn’t just hear Donald Trump. I heard every man that’s ever hurt me. It was those boys in high school, it was my ex-boyfriend, it was all those men. For me, and I imagine for many other survivors, it was not just hearing Trump. It was everyone that violated me.”...

This column was published just before Carroll began her testimony at trial, so Tuerkheimer is anticipating how Trump's lawyers will undermine her credibility: 

"The siblings had stumbled on the spoken-word idea after Mr. Tempo had failed to memorize the lyrics in time for a rehearsal."

"Ms. Stevens then fed them to him during that session. A friend loved the effect, Mr. Tempo said in a phone interview, and 'we knew we had backed into something magical.'"

I'm reading "April Stevens Dies at 93; Her ‘Deep Purple’ Became a Surprise Hit/Her unusual version of the standard, which she recorded with her brother, Nino Tempo, reached No. 1 on the Billboard chart in 1963 and won a Grammy" (NYT). 

Here's the song — with the distinctive spoken-word section that begins at 1:11: 

“Deep Purple” was recorded in 14 minutes, with Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, who told them his partners "think it’s the worst record you’ve ever made." The siblings threatened to leave Atlantic and sign with Phil Spector, so it was released. 

It hit #1 on the Billboard chart on November 16, 1963 and was #1 for only one week. The last day of that week John Kennedy was shot.

It's a song about memory — "In the mist of my memory, you wander on back to me" — and Nino Tempo couldn't remember the words. April Stevens had to remind him, her whispering vocal made the song memorable, and it is woven in our memory of the unforgettable tragedy.

In the still of the night once again I hold you tight
Though you've gone, your love lives on when moonlight beams
And as long as my heart will beat, sweet lover, we'll always meet
Here in my deep purple dreams