July 22, 2023

Sunrise — 5:49, 5:51, 5:53.

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"Smith has a herculean task before him. He must present a persuasive narrative that Trump and his henchmen and women (yes, you, Ginni Thomas) were determined to pull off a coup."

The prose of Maureen Dowd, in "The Moment of Truth for Our Liar in Chief" (NYT). 

I saw the headline first and thought "Our Liar in Chief" might be a reference to the current President, but what are the chances?

I wondered whether convincing a jury that Trump attempted a coup is what we ought to call "a herculean task." Why did Hercules perform his tasks? Was he some sort of prosecutor, accusing somebody else? No, he stood guilty of murdering his wife and children and needed to atone.

Also, his tasks were much harder than persuading some human beings to view a set of facts as falling within a particular formulation of words.

If a prosecutor's task really looked as difficult as any of the 10 Hercules had to perform, the prosecutor shouldn't be charging, since prosecutorial ethics demand a belief that it's more likely than not that an unbiased jury will find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

We shouldn't look to prosecutors for tricky superhuman feats, and if you catch yourself doing that, you may atone by reading Robert H. Jackson's 1940 address "The Federal Prosecutor."

"The hammerhead worm... slithers like a snake and resembles a piece of whole-wheat spaghetti, led by its mushroom-shaped head."

"And it also secretes tetrodotoxin, the same debilitating neurotoxin found in puffer fish...."

"Once, her daughter’s drama teacher assigned her the monkey role in a school play. 'I think it was The Wizard of Oz'...."

"'My daughter at the time was young enough not to know what the message was, but I did, so I went right down to the school and I said, "Any time you’ve got Black kids in your class none of them are going to be the monkeys."' Mendez said that she learned later that another Black parent had the same conversation with the teacher two years earlier. 'We all have those stories in Amherst,' she said. 'And so, for me, this reparations program is about changing it for the next generation, chipping away at the systemic racism we have here and creating a place where there’s affinity and facility as well as prosperity for people of color.'"

Mendez = Yvonne Mendez, who, as a second-generation immigrant, would be left out if slavery reparations are limited to the descendants of American slaves.  

RFK Jr. is — by far — the most approved-of political figure in the United States right now.

 According to a new Harvard Harris poll:


By "approved-of," I mean the gap between "favorable and unfavorable." He's up 21 points, and the next highest is Musk, with 9 Tim Scott with 10 Ramaswamy with 16. 

Lots more insights to be gained from that list. For example, Trump has — by far — the highest "very favorable" number (though his "very unfavorable" is much higher (and yet one point lower that of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris).

July 21, 2023

Sunrise — 5:42.

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"During World War I, eating less was considered patriotic, a way of freeing up precious caloric resources for American troops fighting abroad."

"Later, doctors and psychologists came to the (wrong) conclusion that overweight people were lazy, and society adjudicated heaviness a 'disgrace,' in the words of Lulu Hunt Peters, an early diet-book author. Dieting organizations ruthlessly shamed people into losing weight. In the early ’50s, one such 'support' group held public weigh-ins and forced members who’d gained weight to stand in a 'pig line,' where they would sing a song that included the lyric 'We are plump little pigs who ate too much, fat, fat, fat.'"

Writes Olga Khazan in "People Just Want to Lose Weight/Americans go on yo-yo diets, but we also have a yo-yo relationship to dieting" (The Atlantic).

Hey, I wonder how Threads is doing?

Everyone was talking about it, and then, it seemed, nobody was talking about it.

Ah, I see USA Today is keeping up: "A flash in the pan? Just [2] weeks after launch, Instagram Threads app is already faltering."

Daily traffic was 49 million in Week 1 and 23.6 million at the beginning of Week 2. And the time spent on the app has fallen by an even greater percentage, from 21 minutes July 7th to 6 minutes on July 14th.

The author of that article, Jennifer Jolly, offers Threads some advice: "For Threads to wipe out Twitter, it must tackle news with the best content moderation the world’s ever seen, ban polarizing public figures who peddle dangerous misinformation, and make everyone who uses the app agree to some basic rules of engagement."

He may not be 100% right, but he's right in the sense that you ought to consider which of these 5 seemingly essential elements of life you really want in your own life.

This guy is revealing some big secrets about life quite succinctly and memorably. A TikTok video, so I'll put it after the jump. 

"The federal judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s prosecution on charges of illegally retaining dozens of classified documents set a trial date on Friday for May 2024..."

"... taking a middle position between the government’s request to go to trial in December and Mr. Trump’s desire to push the proceeding until after the 2024 election.... [T]he date Judge Cannon chose to start the trial — May 20, 2024 — is one day before the primary in the key swing state of Georgia. But it falls after the bulk of the primary race contests will have already taken place."

From the comments over there: "She is sneaky, you have to give her that. By setting the date far beyond what the Justice Department wanted, but not so far to make it obvious, she is allowing Trump to run out the clock all the same."

"In rare move, Grassley releases unverified FBI source report alleging Biden involvement in bribe..."

ABC News reports.
Details of the unclassified document, known as an FD-1023, have emerged in recent months as Republicans search for any evidence that President Joe Biden engaged in the controversial overseas business dealings of his son Hunter Biden, which the president and his aides have repeatedly said he didn't do.... 
Democrats pounced on Grassley for publishing the FD-1023, accusing him of selectively highlighting uncorroborated information to hurt a political opponent.... 

Goodbye to Tony Bennett.

Link to WaPo obituary.

"When clicking on the 'comments' link, I braced myself for the onslaught of prohibitionists and finger-waggers..."

"... but was delighted to find that - so far - folks are just saying 'Yeah, day drinking is its own unique form of fun!' I agree, especially with the comparison to playing hooky...Cheers!"

I'm not quoting this because I approve. I thought "day drinking" seems different because in the daytime, you're supposed to be productive and so you shouldn't be undermining your mental and physical capacities. And also, someone who drinks in the day is presumably someone who drinks in the evening too. You're getting an early start — or you just never really stop — so it looks like you have a problem. But here's the NYT coming to help you feel good about it and not stigmatized. Why? I'm thinking the NYT has a lot of alcohol advertisers, and I'll bet it can see that articles on the happier side of alcohol consumption attract readers. Still, it's almost evil to prompt us to go ahead and begin our drinking earlier in the day. 

ADDED: The article isn't promoting day drinking. It goes through the science, showing why it can be more of a problem and how you can manage the various problems (like dehydration). And it begins with a sunny tone — "A poolside margarita, a frosty beer at a Memorial Day barbecue — summer, you could argue, is made for a cold drink on a hot day" — and it's the comments section that's grabbing onto the the positive elements. 

"A reëlected Trump would be a President subject to no constraints at all..."

"... having twice dodged congressional impeachment, and either beaten back the Justice Department and the courts or delayed so long that he could seek to use his regained executive powers to nullify the cases against him. Trump, in his ever-more-apocalyptic rhetoric surrounding his effort to retake the White House, has taken to calling his 2024 race 'the final battle.' I have increasingly come to believe that he is correct."

Writes Susan B. Glasser in "Finally, the Trump Case We’ve Been Waiting For/But, with 2024 looming, is it already too late?" (I don't need to tell you this is in The New Yorker. You can tell from the diaeresis in "reëlected.")

ADDED: I'd avoid the phrase "ever-more-apocalyptic." It's like "very unique." Is it the end of the world or isn't it? And isn't Glasser's rhetoric as "apocalyptic" as Trump's? "Trump would be a President subject to no constraints at all" — she can't literally believe that. Trump's use of "the final battle" isn't more extreme. 

July 20, 2023

Sunrise — 6:01, 6:03.

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The times in the post title look late, I know, but you see where the sun is in those photos, quite far above the horizon. It's not that I was late for the sunrise, which happened at 5:36 today. I was out there and had run all the way to my vantage point. But here's how it looked at 5:33.

"[D]ogs walking on the main streets must have their DNA on file with the local government. People must carry dog 'passports'..."

"... to prove they complied. If dog poop is found, the city will be authorized to test it to uncover which dog did it. And the owner will be forced to pay for the cleanup.... While [the mayor's] dog poop crackdown is a temporary test, set to last until July 2025, it is sure to raise some eyebrows in France, where individual liberty is cherished above all else — it’s the first of three values listed in the country’s national motto. While the country is known for its bureaucracy, or 'paperasserie,' and for the number of rules and regulations on its books, those rules are not always respected...."

From "This mayor, tired of poop on his streets, is making dogs get passports" (WaPo). The city is Béziers, in southern France, and it's been around since 575 BCE.

"Once she was deported from the U.S., [Maria Butina] became a member of Russia’s parliament and, of course, the host of her own TV program...."

"Today, the redheaded Butina, wearing an equally red blouse and suit pants, decides to talk about Hillary Clinton. Wait, what? Who still cares about Hillary Clinton? Apparently, Butina and Tanya from Taganrog still do. Tense music begins. According to the program, Clinton laughed 'hysterically' when she was shown pictures of the death of Muammar Qaddafi. 'What kind of monster responds to a person’s death like that?' Butina asks. A 'psychiatrist' appears and says, 'Yes, she’s a monster. But it’s because she has had to compete with men.' Donald Trump, whom Russian television adores, is shown calling her 'unstable.' 'What an awful woman,' the former U.S. president says. 'Hillary Clinton,' the chyron reads. 'A shark floating belly up?' A so-called expert on America is produced to diagnose Hillary’s early years: 'She wore big glasses, she had terrible teeth, and then she threw herself at Bill Clinton.'..."

Writes Gary Shteyngart in "I Watched Russian Television for Five Days Straight/My full immersion in Putin’s propaganda" (The Atlantic). The watching took place in 2023.

"I did have one couple; they called off their wedding because the mom of the bride was so particular and worried about what people thought..."

"... and how things were going to be perceived. And they started to bicker. And they ended up, they were like, 'We don’t want to do this. This is terrible. We don’t even want to be together anymore.' And they called off the wedding. And I remember running into them, separately, like a year later. You know, they were not together. And like: 'I think it’s probably the best thing that we did. The wedding was just too much.' And then after that, like two years later, they ended up just eloping. They got back together; they eloped. And the desire to have this perfect wedding that represented 'them as a couple' just was too much. Literally, they were like, 'I can’t do it.'"

This is a conversation — transcript and audio at the link — and the interviewer is Hanna Rosin, who really seems to want to go deeply into the issue expressed in that headline. The headline drew me in, but I couldn't find any serious discussion of that question. There's nothing about the urge to cling to tradition because we are losing tradition and the relative significance of the tradition of marriage and the tradition of weddings.

"Republicans Have So Little Hunter Biden Evidence They Shared His Nudes/Instead Marjorie Taylor Greene waved the photos around in a congressional hearing."

Headline at The New Republic.

From the article:
... Greene tried to claim that Biden engaged in sex trafficking and listed payments to sex workers as a tax writeoff. As part of her argument, she held up poster-size prints of Biden’s nude photos, which were taken off his laptop.... 
Not only was Greene’s decision to wave Biden’s nudes around wildly inappropriate for a congressional hearing, but it may also have violated D.C. revenge porn law.... 

"The finding that Ms. Carroll failed to prove that she was 'raped' within the meaning of the New York Penal Law does not mean..."

"... that she failed to prove that Mr. Trump ‘raped’ her as many people commonly understand the word 'rape.' Indeed, as the evidence at trial recounted below makes clear, the jury found that Mr. Trump in fact did exactly that."

Wrote Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, quoted in "Judge clarifies: Yes, Trump was found to have raped E. Jean Carroll" (WaPo).

Kaplan said New York’s legal definition of “rape” is “far narrower” than the word is understood in “common modern parlance.” The former requires forcible, unconsented-to penetration with one’s penis. But he said that the conduct the jury effectively found Trump liable for — forced digital penetration — meets a more common definition of rape. He cited definitions offered by the American Psychological Association and the Justice Department, which in 2012 expanded its definition of rape to include penetration “with any body part or object.” 

Read the judge's opinion here.  Excerpt:

"I felt like I was imprisoned in my own body... I now have a psychiatrist. I now vomit a lot more."

"I’ve never vomited before like that, ever, before my pregnancy. My body’s never reacted that way."

Said Samantha Casiano, quoted in "Woman suing Texas over abortion ban vomits on the stand in emotional reaction during dramatic hearing/Three plaintiffs testified about the trauma they experienced carrying nonviable pregnancies" (NBC News).

Casiano's wanted an abortion after her doctor told her — at 20 weeks of pregnancy — that her baby had  anencephaly and could not survive. She did give birth to the baby, and the baby lived 4 hours.

July 19, 2023

Sunrise — 5:27, 5:38, 5:39.

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"So, how much should we worry about the harm our pets are doing to the environment?"

"Both cats and dogs can harm wild animal populations.... However, perhaps the most concerning aspect of owning pets is the climate impact of the food they eat.... [W]e must consider our choice of pets and how to feed them.... By moving towards smaller breeds, we can keep the benefits of pet ownership while reducing the environmental burden. Feeding your pet the appropriate amount would also help to restrict demand for pet food – and also tackle pet obesity. The type of food we give to our pets is equally important. Current trends towards the humanisation of pet foods (where products more closely resemble human food) or feeding them raw meat are likely to increase the environmental impact of owning pets. Sustainable pet food brands... incorporate innovative ingredients such as insects.... But it’s essential to consider what the insects eat to ensure the overall environmental cost is reduced....."

So much to think about! But maybe if you would consider "[f]eeding your pet the appropriate amount" for the good of the environment and also to "tackle pet obesity," you ought to consider doing the same for yourself. And maybe if you'd consider getting a smaller breed of dog to "[r]educ[e] the environmental burden," you could feed yourself less, reach and maintain leanness, and thereby acquire a carbon offset entitling you (morally) to that larger breed you really want. Win-win. Another big win is that you can let go of any guilt about feeding your pet dry food, while your neighbor, perhaps, is flaunting her participation in "the humanisation of pet foods." You are the one fighting climate change. Take a bow.

Photo by Meade, from the blog Puparazzo, 2014.

"Now I’m as important as everyone else with a credit card!"

"'There are obvious anatomical differences' between men’s and women’s knees... Not just the knees, in fact — the whole leg...."

"There are differences in the hips, the pelvis, the engineering of the foot. Increasingly, too, there is a body of evidence to suggest there is a link between hormonal fluctuations and susceptibility to injuries in general, and A.C.L. injuries in particular...."

"[T]he instinct to focus purely on physiological explanations is both rooted in and serves to reinforce the misogynistic stereotype that 'women’s sport participation is dangerous predominantly due to female biology.'... 'The focus on anatomical differences means we have left out the other parts, the extrinsic factors'.... It just so happens that those are the ones that might, feasibly, be addressed...."

"CMT censored this video, and that's a clear indication that it's great, so I looked it up, and it sure is!"

"Interesting how countless rap songs encourage murder sprees, drug dealing, pimping, and countless other crimes, and they're celebrated by the media, but a video by a country singer about self defense and neighbors looking out for each other is banned."

That's the top-rated comment on the Jason Aldean video "Try That in a Small Town" (YouTube).

I looked that up and watched it after noticing the NYT article "Jason Aldean Video for ‘Try That in a Small Town’ Pulled Amid Backlash/The country singer, who released the song in May, said the tune is an ode to the 'feeling of a community' he had growing up. Critics say it is offensive."

"When I asked a Pikeville, Ky., businessman why he thought the Democratic Party had become 'unhinged,' Henry, as I’ll call him here..."

"... studied his cellphone, then held it for me to see a video of two transgender activists standing on the White House lawn in Pride week. One was laughingly shaking her naked prosthetic breasts, the other bare-chested, showing scars where breasts had been cut away. The clip then moved to President Biden saying, 'these are the bravest people I know.'"

Said the Berkeley sociologist Arlie Hochschild, quoted in a NYT op-ed by Thomas B. Edsall, titled "'Gut-level Hatred' Is Consuming Our Political Life."

"They’re taking really fun technological toys out into the desert and experimenting and trying new things, and basically screwing with ravens—which is a hilarious concept."

"We just have to change the cost-benefit ratio inside the bird’s head, so that it chooses somewhere different, away from tortoise habitat. Very cautious optimism is how I feel. After a lifetime of observing this thing that was falling apart, the work we’re doing has injected an element of hope.... We just have to change the cost-benefit ratio inside the bird’s head, so that it chooses somewhere different, away from tortoise habitat.... The idea is just to make the haunted landscape where there’s just no relief from the surprises, and all the surprises are bad."

From "Can You Save One Species by Annoying Another? In 'Eco-Hack!,' the filmmakers Brett Marty and Josh Izenberg document a conservation biologist’s novel strategy for rescuing the desert tortoise: booby traps" (The New Yorker). I'm quoting filmmaker Brett Marty in the post title and conservation biologist Tim Shields in the text of the post.

On behalf of the tortoises, they are tormenting the ravens. The "booby-traps" include "laser emitters on terrestrial rovers" and "3-D-printed fake tortoises laced with artificial grape flavoring." There are also drones that spray oil on the ravens' eggs, which I wouldn't call a "booby-trap." It's not a trap. The animal doesn't fall for it. It's a simple attack on the unborn. But it's okay — isn't it? — because ravens bad, tortoises good. And are we to have fun watching men having fun carrying out this anti-bird agenda? Does the pro-tortoise purpose give license?

July 18, 2023

Sunrise — 5:26, 5:38.



Joe Rogan is thinking about The Hulk.

"In both films, the [Barbie] doll ultimately decides she must leave her home."

"For [Karen] Carpenter, this precedes an attempt at healing, away from well-meaning if destructive family dynamics. For Margot Robbie’s Barbie, her journey leads her to discovering true power in the real world, outside Barbieland’s colourful confines. Both films imagine the home as a place of repression, and dolls as a vessel for often contradictory ideas about domesticity, femininity and self-realisation."

The Todd Haynes film using Barbie as Karen is "Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story." It's existed since 1987, but litigation made it unavailable until recently. You can watch the whole thing at that link. From the Guardian article:

The shockingly lazy conversion of office space into a $520,000 residence.

I'm reading a Guardian article —"‘Soul-crushing’: converted Bay Area office apartment fail goes viral/Turning offices to residences is touted as a housing fix for a work-from-home era, but a $520,000 listing takes the brief too literally" — that's basically just all about this horrifying TikTok video:

"The book’s popularity seemed to be fueled in part by the recent re-election of President George W. Bush..."

"... many of whose critics viewed his administration, with its purported dismissal of what one Bush aide called the 'reality-based community,' as exemplifying the very blitheness about truth that Professor Frankfurt had described."

From "Harry G. Frankfurt, Philosopher With a Surprise Best Seller, Dies at 94/He spent his career exploring will and deceit. Then came a sudden success: a bluntly titled book that found that one strain of dishonesty with a barnyard name was worse than lying."

The headline makes it seem as though the NYT doesn't think it's "fit to print" that blunt title — "On Bullshit" (paid link) — but the title does appear in the first paragraph and the word "bullshit" appears over and over in the text of the obituary. The key insight:

"Barely one-in-five voters think affirmative action programs have been successful..."

"... and about two-thirds approve of the Supreme Court’s decision striking down racial favoritism in university admissions. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 65% of Likely U.S. Voters approve of the court’s ruling in the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard case, including 49% who Strongly Approve. Twenty-eight percent (28%) disapprove of the Supreme Court’s decision, including 16% who Strongly Disapprove."
Rasmussen Reports reports.

Interesting poll results. Not surprising though. So why is it interesting? I'd say, because elite media treated the decision as if it was an outrage committed by a far right-wing Court. We were stirred up to think the Court had gone off the rails and done something drastic and damaging. But opinion wasn't swayed, or at least it wasn't swayed in the direction elite media tried to sway it. 

By the way, I sort of hated to put "Barely one-in-five voters think" in the post title. The hyphens are hinky and there's a lack of subject/verb agreement.

"In a nation of twelve million people, there have been at least a dozen massacres by gangs fighting over turf, killing more than a thousand Haitians last year alone."

"Women are routinely raped and men murdered; many of the victims are burned alive in their homes. Since the beginning of the year, according to a U.N. report, another thousand people have been kidnapped, and at least two thousand killed, including thirty-four police officers. Last fall, a gangster known as Barbecue took over the city’s main fuel port for nearly two months, causing devastating shortages of gas, food, and water, with half of Haiti’s population afflicted by acute hunger...."

"Up until that point in my life, in conformance with King Frederick II’s proscription against inebriation among falconers, I had resolved..."

"... never to use drugs or alcohol. In fact, I hadn’t even tasted coffee. However, I had recently gathered from my favorite comic book, Turok, Son of Stone, that hallucinogens might allow me to see dinosaurs, which I greatly desired. [The person offering it] assured me that this was a near certainty, so I swallowed the LSD, which more than delivered on his promise. Buildings melted like wax candles; trees bowed and swayed on a windless night; bright lights with long comet tails lent Hyannisport the cheery aura of Christmas in July.... Still tripping, I rode into Hyannis with two older kids and struggled in a Main Street diner with a plate of lively white noodles that squirmed and squeaked as I stabbed at them with my fork. I became suddenly appreciative of the impossibly complex choreography of minute movements required by my mouth and its various parts in order to chew and swallow food. Abandoning that endeavor, I looked up to see a picture hanging behind the counter of my father, Uncle Jack, and Jesus. All of them had their hands folded in prayer.... Two days later I flew to South America.... I worked during July and August as a ranch hand in the Colombian llanos, returning that fall to Millbrook.... My generation was developing its own counterculture. That summer’s Woodstock concert—just across the Hudson from Millbrook—was our constitutional convention.... I... read underground newspapers and Mr. Natural comics.... I thought of drugs as the fuel of the insurrection...."

Writes Robert F. Kennedy Jr., in  "American Values/Lessons I Learned From My Family." 

It was the summer of '69. Perhaps you remember it. RFK Jr. was 15. 

Millbrook was the private boarding school RFK Jr. attended, chosen by him because "it operated a certified zoo and several of the boys practiced falconry." The place was the alma mater of William F. and James Buckley. James would go on, in 1970, to win the Senate seat that had belonged to RFK Sr.

July 17, 2023

Queen Anne's Lace in the wind at dawn.


Open thread in the comments.

"Everything that you think is solid is actually fleeting and ephemeral. The only thing that is quasi-permanent..."

"... would be a book or work of art or photographs or something. Anything you create that transcends time is in some ways more real than the actual reality of your life. If you set your hand on fire right now, it’s ephemeral. It would hurt, but Plato would say it’s not as real as something that transcends time. I am a person who was married, and was very happily married. Yet, that’s all gone now. Where is it?... People are seduced by the beauty of the close-at-hand, and they don’t have the discipline or the predilection or the talent, maybe, to say: 'I’m not going to go out tonight. I’m not going to waste my time on Twitter. I’m going to have five hours and work on my novel.' If you did that every day, you’d have a novel. Many people say, 'I’m going to pet my cat' or 'I’m with my children.' There’s lots of reasons that people have for not doing things. Then the cats are gone, the children move away, the marriage breaks up or somebody dies, and you’re sort of there, like, 'I don’t have anything.'... But if you read Ovid’s 'Metamorphoses,' Ovid writes about how, if you’re reading this, I’m immortal. You see that theme in Shakespeare’s sonnets. You're reading this, so I'm still alive...."

Said Joyce Carol Oates in a NYT interview.

Oates was married from 1961 to 2008 and from 2009 to 2019. Both marriages ended when the husband died.

"Whereas politics attend to concrete social matters, every great work of art is itself the manifest solution to a totally invented problem."

"Only in the artist’s psyche was the problem ever real. No artwork ever had to exist, nor be made to exist as it was.... [T]he arts suffer because they have been overtaken by a perversion of the democratic spirit. Political art has been prominent; derivative, pedantic, unambitious, historically ignorant, shallow, designed-by-committee art has been more prominent still. Great artworks may or may not be difficult but are always ruthlessly singular expressions, their nature aristocratic. A culture valuing inclusion above all else will never know its masterpieces."

Gribbin discusses the platitude "All art is political." In that context, she quotes Toni Morrison:

"The agenda being pursued has deep roots in the decades-long effort by conservative legal thinkers to undercut what has become known as the administrative state..."

"... agencies that enact regulations aimed at keeping the air and water clean and food, drugs and consumer products safe, but that cut into business profits. Its legal underpinning is a maximalist version of the so-called unitary executive theory.... [T]he [unitary executive] theory’s adherents argue that Article 2 of the Constitution gives the president complete control of the executive branch, so Congress cannot empower agency heads to make decisions or restrict the president’s ability to fire them."


I'm trying to read this Guardian column, by Alexis Petridis, about the death of the actress/singer Jane Birkin, "Je T’Aime … Moi Non Plus was the succès de scandale of 1969 – but Jane Birkin’s music was far more than that/In her collaborations with Serge Gainsbourg, Birkin left a permanent mark on pop – and her underrated solo albums of dark, strange songs are ripe for rediscovery." 

It's rough going:

July 16, 2023

Wildflowers at dawn.


Talk about whatever you want in the comments.

(Note state capitol building in the background.)

"These are the kind of comments that might provoke some judges to issue a gag order.... Trump is likely trying to provoke a legal battle so he can portray himself as a victim of censorship ...

"... as well as government abuse.... He wants that to be the narrative, to fundraise and make himself the victim. Smart judges avoid unnecessary fights and don’t want to be trolled." 

Said Ken White, "a former federal prosecutor who... cited the case of longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone, who in 2019 was ordered not to post about his own charges on social media after demonstrating what a federal judge called 'middle-school behavior' online that could influence potential jurors."

Quoted in "Trump’s outbursts met with silence so far by prosecutor, judge/Other defendants might get in trouble for publicly calling the prosecutor a deranged drug user. Not Donald Trump" (WaPo).

Why would Trump debate?

ADDED: I want to see him in the debate, but the reasons against participating are obvious and strong. So join me in brainstorming reasons why he should participate. I'm thinking it would demonstrate courage and confidence — bravado. It would be consistent with a positive image of his character. 

"COVID-19. There is an argument that it is ethnically targeted. COVID-19 attacks certain races disproportionately. "

"The races that are most immune to COVID-19 are — because of the genetic structure, um, genetic differentials among different races, of the, um, of the receptors, of the [unintelligible] receptor, um,  COVID-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and, uh, and, uh, black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and, uh, and Chinese, and, but we don’t know that it was deliberately targeted or not but there are papers out there that show the, you know, the racial and ethnic differential and impact to that. We do know that the Chinese are spending hundreds of millions of dollars developing ethnic bioweapons, and we are developing ethnic bioweapons. That's what all those labs in the Ukraine are about. They're collecting Russian DNA, they're collecting Chinese DNA, so we can target people by race."

That's my transcription of the video available at the NYP article with the headline "RFK Jr. says COVID may have been ‘ethnically targeted’ to spare Jews." The headline focuses on only one of the alarming things in the quote and it misstates what he said.

"I never thought about threatening companies as a free-speech issue that courts would get involved with."

"Let me give you an example. If you had told me four years ago that the White House press secretary had got up and said, 'I have a message from President Trump. If CNN airs one more criticism of me, I am going to try and block its next merger,' I would’ve imagined that there would be a lot of outrage about that. What I could not have imagined was a judge releasing an injunction saying that people who worked for President Trump were not allowed to pass on the President’s message from the White House podium. It would be an issue for voters to decide. Or, I suppose, CNN, during the merger decision, could raise the issue and say, 'See, we didn’t get fair treatment because of what President Trump said,' and courts could take that into account. But the idea of blocking the White House press secretary from saying anything seems inconceivable to me."

I like that Chotiner makes the hypothetical about Trump. The facts in the actual litigation are about the Biden administration, and one can expect New Yorker readers to lean toward approving of whatever Biden's people saw fit to do. So it's good to flip the facts.

Lakier says:

"[U]ses of the 'gaze' today—be it the male gaze, the white gaze, the straight gaze, and so forth—seem more invested in matters of identity..."

"... than in the project of aesthetic analysis. They want to name who is doing the looking rather than how. (No wonder Cate Blanchett, in an interview for the 2015 live adaptation of 'Cinderella,' misheard a question about the “Disney villain gaze” as 'Disney villian gays.')"

The Mulvey essay, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," popularized the term "male gaze." We were expected to understand the process of looking as a process of projecting — the "gaze projects its fantasy onto the female figure, which is styled accordingly." 

"A substance that has long been associated with parties could be mainstreamed and medicalized..."

"There could come a day when MDMA is associated less with feeling good than with trying to get better.... In the late nineteen-nineties, a psychiatrist named Charles Grob published a study showing that MDMA could be safely administered in a medical setting. His researchers administered the drug at a hospital to volunteers.... The only person who had a problem with the tests, he reported, was the head nurse. She was annoyed that her nurses were neglecting their duties, instead choosing to spend time with the study participants. 'The subjects were so empathetic and interested in the lives of the nurses,' Grob wrote, that the nurses gravitated to them, eager to talk. One of the peculiarities of MDMA is that it turns its users into listeners.... [T]he sexiness associated with MDMA might not be one of its intrinsic properties; instead, the drug might work more broadly to deepen our interest in others. Therapy is a social pursuit: a good therapist provides not just insight and tools but a relationship in which it’s possible to change. When someone takes MDMA in the presence of a therapist, they might feel more supported and secure in this bond, and more able to dredge up painful feelings or hard memories without being overwhelmed by fear or shame...."

And, reading this, let me add, look out for the transformation of anything that you've thought of as sexual into something that isn't sexual at all. 

"If a digital replica of you — without your bothersome need for money and the time to lead a life — can do the job, who needs you?"

Asks James Poniewozik in "We Are All Background Actors/Why should you care about the strikes in Hollywood? Because they are much more than a revolt of the privileged" (NYT). 

You could, I guess, make the argument that if someone is insignificant enough to be replaced by software, then they’re in the wrong business.... 

“We are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines,” Fran Drescher, the actors’ guild president, said in announcing the strike.... 

You may think of Hollywood creatives as a privileged class, but if their employers think about them like this, are you sure yours thinks any differently of you?... 

You may never notice background actors... Yet they’re the difference between a sterile scene and a living one. They create the impression that... there is a full, complete universe....

Poniewozik, the TV critic for the NYT, interweaves 3 themes that I think are quite different and I'd like to separate: 

1. The work done by background actors — how valuable it is to us, the viewers, who ought to want movies and TV shows made with real actors filling out the scenes. 

2. The need to make acting a good enough career with a reliable income for a wide swath of human beings. They'd like to pay you for one day's work, while they scan your face, a face they could then use a million times, instead of hiring a thousand actors a thousand times.

3. The extent to which computers are coming to replace all human workers. Time for all of us to dig in and resist the threat?

Are any — or all — of these concerns enough to outlaw the face-scanning shortcut? Let's keep the 3 ideas separate:

1. If there is aesthetic value to using real background actors, then it's like other aesthetic choices — e.g., shooting on location — that increase the cost of a production. We, the viewers, make the ultimate choice. If we love and lavish money on expensive productions with more elaborate realism, then we might get more of them. But we might also love movies and TV shows that wouldn't be made at all if the costs weren't kept down. 

2. This is the real labor issue. The actors have a union and they are sticking together. And yet Poniewozik's argument is that they are us. How so? 

3. Here, maybe we are all doomed. Is it time to wake up?