September 16, 2023

Sunrise — 6:33, 6:40.



"There’s something poignant about watching a guy who used to delight in his Irish gift of gab be muzzled."

"In interviews when he was a senator and then vice president, Biden could easily give a 45-minute answer to the first question. Heaven help anyone who tried to nix the prolix pol back then. But now, when I watch him cut himself short, or get cut short by his staff, I get an image of a yellow Lab gamboling smack into an electric fence. When the president stops himself and says, 'Am I giving too long an answer?' or 'Maybe I’ll stop there,' or 'I’m going to get in real trouble,' he seems nervous that his handlers might yank his choke collar if he rattles on.... [H]is staff reinforces the impression of a fragile chief executive by overmanaging him and white-knuckling all his appearances. By publicly treating him as though he’s not in control of his faculties, by cutting him off mid-thought as though he’s faltering and needs caretaking, they play into the hands of Trumpsters....  But Biden needs to start looking like he’s in command. His staff is going to have to roll with him and take some risks and stop jerking the reins...."
Writes Maureen Dowd, in "Go With the Flow, Joe!" (NYT).

This is similar to something I said 5 days ago, here, after listening a speech that had been called "mumbling" and "rambling": "I don't see a problem. Biden ought to do more news conferences and show this level of engagement and competence. It's fine."

By the way, do you think Dowd is part of an effort to get Biden to bow out of the race? With his staff holding him back, he's neither here nor there. He's not impressing people enough to build the support he needs to defeat Trump, and he's also not risking making gigantic gaffes that will take him out. If he's let go, and he talks freely, he'll do one or the other. Dowd probably knows which, and maybe she's luring him out to set him up. 

"As her taxi approached Russell Brand’s home, Alice remembers the driver begging her not to go inside."

"Recognising the destination, he had started to ask questions. Alice admitted she was 16 and still in school. She says the driver replied that his daughter was the same age and entreated Alice: 'Please, I’m asking you not to go in there, you could be my little girl, and I would want someone to do this for her.' He offered to take her home without charge, but Alice insisted she was fine.... During a relationship that lasted for about three months when Brand was a BBC radio presenter, she says that he referred to her as 'the child'..."

From "Russell Brand accused of rape, sexual assaults and abuse new/Four women, including one who was just 16, make allegations after an investigation by The Sunday Times, The Times and Channel 4 Dispatches" (London Times). 

"[T]he people who really believe that the Biden family is corrupt are Republicans. Unsurprisingly, Democrats are much less convinced..."

"... that the president did something wrong, and independents are also pretty divided. Of course, it’s possible that more coverage of the allegations motivating the impeachment inquiry — and any concrete evidence that might get turned up along the way — could change people’s minds, or at least persuade some of the ones who are undecided."

Why would anyone be "convinced" at this point? 

The question whether you're convinced insures that the answers will reflect one's political position. I'd be interested in knowing whether people admit they don't know and maintain an openness to persuasion.

I think Biden supporters should be deeply troubled that 10% of Democrats are already convinced Hunter Biden "[f]unneled millions of dollars to his father in a long-running scheme to help Joe Biden profit off of his position."

But here's FiveThirtyEight stressing that "Most aren't convinced." 

"It is clear this is not about a handful of badly trained dogs - it is a pattern of behaviour and it cannot go on."

Said UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, quoted in "American bully XLs to be banned as dog attack victim named" (BBC).
And Tory peer secretary Lord Baker... [said t]he American bully XL was "born to be aggressive and bred to be aggressive," he said, adding they had "no place in the large dog-loving public of the country".

Here's a Guardian article from last month, "Perfect pets or dangerous dogs? The sudden, surprising rise of American bully XLs/Of the 10 fatal dog attacks in the UK last year, more than half involved a bully XL. But plenty of British owners love the breed. Should it be better regulated – or outright banned?":

"What utter nonsense. If this many men were thinking about the Roman Empire every day, they would not be voting for Republicans..."

"... who are working hard to cause the collapse of the American Empire. They're thinking about Rome as depicted in Marvel movies and other pop culture fluff. They think the NLF [sic] are gladiators and so are they as they watch from their couches or tailgates. They don't know beans about the Roman Empire because that would require reading and studying and learning to look at the world with a contextual perspective. The internet makes smart people smarter and dumb people dumber. And dumber. And dumber."

That's the top-rated comment — from someone named Paula — on the NYT article, "Are Men Obsessed With the Roman Empire? Yes, Say Men. Women are asking the men in their lives how often they think about ancient Rome. Their responses, posted online, can be startling in their frequency."

This post continues a discussion begun yesterday, about a trend on TikTok of women asking men how often they think about the Roman Empire and expressing amazement at the answer.

"That’s up to them if they want to do impeachment or impeachment inquiry. I have no idea whether they will or not, we do have a lot of other things. But it’s quite important, and they did it to me."

Said Trump, quoted in "Trump keeps distance from impeachment inquiry while assailing Biden/The former president has shown more interest in lobbying to expunge his own impeachments" (WaPo).

I like the elegance of his distancing: "But it’s quite important, and they did it to me."

They did it to me.... 

Without choosing one or the other, Trump invokes 2 of the greatest concepts in the history of human ethics: The Golden Rule and Tit For Tat.

September 15, 2023

Sunrise — 6:38, 6:39.



"Kim Davis is ordered to pay $100,000 to same-sex couple she denied marriage license."

NPR reports.

I'm blogging this because I blogged so much about Kim Davis back in 2015. Click on the Kim Davis tag to see what I said back then. I'll flag this one as the most helpful.

Yesterday's TikTok trend: Women have no idea how often men think about the Roman Empire.

I was inundated — as I scrolled through what TikTok selected for me — with clips of women asking their men how often they think about the Roman Empire. It was as if TikTok had built an aqueduct to deliver these things. 

And now this morning I'm seeing mainstream news covering the trend.

"Your blatant efforts achieved your goal as the U.S. Attorney in Delaware today filed gun charges against our client..."

"... charges that are unprecedented when not part of some other criminal conduct and have been found unconstitutional by a federal court of appeals — and who reversed his earlier decision that such charges were not warranted. Your improper interference now affecting a federal prosecutor is a much greater threat to society than the 11 days that Mr. Biden possessed an unloaded gun."

"I can’t describe the feeling it gives you. It reminded me of when other cultures say, 'Don’t take my picture because it is taking away your soul.'"

Said Tim Burton, quoted in "Tim Burton hits out at ‘disturbing’ AI, likens it to a robot ‘taking’ your soul" (CNN). 

He was referring to a Buzzfeed article that used AI to rework Disney movies — “Frozen,” “The Lion King,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and “The Little Mermaid” — into Tim Burton movies.

"It takes something from your soul or psyche; that is very disturbing, especially if it has to do with you. It’s like a robot taking your humanity, your soul."

Presumably, if a human being worked up the same idea — in Mad Magazine, for example — it wouldn't be disturbing. It would be the grand old tradition of satire and parody. But it's just too easy for AI to run with ideas like this and produce a fully realized image.

Here's the Buzzfeed article. Actually, the images are not very good. They get boring very fast. Maybe it hurts Burton's feelings that his style is banal. Why does he feel AI is stealing his "soul"? If he's an artist, he should have way more soul than anything that's reflected in these pictures, which seems to be an idiotic attachment to big-eyed girls.

"I think it’s very unlikely. What, what did I do wrong? I didn’t do anything wrong. You mean because I challenge an election, they want to put me in jail."

Said Donald Trump, quoted in "Trump says it's 'very unlikely' he'd pardon himself if elected/In an interview with NBC's 'Meet the Press' former President Donald Trump said that in his final days in office, he told people, 'The last thing I’d ever do is give myself a pardon'" (NBC News).
"People said, 'Would you like to pardon yourself?' I had a couple of attorneys that said, 'You can do it if you want.'... I had some people that said, 'It would look bad if you do it, because I think it would look terrible.'... Let me just tell you. I said, 'The last thing I’d ever do is give myself a pardon.'... I could have had a pardon done that would have saved me all of these lawyers and all of this — these fake charges, these Biden indictments."

Very unlikely ≠ impossible.

The last thing ≠ a thing that will never happen.

Of course, Trump is reserving the option of pardoning himself. But for now, running for office — for the position that will be necessary if he is ever to pardon himself — he asserts his innocence. 

"At first glance, the book is just 26 pages of beautiful women with impressive bone structure, surrounded by or covered in flowers. But look closer..."

"... and you’ll see that some don’t have the right number of fingers, or the fingers are elongated to create spooky alien hands. The $7.95 paperback... available on Amazon, has all the hallmarks of being generated by artificial intelligence. It’s self-published by an unknown author with no internet history.... The images all have some kind of distortion or oddity that is typically associated with AI, such as incorrect body proportions and at least one mix-up between a flower and a breast."

So this article will be useful until AI stops making stupid mistakes like wrong number of fingers or spookily elongated hands. What's "typically associated with AI" is transitory, and AI is getting better all the time.

It's funny to worry about protecting people who buy adult coloring books. You can see at the Amazon page what the pictures look like. If you want to color something like that, why would you care how the images were generated? 

But maybe WaPo will help us with more complicated consumer decisions — like genre novels and inspiring memoirs and self-help books. Let's see...

September 14, 2023

Sunrise — 6:40.

IMG_3420 2


Photo by Meade:


"[W]ere Biden to step down, Harris would become the Democratic front-runner.... Yet her conspicuous weaknesses would ensure a contested primary."

"Therefore, the end result of Biden stepping down would be a long, divisive intraparty contest that would quite likely yield a nominee even more unpopular than Biden. Given this outlook, the Democrats are well advised to stick with the incumbent president who’s already proven capable of defeating Trump, his advanced age notwithstanding.... Letting Biden run again to avoid nominating Harris does not solve the problem posed by her unpopularity, but merely postpones it [to 2028].... Further, even with Biden running, Harris’s lack of political support remains a challenge for the Democratic ticket in 2024.... Taking the unusual step of dropping [the first person of Black or South Asian descent] from the ticket could plausibly offend and demotivate those who saw her election as a historic triumph.... If Harris were to become an administration critic or fan the flames of backlash (even covertly), then replacing her would obviously be more damaging than retaining her on the ticket. The party would therefore need to secure her buy-in, perhaps through the promise of a Supreme Court nomination or some other coveted post...."

Writes Eric Levitz, in "The Case for Biden to Drop Kamala Harris" (NY Magazine).

If this is to be done, it would require Kamala Harris to withdraw and to assert that it was her decision. But I think even if they could convince her to put on this show, she wouldn't be able to make the assertion credibly. She's a terrible speaker. She'd look elbowed out. It would be awful.

"On the night of November 10, 1619, René Descartes dreamed that he was stumbling down the street pursued by ghosts."

"His right side was weak, and a whirlwind spun him violently on his left foot; he limped past a man whom he suddenly realized he knew, then turned to speak to a different man, who told him to go see Monsieur N., who had something to give him. Descartes knew what it was: a melon. A lesser thinker might have seen in this dream a craving for cantaloupe. But, to Descartes, its vividness seemed to suggest a clear disjunction between the body and the mind: in dreams the body lies dormant while the mind runs free...."

"The DNC seems to have forgotten the purpose of the modern primary system, which is to replace backroom crony politics with a transparent democratic process...."

"We live in a time when a growing number of Americans think that democracy is broken and that the political system is rigged. The DNC's recent actions confirm this outlook."

Writes Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in "The Democratic Party Rigs the Primaries" (Wall Street Journal).

"I would talk to you differently knowing no right-wing conservatives could run with what I say. I shut down sometimes..."

"I was such a good little kid and I had so much love and I trusted everyone I met.... [My parents] are trying to learn how to be parents to a daughter while also watching their child get reamed.... As a parent, you’re trying to protect your child, and if transness is the thing that is being used against me, they have a hard time sometimes seeing that it’s actually a beautiful thing.... I think hopefully years from now we’ll look back on this time period and be like, What the fuck was that?... I don’t want to be the one that’s scared, the one who’s controversial — that word, controversial, drives me fucking insane. What really makes me controversial? That I’m trans? That I’m hyperfeminine? That I make jokes? That I overshare? Because I actually like being myself or that, God forbid, I’m happy? Maybe that’s what makes me controversial. I don’t think I’ve actually fucked up majorly. I think that the world is fucked up. Cheers to that."

"Over the years, she filled it with leopard print, red carpet, crystal chandeliers, ornate gold upholstery, and a Pepto-pink marble bathroom...."

"One library has a portrait of leopards that hangs above a leopard-print couch and a leopard-print ottoman, both of which sit atop a leopard-print rug. The dining room features the kind of gold upholstered chairs one might have found in a hotel ballroom in 1990 and a gold-embossed fireplace.... Garish décor aside (which can be negotiated with the sale in the unlikely event that anyone should want it), the 17 rooms lack one significant — and costly — amenity: a full-size kitchen."

"I married a progressive woman. She did not make me change my name when we got married."

"The statement gets a chortle from women and silence by males. And quickly explains away why we have different last names.... I was surprised that the Times did not mention this."

Says a man commenting on the NYT article that's only about whether women do or don't take their husband's last name. 

I'm chortling at the NYT's embarrassing blindspot.

The Times quotes some sociologist who says, "[W]e adjust to the gender norms of our time, which, ‘Barbie’ notwithstanding, is not a very pro-feminist time period." That applies to the NYT too.

Do better.

"What 'Beans' says, basically, is that people don't listen at all."

That's Len Chandler, who "never achieved the name recognition of some of those with whom he shared stages and causes" but "did write at least one song with lasting appeal: 'Beans in My Ears,' which the Serendipity Singers turned into a Top 30 hit in 1964."

"I intended the comment as a mockery of lawyers. I laughed at the ridiculousness of how these incidents are litigated..."

"... and the ridiculousness of how I watched these incidents play out as two parties bargain over a tragedy." 

Said Daniel Auderer, vice-president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, in an effort to explain his joking and laughing after a Seattle police officer, speeding through a crosswalk, struck and killed a 23-year-old woman.

The speed limit was 25mph, and the car was going 74mph to get to the scene of a drug overdose. Auderer, at the scene of the crash, made a call to the union president. With his body camera on, he said, "She is dead," and, laughing, "No, it’s a regular person. Yeah. Just write a check. Eleven thousand dollars. She was 26 anyway. She had limited value.” 

September 13, 2023

Sunrise — 6:30.


"Nutt dislikes drawing on canvas except with charcoal, which he also dislikes, but for a different reason."

"He primes his canvases with gesso, making it not unlike a heavyweight paper.... Nutt doesn’t work on drawings and paintings simultaneously, switching when he becomes fed up with one or the other. About 25 years ago, the paintings began taking longer; eventually a full year to complete. He has been working on this one for the last seven.... His fixation on a single image also is a kind of refusal: of the constant demand for novelty, the endless churn of commercial production, of faddishness. It says we already have everything we need. As the title of his show puts it: Shouldn’t we be more careful?"

I really identify with the artist who feels annoyed by his own materials. He's also, we're told, "elliptical and impenetrable," "socially and conversationally hermetic," and "allergic to talking about himself."

"Mexican politicians were shown two mummified corpses this week that a UFO expert claimed are 'a clear demonstration' of 'non-human' aliens."

"The two bodies — with only three fingers on each hand and elongated ET-style heads — were displayed in windowed boxes Tuesday for a public congressional hearing on unidentified anomalous phenomena (UAPs)...."

The photos are hilarious:

"In January 2022, Dr. Kershnar appeared on a respected philosophy podcast, Brain in a Vat.... The guest presents a thought experiment..."

"... and the hosts spend the rest of the episode questioning the guest about it. Dr. Kershnar’s thought experiment was... 'Imagine that an adult male wants to have sex with a 12-year-old girl; imagine that she’s a willing participant... A very standard, a very widely held view is there’s something deeply wrong about this. And it’s wrong independent of it being criminalized. It’s not obvious to me that is, in fact, wrong....'... Dr. Kershnar is a 'Socratic gadfly' who goes around questioning fundamental assumptions, often quite annoyingly, to try to get at a clearer understanding of morality and why something is or is not wrong.... After LibsofTikTok posted clips of Dr. Kershnar’s podcast remarks on X..., the university was immediately deluged with demands for action.... Alumni threatened to stop giving money.... [T]he university received what officials described as threats of violence...."

"I don’t know how this would ever happen or what would have to happen to get this to change, but just as a whole, the parents, the community in general, just need to trust the teachers."

Said Allie Pribula, who taught elementary school in Pennsylvania from 2019 to the end of the last school year, quoted in "No One Wants to Be a Teacher Anymore. Can You Blame Them?" (NYT).
[There's a] crisis of teachers quitting because they were pushed to their limits by children’s pandemic-related behavioral and emotional setbacks, staffing shortages that forced them to take on roles beyond their normal remit, including lunch and bus duty, and... culture war vitriol.... [And f]ewer college and university students want to become teachers, and the new teacher pipeline is drying up....

"'You mean, that’s it?' I gasped. 'We have Zach again?' I added incredulously. If the worst thing humanly imaginable happened—i.e., Donald Trump’s reëlection—I will not sound more disbelieving or distraught...."

Writes Adam Gopnik, in "No, Not Aaron Rodgers! It’s hard to name a position in the history of sports so manifestly cursed as that of quarterback for the New York Jets" (The New Yorker).

I love the way Donald Trump intrudes himself even into an article about football almost as much as I love the diaeresis in "reëlection" and the screwy use of "happened" in "If the worst thing...  happened... I will not sound...."

"Biden has in many ways remade himself as president. He is no longer the garrulous glad-hander I met when I first covered Congress..."

"... more than four decades ago. He’s still an old-time pol, to be sure, but he is now more focused and strategic; he executes policies systematically, at home and abroad. As Franklin Foer writes in 'The Last Politician'... 'he will be remembered as the old hack who could.'... In a month or so... [i]t will be too late for other Democrats, including Harris, to test themselves in primaries and see whether they have the stuff of presidential leadership. Right now, there’s no clear alternative to Biden — no screamingly obvious replacement waiting in the wings. That might be the decider for Biden, that there’s seemingly nobody else...."

Writes David Ignatius in "President Biden should not run again in 2024" (WaPo).

Ignatius is tripping over himself. The somebody else is screamingly obviously Kamala Harris. If Biden steps aside there will be a grisly interlude in which Harris is destroyed. Who wants to see that? I mean, who wants to see that who doesn't wish the Democrats ill?

Blumenthal doesn't even mention Harris. He just says there's "no alternative," which is an obtuse way to say Harris is an unworkable alternative. 

"I knew not to try to quantify key aspects other than climate change in my research because it would dilute the story that prestigious journals like Nature and its rival, Science, want to tell."

Said Patrick T. Brown, quoted in "What happened when a scientist denounced his own climate change research/Patrick Brown said that, in a quest for a 'clean narrative,' editors and reviewers ignore factors beyond climate change" (WaPo).
Brown himself does not seem to be claiming any malfeasance on the part of the journal. He did not claim that the peer reviewers reading his work pushed him to focus more on climate — or that the journal’s editors pressured him to frame the study that way. Rather, he says that the problem is an overall culture of climate science: One that encourages focusing on climate variables (warming temperatures, drying vegetation) over other factors, like fuel loads (the amount of vegetation available to burn) and humans sparking wildfires....

"But local drug dealers had long since filled the void with heroin, which was being cut with fentanyl and carfentanil, a chemically related synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times stronger than fentanyl..."

"... and is normally used as an elephant tranquilizer. 'We’ve never been the same since. When we shut off the prescription pain pills, we opened the door unexpectedly to carfentanil and fentanyl being placed on the streets,' said Thomas W. Synan Jr., the police chief in Newtown, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati...."

So... what? Bring back prescription opiods?

"There's a quote people often falsely attribute to Eleanor Roosevelt — 'Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.'"

"Now, I don't think that — it's a ridiculously snobbish thing to say, and it requires a total misunderstanding of... well, of everything about humanity. Indeed, the first time something close to that (in slightly different wording) made it to print in 1901, it was followed by the comment 'The fact, of course, is that any of one’s friends who was incapable of a little intermingling of these condiments would soon be consigned to the home for dull dogs.' My own priorities in interest, though, do tend to follow that list to an extent. I am most interested in ideas... Less interesting, but still important, are events — the things like the social movements which shaped how the music was made... And to me, personally, the least interesting part is the details of people's individual lives — their marriages and divorces, their drug addictions and recoveries, and so on."

Says Andrew Hickey, answering questions from his supporters at Patreon. If you're a fan of Hickey's "A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs," I strongly recommend paying for access to the Patreon extras.

Hickey goes on to say that the details of an artist's life are "intertwined in the creation of the work in ways that mean you *can't* talk about one without the other." And "You can't talk about Dylan's Blood on the Tracks without talking about how he was going through a divorce." 

"So What if a Candidate Livestreamed Sex Acts with Her Husband?"

For this story, I'm linking to Jack Shafer at Politico, because his headline is — almost verbatim — the question I had for my search as I looked for an article about Susanna Gibson, a Democratic nominee for a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Matt Gaetz lambastes McCarthy: "Mr. Speaker, you are out of compliance with the agreement that allowed you to assume this role."


For the Annals of Men in Shorts.

Amazing to dress like that at a serious job, but other than that, I see no problem with his use of sarcasm. As far as I'm concerned, he can go on to all the tricks — irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes, and satire.

September 12, 2023

Sunrise — 6:25.


A walk in the sun.

Meade took a picture of me:

Screenshot 2023-09-12 at 1.43.21 PM

"I only got married because I was 37 years old … and people would think I was queer if I weren’t married."

Said JFK, according to a woman who worked with him during his Senate years, quoted in the first paragraph of "Tim Scott has a woman problem/Like nagging parents, some Republicans want to know why the presidential candidate has never been married" (Boston Globe).
[Tim Scott] has never been married. There is no indication that he has plans to get married. And that’s a problem for some Republicans who, like nagging parents, want to know why Scott, 57, is unmarried.
That article was published a week ago. I ran across it this morning after doing a search prompted by this headline in today's Washington Post: "Tim Scott’s girlfriend/The unmarried Republican presidential candidate doesn’t like talking about his new relationship very much. But he is talking about it."

Much has been made of Mississippi’s stringent rule preventing third-grade students from moving to fourth if they aren’t reading proficiently...."

"[A]n analysis homing in on the inaugural group of Mississippians subject to the state’s rule concluded that repeating third grade resulted in significantly higher reading scores in sixth grade — with Black and Hispanic students showing particular improvement.... [But i]t is impossible to disentangle retention itself from all that comes with it... after-class tutoring, for example, or specialized instruction during the school day... In Mississippi, literacy coaches have been painstakingly selected, trained and monitored by the state and dispatched to perform one job: supporting teachers as they learn, and learn to teach, the science of reading.... [R]etention done absent such a strategy is retention done wrong — and it might hurt more than it helps. That’s why obsessing over retention as some sort of magic solution to learning loss is the wrong approach...."

Writes the Editorial Board of The Washington Post, in "Holding kids back can’t explain Mississippi’s education ‘miracle.'"

The editorial refers to "the science of reading" but doesn't mention phonics, and yet, right in the middle of it, there's a link to WaPo Editorial Board opinion from last March: "Cut the politics. Phonics is the best way to teach reading."

What's the evidence that Mississippi is looking at retention as a "magic solution"? Isn't it obvious that a strict retention rule lights a fire under everyone to strive very hard to save children from getting held back?

"The Siamese crocodiles, including 69 adults and 6 babies, were confirmed to be missing after about four months worth of rain...."

It says in "Dozens of escaped crocodiles lurking in floodwaters, Chinese city warns" (WaPo)

Maoming has some of the country’s largest crocodile farms, with crocodile skin manufacturing facilities in nearby cities. Crocodile meat is also a local delicacy. The farming and trade of live crocodiles is allowed under Chinese law, and cases of farmed reptiles running loose are not uncommon in the country....

"Douthat is highly skilled at addressing liberal Times readers in a manner that makes clear he is not one of them, without allowing them to think..."

"... that he actually holds views—about Donald Trump, say, or the importance of vaccines—that would render him beyond the pale...."

"[Cornel West's] presence in the 2024 race gives voters an exceptional choice for truth and justice beyond the corrupt and corrosive duopoly."

"Democracy means choice, it means options for voters, not coronations and vote-shaming. It is long past time to practice democracy rather than just pay it lip service."

"X, Elon Musk’s social media platform formerly known as Twitter, appears to be attempting to limit its users’ access to The New York Times."

"Since late July, engagement on X posts linking to the New York Times has dropped dramatically. The drop in shares and other engagement on tweets with Times links is abrupt, and is not reflected in links to similar news organizations including CNN, the Washington Post, and the BBC...."

We're told this might have something to do with "a broad shift in platforms over the last five years... toward a splintering in which Facebook has largely gotten out of the news business, Twitter has shifted increasingly toward becoming a conservative media company, and Google and Apple are the remaining the platform giants interested in distributing other outlets’ news."

That's so sloppily written I feel insulted putting my time into trying to understand it. There's been a "shift" in which "Twitter has shifted." The double "shift" tells you no one serious is proofreading over there. And what's the "splintering"? It sounds exciting, but the sentence just goes on to make vague, questionable assertions. My impression was that Twitter (AKA X) has stopped censoring conservative speech. If you think it now looks like "a conservative media company," perhaps you're observing how important censorship has been to the dominance of liberal speech in social media.

The next sentence in that Semafor article is: "X recently objected to a California law requiring the disclosure of content moderate, for instance, by citing first amendment protections for its editorial decisions." What is "content moderate"? A typo? 

There's a link to a Bloomberg article. I'm not able to read the whole thing, but it begins: "Elon Musk’s X Corp. sued California to undo the state’s law aimed at exposing sources of hate speech and disinformation by requiring social media companies to explain how they moderate their content."

So Semafor wrote "disclosure of content moderate" to mean disclosure of how content is moderated! I'd like Semafor to disclose how it goes about slapping articles together. 

September 11, 2023

At the Monday Night Café...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"[E]ven if we spend another year between now and the election carefully analyzing the structure and shape of the madhouse we’re locked in, it’s still a madhouse."

"As infuriating as it is to admit the electorate may choose another Trump term, the only answer may be to hold on to that truth. Rejecting reality only replicates Republicans’ errors that led to Trump’s rise. Exercise your reason, stay informed, understand what’s happening in all its detail. But at those times when you want to scream in fear and anger, don’t think you’re being foolish or irrational. It just means you can see what’s in front of you."

I can barely understand what Waldman in trying to say. He stresses "truth" and "reality," yet the truth/reality that he claims to see is that our country is a "madhouse." So hold onto that and never forget: We're locked in a madhouse! 

I guess one could approach life this way: I'm not crazy, the world is crazy. It allows you to distance yourself from other people: They're not worth understanding or even respect. You're right to fear and hate them. 

IN THE COMMENTS: Wince links to this:

And Quaestor adds:

"Isaacson... writes at length and with compassion about the indignities heaped upon young Elon by schoolmates."

"Elon, an awkward, lonely boy, was bored in school and had a tendency to call other kids 'stupid'; he was also very often beaten up, and his father frequently berated him, but when he was ten, a few years after his parents divorced, he chose to live with him. (Musk is now estranged from his father, a conspiracist who has called Joe Biden a 'pedophile President,' and who has two children by his own stepdaughter; he has said that 'the only thing we are here for is to reproduce.' Recently, he warned Elon, in an e-mail, that 'with no Whites here, the Blacks will go back to the trees.')..."

Writes Jill Lepore, in "How Elon Musk Went from Superhero to Supervillain/Walter Isaacson’s new biography depicts a man who wields more power than almost any other person on the planet but seems estranged from humanity itself" (The New Yorker).

"When, in the late sixties, the emergent radical-feminist movement began to advance a critique of heterosexuality, [Betty] Friedan found the focus on sexuality both crude and a bit naïve."

"'Young women only need a little more experience to understand that the gut issues of this revolution involve employment and education . . . not sexual fantasy,' she wrote in a memo.... Betty was intellectually serious, politically committed, and not very pretty. She craved romantic devotion from men that was not forthcoming. Her problem, one that would frustrate her for the rest of her life, was that she could not find a man who respected her as an equal and also wanted to sleep with her...."

"Stop Doing This To Your Blueberries."

"And I will continue, of course, to be a big part of NBC's political coverage, because, as Tom Brokaw said to me, he says, 'Look, some networks do some things well, but nobody does politics like NBC.'"

"And he was referring back all the way to David Brinkley. And that is sort of the tradition I've always sent from Brinkley to Russert. And that's the stuff I want to carry on. That's the stuff Kristen's going to carry on.... So that's all for today. Thanks for watching, and for so many years of loyalty to me and to this show. I'm happy to say my colleague, Kristen Welker, is going to be here next week. Because it doesn't matter who sits in this chair. If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press."

Said Chuck Todd, yesterday, on his last episode of "Meet the Press."

I'm watching Biden's press conference in Vietnam because I saw that Byron York said "He's clearly exhausted, mumbling, and rambling at times."

Link to York. Here's the whole thing:

Biden goes a long time, speaking clearly and lucidly. I don't think he seems "exhausted." He's an old man, but he has consistent energy. Near the end, the last questioner, "Anita from VOA," says "I hope you didn't think that calling only on woman would get you softballs tonight," and he gives us a little of that old-man quasi-feminism: "Oh, I know better than that."

Corny, jaunty... whatever. It's not "exhausted." He's "rambling"... along.

Is he "mumbling"? His voice is quiet and he speaks quickly and without crisply pronounced consonants… but he's not “mumbling” like a confused person.

Here's how he speaks at the end, 23 minutes into a fast-moving performance:

September 10, 2023

Sunrise — 6:35.

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"The pastel makeup and modest clothing that are the hallmark of 'good for marriage' style are based on Brilliant Girls, a 2021 drama..."

"... that centres around a woman who wants to get married as quickly as possible.... On China’s microblogging platform Weibo women have attacked the trend.... 'I’m desperately working towards the "difficult to marry style." I love exercising, shopping and I’m a super feminist who loves to argue,' said one woman in response to the trend. [Another] response... said... '[E]very day, there are people commenting... "I really want to marry a wife like this." Alright, we get it; you want a free housemaid.'..."

Chris Christie on Vivek Ramaswamy: "To me, he looks like the guy you wanted to stuff in the locker in the 11th grade."

"But he was there, a firsthand witness, and it is rare for new testimony to emerge six decades after the fact."

"He has never subscribed to the conspiracy theories and stresses that he is not promoting one now. At age 88, he said, all he wants is to tell what he saw and what he did. He will leave it to everyone else to draw conclusions...."

"Days after saying that an influx of over 110,000 asylum seekers was destroying New York City, Mayor Eric Adams on Saturday directed every city agency..."

"... to submit plans to reduce spending by up to 15 percent, while renewing his calls for state and federal help to manage the migrant crisis.... An estimated 10,000 migrants are arriving in New York each month, overwhelming the city’s homeless shelters, which now house more than 112,300 people. The city, which is required to provide shelter to anyone who asks for it, has opened more than 200 emergency sites to house migrants."

"The more uncertain you are about your sense of self, the more likely you are to join a group, which can give you guidance on 'what to think, how to feel and how to behave'...."

Writes Jessica Grose, in "I’m Not a Joiner. Was I Born That Way?" (NYT), quoting a psychology professor who studies group behavior.

Grose mentions book clubs but her focus is on joining religious groups:

I forgot to notice that yesterday was the 4-year anniversary of my sunrise project.

Compare my extensive analysis of the project on my first year anniversary — here — with many photos and the identification of 10 different sunrise types.

This year, I'm observing the anniversary a day late, but let me show you some of what are to me the most beautiful sunrises of this past year:






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"Across multiple polls, Biden seems to be losing support from minority voters.... This raises the possibility that there’s a social-issues undertow for Democrats...

"... in which even when wokeness isn’t front and center, the fact that the party’s activist core is so far left gradually pushes culturally conservative African Americans and Hispanics toward the G.O.P. — much as culturally conservative white Democrats drifted slowly into the Republican coalition between the 1960s and the 2000s."
Writes Ross Douthat, in "Why Is Joe Biden So Unpopular?" (NYT).

Douthat has various other ideas for answering that question: "Maybe some voters now just assume that a vote for Biden is a vote for the hapless Kamala Harris. Maybe there’s just a vigor premium in presidential campaigns that gives Trump an advantage." 

But not one word about the Hunter Biden scandal.

"At one point, Isaacson asks why Musk is so offended by anything he deems politically correct, and Musk, as usual..."

"... has to dial it up to 11. 'Unless the woke-mind virus, which is fundamentally anti-science, anti-merit and anti-human in general, is stopped,' he declares, 'civilization will never become multiplanetary.' There are a number of curious assertions in that sentence, but it would have been nice if Isaacson had pushed him to answer a basic question: What on earth does any of it even mean? Isaacson has ably conveyed that Musk doesn’t truly like pushback. Some of his lieutenants insist that he will eventually listen to reason, but Isaacson sees firsthand Musk’s habit of deriding as a saboteur or an idiot anyone who resists him. The musician Grimes, the mother of three of Musk’s children (the existence of the third, Techno Mechanicus, nicknamed Tau, has been kept private until now), calls his roiling anger 'demon mode' — a mind-set that 'causes a lot of chaos.' She also insists that it allows him to get stuff done...."

"The strangest thing about this harrowing circumstance is that no mainstream Democrat is challenging Biden for the nomination."

Writes Jonathan Chait, in "Biden or Bust/Why isn’t a mainstream Democrat challenging the president?" (NY Magazine).

What's so "strange" and "harrowing" about party discipline? The incumbent President is running for a second term. It's completely normal that he'll be his party's nominee. Chait doesn't concede that there's anything wrong with Biden, so his agonizing looks silly.

"The demand for a different option is robust. What is mystifyingly absent is the supply."

No, it's not mystifying. It's exactly what you would expect.

Chait dismisses RFK Jr. and Marianne Williamson as "a pair of kooks." Yes, it's kooky to challenge your party's incumbent President. You have to attack him. Yet Chait asserts that a challenger — some Senator (Warnock?) or Governor (Whitmer?) — could run and "maybe wouldn’t have to question Biden’s accomplishments"  (or differ much on his policy stances"). Chait invites them to limit their campaign to the fact that Biden is too old.

And it's supposed to be "strange" and "mystifying" that no one will undertake that doomed mission. Chait never even mentions that Kamala Harris is the Democrat officially waiting in the wings. How can any good Democrat elbow past her and say, no, me first?