October 14, 2023

At the Saturday Night Café...

... you can talk about whatever you want. 

"In the debate about whether to take the woke version of progressivism seriously as a revolutionary ideology or whether to regard it primarily as a kind of performative intra-elite signaling..."

"... the 'land acknowledgment' phenomenon has always loomed as the strongest exhibit for the it’s-all-just-performance case.... For instance, the Harvard Art Museums, their priceless collections attached to the country’s richest university, want you to know that they are 'located on the traditional and ancestral land of the Massachusett, the original inhabitants of what is now known as Boston and Cambridge.' Also, they 'pay respect to the people of the Massachusett Tribe, past and present.' A form of respect paying that leaves the obvious corollary unsaid: They have no intention of giving the land back! But now that comedy has been undermined, just a bit...."

Writes Ross Douthat, in "When ‘Decolonization’ Isn’t Just Academic Rhetoric" (NYT).

"This concern about public panic has been a leitmotif of the Covid-19 pandemic, even earning itself a name ('elite panic') among some scholars...."

"[R]epeated assurances against panic have arguably also preempted a more vigorous and urgent public health response—as well as perversely increasing public acceptance of the risks posed by coronavirus infection and the unchecked transmission of the virus. This 'moral calm'—a sort of manufactured consent—impedes risk mitigation by promoting the underestimation of a threat.... [S]ome experts and public figures have uncritically advanced the idea that if the public appears to be tired, bored, or noncompliant with public health measures, then the pandemic must be over. But pandemics are impervious to ratings; they cannot be canceled or publicly shamed. History is replete with examples of pandemics that blazed for decades, sometimes smoldering for years before flaring up again into catastrophe. The Black Death (1346–1353 AD), the Antonine Plague (165–180 AD), and the Plague of Justinian (541–549 AD), pandemics all, lacked the quick resolution of the 1918 influenza pandemic.... Conflating the spread of a disease with the way people feel about responding to that spread is deeply illogical—yet a great deal of the Biden administration’s management of Covid-19 has rested on this confusion...."

"To best support wildlife and soil health, experts say leaves should be left where they fall. A hearty leaf cover provides a habitat..."

"... during the cold winter months for critical pollinating species such as bees, butterflies and moths. Other critters including amphibians and small mammals like chipmunks can also benefit from shelter provided by leaves.... If you don’t want leaves all over your yard, experts suggest getting out the rake and moving them into garden beds, piles or to the edges of your property.... Leaves can act as mulch and a springtime weed suppressant.... If you’re concerned about leaves blowing back out into your yard, try wetting them down a little. If you have too many leaves, one option is to use a mulching mower to chop them up.... Experts said taking steps to leave leaves around your yard in the fall is just one part of a larger effort to move away from manicured lawns that are dead zones for many species, providing little to no habitat or nutrients for wildlife...."

I think you already know all this, but I like to restate it, because I look around my own neighborhood, which is full of very progressive people, and I still see many piles of leaves moved out to the terrace for pickup by the city's bulky collection vehicles. 

"An instructor at Stanford University.... asked Jewish and Israeli students to identify themselves... told [them to] stand in a corner, and said, 'This is what Israel does to the Palestinians'..."

"The instructor then asked, 'How many people died in the Holocaust?' When a student answered, 'Six million,' the lecturer said, 'Colonizers killed more than 6 million. Israel is a colonizer.'... The teacher 'didn’t say anything that happened to the Israelis.... He ignored that. He said, "Hamas is a legitimate representation of the Palestinian people. They are not a terrorist group. They are freedom fighters. Their actions are legitimate."... He’s saying Israel is worse than the Nazis and Hamas is innocent. This is what Jewish students face at Stanford and other places. They’re feeling isolated, under attack and threatened.'"

From "Stanford instructor removed for targeting Jewish students as ‘colonizers’ after Hamas attack on Israel/Stanford officials were also criticized for neutral language in initially failing to unambiguously condemn Hamas" (Forward)(quoting Rabbi Dov Greenberg, director of the Chabad Stanford Jewish Center, who was relaying what he heard from 3 students).

"I feel like people younger than I am have an idea of what [the] 90s were like that increasingly has little to do with..."

"... my actual lived experience of being a teenager/twenty-some[t]hing in the 90s. This clip in all of its awkward, heartbreaking, briefly, inexplicably lovely 'how did all of these people end up here together?' energy is exactly it for me"/"It’s remarkable how the vibe of everyone on-set changes when Elliott Smith starts playing the song, they all seem like people who’ve all fled their god’s command to seek truth and beauty, and then that song rises from the deep and swallows them all, even the puppet."

2 comments at Metafilter, reacting to this 1995 clip from the FX show "Breakfast Time."

Hosting the show are: 1. Tom Bergeron (later of "America’s Funniest Home Videos" and "Dancing With The Stars"), 2. Laurie Hibberd (AKA Laurie Gelman, who published a 2022 novel titled "Smells Like Tween Spirit"), and 3. Bob (a puppet):

Elliott Smith died, in 2003, of 2 stab wounds to the chest. He left a note: "I'm so sorry—love, Elliott. God forgive me.

"... Israel’s last two major wars... were both started by nonstate actors backed by Iran — Hezbollah from Lebanon in 2006 and Hamas from Gaza now — after Israel had withdrawn from their territories."

"And they both began with bold border-crossing assaults — Hezbollah killing three and kidnapping two Israeli soldiers in 2006 and Hamas brutally killing more than 1,300 and abducting some 150 Israeli civilians, including older people, babies and toddlers, in addition to soldiers. That similarity is not a coincidence. Both assaults were designed to challenge emerging trends in the Arab world of accepting Israel’s existence in the region. And most critically, the result of these surprise, deadly attacks across relatively stable borders was that they drove Israel crazy.... Since 2006, the Israel-Lebanon border has been relatively stable and quiet.... And while Israel did take a hit in terms of its global image because of the carnage it inflicted in Beirut, it was not nearly as isolated in the world or the Middle East over the short term or long run as Hezbollah had hoped. Hamas must have missed that lesson...."

Writes Thomas Friedman, in "Why Israel Is Acting This Way" (NYT).

If Friedman's use of the word crazy bothers you, you should read the whole column. He uses the word crazy (or a variation on crazy) 10 times.

As Friedman imagines it, Hamas, seeing Israel's increased acceptance in the Arab world, thought: "OK, Jews,

Given a new 4-3 liberal majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, "a liberal-backed legal complaint alleges Wisconsin’s decades-old school choice program violates the state Constitution and has created a 'funding death spiral' for public schools."

The Wisconsin State Journal reports.

The lawsuit, which was filed directly in the state supreme court, argues that the program violates the Public-Purpose Requirement and Uniform Taxation Clause.

"The college kids in America went full Trump and said there's very fine people on both sides."

"When I was a small child of, I think, about five or six, I staged a competition in my head, a contest to decide the greatest poem in the world."

"There were two finalists: Blake’s 'The Little Black Boy' and Stephen Foster’s 'Swanee River.' I paced up and down the second bedroom in my grandmother’s house in Cedarhurst, a village on the south shore of Long Island, reciting, in my head as I preferred, not from my mouth, Blake’s unforgettable poem, and singing, also in my head, the haunting, desolate Foster song. How I came to have read Blake is a mystery. I think there were a few poetry anthologies in my parents’ house among the more common books on politics and history and the many novels. But I associate Blake with my grandmother’s house. My grandmother was not a bookish woman. But there was Blake, The Songs of Innocence and of Experience, and also a tiny book of the songs from Shakespeare’s plays, many of which I memorized. I particularly loved the song from Cymbeline, understanding probably not a word but hearing the tone, the cadences, the ringing imperatives, thrilling to a very timid, fearful child. 'And renownèd be thy grave.' I hoped so."

That is the first paragraph of the Nobel Prize acceptance lecture given by Louise Glück, which I am reading this morning because I'm seeing the obituary for her in the NYT.

October 13, 2023

At the Red Leaf Café...

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... you can talk about whatever you want.

"House Republicans on Friday nominated Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, the hard-right chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to be their next speaker..."

"... but quickly postponed a floor vote to elect him as scores of their members refused to commit to backing him.... After a week of turmoil and disarray, Republicans sent their members home for the weekend late Friday afternoon with no resolution and no sense of when the feuding might end...."

"People moved by donkey carts, auto rickshaws, and cars, loaded with bags of clothing, mattresses, even a pair of cows."

"'A tuk-tuk would be carrying 15 people,' she said. “People are running red lights, no one is stopping.' Eventually, they reached Khan Yunis, taking refuge in a two-story house with more than 30 other people.... The cars that were on the road were completely full, some packed so tight that thin mattresses hung out of windows and blankets were wedged up against back windows. Some families were leaving on foot, calling out for cars to give them a ride.... 'There are no cars to take us anywhere,' [one woman] said. 'There is no gas in cars. Cab companies don’t have cars anymore. The streets are so, so, so, so crowded, it’s like it’s the Day of Judgement.'"

"There is also a peculiar effect whereby different books read by the same narrator can seem to agglutinate into a single mongrel super-book."

"The audiobooks of Norman Mailer’s 'Miami and the Siege of Chicago,' Steven Pinker’s 'The Sense of Style,' and Nabokov’s epic 'Ada' are all read by Arthur Morey, and I’ve begun to hear his circumspect and world-weary enunciation meld into an imaginary work in which the 1968 Republican convention is satirized between bouts of hectoring the reader about sentence construction, all in Nabokov’s wildly over-frosted late prose. Many of my beloved science-fiction audiobooks are read by Robertson Dean, whose voice sounds like a glob of pomegranate molasses falling off the edge of a spoon. It’s a good fit for techy near-future dystopias, at once hal-ishly flat and resonantly mellow, saying things like, '[she] lay staring up at a dim anamorphic view of the repeated insectoid cartouche' (that’s from William Gibson’s 'Zero History')."

"President Biden’s reelection effort will launch a pilot test of its 2024 organizing strategy... that aims to directly leverage the personal relationships of volunteers."

"The moves come as the Democratic National Committee has redirected its organizing efforts to a new smartphone app that encourages supporters to communicate with people in their own friend, family and community circles and then report those contacts back to the party’s voter file. This 'relational organizing' has become a growing part of Democratic campaigns for several cycles, outperforming traditional door-knocking and call sheet lists that volunteers have long used to contact strangers during campaigns...."

"But Obama is Biden’s boss. Guess you didn’t really know that... I think Obama is calling these shots..."

"There’s no question about that. No, I think Obama and Obama’s people certainly are calling the shots, not Biden."

It had seemed that Trump had just misspoken and said Obama when he meant Biden, as he was discussing Iran and Hamas: "It’s all coming through Iran. And Obama wants to he doesn’t want to talk about it."

But questioned by Kilmeade — "You mean Biden" — Trump said: "I also mean Obama... You know Obama and Biden. But Obama is Biden’s boss. Guess you didn’t really know that."

"So I don’t want to say anything off the cuff but I respect where you’re coming from."

Said Pete Buttigieg, quoted in "Climate protesters crash Buttigieg interview, chanting 'stop Petro Pete'" (The Hill).

As I was playing that video out loud, Meade said, "Why doesn't a Cabinet Secretary have better security?" And that made me think perhaps the interruption was considered desirable — by Buttigieg, by the Biden administration/campaign. It isn't hard to generate ideas about why getting interrupted by extreme and rude climate activists might be advantageous.

And yet Buttigieg's response was so weak.  As one protester proclaims — after Buttigieg is ushered out of the room — "He said he can't speak off the cuff!" 

If the interruption had been anticipated, Buttigieg should have been prepared with something like Ronald "I am paying for this microphone" Reagan. 

"Rapid advances in artificial intelligence have made it easy to generate believable audio, allowing anyone from foreign actors to music fans to copy somebody’s voice..."

"... leading to a flood of faked content on the web, sewing [sic] discord, confusion and anger. Last week, the actor Tom Hanks warned his social media followers that bad actors used his voice to falsely imitate him hawking dental plans. Over the summer, TikTok accounts used AI narrators to display fake news reports that erroneously linked former president Barack Obama to the death of his personal chef. On Thursday, a bipartisan group of senators announced a draft bill, called the No Fakes Act, that would penalize people for producing or distributing an AI-generated replica of someone in an audiovisual or voice recording without their consent...."

ADDED: It's funny to see "sewing discord" for "sowing discord"! If you were sewing discord, you'd be mending it, not scattering it about.

"If everyone would walk to the public library with an empty pack and come home with books for the whole family we’d be smarter, healthier and happier."

A comment on the NYT article "This Full-Body Workout Fits in a Backpack/Rucking, which is simply walking with a weighted backpack, is a great way to combine strength training and cardio without setting foot inside a gym."

The commenter's visualization is short-sighted. After the first time, you can walk both ways with a full pack. You can also just be a student/teacher, walking with the same textbooks, back and forth to school.

When I was a law professor, though, I used to cut up my casebooks into cover-free booklets so I could walk to school without carrying any significant weight. I thought that was the smart way to make getting to work healthful and pleasurable. I'd see the occasional ROTC student with a big knapsack or an earnest runner with weight plates in his backpack, but I'd never noticed the word "rucking."

October 12, 2023

At the Last Rose of Summer Café....


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Since the attacks by Hamas on Israel last weekend, Ukraine has sought to position itself as a friend of Israel, while asserting that Moscow would try to use the conflict..."

"... to drive a wedge between Ukraine and the countries that support it. Russia, for its part, has said that Israel’s war in Gaza shows the failure of the West and in particular U.S. policy in the region.... ... Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, Kyrylo Budanov, accused Moscow of sending weapons to Hamas that Russian forces had captured on the battlefield in Ukraine. He said this was an apparent attempt by the Kremlin to discredit President Volodymyr Zelensky’s government by making Israel think Ukraine was supporting Hamas.... Hamas’s attack on Israel has offered Ukraine’s government an opportunity to draw attention to links between Hamas and Iran.... Tehran has supplied thousands of exploding drones to Russia over the past year.... But the war between Israel and Hamas has come at a difficult moment for Ukraine, diverting attention from its own conflict at a time when its counteroffensive has made limited progress and there are signs that support from some of its allies may be slipping...."

"Now I only really see the upside of having lodgers..."

"... which means living with two wonderful people with whom I’ve become friends, who fill my cottage with jokes and fun and fascinating adventures and energy and life, who help me to make my home beautiful, bring up my puppy and throw dinner parties. It’s all the good things I remember about having flatmates, except the upside is that as the landlady I can get away with all the things I couldn’t do if I was a lodger, like stealing my flatmates’ milk and forgetting to turn the immersion heater off."

"Devo envisioned American culture evolving in the wrong directions, or devolving: dumbing down, losing individuality, succumbing to corporate imperatives..."

"... and treating people as machines while anesthetizing itself with consumption. Those trends, to put it mildly, have not reversed. 'We were noticing an exponential increase in a certain kind of dysfunction going on. And we labeled it,' said [Gerald] Casale, who is 75.... 'But it was mostly, you know, a smartass college guy being clever. I didn’t really think that we’d go where we went, because de-evolution is real. And this is beyond my worst dystopian nightmare.'"

"The left has always attracted certain people who relish the struggle against oppression primarily for the way it licenses their own cruelty..."

"... they are one reason movements on the left so reliably produce embittered apostates. Plenty of leftists have long fetishized revolutionary violence in poor countries, perhaps as a way of coping with their own ineffectuality. Che Guevara didn’t become a dorm room icon only for his motorcycle and rakish beret."
Writes Michelle Goldberg, in "The Massacre in Israel and the Need for a Decent Left" (NYT).
We also shouldn’t underestimate the role of antisemitism in warping people’s moral sentiments.

"I truly believe were there no Israel, no Jew in the world would be ultimately safe. It's the only ultimate guarantee."

 Said Joe Biden, yesterday, quoted in "White House clarifies Biden's claim he saw photos of terrorists beheading children in Israel-Hamas war/After the comments, the White House clarified that Biden had read news reports" (NBC News).

The clarification is that when he said "I never really thought that I would see and have confirmed pictures of terrorists beheading children," he was referring to hearing about these things, no literally seeing them.

"The humanitarian crisis was spiraling in the Gaza Strip as its sole power plant ran out of fuel and shut down on Wednesday..."

"... leaving already overwhelmed hospitals dependent on generators with a dwindling supply of a few days’ fuel. Nearly 340,000 people have been displaced by the conflict, according to the United Nations. The brutality and devastation of the Hamas attack was coming into clearer view...."

"The Green Party-Cornel West link-up promised to be a fusion of the largely white environmental movement and the social justice activism of West, author of the foundational tome Race Matters."

"And for Joe Biden and Democrats, the pairing could have quickly turned into a nightmare, forcing him to protect his left flank from an organized Green Party running a demi-celebrity with decades of progressive bona fides. But to hear West tell it, any cords holding this relationship together had frayed beyond repair."

"Once you’ve been dizzy for a while, it can be hard to tell when you’re feeling better."

"As I got used to going about daily activities, I sometimes asked myself: am I still dizzy, or not? What does a non-dizzy state even feel like? Lately, I have come to think of dizziness itself as an absence, not a presence. It is the opposite of balance—the foil to knowing where your body is in space. Many things have to be working properly for you to feel balanced; only one needs to malfunction to send your world spinning. This is why I had so much trouble talking about my dizziness. It’s like trying to describe a silence, or a shadow...."

"We said 'never again.' The UK was a safe haven. Now..."

"... after the biggest massacre of Jews since the holocaust, British Jewish children are being advised to hide their identities as they walk to school, for their own safety. There should be mass outrage that this is necessary."

Writes J.K. Rowling, at "X," showing us this letter to the editor of the London Times from London resident Dr Sarah Nachshen:
Sir, On advice from her school our teenage daughter has gone off without her blazer this morning. Her male classmates have been advised to cover their skullcaps with baseball caps. On her pre-school dawn run yesterday she ran past the broken glass of a kosher café’s windows and a fresh anti-Israel slogan painted on a bridge. All my grandparents were Holocaust survivors who found safe haven, and built new lives, in the UK, so of course I am twitching with latent anxiety and the creeping dangers of the masses not speaking out against terrorism. I sincerely hope Rishi Sunak honours his pledge to stand with Israel and protect British Jews. 

October 11, 2023

Sunrise — 6:58, 7:11, 7:19.



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"Disentangling race and politics in a situation like this is very, very difficult.... [It would be] breaking new ground in our voting rights jurisprudence."

Said Chief Justice John Roberts.

Quoted in "Justices Poised to Restore Voting Map Ruled a Racial Gerrymander/The case concerned a constitutional puzzle: how to distinguish the roles of race and partisanship in drawing voting maps when Black voters overwhelmingly favor Democrats" (NYT)("The difference matters because the Supreme Court has said that only racial gerrymandering may be challenged in federal court under the Constitution").

"Every Hamas member is a dead man. Hamas is ISIS, and we will crush and eliminate it just as the world crushed and eliminated ISIS."

Said Benjamin Netanyahu, quoted in "Israel’s New Unity Government Pledges to ‘Crush’ Hamas After forming a wartime cabinet, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a top rival, Benny Gantz, presented a united front to the Israeli people. Mr. Netanyahu also detailed more of the atrocities he said Hamas terrorists had committed" (NYT).

The prairie at 1:35 p.m....

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... and the prairie at 7:21 a.m....

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The drying out and fading stage is lovely too.

Talk about whatever you want in the comments.

"So, in this moment, we must be crystal clear: We stand with Israel. We stand with Israel."

"And we will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself, and respond to this attack. There is no justification for terrorism. There is no excuse. Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination. Its stated purpose is the annihilation of the State of Israel and the murder of Jewish people.... Like every nation in the world, Israel has the right to respond — indeed has a duty to respond — to these vicious attacks.... [I]f the United States experienced what Israel is experiencing, our response would be swift, decisive, and overwhelming."

"She realized that the sounds were different than those heard during the usual rocket attacks on the kibbutz.... So [Inbar] Lieberman rushed to open the armory, distributed guns..."

"... to the 12-member security team and coordinated their decisive response amid the unfolding attack. She placed her squad of kibbutzniks in strategic positions across the settlement and set up ambushes that caught the gunmen off guard.... Lieberman killed five terrorists by herself, while the others gunned down 20 more over four hours as they turned Nir Am into an impenetrable fortress.... '[Others] heard the shots and made contact on their own with other members of the standby unit and with Inbal — and they understood that they were told to be on standby. But Inbal made a decision not to wait and be jumped operationally....'"

"This was a necessary book for me to write: a way to take charge of what happened, and to answer violence with art."

Said Salman Rushdie, quoted in "Salman Rushdie to Write Memoir About Stabbing Attack/Rushdie, who was grievously injured onstage last year, said the forthcoming book was a way 'to answer violence with art'" (NYT).
At first, Rushdie balked at the thought of writing about the stabbing, he said in an interview with The New Yorker, as if “the attack demanded that I should write about the attack.” 

 The book, to come out next April, is "Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder" (paid link).

Understanding Hawthorne.

I saw that "Adultery" was trending on "X," so I clicked through and found this:
I have no understanding of who Nancy Mace is or what she's up to, but I just hate seeing this sort of snide parading of low-level knowledge. Read the whole book and get back to me. Meanwhile:

"At diner, Obama brushes off question on Hamas. Says, 'Why can’t I just eat my waffle?'"

Something you may only half remember, reported April 21, 2008, in the Chicago Sun-Times.

"A famous 1967 declaration by the University of Chicago called for institutions to remain neutral on political and social matters, saying..."

"... a university “is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic.' But students over the years have frequently and successfully pressed their administrations to take positions on matters like police brutality, global warming and war. Dr. Summers said in an interview that he could understand the case for university neutrality in political disputes, but that Harvard had forfeited that prerogative by speaking out on many other issues. 'When you fly the Ukrainian flag over Harvard yard, when you issue clear, vivid and strong statements in response to the George Floyd killing,' he said, 'you have decided not to pursue a policy of neutrality.'...

A policy of neutrality can be principled, but it's not principled at all it's applied on and off and as a matter of convenience. Once the university speaks out some of the time, the question becomes whether this is one of those occasions when the university should take a side. Does the fact that some students spoke out create such an occasion?

"I don’t think it’s an accurate representation of what breaking is. Breaking is a lot more organic, and the way that we do it in the Olympics..."

"... is, like, 'Do a round. Stop, look at what your score is. Now do another round.' It doesn’t feel real because when someone goes into the circle and they finish your round, you want to go right after to respond."

"On the one hand I think: surely this will be sufficient.... Surely no one can equivocate or justify this...."

"Here you can watch people gathered at the Sydney Opera House cheering 'gas the Jews' and 'death to the Jews.' People are rejoicing in the slaughter on the streets of Berlin and London and Toronto and New York.... At our most prestigious universities there is silence.... Meantime, the social justice crowd offers explanations for the massacre—a massacre that, in part, targeted a group of progressive Israelis at a music festival.... Now we know who would have looked at Jews shoved onto cattle cars and said, 'Well, they did undermine the German economy.' Those are the people today saying: 'This is a justified response to the provocation of Israel existing.' Now we know whose politics are rooted not in conservatism or liberalism or anything else other than simply hating Jews. Now we can see exactly how people manage to always come up with a reason for why the Jews deserved it...."

October 10, 2023

Sunrise — 6:58.

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"Now let the snivelling apologists for rape, murder and torture explain how this, too, was justified."

"[Kamala Harris] has remained a vacuum of negative space, a vessel for supporters and detractors to fill as they choose, not least because she refuses to do so herself."

"'My career, for the most part, has not been one of being focused on giving lovely speeches or trying to pass a bill,' Harris said to me.... 'And so that’s how I approach public policy. I’m probably oriented to think about, What does this actually mean, as opposed to how does this just sound?' Harris has leaned on this sentiment for years.... It reflects a figure who is fundamentally uncomfortable with having to make an affirmative case for herself to the public — and feels she shouldn’t have to...."

From a long article by Djeneba Aduayom, "In Search of Kamala Harris/After nearly three years, the vice president is still struggling to make the case for herself — and feels she shouldn’t have to" (NYT Magazine).

Top-rated comment: "Feels she shouldn’t have to??? That explains everything. What she should do is step down. Biden is too old but having a VP that the American people believe can do the job [would] put that concern to rest. Harris is not that VP - no matter what she thinks she is owed. Her ego could destroy this country. Literally."

"That earlier generation of blogs once performed the task of aggregating news and stories from across the Internet."

"For a while, it seemed as though social-media feeds could fulfill that same function. Now it’s clear that the tech companies have little interest in directing users to material outside of their feeds. According to Axios, the top news and media sites have seen 'organic referrals' from social media drop by more than half over the past three years. As of last week, X no longer displays the headlines for articles that users link to. The decline in referral traffic disrupts media business models, further degrading the quality of original content online. The proliferation of cheap, instant A.I.-generated content promises to make the problem worse...."

Time for a blog revival. Some of us have never left.

"What Nazis?"

I was just listening to Episode 751 of "This American Life," Act One, "Many a Thing She Ought to Understand," by Diane Wu:
I watched The Sound of Music all the time as a kid.... And a few years ago, I was talking with a friend about how much I loved the movie growing up. And he said, me too, though the Nazis scared me. And I said, what Nazis? 
And that's when I learned I'd never seen the second half of the film. 

"He is, for sure, the world’s most grandiloquent crash-test dummy."

"He’s fallen off a barn and broken both arms. He’s had 14 stitches in his chin, a soccer injury, and a tooth pulled after declining anesthesia because the pain was synonymous with 'the way I expected the world to be.' His collarbone was detached from his breastbone while ski jumping. He has been lifted off his feet by random explosions. He fell 40 feet on an opera stage and sprained his neck. He was hit so hard by a stuntman while filming a scene for a movie that two crowns popped loose from his molars. He has intentionally leaped into a cactus field and has eaten his shoe (which he cooked at Chez Panisse). He missed an airplane that crashed, and came close to being beheaded in Peru by the Shining Path. He was shot, and 'slightly wounded,' while being interviewed by the BBC in Los Angeles."

"Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is poised to be the most formidable independent presidential candidate in more than two decades...."

Writes Steven Shepard in "RFK Jr. goes independent. Does that hurt Biden or Trump? Recent polling shows he’d be the most formidable independent candidate since Ross Perot" (Politico).

Last month’s NBC News poll didn’t ask about Kennedy specifically, but it showed a tied race between Biden and Trump in which Trump’s supporters are far more enthusiastic about their candidate... Polls consistently show Kennedy is more popular with Republicans than Democrats.... 

So while Democrats may not be enthusiastic about Biden, Kennedy might struggle to pull them away — especially the large numbers of those who say they are worried about Trump returning to the White House....

"That peace-oriented Israelis were among Hamas’s targets has fueled further resentment of the Netanyahu government..."

"... which was caught by surprise on Saturday when Hamas fighters from the Gaza Strip streamed into Israel on Saturday, meeting little resistance. Some Israelis said that, by contrast, the country’s military forces had been beefed up to protect settlers in the West Bank, who have clashed repeatedly with Palestinian residents. Rachel Gur, an Israeli involved in the search for the missing, said that many of the residents of the collectives near Gaza had similar politics. 'These are kibbutzniks, the people who vote for the left, who support coexistence,' she said. 'You’re talking about the old time secular leftists, who want peace, who are against annexation.'..."

"We are now almost a quarter of the way through what looks likely to go down in history as the least innovative, least transformative, least pioneering century for culture..."

"... since the invention of the printing press.... [S]hockingly few works of art in any medium... have been created that are unassimilable to the cultural and critical standards that audiences accepted in 1999. To pay attention to culture in 2023 is to be belted into some glacially slow Ferris wheel, cycling through remakes and pastiches with nowhere to go but around. The suspicion gnaws at me (does it gnaw at you?) that we live in a time and place whose culture seems likely to be forgotten...."

Writes Jason Farago in "Ours Is the Least Artistically Innovative Century in 500 Years/A Times critic argues that 21st-century culture is likely to be forgotten. But it’s not as bad as it sounds" (NYT).

Shockingly few? I would say none at all and that's quite specifically not shocking, because nothing can be shocking. Everything even potentially shocking had been cycled through at least 50 years ago. It's not shocking that nothing — in art — is or can be shocking.

Because it is, at least, something new, I asked ChatGPT:

Hey, New Yorker, consider the downside of scheduling your "Daily Cartoon" in advance.

Here's today's cartoon, obviously chosen — I hope! — back when the top news was the dreary deja vu of Congress needing to fund the government again and Biden and Trump tripping and stumbling their way toward another major-party nomination:


That seems so out of it, even as it's intended to make fun of New Yorker readers who are out of it. Or was it trying to make New Yorker readers feel sophisticated for feeling bored by all the hopeless shenanigans out there in the world? Whichever, it's painfully crass today.

Is this America — men shuffling in slippers, barely alive?

"President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has long cast himself as a friend of Israel and the Jewish people."

"He helped establish visa-free travel between Russia and Israel in 2008, presided over the construction of a sprawling Moscow Jewish Museum in 2012 and, side by side with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in 2020, unveiled a memorial to the victims of Nazi Germany’s siege of Leningrad.... Instead, Mr. Putin’s spokesman on Monday struck a neutral stance.... On Russian state television and in the pro-Kremlin blogosphere, commentators reacted to the attack on Israel with thinly veiled glee, casting it as a revelation of Western weakness and as the start of a war that could sap Western support for Ukraine.... There are clear geopolitical reasons for Mr. Putin’s shift on Israel. In the Middle East, where Russia has long tried to play a kingmaker role and build relations with all major powers, Moscow now finds itself beholden to Iran — Israel’s bitter enemy — as one of its primary arms suppliers for the war in Ukraine.... Mr. Putin appears stung that Israel and Jewish leaders around the world are not backing his false narrative about Ukraine’s being run by 'Nazis.' In recent months, he has repeatedly lashed out at President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine for heading a Nazi government despite being Jewish. In June, Mr. Putin claimed that his 'many Jewish friends' had told him that Mr. Zelensky was 'a disgrace to the Jewish people.'..."

Putin is in a complex position here. If his reaction is "muted," perhaps that's a sign that he is deeply engaged in calculating how Russia can play out its role. We're told that Putin seems to experience "frustration that Israel has not endorsed his rationale" for invading Ukraine and that "Netanyahu’s government has been cautious in its support for Ukraine." 

October 9, 2023

Sunrise — 6:59, 7:06.

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"More than 30 Harvard University student organizations are holding Israel 'entirely responsible' for Hamas’ mass slaughter — sparking outraged condemnation..."

"... and calls by a congresswoman for the Ivy League school to denounce the 'abhorrent and heinous' support of 'evil and terrorism.' In a letter titled 'Joint Statement by Harvard Palestine Solidarity Groups on the Situation in Palestine,' 31 student organizations — including the Ivy League’s affiliate of Amnesty International — condemned Israel, even as its residents are kidnapped and more than 700 have been killed by the terrorist organization...."

The Nobel Prize in Economics.

RFK Jr. "I am here to declare myself an independent candidate for president of the United States."

Expected, but, just now, official.

From "Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to Run for President as Independent, Leaving Democratic Primary/The political scion told supporters he would end his campaign as a Democratic candidate and run as an independent, potentially upsetting the dynamics of the 2024 election" (NYT).

"Israel’s defense minister ordered a 'complete siege' of the long-blockaded Gaza Strip on Monday..."

"... as its forces battled Palestinian assailants in border towns for a third day and launched retaliatory strikes that hit a mosque and a marketplace in Gaza. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that 'no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel' would be allowed into Gaza, in effect trying to cut off the crowded coastal territory already under a 16-year blockade...."

Larry Charles talks to Marc Maron about Scott Adams and Bob Dylan.

This is an excellent episode of Marc Maron's podcast, with Larry Charles talking about "Seinfeld," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Borat," and his new movie "Dicks: The Musical," but what I'm writing this post to highlight is something that surprised me: a discussion of Scott Adams, which is followed immediately by a discussion of Bob Dylan.

This isn't random opining about celebrities. Larry Charles worked with Scott Adams to develop the TV show "Dilbert." And Larry Charles directed the movie "Masked and Anonymous," which he co-wrote with Bob Dylan.

Start at about 1:23:00 in the podcast and you'll be at the first mention of "Dilbert," which prompts Maron to ask, "What do you think of that guy going a little off? Did you see that coming?"

"Workism tells older Americans who might think otherwise that their job is core to who they are."

"Likewise, workism tells younger Americans that their job will define them. It is core to who they’re becoming. Read in this way, it is easy to see why older Americans are reluctant to simply 'step aside.' If they feel able... then the demand to leave is an attack on their essential identity...."

Writes David French in "The Hidden Moral Injury of ‘OK Boomer’" (NYT).

"A squid ship is a bustling, bright, messy place. The scene on deck looks like a mechanic’s garage where an oil change has gone terribly wrong."

"Scores of fishing lines extend into the water, each bearing specialized hooks operated by automated reels. When they pull a squid on board, it squirts warm, viscous ink, which coats the walls and floors. Deep-sea squid have high levels of ammonia, which they use for buoyancy, and a smell hangs in the air. The hardest labor generally happens at night, from 5 p.m. until 7 a.m. Hundreds of bowling-ball-size light bulbs hang on racks on both sides of the vessel, enticing the squid up from the depths. The blinding glow of the bulbs, visible more than a hundred miles away, makes the surrounding blackness feel otherworldly. 'Our minds got tested,' Anhar said...."

"One Israeli mother told CNN she had been on the phone with her children, aged 16 and 12, who were home alone when they heard gunshots outside and people trying to enter."

"Then, over the phone, she heard the door break down. 'I heard terrorists speaking in Arabic to my teenagers. And the youngest saying to them "I’m too young to go,"' the mother said. 'And the phone went off, the line went off. That was the last time I heard from them.'"

"This is our 9/11. They got us. They surprised us and they came fast from many spots — both from the air and the ground and the sea."

Said Major Nir Dinar, spokesperson for the Israeli Defence Forces, quoted in "How Hamas duped Israel as it planned devastating attack" (Reuters). 

In one of the most striking elements of their preparations, Hamas constructed a mock Israeli settlement in Gaza where they practiced a military landing and trained to storm it, the source close to Hamas said, adding they even made videos of the manoeuvres. 

"Israel surely saw them but they were convinced that Hamas wasn't keen on getting into a confrontation," the source said....

"We believed that the fact that they were coming in to work and bringing money into Gaza would create a certain level of calm. We were wrong," another Israeli army spokesperson said.

An Israeli security source acknowledged Israel's security services were duped by Hamas. "They caused us to think they wanted money," the source said. "And all the time they were involved in exercises/drills until they ran riot."... 

Retired General Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu... said some of Israel's allies had been saying that Hamas had acquired "more responsibility." "We stupidly began to believe that it was true," he said. "So, we made a mistake. We are not going to make this mistake again and we will destroy Hamas, slowly but surely."

October 8, 2023

Lake Mendota at 3:14 in the afternoon.

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Open thread in the comments.

"[T]he Supreme Court operates much more functionally and consensually across its partisan divide than most people realize..."

"... and that fact ought to figure into how Americans judge a court that often gets caricatured. Judged by a close look at the opinions of recent terms, the Roberts court is closer to a 9-to-0 court than it is a 6-to-3 court. In recent research, we isolated 87 statutory cases — cases that interpret laws rather than the Constitution itself — from the Supreme Court’s last three terms.... Of those 87 cases, 37 percent were decided unanimously. If you add to that consensual pile any case that has only one member of the court refusing to sign the majority opinion, you get nearly half of the cases (40 out of 87). The other cases do not come out along predictably partisan lines, either: There were actually only 10 cases over three years that generated the ideological division you might expect given the court’s configuration.... "

Write Nora Donnelly, a law student, and Ethan Leib, a law professor, in "The Supreme Court Is Not as Politicized as You May Think" (NY Times).

"The terrorists were coming from four or five places... Some people were shooting at me. I left the car and started to run... and they were just all around me."

"They were going tree by tree and shooting. Everywhere. From two sides. I saw people were dying all around. I was very quiet. I didn't cry, I didn't do anything. But I was on the one hand breathing, saying: 'OK, I'm going to die. It's OK, just breathe, just close your eyes,' because it was shooting everywhere... I tried to be more under the tree so maybe when the shooting comes, they will not touch my face. I was lying there for three hours. I was just thinking about my kids, my friend, about everything and I was saying it's not the time to die for me, not yet. Then I started to hear some Hebrew from one side, [but] Arabic from three sides. I realised that there were some soldiers, maybe five or six. I decided to go to these soldiers... Then someone was putting me in a car. I was the first one to get out of the field. It took others two or three more hours to get out [and] all the way people were dying - all the way on the road, young people, [as] it's a festival for young people...."

"I don’t think people realize how sensitive German shepherds can be... if you don’t give them a job to do, they’ll go self-employed."

Said a dog behaviorist, quoted in "Why Commander Is No Longer His Master’s Dog/Being a presidential dog is hard. It’s not his fault that his biting became a political liability" (The Atlantic)
Young shepherds need to be taught how to behave when a visitor or stranger arrives—how to go to their “place” or grab a toy, something that desensitizes them to the constant flow of bodies coming and going. This appears to be the gap in Commander’s education. “He’s been allowed to make mistakes, which is a real shame,” [the behaviorist] said. “But I don’t blame him. It’s not his fault.”

It was very easy to know this. Obviously, it's not the dog's fault. The article leaves the necessary inference unsaid: It's the President's fault.

"Nobody really gets scolded for being a sellout anymore. In the three decades since its heyday, in the late eighties and early nineties..."

"... the term has grown to seem a bit old-fashioned. The people who came of age during or after the 2008 financial crisis, for example, understandably do not have much patience for Gen X-ers who wax nostalgic about bands that ignored major-record-label attention or Adbusters or whatever else. The rent is high, and the bills don’t stop. Precarity is everywhere...."

"It is in a world of glaring clarity, self-assurance and high-wire prosecution work that [Jack] Smith has positioned himself in his long career."

"A question that hovers over him is whether the moral clarity is always clear to everyone else. Does he sometimes see wrongdoing when it isn’t there? Or is it that the juries and judges who have disagreed with him simply failed to see what seemed so obvious to him? What he sees in Trump is more than just a criminal who sought to interfere with the peaceful transfer of power by overturning the 2020 election results, and who endangered the nation by sloppily hoarding secret papers and other documents that belong in the National Archives or secure government facilities. He sees a man who knew full well that he was committing those crimes."

"The New York Times found hundreds of X accounts sharing images of dead bodies, claiming to be Israeli civilians killed in the last 24 hours of fighting."

"Some of the images viewed by the Times appeared to be manipulated and edited. Underneath some of the videos and images posted on X, people warned that they could be spread as part of a campaign to stoke fear among Israelis. Some of the accounts claimed to be working on behalf of Hamas. On WhatsApp, Israelis warned each other not to look at X, which often auto-plays videos without warning. 'Don’t look, you might see someone you know,' wrote one person on a WhatsApp group dedicated to a neighborhood of South Tel Aviv. There is a long history of misinformation being shared among Israeli and Palestinian groups, with false claims and conspiracies spiking during moments of heightened violence in the region. Since Elon Musk took ownership of the platform one year ago, he has eliminated many of the content moderation teams that once removed violent imagery from the platform...."

ADDED: From "German tattoo artist ID’d as woman paraded through streets by Hamas" (NY Post):
[A] cousin spotted footage of Shani online as her body appeared lifeless and surrounded by armed militants in the back of the truck. One Hamas fighter had his leg over her waist as another grabbed part of her dreadlocks. Her legs were unnaturally laid out in the back of the truck. Her parents watched the video to confirm it was their daughter.... 'We recognized her by the tattoos, and she has long dreadlocks'....

AND: From "Israeli student screams ‘Don’t kill me’ as Hamas terrorists kidnap her from rave: horrifying video" (NY Post):