December 16, 2023

Sunrise — 7:14, 7:16.



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My mother was born 100 years ago today.

A montage of home movies....

(I'm the middle child.)

"I'm going in," I said, plunging into the forest, off the beaten path, at the first roseate glow.




"The enduring challenge for any activist is both to dream of almost-unimaginable justice and to make the case to nonbelievers that your dreams are practical."

"The problem is particularly acute in animal-rights activism. Ending wild-animal suffering is laughably hard (our efforts at ending human suffering don’t exactly recommend us to the task); obviously, so is changing the landscape of factory farms.... In 2014, the British sociologist Richard Twine suggested that the vegan isn’t unlike the feminist of yore, in that both come across as killjoys whose 'resistance against routinized norms of commodification and violence' repels those who prefer the comforts of the status quo...."

"A new form of protest against the government is rocking Iran: a viral dance craze set to an upbeat folk song where crowds clap and chant the rhythmic chorus, 'oh, oh, oh, oh.'"

"In cities across Iran men and women of all ages are gyrating their hips, swirling their arms in the air, and chanting the song’s catchy lines, according to videos posted on social media, television news channels like BBC Persian and Iranians interviewed. People are dancing on the streets, in shops, at sport stadiums, in classrooms, malls, restaurants, gyms, parties and everywhere else they congregate. In Tehran traffic was stopped in a major highway tunnel for an impromptu dance party to the song. Young women,hair uncovered and flowing, dance in parks and young men performed a choreographed hip-hop dance.... It all started with an old man at a fish market in the northern city of Rasht in late November. Dressed in a white suit the man, Sadegh Bana Motejaded, 70, who owns a small market stall energetically swayed and bopped...."

From "A Viral Dance and ‘Happiness Campaign’ Frustrates Iran’s Clerics/It all started when a 70-year-old fish market stall owner nicknamed 'Booghy' was grooving in public, in violation of Iranian law" (NYT).

"Ketamine is a powerful anesthetic that has become increasingly popular as an alternative therapy for depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder..."

"... and other hard-to-treat mental health problems. It is also used recreationally. The autopsy report said that Perry had been on ketamine infusion therapy but that the ketamine in his system could not have been from his last known therapy session, which was about a week and a half before he died.... 'At the high levels of ketamine found in his postmortem blood specimens, the main lethal effects would be from both cardiovascular overstimulation and respiratory depression,' the autopsy report said. It noted that the level of ketamine investigators found in Perry’s blood was equivalent to the amount that would be used during general anesthesia. The Food and Drug Administration issued an alert in October warning about the dangers of treating psychiatric disorders with compounded versions of the drug...."

ADDED: Here's Joe Rogan promoting the stuff 2 months ago.

AND: From "Matthew Perry denounced ketamine in his memoir, said it made him think he was ‘dying’" (NY Post):
Describing the drug as a “giant exhale,” [he] said he would receive ketamine while blindfolded and listening to music. He explained that he would “disassociate” during his infusions and often felt as if he were “dying.” “‘Oh,’ I thought, ‘This is what happens when you die,'” he recalled.... 

"Most Americans already don’t want Trump — or Biden, for that matter — to run, despite the overwhelming likelihood they will be the nominees."

"If 2024 is a 2020 rematch, it will be a contest between two candidates the country doesn’t particularly want. And voters appear to be pricing in Trump’s legal woes already."

People expect Trump to get convicted of something, and the actual occurrence of a conviction before the election is not going to give Biden the boost he needs. The polls already show the effect of this future event, and Biden supporters who are hoping for new abhorrence of Trump when he's Trump the Convicted Felon need to wake up.

"No Mexican is out there chanting 'From the Rio Grande to Portland, Oregon.'"

December 15, 2023

Sunrise — 7:16, 7:18, 7:19, 7:27.





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"The extreme left may be morally no better than the extreme right. But in America the extreme left has almost no political power..."

"... while the extreme right controls one house of Congress and a number of states.... So, yes, let’s hold college presidents’ feet to the fire when they bungle on a major issue. And let’s denounce calls for violence wherever they come from. But let’s also focus on the biggest threat to our system of higher education, which is coming not from left-wing student activists but instead from right-wing politicians."

Writes Paul Krugman, in "The Biggest Threat to America’s Universities" (NYT).

Key word: "extreme."

The extremes on either side are perceived from the point where the observer is situated. Thus, to Krugman, "the extreme left has almost no political power."

"In ‘Miracle on 34th Street,’ Santa was canceled because he was drunk... I was canceled because I said something in a completely independent setting."

Said Ken Dorph, quoted in "He Was Set to Play Santa. His Views on the Middle East Got in the Way. Ken Dorph had grown out his white beard, but a tense discussion of the Israel-Hamas war at a local synagogue led to complaints that cost him the gig" (NYT).

"With Ukraine’s military facing mounting deaths and a stalemate on the battlefield, army recruiters have become increasingly aggressive..."

"... in their efforts to replenish the ranks, in some cases pulling men off the streets and whisking them to recruiting centers using intimidation and even physical force....  The harsh tactics are being aimed not just at draft dodgers but at men who would ordinarily be exempt from service — a sign of the steep challenges Ukraine’s military faces maintaining troop levels in a war with high casualties, and against a much larger enemy. Lawyers and activists... point out that recruiters... are not empowered to detain civilians, let alone force them into conscription.... Complicating the issue is the fact that Ukraine has been under martial law since Russia invaded in February 2022; some lawyers contend that this has laid the ground for a subjective interpretation — and abuse — of conscription laws...."

From "'People Snatchers': Ukraine’s Recruiters Use Harsh Tactics to Fill Ranks/Ukrainian men are reporting incidents of wrongful draft notices, unprofessional medical commissions and coercive mobilization tactics" (NYT).

This article appears at the top of the NYT website right now. 

"Liberals and leftists have lots of excellent policy ideas, but rarely articulate a plausible vision of the future...."

"It’s easy to see what various parts of the left want to dismantle — capitalism, the carceral state, heteropatriarchy, the nuclear family — and much harder to find a realistic conception of what comes next.... The right has an advantage in appealing to dislocated and atomized people: It doesn’t have to provide a compelling view of the future. All it needs is a romantic conception of the past, to which it can offer the false promise of return.... To compete with them, the left needs beautiful dreams of its own."

Michelle Goldberg writes, in "What’s Driving Former Progressives to the Right?" (NYT).

So the advice to the left is: Find some "beautiful dreams" to replace all that you are trying to destroy or people aren't going to find all that destruction too appealing. 

"The Satanic Temple of Iowa says a statue depicting the pagan idol Baphomet, part of its controversial display in the Iowa Capitol, had been destroyed."

The Des Moine Register reports.
The installation, permitted under state rules governing religious displays in the building, has come under debate and criticism of by Iowa and national politicians. Presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis on Tuesday joined a chorus of Republicans calling for its removal while others in the GOP said that, though it is offensive, it is a protected form of free speech....

The desperation is so intense, and it's only December. They can't go on like this.

My advice, and I've said it before, is to abandon the overblown demonization and treat Trump like the political candidate he is. About half of the electorate supports him. If it's democracy they're so concerned about, let them show respect for their fellow citizens and endeavor to understand the good reasons why they support Trump and not Biden and engage on the issues.

I don't expect them to take this advice, because: 1. They're so dug in, and 2. They don't trust themselves to argue on the substantive merits.

Of all the posts I've ever tagged "Trump derangement syndrome," this is the most deserving.

IN THE COMMENTS: michaele said:
The look on poor Jennifer Rubin's face at the end of her comments (.29) is half hilarious and half tragically concerning. Her anguish at the possibility of Trump being reelected truly seems to be affecting her mental and physical health.

Yes, I noticed that too. I'll make a screen shot. If I had more skills, I'd make that portrait in the background — a portrait of her, right? — change its expression too:

December 14, 2023

Sunrise — 7:15, 7:26.



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"If you can’t bear walking past a rock someone called a dirty name 100 years ago, how are you going to deal with life?"

"It surely feels like being on the right side of social justice these days means shielding Black students even from all but nonexistent harms while essentially telling Jewish students, who are being actually assailed verbally, to just grow up. But to train young people, or any people, to think of themselves as weak is a form of abuse.... [A]nyone who has made the mistake of thinking that a healthy Jewish soul must endure ongoing calls for the extermination of Israel might at least consider that a healthy Black soul can endure a sour tweet, a talk by someone who has opposed racial preferences and even the Mandarin expression 'nèi ge.'"

Writes John McWhorter, in "Black Students Are Being Trained to Think They Can’t Handle Discomfort" (NYT).

The rock in question is that boulder the University of Wisconsin removed from Observatory Hill 2 years ago, which I blogged here. I said:

I think it's nice — tapdancing Nutcracker at the White House.

It's churlish grinchery to take potshots.

"It is... easy to forget that Chris Rock preceded Donald Trump in deriding John McCain for having been captured..."

"... during a 2008 performance in defense of Obama: 'There’s a lot of guys in jail that got captured. I don’t wanna vote for nobody that got captured—I wanna vote for the motherfucker who got away!'... What separates Chris Rock from Donald Trump is that Rock knows the liminal space he’s in, poised between actual revelation and wicked hyperbole—a truth to which we are clued in as much by his performance style (his constant nervous pacing, his sidelong glances) as by his words. The impieties are to be taken as possibilities, not as actual truths. It may be that Trump intuitively understands this, too, and that one reason his sneers and terrifying invocation of cruelty are not taken as seriously as they should be is that some people think of Trump’s discourse as that of the insult comedian: He doesn’t really mean it. He does...."

Writes Adam Gopnik, in "What Do We Want from Comedy?/We insist that comedians respect our sacrosanct ideals—and pray that they skewer our sanctimony. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it" (The New Yorker).

Do you know what "liminal space" that sentence about liminal space is in? "What separates Chris Rock from Donald Trump" — I'd say — is that we are all equally "clued in" to what Chris Rock is doing — because he's plainly and clearly a comedian — and we are differently clued in about Donald Trump. Some of us feel that we get him, and we can deal with the mix of humor and seriousness. It's even quite brilliant. Others hear the odd things as crazy and threatening, and they can't relax and enjoy it. And taking Trump's words seriously makes them useful to his antagonists. He said he'd be a dictator on Day 1! 

Predicted Electoral College vote: 312 Trump, 226 Biden.

Screen shot from Real Clear Politics.

Here's the Electoral College interactive map, where I generated the numbers used in my post title.

The demonization of Trump has not worked for Democrats. I think Glenn Greenwald put it aptly (reacting to the polls I've displayed above):
"The more Trump is indicted, the more he rises in the polls. That correlation doesn't prove causation, but what it does prove is that most Americans have so much distrust in the justice system and DOJ that even felony indictments don't undermine Trump's standing with the public." 

My advice, not that I think Democrats would or even could follow it: Fight Trump on the substantive merits of the issues. Show us that you deserve the power you seek. 

"He who doesn't work, doesn't eat.

Soviet poster issued in Uzbekistan, 1920.

From the Wikipedia article, "He who does not work, neither shall he eat," which I'm reading this morning because Wikipedia linked to it under "See also" at the bottom of its article "No such thing as a free lunch," which, you can see in the previous post, came up in the context of trying to understand the Russian word "khalyava."

I started this new post to show you that excellent propaganda artwork, and let me quote a bit from the "He who does not work" entry:

"President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is nearly two hours into his year-end news conference on Thursday, and has stated clearly that his goals in Ukraine have not changed..."

"... the 'demilitarization' and 'denazification' of the country. He reiterated that he was open to peace talks, but offered no hint of a willingness to compromise.... Mr. Putin finds himself in much better shape than a year earlier, when he skipped the ritual amid setbacks in Ukraine.... Bolstered by dense defenses, Russian forces have fended off Ukraine’s counteroffensive this year and are now attacking in several areas along the front line.... Asked by one of the news conference’s moderators when the war will end, Mr. Putin said: 'If they don’t want to talk, then we are forced to take other measures, including military ones.' He added that he saw no need for another military draft because, he claimed, some 500,000 people had signed up for military service voluntarily. 'Why do we need mobilization?' Mr. Putin said. 'Today, there’s no need for it.'... The recent deadlock over military aid for Ukraine in the U.S. Congress has made Mr. Putin’s long-term bet that his country will outlast adversaries appear more realistic. 'They’re getting everything as freebies,' Mr. Putin told the news conference, referring to Western arms deliveries to Ukraine. 'But these freebies can run out at some point, and it looks like they’re already starting to run out.'"

I guess there's a Russian word that translated to "freebie." Google translates "freebie" to "халява"/"khalyava." But what do Russians mean when they say "khalyava"? Ah! There's a Wikipedia entry for "Khalyava":

"The New York Times spoke with more than 100 child roofers in nearly two dozen states, including some who began at elementary-school age."

"They wake before dawn to be driven to distant job sites, sometimes crossing state lines. They carry heavy bundles of shingles that leave their arms shaking. They work through heat waves on black-tar rooftops that scorch their hands. The rise of child roofers comes as young people are crossing the southern border alone in record numbers. Nearly 400,000 children have come to the United States since 2021 without their parents, and a majority have ended up working, The New York Times has reported in a series of articles this year. The most common job for these children is under-the-table work in roofing and construction, according to teachers, social workers, labor organizers and federal investigators. Roofing is plentiful and pays better than many of the other jobs these children can get."

From "Children Risk Their Lives Building America’s Roofs" (NYT).

"Children"... but not the NYT reader's children or grandchildren. The headline omits any reference to immigration.

"Hunter is... a domestic offender of a more mundane stripe, his misdeeds largely outside the reach of the law, involving serious harm..."

"... not to the American taxpayer but to the family that is, per the Biden fantasy, the beginning, the middle, and the end. Of all the anecdotes in these four memoirs, the one that I think about the most is from 'If We Break.' It is the spring of 2002, and Buhle, then the mother of a baby, a toddler, and an eight-year-old, is enjoying a rare night out with a friend in New York City, a two-hour train trip from her home in Wilmington. Her friend urges her to stay overnight; Buhle calls Hunter, who says it’s fine. But then she asks him to take Naomi, their oldest child, to Sunday school the next morning. 'No,' Buhle recalls him saying. 'I’m not going to do that, Kathleen.' So Buhle boards a train home in the middle of the night, arriving at 5 a.m. to the sight of Hunter and a group of friends smoking and drinking in front of the family’s fireplace. The kids, it seems, are at their grandparents’ house.... What explains... this ostentatious defiance of basic responsibility, this refusal to be fully part of the family you’ve created? Can this mind-set be blamed on addiction? Trauma? The learned helplessness of men in heterosexual partnerships? The ego-warping effects of a famous last name? Are dirtbags born or made? And what, in the end, is a father good for?"

Writes Jessica Winter, in "Hunter Biden and the Things Left Unsaid/The President’s son is a ubiquitous topic of conversation. But, in four Biden-family memoirs, silence is the undercurrent that tugs at a voluble, demonstrative clan" (The New Yorker).

Buhle = Kathleen Buhle, Hunter's first wife, author of the memoir "If We Break."

"[S]ilence is the undercurrent that tugs at a voluble, demonstrative clan" — what a phrase! "Voluable" means talking incessantly. Picture, if you can, blabbermouths dragged down by an undertow consisting of silence.

There's a word for the fear of silence: sedatephobia.

"Nineteen percent (19%) of those who cast mail-in votes say a friend or family member filled out their ballot..."

"... in part or in full, on their behalf. Furthermore, 17% of mail-in voters say that in the 2020 election, they cast a ballot in a state where they were no longer a permanent resident."

Rasmussen reports.

ADDED: I'd like to see a poll of the people who voted in person. How many of them, waiting in line to vote, said something like "Who are we voting for?" to somebody on the way in?

It's not a defense of race discrimination to call it "completely natural."

Murder and rape are "completely natural." 

I'm reading "Boston City Hall roiled by email party invitation for ‘electeds of color’ sent to all" (Boston Herald).

A Wu administration official, on behalf of the mayor, mistakenly sent all Boston city councilors an email Tuesday inviting them to a holiday party that was meant exclusively for “electeds of color,” prompting an apology and mixed reactions....

December 13, 2023

Sunrise — 7:28.


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"Artistic Nudity" is trending on X...

... and it's not because of that Giuseppe Cesari painting they're showing to 10 year olds in France.

It's because Twitch has adopted a new policy, allowing what it calls "artistic nudity," and a lot of people on X feel called to ask what's "artistic nudity"?

I realize I have a more basic question: What's Twitch? I've heard of Twitchy, but Twitch is something else.

"Inside the Troll Army Waging Trump’s Online Campaign/A team of meme-makers has been flooding social media with pro-Trump posts riddled with sexist and racist tropes. Donald Trump is cheering them on."

That's a NYT headline that makes me think if a comparable group were making memes for Biden, the headline would celebrate them as feisty and smart and really getting under Trump's skin. 

But let's read and give the NYT writer, Ken Bensinger, a chance to show that these people are awful and Trump must be kicked around for enjoying their work:

"House Set to Approve Biden Impeachment Inquiry as It Hunts for an Offense."

The NYT reports (with distaste).
G.O.P. leaders refrained for months from calling a vote to open an impeachment inquiry.... But the political ground has shifted considerably, and most of them are now willing to do so, emphasizing that they are not yet ready to charge the president.... 

"Do you believe that people are understanding better or are they dolts like me who think you're acting?"

"You have my kids repeating your lines, so that it's almost become cool — and not because it's raunchy — but because you're being real, and you're living your truth, and they love it. They love the bravery of it."

"Hunter Biden’s refusal to testify propels GOP contempt push."

Axios reports. 

[Hunter] Biden, in a rare in-person statement outside the Senate on Wednesday, reiterated his demand that he testify at a public hearing of the House Oversight Committee rather than a private deposition....

"Republicans do not want an open process where Americans can see their tactics, expose their baseless inquiry or hear what I have to say," said Biden. "What are they afraid of? I'm here. I'm ready."... 
Oversight Committee member Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), told Axios she "sure as hell hopes" Republicans begin contempt proceedings against Biden. Pointing to her vote to hold Steve Bannon in contempt for his refusal to comply with a Jan. 6 committee subpoena, Mace said: "As you know, I am not shy about holding people in contempt when they ignore subpoena[s]."...

Yes, let's remember what happened to Steve Bannon. 

"The move sets up a high-stakes fight over the drug, mifepristone, that could sharply curtail access to medication that is used in more than half of all pregnancy terminations in the United States."

"It could also have implications for the regulatory authority of the Food and Drug Administration, which approved the pill more than two decades ago. The Supreme Court is now in the unusual position of ruling on abortion access even after its conservative majority declared that it would leave that question to the states...."

"This is not the first midcentury, middle-America food craze to find new life online: Jell-O molds, 1970s-era desserts and 1970s-themed dinner parties..."

"... have all made unexpected comebacks. That’s all 'packaged-food cuisine' born of the hyper-consumerism of the 1950s.... For some, the box mixes and cans — triumphs of postwar prosperity — are a rosy portal to an imagined 'simpler time' of family dinners and easy living. 'That is nostalgia for America,' she said. 'That is our national comfort food.'"

It's absurd that something embodying nostalgia for a lost culture should bear the name "Watergate." But the nostalgia is felt by young people today, who don't mind mixing the 50s, 60s, and 70s together, not like us Boomers who think the early 60s, mid-60s, and late 60s were distinctly different eras and have long indulged in the deep, mystic belief that the first few years of the 70s were the real 60s.

And maybe there is nostalgia for the Watergate scandal. Maybe it seems poignant and delicate compared to the scandals of today... and even for Nixon. My son Chris — who is reading a biography of each American President — texted me about Nixon recently — somewhat jocosely — "Nixon is underrated. He was liberal!/Got more done for progressive causes than democrats do today." 

Anyway, the nostalgia for lost mid-century America is about far more than food. There's a sense that people lived more rewarding, warm, and loving lives back then. Here's something I saw on TikTok the other day. Let me know how it made you feel or, better yet, if you are not young, show it to someone young and ask them how it makes them feel:

"The role of the French school is to train republicans. I will never accept that at the Republic school we refuse to look at a painting."

Said Gabriel Attal, France's education minister, quoted in "Major row erupts in France after nude painting shown to pupils/Teachers walk out after ‘offended’ pupils at a school near Paris refused to look at Renaissance-era painting as teachers walk out" (Independent).
Sophie Venetitay, from the Snes-FSU teachers union, told the AFP news agency that several first-year high school students, aged 11 and 12, said they were offended by the work by 17th-Century Italian painter Giuseppe Cesari. She said some students had “averted their gaze”, “felt offended” and said they were “shocked”.... Ms Venetitay said staff felt they had been left feeling unsupported and working in a “degraded climate”, adding the incident reminded her of the brutal killing of Samuel Paty.Mr Paty was stabbed then beheaded near his secondary school in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine in October 2020 after showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a class.

This is my second post on the subject. Here's the first. I consider this a new topic because of the quote in the post title, reflecting the distinctively strong French dedication to secularism, something I've blogged about many times in the 20-year history of this blog, beginning with 3 posts in the first year of this blog: "Enforcing strict secularism in France,"It isn't a lack of understanding of history that makes the French head scarf ban seem wrong to Americans," and "Only one slope is slippery."

Glenn Greenwald, approving of the restoration of Alex Jones' X account and, speaking of defamation, calling somebody who's just interrupting "deranged."

"Lionel sought to 'peer not just into the soul of his son but into his own'..."

"... the British author Will Self wrote in [a review of the 1994 memoir, 'A Father’s Story']. 'Throughout, the sense of someone constitutionally ill-equipped for introspection of any kind groping toward a vile realization is gripping.'... [H]e wrote vividly about the uncanniness of seeing Jeffrey’s face, which looked so much like his own, staring at him from the front page of a newspaper, and about revisiting old memories. 'As I recall him in his infancy, I feel overwhelmed by a sense of helpless dread,' Mr. Dahmer wrote. 'I dwell on the small, pink hands, and in my mind I watch them grow larger and darker as I think about all that they will later do, of how stained they will become with the blood of others.'"

From "Lionel Dahmer, Who Agonized About Raising a Serial Killer, Dies at 87/The father of Jeffrey Dahmer, he wrote a memoir that one reviewer said sought to 'peer not just into the soul of his son but into his own'" (NYT).

From the Will Self review of the memoir:

December 12, 2023

At the Tuesday Night Café...

 ... you can write about whatever you want.

"Some students averted their gaze, felt offended, said they were shocked.... some also alleged the teacher made racist comments....”

The students were 10 to 11 years old. They were exposed to a Renaissance painting that depicts the story of Diana and Actaeon from Ovid's Metamorphoses — with 5 female nudes.
Staff felt they had been left unsupported and were working in a "degraded climate".... She said the case recalled the brutal killing of Samuel Paty, who was murdered after he showed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a class. French authorities believe untrue rumours spread about the class contributed to inciting an 18-year-old radicalised Chechen refugee to murder him close to the teacher's school in a Paris suburb....

“President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine hit a brick wall of resistance from Senate Republicans on Tuesday as he made an urgent plea….”

“[S]everal Republicans emerged from a meeting with him unmoved. They reiterated their stance that they would not agree to any new aid for Ukraine unless President Biden and Democrats bowed to their demands to clamp down on migration at the southern border of the United States…. Republican resistance to helping Ukraine has steadily grown on Capitol Hill, and the star power Mr. Zelensky once enjoyed there has faded considerably…. This time, Mr. Zelensky made no public statement at all at the Capitol, bypassing reporters who had gathered expecting to hear from him. Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio, one of the most vocal critics in the Senate of Ukraine aid, called Mr. Zelensky’s trip to Congress ‘grotesque.’ ‘He’s coming to the United States of America, lecturing us, and demanding more American taxpayer dollars,’ Mr. Vance said on Fox News on Monday night…..”

"Unfortunately, the universe isn’t here to please us, which means niceness and truth will sometimes be at odds."

"I think, for example, of my fellow Post columnist Lawrence H. Summers, who was forced out as president of Harvard several years ago after he speculated, at a small private seminar, that one possible reason for the underrepresentation of women in elite science and engineering programs might be that their ability was less variable than men’s. So while both sexes perform about as well on average, the women might tend to cluster near the middle, while the men are overrepresented at the bottom and the top — the latter being where elite programs draw from."

Writes Megan McArdle, in "The world could use more jerks" (WaPo).

" has chosen 'hallucinate' as its 2023 Word of the Year, but not in its traditional, trippy sense."

"Instead, is highlighting the word’s increased usage among users and critics of artificial intelligence (AI) programs, who have adopted the term to describe the inaccurate and often outlandish outputs that chatbots and other prompt-based AI programs attempt to present as fact...."

"And, you know, it’s insulting that we have idiots like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Paul Gosar, Jim Jordan. I mean, you just name all of the nonsense Republicans."

"And they sit on this committee, and they sit there so high and mighty. And they talk noise constantly and they’re like, 'Oh, the Biden crime family.' And I’m like, 'I’m sorry. Have you met the Trumps?!'"

"They're too old!"

"Good God! We've got people over 70!"

"George Santos Says He’s Making Over $80,000 a Day on Cameo."

Vanity Fair reports.
Less than two weeks after being expelled from Congress, the former New York representative is now making money hand over fist recording personalized videos on Cameo, for which he is now charging an astonishing $500 a pop, a 566.67% increase from his original asking price of $75.... 

"Reddit is in deep decline."

I changed the way I presented that "Reddit is in deep decline" comment. The "deep decline" referred to commenters who thought the front-page poster — on a subreddit devoted to Bob Dylan — was asserting that "Blood on the Tracks" is underrated. The front-page poster had to come in and say "How did your comment get 20x more upvotes than my post😂 Did nobody read the full post? Hilarious but also frightening that the fanbase of a Nobel laureate for literature does not know how to read."

"Claudine Gay will stay on as president of Harvard University, the school’s governing board announced on Tuesday, despite an uproar..."

"... over her evasive answers at a congressional hearing about campus antisemitism.... 'As members of the Harvard Corporation, we today reaffirm our support for President Gay’s continued leadership of Harvard University,' said a statement signed by all of the board members other than Dr. Gay. 'Our extensive deliberations affirm our confidence that President Gay is the right leader to help our community heal and to address the very serious societal issues we are facing.' The statement goes on, however, to acknowledge that Dr. Gay had made mistakes, including in her initial reaction to Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel.... About 700 members of Harvard’s faculty, and hundreds more alumni, came to her defense in several open letters. One of the letters, from Black faculty members, called the attacks on the president 'specious and politically motivated.' The letter, which was drafted and signed by some of Harvard’s most prominent professors, said that Dr. Gay 'should be given the chance to fulfill her term to demonstrate her vision for Harvard.'"

The NYT reports.

The cartoon editor of The New Yorker "invite[s] you to enjoy these delicious, butyraceous cartoons, which you all dug the most on Instagram in 2023."

I'm reading "Instagram’s Favorite New Yorker Cartoons in 2023/The gags that got the Internet laughing, and liking, the most in the past year."

Lots of cartoons at the link, apparently the ones Instagram users indicated they liked — or, as some people might say, "dug" (and "butyraceous" means like butter, by the way — but I'll just show you my favorite:

"[S]eeking gender balance is particularly important because neither male nor female prospective applicants prefer a campus with a large majority of women..."

"... and, thus, it harms the school’s ability to recruit desirable students.... In equal-protection analyses under the Fourteenth Amendment, the Court has indeed allowed more leeway for using gender, but, in order to be constitutional, the use of gender must be substantially related to an important interest. The question, then, would be whether colleges’ interest in having a gender-balanced student body is so important that it justifies holding women to higher admissions standards than men...."

Left/right is a continuum, and Taylor Lorenz is telling you where she is on the line, that is, what's to the right of her.

This is easy for me to understand. I remember a colleague of mine — years ago — laughing that at this point she finds that everyone she knows is to her right. And in speaking about the Supreme Court, it's conventional to deny that Justice X or Justice Y has moved to the left and to assert that they stayed where they've always been while the Court moved to the right. 

December 11, 2023

Sunrise — 7:11.

IMG_4508 3

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"Texas woman who sued state for abortion travels out of state for procedure instead."

NPR reports.

UPDATE: "Texas Supreme Court Rules Against Woman Who Sought Court-Approved Abortion/Hours before the ruling, a group representing the woman, whose fetus received a fatal diagnosis, said she was leaving Texas for an abortion" (NYT).
Texas’ overlapping bans allow for abortions only when a pregnancy seriously threatens the health or life of the woman.

“These laws reflect the policy choice that the Legislature has made, and the courts must respect that choice,” the court wrote.

Jack Smith argues it's "of imperative public importance" that the Supreme Court decide Trump's claim of immunity as quickly as possible.

I'm reading "Special Counsel Asks Supreme Court to Decide Whether Trump Is Immune From Prosecution/The request was unusual in two ways: Jack Smith asked the justices to rule before an appeals court acted, and he urged them to move with exceptional speed" (NYT).

Why the big rush? 

"But even while insulated in friendly territory, Mr. Biden couldn’t quite escape his woes. Pro-Palestinian protesters chanting 'Hey hey, ho ho, the occupation has got to go'..."

"... could be heard from the spacious backyard in Western Los Angeles on Friday. More than 1,000 people gathered at a nearby park to criticize his approach in Israel and Gaza....  Mr. Biden did not mention the conflict in either of his fund-raiser addresses. But Dr. Biden didn’t skip a beat when faint echoes of the protesters could be heard over her speech on Friday. At one point, she remarked, 'I’m so grateful Joe is our president during these uncertain times,' prompting a standing ovation from the crowd."

When do we, the people, get to see Biden and hear him discuss and defend his policies and his fitness for office? I don't find it cute at all that he "steps out in Tinsel Town." He's collecting money from the elite and protecting himself from any criticism (other than what wafts into the "spacious backyard" from the "nearby park."

Steps out in Tinsel Town... that really irritates me.

They snubbed Oprah and invented a new category to lure in Taylor Swift.

I'm reading "Golden Globes 2024 Nominations: ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ in Front/'Barbie' led the nominations with nine, followed by 'Oppenheimer' with eight. In the television categories, 'Succession' had the most with nine" (NYT).
In one obvious snub, “The Color Purple,” based on the Broadway version of the story and backed by Oprah Winfrey, was left out of the best film, musical or comedy category. In a surprise, voters found a way to invite Taylor Swift to the ceremony, nominating her “Eras Tour” concert film in a new category for blockbusters....

"Younger, left-leaning Jews, steeped in the cause of antiracism and terms like 'settler colonialism,' are increasingly searching for a Jewish identity centered more on religious values..."

"... like the pursuit of justice and repairing the world than on collective nationalism tied to the land of Israel. Many older liberal Jews have also struggled with the Israeli government’s lurch to the far right, but they see Israel as the centerpiece and guarantor of continued Jewish existence in an ever more secular world.... For Republicans, the issue is simple and convenient. The raising of anti-Zionism in the debate over antisemitism amid the Israel-Hamas war pushes aside the presence of white-nationalist bigots on the fringes of the Republican coalition... and instead forces Democrats to defend the pro-Hamas demonstrators on their own coalition’s fringes...."

Writes Jonathan Weisman, in "Is Anti-Zionism Always Antisemitic? A Fraught Question for the Moment/From the halls of Congress to America’s streets and universities, a once largely academic issue has roiled national discourse, inciting accusations of bigotry and countercharges of bullying" (NYT).

"... Democrats worry that the debate is blurring the line between political speech and hate speech. Tibetans pressing for freedom from the Chinese are considered unserious or even repugnant in Beijing, just as Native American activists demanding to reclaim parts of the United States might be to the owners of that land. But are they bigoted?"

ADDED: Who is Jonathan Weisman? He published a book in 2018 called "(((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump" (commission earned). Simon Schama, reviewing the book in 2018 in the NYT, wrote:

Trump is way ahead of Biden in Georgia and Michigan... according to CNN.

"CNN Polls: Trump leads Biden in Michigan and Georgia as broad majorities hold negative views of the current president."

Isn't impossible to visualize an Electoral College win for Biden if he loses those states? Here's an interactive Electoral College map.

Did the 3 university presidents fall into "Ms. Stefanik's prosecutorial trap"?

I'm reading "Questioning University Presidents on Antisemitism, Stefanik Goes Viral/The No. 4 Republican, a Harvard alumna with a fraught relationship with her alma mater, had a confrontation over campus responses to antisemitism that resonated across the political spectrum" (NYT).

The NYT writer, Annie Karni, is characterizing an interview with Stefanik:

December 10, 2023

Sunrise — 7:23.


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"We’ll turn toward abstraction. I predict that Donald Trump is going to win the election and, when people seek some sort of relief valve or means to move forward..."

"... I don’t think they’re going to do that by looking at a bunch of figurative paintings. We’ll need to stare into the blur and ask the biggest possible questions: 'Who are we? What are we? What the hell are we doing?' And those are questions that abstraction, as a mode, posits … I also think we’ll encounter a radical new abstraction. Take Wade Guyton’s [recent] show at Matthew Marks Gallery in New York or Julie Mehretu’s at White Cube in London. These weren’t just shows of paintings on the wall: They moved into the space. [Going forward], the painting itself will surround you."

Says the painter Adam Pendleton, 39, answering the question "What will the cultural trends be?," part of a large collection of answered questions in "The T Predictor: What We’ll Be Obsessing Over in 2024/We asked 46 artists, filmmakers, chefs and other creative people to forecast next year’s cultural trends. (Spoiler: We’re all going to be wearing a lot of brown)" (T/ The NYT Style Magazine).

I like Pendleton's questions in relation to Trump: "Who are we? What are we? What the hell are we doing?" I was just blogging an Atlantic article that examined the old saying "This is not who we are." If it is what we are doing, then you're in denial to say "This is not who we are." Apparently, it is who we are.

So, I'm with Pendleton. We've got to ask "Who are we? What are we? What the hell are we doing?" Whether staring into an abstract painting — a "blur" or something sharply delineated — will yield any answers or even just "relief," who knows? Is it a "means to move forward"? We're told those Guyton and Mehretu paintings move into our space, and we find ourselves surrounded. And maybe that's how we'll feel, come January 2025.

"[A]ntisemitic and anti-Israel protests on campuses — and the university presidents’ lawyerly responses at last week’s hearing — were akin to... the 'Zoom moment' during the pandemic..."

"... when some parents first listened closely to what their children were learning in school and concluded it was 'subpar in quality and radical in content.' 'One of those things we’ve struggled with, those of us who want to reform higher education, is convincing people that there’s a problem... Historically, they look around and say, "Huh, this seems fine." Everything they’re seeing right now is that things are not fine.'" 

"For decades now, we’ve watched as campus administrators from coast to coast have constructed... a network of speech codes, bias response teams, safe spaces and glossaries of microaggressions..."

"... that are all designed to protect students from alleged emotional harm. But not all students. When, as a student at Harvard Law School, I was booed and hissed and told to 'go die' for articulating pro-life or other conservative views, exactly zero administrators cared about my feelings. Nor did it cross my mind to ask them for help. I was an adult. I could handle my classmates’ anger. Yet how sensitive are administrators to student feelings under other circumstances? I had to chuckle when I read my colleague Pamela Paul’s excellent column on the Columbia School of Social Work and she quoted a school glossary that uses the term 'folx.' Why spell the word with an 'x'? Because some apparently believe the letter 's' in 'folks' renders the term insufficiently inclusive. I kid you not...."The rule cannot be that Jews must endure free speech at its most painful, while favored campus constituencies enjoy the warmth of college administrators and the protection of campus speech codes.... "

French concludes (and I agree): "[P]rotect students from harassment... But do not protect students from speech.... The answer to campus hypocrisy isn’t more censorship. It’s true liberty. Without that liberty, the hypocrisy will reign for decades more."

I'm reading a Vox article from 4 years ago — December 12, 2019.

The headline is "Gaetz’s effort to make the impeachment hearing about Hunter Biden’s problems backfired spectacularly":
During Thursday’s impeachment hearing, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee repeatedly tried to shift the focus from President Donald Trump’s apparent abuse of power to the Bidens — their goal being to establish that Trump had legitimate reasons to try and cajole the Ukrainian government into investigating one of his domestic political foes.

Who are the "we" who say "That's not who we are"?

I'm reading "Trump Voters Are America Too/If he wins a second term, perhaps we’ll finally dispense with the myth that 'this is not who we are,'" by Mark Leibovich, in The Atlantic.
“This is not who we are”: The would-be guardians of America’s better angels have been scolding us with this line for years. Or maybe they mean it as an affirmation. Either way, the axiom prompts a question: Who is “we” anyway? Because it sure seems like a lot of this “we” keeps voting for Trump....

Look at the question from the other side. Why did some people feel entitled to speak for the "we" and purport to disqualify their fellow citizens as part of the "we"? Oddly, it seems that they were disincluding those they thought were insufficiently inclusive. Who's been otherizing whom? 

But Leibovich doesn't proceed to try to understand Trump voters as human beings worth knowing. He just goes on to do what a writer for The Atlantic is supposed to do and bemoan those terrible deplorables.

If Trump wins in 2024, his detractors will have to reckon once again with the voters who got us here—to reconcile what it means to share a country with so many citizens who keep watching Trump spiral deeper into his moral void and still conclude, “Yes, that’s our guy.”

"Only 23% of voters say Biden's policies have helped them personally, while 53% say they have been hurt by the president's agenda."

"By contrast, about half of voters say Trump's policies when he was president helped them personally, more than the 37% who say they were hurt.... 'Bidenomics,' the president's signature economic platform, is viewed favorably by less than 30% of voters and unfavorably by more than half.... ...Biden is holding only 87% of voters who told Journal pollsters that they had supported Biden against Trump in 2020, while Trump is holding 94% who recall backing him. The 'disaffected Democrats' are part of a far broader group holding a gloomy view of the economy.... Voters say Trump is the better bet than Biden to secure the border (by 30 percentage points), tame inflation (by 21 points) and build the economy (by 17 points). Biden leads on who can best deal with abortion policy, and voters say that he more than Trump respects democracy...."

I'm reading "Biden's Approval Hits a Low As Trump Leads in WSJ Poll" (WSJ).

The poll shows Trump ahead of Biden — 47% to 43% — and, with an added choice of third party/independent candidates, Trump ahead 37% to 31%.

On the subject of anti-Semitism, "I'd like to speak not from the heart, but from the thesaurus...."/"And could you rephrase that in an even more academic way?"

I like the freeze frame. All 3 have the same head tilt and arrogant smirk.

The actual sketch is hardest on Elise Stefanik though, unsurprisingly.