December 30, 2023

Sunrise — 7:26, 7:27, 7:32.




"A Times investigation found that troops were disorganized, out of position and relied on social media to choose targets. Behind the failure: Israel had no battle plan for a massive Hamas invasion."

"Where Was the Israeli Military?" (NYT).
[A] New York Times investigation found that Israel’s military was undermanned, out of position and so poorly organized that soldiers communicated in impromptu WhatsApp groups and relied on social media posts for targeting information. Commandos rushed into battle armed only for brief combat. Helicopter pilots were ordered to look to news reports and Telegram channels to choose targets.

And perhaps most damning: The Israel Defense Forces did not even have a plan to respond to a large-scale Hamas attack on Israeli soil, according to current and former soldiers and officers. If such a plan existed on a shelf somewhere, the soldiers said, no one had trained on it and nobody followed it. The soldiers that day made it up as they went along....

"This was the year... that artificial intelligence went from a dreamy projection to an ambient menace and perpetual sales pitch."

"Does it feel like the future to you, or has A.I. already taken on the staleness and scamminess of the now-worthless nonfungible token?... I suppose there was something nifty the first time I tried ChatGPT — a slightly more sophisticated grandchild of Eliza, the ’60s therapist chatbot — though I’ve barely used it since then; the hallucinatory falsehoods of ChatGPT make it worthless for journalists, and even its tone seems an insult to my humanity. (I asked: 'Who was the better painter, Manet or Degas?' Response: 'It is not appropriate to compare artists in terms of ‘better’ or ‘worse,’ as art is a highly subjective field.')... I remain profoundly relaxed about machines passing themselves off as humans; they are terrible at it. Humans acting like machines— that is a much likelier peril, and one that culture, as the supposed guardian of (human?) virtues and values, has failed to combat these last few years.... I spent a lot of this year thinking about ​​stylistic exhaustion, and the pervading sense that, in digital times, culture is going nowhere fast.... [I] wonder if... these perpetual mediocrity machines, these supercharged engines of cliché, end up pressing us to revalue the things humans alone can do...."

Writes Jason Farago, in "A.I. Can Make Art That Feels Human. Whose Fault Is That? A fake Drake/Weeknd mash-up is not a threat to our species’s culture. It’s a warning: We can’t let our imaginations shrink to machine size" (NYT).

"I still to this day call it the worst meeting I have ever had. He was 99 or 100 at the time."

"We said, 'We think what you did was absolutely incredible and we would love to make a film about that particular moment in your life.' He said, 'Oh, no one else needs to know what I did. No one else. Anyone who needs to know about this, already knows about it.'"

"Those favoring the disqualification of Mr. Trump insist that there is nothing antidemocratic about constraining the presidential choices of the national electorate."

"The Constitution, after all, contains a number of provisions that deny the people the right to elect whomever they wish. Article II, Section One, for example, prevents the people from electing anyone who is under age 35 or who is a foreign-born candidate. Those qualifications are expressly declared in the text, and they received robust vetting and debate in the ratifying conventions. In the case of Section 3 [of the Fourteenth Amendment], the Supreme Court is being asked to impose new constraints on the democratic process by way of textual implication and in the absence of any public debate whatsoever.... At best, the text of Section 3 is ambiguous regarding the office of president. The Supreme Court should limit the clause to its historically verifiable meaning and scope. Let the people make their own decisions about Donald Trump."

Writes lawprof Kurt Lash, author of "A Troubled Birth of Freedom: The Struggle to Amend the Constitution in the Aftermath of the Civil War," in "Trump Should Not Be Disqualified by an Ambiguous Clause" (NYT).

The fundamental principle is "the people should choose whom they please to govern them." Ambiguity must be resolved in that direction.


There's a WaPo article with the headline, "How to give up smoking weed (or other toxic habits you’re tired of)/Quitting marijuana, cigarettes and alcohol was tougher than the writer expected. She shares what works and what didn’t." The last line of the article is: "When I gave up toxic habits, I had room for something more beautiful to take their place."

And the comments are loaded with people resisting the notion that marijuana is "toxic":
"Again, the Post treats addiction to alcohol and nicotine the same as the use of the non-addictive cannabis. Why the lie? Why the supposition cannabis use by adults is 'toxic'? I don't use any intoxicants. Haven't for more than three decades. Cannabis is medicine."

"Trump’s victory is by no means assured...."

"But the past few years of Trump, Trump, Trump have taught me, if nothing else, that hoping for the best is not necessarily a winning strategy. With American democracy on the line, I’m taking the only defensible position toward the New Year: full-scale dread. I plan to pull up the covers and hide under my pillow as long as possible come January. It’s going to be a long twelve months."

Writes Susan B. Glasser, in "The Year We Stopped Being Able to Pretend About Trump/The story of 2023 wasn’t the search for another Republican leader—but the Party’s embrace of the one it already has" (The New Yorker).

Dread as the alternative to hope.

How could dread be a "winning strategy"?

Are Democrats arriving at the belief that Trump is inevitable? What strange power that man has!

"One common tipping complaint is some variation of the truffle conundrum."

"Why should we tip more on the pasta with truffles than on the one without? Call it a wealth tax. There’s also a celebrity tax. One waiter, whose diners have included Selena Gomez, Jon Hamm, and Matthew Macfadyen ('He ordered two entrées successively,' he recalled. 'I was impressed'), said that those who are rich and identifiable typically leave thirty to fifty per cent. 'Robert Plant tipped me twenty per cent, which I respected,' he said. 'There’s this paranoia of being despised by the waiter, and they overtip to compensate. I always thought that was pathetic.'"

From "Has Gratuity Culture Reached a Tipping Point? Paying extra for service has inspired rebellions, swivelling iPads, and irritation from Trotsky. Post-pandemic, the practice has entered a new stage" (The New Yorker). Lots more about tipping in that article. My excerpt isn't a summary, just something random that interested me.

December 29, 2023

Sunrise — 7:36.


"My wife and I live in a country where we have a first amendment. We’re dealing with consensual adult sexuality. The regents are overreacting.”

"They’re certainly not adhering to their own commitment to free speech or the first amendment.... I got an email last night saying I was terminated. I wish I would have had the opportunity to have a hearing. When reasonable people understand what my wife and I are creating, it calms them down."

Said Former University of Wisconsin-La Crosse chancellor Joe Gow, quoted in "Wisconsin university chancellor claims he was fired for appearing in porn videos/Joe Gow says that his free speech rights were violated after the Universities of Wisconsin board of regents decided to fire him" (The Guardian).

"New York Times' Nikole Hannah-Jones tweets the North didn't fight to end slavery in Civil War."

A Fox News headline from last year, interesting today in light of Nikki Haley's recent comments on the Civil War.

On [May 21, 2022], Hannah-Jones tweeted out a quote from her controversial 1619 Project...

"Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) struck down a bill that would have banned gender-affirming care for minors..."

"... preserving such care for residents beyond his state as well, because families of transgender youths who live in states with bans have been traveling to Ohio for treatment.... Ohio’s Saving Adolescents From Experimentation Act, or SAFE Act, would have prohibited hormone therapy, puberty blockers and gender reassignment surgery for people under 18. The measure also would have prohibited transgender girls from playing on sports teams designated for girls and women in high school and college.... While minors who are already receiving gender-affirming care would’ve been allowed to continue, other parents 'would be criminals, if they seek care for their child after the bill becomes effective. It’s crazy,' [said one father of a transgender child]...."

WaPo reports.

DeWine defended his veto in pro-life terms: "Ultimately I believe this is about protecting human life.... Many parents have told me that their child would not have survived, would be dead today, if they had not received the treatment they received from one of Ohio’s children’s hospitals."

"I think you had one side of the civil war that was fighting for tradition and one side of the civil war that was fighting for change."

"At the end of the day, what I think we need to remember is that, you know, everyone’s supposed to have their rights, everyone’s supposed to be free, everyone’s supposed to have the same freedoms as anyone else. So I think it was tradition versus change. ['Tradition versus change on what?'] On individual rights and liberty of people."

Said Nikki Haley, in 2010, quoted by The Guardian back in February 2023, in "Nikki Haley: video shows Republican candidate saying US states can secede/Contender also says civil war – fought over slavery – was one side ‘fighting for tradition’ and the other ‘fighting for change.'"

Here's the video:

I'm looking at that today, because I see that a lot of other people are going back to that video, relevant as it is to the seemingly inane answer she gave this past Wednesday when asked "What was the cause of the Civil War?" Now, I think I was too charitable in calling her recent statement a "word salad," as if she were unprepared, inept, and pretty much what Trump called her — a "bird brain."

It seems she's really thought about the Civil War for a while and come up with a political position that she'd said out loud quite clearly on at least one other occasion.

Yes, she was talking to "a pro-Confederate group," but: 1. She talked to a pro-Confederate group, 2. She gave them what, presumably, they wanted, and 3. She's repeated this bullshit/true belief.

"When people see an age gap, they tend to imagine there is something intrinsically unequal about it — that the older partner wants someone they can control..."

"... and the younger partner has daddy issues or is just out for money.... And even if the older partner is calling all the shots, or some of them, that isn’t necessarily abuse. While Me Too made us all too aware of the way power dynamics can be and have been exploited, it didn’t do away with the fact that desire for these dynamics continues to exist. (Daddy, for instance, was the most-searched term on the porn site xHamster among women in America in 2018.) Sex-advice columnist Dan Savage, who is seven years older than his husband and 22 years older than his boyfriend, has found much of the conversation about age gaps to be fundamentally unrealistic about what human relationships are. 'We are status-obsessed, power-obsessed primates always jockeying for control — socially and also in our interpersonal relationships,' he said. 'There’s no interpersonal relationship without power differentials, without advantages or disadvantages on both sides. And if you want to correct for that, or eliminate that, you have to eliminate human relationships.'" 

Sooner than never?

A Daily Beast headline I didn't click on: "Why Trump May Find Himself in Jail Sooner Than He Thinks."

ADDED: That post title — I thought — it sounds like a bad album title. Googling, I see...

December 28, 2023

At the Thursday Night Café....


... you can write about whatever you want.

(The photo is another photo from the plane yesterday afternoon. I didn't wake up for the sunrise today. It's as if I was jet-lagged, but I'd only gone to Texas and had not changed time zones.)

How "Ode to Billy Joe" could become the U.S. national anthem.


When is it Chris Christie's turn?

I'm reading "Christie pushes back on calls for him to drop out..." (CNN).

It must be very frustrating for the poor man. He saw all the hopes and dreams of anti-Trumpsters poured into Ron DeSantis, a product that just wouldn't move. Then all the money flowed to Nikki Haley, and here she is living up to Trump's epithet for her.

And they're telling Christie to drop out? Isn't he the only one left? When is it his turn? The anti-Trumpsters need someone. He's been trying for so long to be that person. 

Here he is world, here's Chris! [I'm envisioning a parody of "Rose's Turn."]

Now, what?

I see "Haley, Asked About the Cause of the Civil War, Avoids Mentioning Slavery/A pointed question, at a town hall in New Hampshire, raises a complicated topic for Nikki Haley, who as governor of South Carolina wrestled with issues stemming from the Confederacy" (NYT).

Asked — at a town hall — "What was the cause of the United States Civil War?" she served an insane word salad:
"I mean, I think it always comes down to the role of government and what the rights of the people are,” she said eventually, arguing that government should not tell people how to live their lives or “what you can and can’t do. I will always stand by the fact that I think government was intended to secure the rights and freedoms of the people.... It was never meant to be all things to all people."...  After a quick back and forth with the questioner, she said, “What do you want me to say about slavery? Next question.”

Key words: "What do you want me to say...?" Does this woman have a mind at all? Is she saying what [somebody] wants her to say? If so, why didn't they program in a stock answer about the Civil War? 

So much money has just been thrown at this person. Now, what?

ADDED: Here's the full video. The NYT summary is merciful, if anything. 

"Nobody will ever hear me say I’m glad she’s dead or I’m proud of what I did. I regret it every single day."

"She didn’t deserve that. She was a sick woman and unfortunately I wasn’t educated enough to see that. She deserved to be where I am, sitting in prison doing time for criminal behavior."

Said Gypsy Rose Blanchard, quoted in "Gypsy Rose Blanchard released from prison early after serving time for the murder of her abusive mother/Blanchard, 32, was released from the Chillicothe Correctional Center at 3:30 a.m. Thursday. She had been serving a 10-year sentence for the June 2015 slaying of her mother" (NBC News).

December 27, 2023

At the Sky High Café....


... you can talk about whatever you want.

Goodbye to Tommy Smothers.

“Tom Smothers, Comic Half of the Smothers Brothers, Dies at 86/Though he played a naïve buffoon onstage, he was the driving force behind the folk-singing duo’s groundbreaking TV show” (NYT).

This is a very sad one for me. Not only did I love the old TV show, I am the world’s biggest fan of “Get to Know Your Rabbit.”

I’m blogging this from the air. A first time experience for me.

"Even for dedicated fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the amount of prerequisite knowledge required to watch any M.C.U. movie or show nowadays is tantamount to a college course."

"And it seems like audiences are tiring of the constant homework assignments.... These franchises are spelling their own downfalls, as the price of entry into the fandoms has become frustratingly high for the dedicated disciples of these worlds, and not at all worth it for casual viewers or prospective new fans. This year has been a prime of example of what happens when a pop-culture movement takes hold of an industry and then overreaches.... In 'The Flash,' Barry Allen (the hero’s alter ego) has to explain to an alternate version of himself that they can’t keep manipulating the time stream. 'These worlds,' Barry says, looking at the C.G.I. representations of space and time around him, 'they’re colliding and collapsing.' 'We did this,' he continues. 'We’re destroying the fabric of everything.'"

From "Is This the Endgame for the Age of Heroes? Audiences are showing fatigue when it comes to Marvel’s box office behemoths of recent years. Based on what they were served in 2023, it’s hard to blame them" (NYT).

"Gérard Depardieu is probably the greatest of all actors.... When people attack Gérard Depardieu in this way, they are attacking art... France owes him so much."

A quote from the letter described in "Gérard Depardieu: dozens of celebrities denounce ‘lynching’ of French actor/Signatories of open letter include Charlotte Rampling, Carole Bouquet, and former French first lady and singer Carla Bruni" (The Guardian)("Depardieu, who has made more than 200 films and television series, was charged with rape in 2020 and has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by more than a dozen women").

"You're Joe Biden. Suppose your goals are to a) get reelected, b) in the process let in as many migrants as you can, because you..."

"... and many of your supporters think it's a good thing. You've made impressive progress on (b), letting in migrants at a rate that’s now at least around 2 million a year,. But now goal (b) is conflicting with (a) as the massive surge of illegals at the border has become a 'sucking wound' on your 2024 chances. What to do?"

Writes Mickey Kaus, in "Biden's Border 'Briar Patch'/'Please, please, don't fix my most serious political problem for me!'" (Substack).

"[T]he abrupt rise in digital interaction following the arrival of the pandemic made knowledge work more tedious and exhausting..."

"... helping to fuel the waves of disruption that have followed.... So long as these new and excessive levels of digital communication persist, more haphazard upheavals will inevitably follow. We need to get serious about reducing digital communication—not just small tweaks to corporate norms but significant reductions, driven by major policy changes.... [Business owners] could declare that, from now on, e-mail should be used only for broadcasting information, and for sending questions that can be answered by a single reply. One implication of this system would be that any substantive back-and-forth discussion would need to happen live; to prevent an explosion of new meetings, managers could simultaneously introduce office hours, in which every employee adopts a set period each day during which they’d be available to chat in person, online, or over the phone, with no appointment needed. Discussions that seem likely to take fifteen minutes or less should be conducted during office hours, minimizing the number of intrusive meetings and freeing everyone from endless back-and-forth e-mail threads.... The need to constantly monitor ongoing chats can be even more disruptive than frequent e-mails and meetings.... [Businesses could] opt out of chat services completely...."

Writes Cal Newport, a computer science professor, in "An Exhausting Year in (and Out of) the Office/After successive waves of post-pandemic change, worn-out knowledge workers need a fresh start" (The New Yorker).

"We’re in a season of hand-wringing and scapegoating over social media, especially TikTok...."

"Young people are overwhelmingly unhappy about U.S. policy on the war in Gaza? Must be because they get their 'perspective on the world on TikTok' — at least according to Senator John Fetterman, a Democrat who holds a strong pro-Israel stance. This attitude is shared across the aisle. 'It would not be surprising that the Chinese-owned TikTok is pushing pro-Hamas content,' Senator Marsha Blackburn said.... Consumers are unhappy with the economy? Surely, that’s TikTok again, with some experts arguing that dismal consumer sentiment is a mere 'vibecession' — feelings fueled by negativity on social media rather than by the actual effects of inflation, housing costs and more.... Why don’t we know more about TikTok’s true influence, or that of YouTube or Facebook? Because that requires the kind of independent research that’s both expensive and possible only with the cooperation of the platforms themselves... [U]ntil politicians and institutions dig into the influence of social media and try to figure out ways to regulate it, and also try addressing broader sources of discontent, blaming TikTok amounts to just noise."

Writes Zeynep Tufekci — a professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University — in "Avert Your Eyes, Avoid Responsibility and Just Blame TikTok" (NYT).

Why did Trump share this word cloud?

The word cloud was produced by The Daily Mail to visualize the results of its survey, which asked 984 American voters to summarize Trump's plan for his second term — in one word. The same question was asked about Biden, and Biden's cloud has the word "NOTHING" in the center. Trump didn't share the Biden cloud though, perhaps because the answer "nothing" probably didn't mean they thought Biden was a nothing — or had zero plans — but simply that the person polled couldn't think of anything. You can see that "nothing" appears in Trump's word cloud too.

Why do you think Trump wanted to share that cloud? Did he like the sequence of words? Does he expect us to see "dictatorship" as the word chosen by hysterical, hyperbolic antagonists? Is he into the ambiguity, which requires us to keep talking about him? 

Does he believe — or like to tease — the idea that dictatorship is good? Politico bolsters that interpretation: "Trump has... lavished praise on authoritarian leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and North Korean strongman Kim Jong-un." Lavished. Really?

December 26, 2023

At Just This Café...


... what else are you going to do?

"Trump augurs divisive year in angry Christmas rant" — as CNN sees it.


The article quotes this Truth Social post of Trump's:

I don't like the all caps, but does that strike you as unjustifiably angry?  

“Through the magic of fat-washing, clarification and infusions, umami-heavy drinks that taste like specific dishes…”

“…will proliferate as our collective palate shifts from super sweet to savory. Already, in New York you can order a cocktail that tastes of Waldorf salad at Double Chicken Please in New York or a Caprese martini at Jac’s on Bond. Or would you prefer a Thai beef salad drink from the Savory Project, in Hong Kong, or an Everything Everywhere cocktail with smoked salmon-infused gin, vermouth and caper brine accented with everything bagel spice from the Anvil Pub and Grill, in Birmingham, Ala.?”

"He works in venture capital. I’m the writer. And all I have the bandwidth to do at the end of the day..."

"... is read aloud to her from books other creative people have written, even if their plots feature a 'good little mother' who spends her days cheerfully whipping up delicious meals of roasted penguin and being praised for her frugality and Christian values. [My husband had] not only come up with a brand-new story, but also... a rhyming riddle...? Just whom had I married? I started to cycle through the stories of other women who’d also found themselves living with men who harbored deep secrets, from Rosemary’s Baby to Jane Eyre. Was he communing with the devil? Did he have a first wife hidden in the coat closet? 'It’s ChatGPT,' he whispered, with a shrug, after he tiptoed out and found me slack-jawed and panicky. 'I just feed in [our daughter's] insane prompts and it spits out a story.' Oh...."

From "I was shocked: my husband was using AI to write our children’s bedtime stories/I was impressed as his stories grew ever more inventive and responsive to our kids’ demands. Then I learned his secret" by Sophie Brickman (The Guardian).

Are AI books better because they can include whatever elements the child — with her limited real-world associations — comes up with? Why wouldn't it work just as well to invent your own story with those elements? The daughter in question asked for a funny story about "mowing lawns in a place called Bananaland, and a festival, and monkeys." It's not hard to make up this story on your own, but you may be interested, for a few minutes, in how AI might do it. But is this the new way to do bedroom stories? I think a child is more likely to respond to a story told spontaneously, from an active human mind connected to the voice. Brickman does not disagree.

"Harvard University faculty are calling for members of its governing board to step down as a way to reset the university as it struggles..."

"... with historic reputational damage and demands for the resignation of its embattled president, Claudine Gay.... Faculty who fretted for years that the school is ceding ground on free speech to appease advocates of diversity, equity and inclusion feel newly empowered to raise their concerns...."

From "As Pressure on Harvard President Increases, University Board Feels the Squeeze/Critics of Harvard Corporation call for resignations, fault the board’s insularity for recent missteps" (Wall Street Journal).

"Whatever advantage Mr. Biden held over Mr. Trump on the issue of who would be more likely to bring about order, stability and calm..."

"... it has surely been erased at this point. And indeed, many voters are beginning to look back longingly at the Trump era.... This is why, already, Trump is beginning to work to portray himself as the safer, more stable pick, and to go to great — even misleading — lengths to claim that Mr. Biden actually wants chaos and has created a world filled with more terror. He has already produced ads suggesting that Mr. Biden’s inability to lead is directly responsible for the global disorder that threatens American security, and it is a message voters have begun to echo in polling.... [I]nstead of clamoring for someone to blow everything up, they are instead crying out for someone to put things back in order. Voters wanted this from Mr. Biden and clearly feel he didn’t deliver...."

Writes Kristen Soltis Anderson, in "Could Voters Conclude That Biden Is the Riskier Bet to Restore Order?" (NYT).

December 25, 2023

I'll have the usual!


Or unusual! Comment on whatever you like..

And merry Christmas, everybody.

Significant chunks.

I don't (want to) believe this:
"There are significant chunks of the American populace that will find it very hard to respect a supreme court decision that keeps Trump off the ballot, and there are significant chunks of the American populace that will find it very hard to respect a supreme court decision that keeps Trump on the ballot."
That's a quote from lawprof Steve Vladeck that appears in this Guardian article, "'Did you just hear John Roberts scream?': US supreme court to have outsized influence in 2024 election Court temporarily waved off request from special counsel prosecuting Trump, but it’ll likely soon have to wade into fray."

It's Christmas, so I'm not delving into the status of the Supreme Court's mystique in the chunky Mind of America. 

After that last post, you may be anticipating that I'll veer off into a discussion of the word "chunk." But I did that, so extensively, in 2020 — replete with a survey of old posts of mine, historical quotes from the OED, an embedded video of the vintage Arnold Stang commercial for Chunky (the candy), and a photograph of a record I inherited from my father that had "a chunk taken out of it, and so I can't listen to Count Basie's 'One O'Clock Jump' or Dinah Shore singing 'Buttons and Bows.'"

I can't do that again!

"Born in 1943 to a New York family of tactile pragmatists (her father helped invent the X-Acto knife), Glück, a preternaturally self-competitive child..."

"... was constantly trying to whittle away at her own perceived shortcomings. When she was a teenager, she developed anorexia — that pulverizing, paradoxical battle with both helplessness and self-control — and dropped to 75 pounds at 16. The disorder prevented her from completing a college degree. Many of the poems Glück wrote in her early 20s flog her own obsessions with, and failures in, control and exactitude. Her narrators are habitués of a kind of limitless wanting; her language, a study in ruthless austerity. (A piano-wire-taut line tucked in her 1968 debut, 'Firstborn': 'Today my meatman turns his trained knife/On veal, your favorite. I pay with my life.') In her late 20s, Glück grew frustrated with writing and was prepared to renounce it entirely...."

From the NYT's annual roundup of short essays about people who died in the past year — "The Lives They Led" — I've chosen a bit of Amy X. Wang's essay on the Nobel Prize-winning poet Louise Glück.

I loved the X-Acto/exactitude theme — the whittling away, the meatman and his trained knife, and the potential to end up with nothing.

ADDED: I wondered if — in 20 years of blogging — I had ever before used the word "exactitude." It's a great word, and I thought, perhaps I'd never used it. But I see I've used it twice, both times in 2018.

December 24, 2023

None of this matters....

IMG_4685 (1)

It ain't over 'til it's over....

IMG_4694 (1)

One day you're here...

IMG_4809 (1)

And the next day you're gone...

IMG_4702 (1)

Austin faces.


Talk about whatever you want in the comments.


"The unbroken tradition of not exercising the supposed formidable power of criminally prosecuting a president for official acts — despite ample motive and opportunity to do so, over centuries — implies that the power does not exist."

Says the brief for Donald Trump.

Quoted in "Trump Asks Appeals Court to Toss Election Case on Immunity Grounds/The court filing was the latest development in a battle between Mr. Trump and the special counsel, Jack Smith, over whether the former president can be prosecuted for his actions while in office" (NYT).

This is the case that the prosecution has been trying to speed up. The Supreme Court rejected an effort to skip the Court of Appeals stage. The trial judge has the case scheduled to go to trial on March 4, which hardly seems possible, even if the Court of Appeals is expediting its work. There's still the Supreme Court stage. 

If the trial were to be pushed into the summer, it would coincide with the homestretch of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign. Obliged to be in Washington each weekday for two or three months, the former president would almost certainly bring his campaign to the courthouse steps, turning the proceeding into even more of a media circus than it already promises to be.

That's rich, blaming Trump for the spectacle of the criminal trial. Then there's also the problem of Trump's other 3 criminal trials. Where to cram them in before Election Day?

"Laura Lynch, a founding member of the country music group the Dixie Chicks, died in a car crash on Friday.... She was 65...."

I'm reading the New York Times obituary, which does not update the famous name "The Dixie Chicks" to the revised version of the name — "The Chicks" — that I'm seeing in some, but not all, other publications. We are told in paragraph 4 that the band is "now known as The Chicks," and Lynch left the group in 1995, long before the name change.

"In an angry dissent, Justice Annette Ziegler, one of three conservatives on the panel, denounced the liberal majority as 'robewearers'...."

From "Justices in Wisconsin Order New Legislative Maps/The ruling, coming just months after liberals gained a 4-to-3 majority on the State Supreme Court, could undo gerrymanders that have given Republicans lopsided control of the State Legislature" (NYT).

On the other side:
Justice Jill J. Karofsky, writing for the majority, said that Wisconsin’s current maps violate a requirement in the State Constitution “that Wisconsin’s state legislative districts must be composed of physically adjoining territory.”

“Given the language in the Constitution, the question before us is straightforward,” she wrote. “When legislative districts are composed of separate, detached parts, do they consist of ‘contiguous territory’? We conclude that they do not.”

I see that Democrats are exulting, but why would more compact, contiguous districts help Democrats? Their problem has been that Democratic voters are concentrated in urban areas. If the court's decision means what that Karofsky quote says, won't more Democrats end up packed into districts that already had a safe Democratic majority?

Our former governor, Scott Walker, said "This is not the win the left thinks it is." 

"The diamond industry is going through an existential crisis... [now that] technology and the human imagination have been able to replicate nature perfectly."

Said Jean Dousset, a great-great-grandson of Louis Cartier who is pushing the luxury end of the "lab-grown" diamonds business.

Quoted in "Lab-grown diamonds go luxury — and rock the industry" (Axios).

"Millennial women," we're told, are interested in these diamonds — they're real diamonds! — that don't come from diamond mines. One is quoted saying "I want a pretty fat ring."

How about I want the best price? No, apparently, the idea is you pay the same price you'd pay for the diamond from a mine, but you get a bigger ring. Bigger, not cheaper. Or will bigger scream "lab grown"? But who will care? Maybe it's in bad taste to expect people to mine diamonds. If you get a small lab-grown diamond, people might think you're connected to exploitation. So you simply must get the big fat one. And who cares if things are fake these days? No one comments on fake nails, fake eyelashes, hair extensions, breast implants.

And yet, that's not the point with the lab-grown diamonds. They have been determined to be real diamonds. That's why there's an "existential crisis."