January 6, 2024

Lake Mendota at 1:56 p.m.


"Obama grew 'animated' in discussing the 2024 election... and has suggested to Biden’s advisers that the campaign needs more top-level decision-makers..."

"... at its headquarters in Wilmington, Del. — or it must empower the people already in place.... Obama’s conversation with Biden on the subject took place during a private lunch at the White House in recent months.... Obama has long harbored worries about Trump’s political strength, telling Biden during a different private lunch last summer that Trump is a more formidable candidate than many Democrats realize...."

Writes Tyler Pager, in "Obama, worried about Trump, urges Biden circle to bolster campaign/The former president shared his thoughts about the reelection campaign during a private lunch with Biden at the White House" (WaPo).

This article made me think of the old saying "Thanks, Obama!"

"Biden furiously denounced... Trump’s habit of joking about the... intruder who attacked Paul Pelosi... with a hammer, saying: 'And he thinks that’s funny. He laughed about it. What a sick – .'"

"He halted. At the last moment, the president of the United States had saved himself from uttering a profanity. The urge coursed through his body and found relief in his hands, which clenched into fists, as the crowd filled in with laughter and whooping. 'My God,' Biden said. 'I think it’s despicable, seriously, not just for a president but for any person to say that.'... He mused: 'Sometimes I’m really happy the Irish in me can’t be seen.'... Democrats are often criticised for pulling their punches and refusing to fight dirty as Republicans do. For as long as Trump has been on the political scene, they have wrestled with the question of whether to rise above him or roll in the dirt with him. In 2018, the former attorney general Eric Holder declared: 'When they go low, we kick ’em. That’s what this new Democratic party is about.'... Voters will surely demand not only vivid Trump-bashing but a positive vision for a second term.... But for now, one thing is clear. The gloves are off...."

Writes David Smith, in "Fired-up Biden shows gloves are off in January 6 anniversary speech" (The Guardian).

What sort of "joking" about Paul Pelosi is Trump guilty of? Example from last September:

"Ever since the 1990s, when staying hydrated first became a popular health goal for the general population..."

"... certain reusable water bottles have become trends in their own right. The wide-mouthed, screw-top Nalgene — first popularized among campers and hikers in the 1970s — were everywhere in the late 2000s. ... In the following years, tall and heavy stainless-steel water carriers rose to prominence.... In 2018, Vanity Fair declared the Goop-approved water bottle with a whole natural crystal affixed to the inside it... the status symbol of the year.... In 2021, a $28 'motivational' gallon jug of water with encouragements for the drinker printed on it at each level ('12 p.m.: Keep drinking,' '2 p.m.: Halfway there!') briefly became a social-media sensation.... Around the same time... Sasha and Malia Obama... were noted as Hydro Flask users...."

On this issue, I always go back to George Carlin:


Must we commemorate January 6th? Is it going to be an annual occasion for reflection and disingenuity?

I'll just check the front page of The Washington Post and The New York Times.

The Washington Post is  not making an occasion of the 3rd anniversary of the insurrection/"insurrection." Here's the top of the page. There's one story, buried down there between something about Alaska Airlines and the recent doings of Elvis Costello:

If you scroll a little farther, though, you'll see that there's a piece by the Editorial Board, "Three years later, beware dangerous revisionism of Jan. 6."

I'll talk about that in a minute. First, let's compare the NYT front page:

It is still possible to astonish.

"If You Use a Ghostwriter, You Need to Check for Plagiarism."

Writes Jonathan Bailey, in Plagiarism Today.

Using a reputable plagiarism detection service, check the work yourself. Such checks take only minutes to perform and usually cost between $25 and $100 depending on the specific service and length of the book...

Or hire a professional, such as Bailey himself, who warns you that he's expensive.

Bailey describes an instance of a celebrity doctor who'd written many books and got into plagiarism trouble. The publisher moved the blame onto an assistant who was not listed as a co-author. This person took "complete responsibility for any errors."

There's a lot of ghostwriting out there — including A.I. — but when will it improve your reputation to say the ghostwriter did it?

"They’re really annoying, especially in the workplace. They’re like: 'Nah, I’m not feeling it today, I’m gonna come in at 10.30am.'"

"Or in emails, I’ll tell them: this is all grammatically incorrect, did you not check your spelling? And they’re like: 'Why would I do that, isn’t that kind of limiting?'"

Said Jodie Foster, quoted in "Jodie Foster says generation Z can be ‘really annoying’ to work with" (The Guardian).

January 5, 2024

Sunrise — 7:24, 7:31, 7:59.




"Supreme Court to decide if U.S. law requires some emergency room abortions."

WaPo reports.
The Idaho law... bans most abortions... with an exception when “necessary to prevent the death of a pregnant woman.”
The federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act was passed nearly 40 years ago to ensure that hospitals receiving Medicare funds treat or transfer patients with emergency medical conditions. After the Dobbs decision, the federal government issued new guidance to hospitals saying that the 1986 law requires health-stabilizing treatment for all patients, even if that treatment is an abortion....

Federal law protects patients not only from imminent death but also from emergencies that seriously threaten their health, Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar told the justices in a court filing.... 

"The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide whether former President Donald J. Trump is ineligible for Colorado’s Republican primary ballot..."

"... because he had engaged in insurrection in his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The case, which could alter the course of this year’s presidential election, will be argued on Feb. 8. The court will probably decide it quickly, as the primary season will soon be underway...."

I look forward to a quick resolution, and I hope it is unanimous and in Trump's favor. Let's get back to deciding the election on the merits, not disqualifying candidates.

"There’s no confusion about who Trump is or what he intends to do. We all know who Donald Trump is. The question is: Who are we?"

Said President Biden, quoted in "Biden condemned Trump in a searing speech and warned ‘your freedom is on the ballot.’" (NYT).

"Wisconsin's Democratic governor opposes keeping Republican Donald Trump off the ballot in the battleground state, saying that those who think he should be disqualified 'can vote against him.'"

Channel 3000 reports.

Gov. Tony Evers also told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that in order for President Joe Biden to win Wisconsin, he must be a frequent visitor to the state and focus his message on his successes and issues that matter to the middle class, not just the argument that the fate of democracy is at stake.

Good for Tony. I appreciate his attitude. 

"I would have had to have my dead name on my petitions. But in the trans community, our dead names are dead; there's a reason it's dead — that is a dead person who is gone and buried."

Said Vanessa Joy, quoted in "Ohio transgender candidate disqualified for only including legal name, not former name, on petitions" (News 5 Cleveland).
A law from the 1990s requires all candidates to list on their signature petitions any name changes within five years.... Not only is there nowhere to put it on the petition, but it isn’t included in the secretary of state’s 2024 candidate guide. It hasn't been on any candidate guides in recent years. News 5 reached out to the office with numerous clarifying questions, like why the name change isn't included in the 33-page guide, but did not hear back.

There's a problem with the petition and and the candidate guide and perhaps also with the law requiring disclosure of recent name changes.

But I'd also like to discuss the harshness of the statement that one's past self is "a dead person who is gone and buried." I had thought "dead naming" was considered bad because someone in the present is denying the transgender person the courtesy of using the name they have chosen to be addressed by in the present. Is typical for a transgender person to see their past self as dead — dead and buried? That seems so hostile and hateful toward oneself.

And yet, it corresponds with the idea in Christianity of being reborn. St. Paul wrote: "We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life...."

Speaking of disqualifying a presidential candidate...

Here's a famous quote from Gore Vidal: "Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically by definition be disqualified from ever doing so."

"At least Hanlon's razor... has something witty and memorable and real-life-applicable about it..."

Writes Rex Parker about today's NYT crossword, where the 18-across clue is "'Never attribute to ___ that which is adequately explained by stupidity' (Hanlon's razor)."

The answer to on that clue is... spoiler alert...

"My father... really wanted me to be a boy"/"Too bad, you'd have made a wonderful girl."

I'm watching that this morning because I'm watching a lot of Glynis Johns clips because Glynis Johns — who lived to be 100 — has died: "Glynis Johns, Who Played Mrs. Banks in ‘Mary Poppins,’ Dies at 100/The actress also received an Oscar nomination for 'The Sundowners' and won a Tony for Sondheim’s 'A Little Night Music,' where she sang 'Send in the Clowns'" (Hollywood Reporter).


"One of the weird things about Christie’s mea culpa is that he apparently thinks someone who has 'the wrong policies' is as equally dangerous as someone who 'will sell the soul of this country'..."

"... who he has called a 'dictator,' and who he said last week would 'burn America to the ground.'... The other weird thing is that you might come away from the clip thinking that the former governor realized the error of his ways shortly after 2016, or at least just after Trump became president—when, in fact, he was still supporting the guy in 2020 and did debate prep for the campaign that, as of a year later, he was saying he didn’t regret."

She's talking about this new ad from Christie, which seems like a last-ditch effort by Christie to save himself:

January 4, 2024

Sunrise — 7:18, 7:36, 7:37.




"Old-school liberals can simply go on championing free-speech values. But the 'woke' or 'identitarian' left cannot go on as before."

"Having long agitated for more sweeping speech restrictions and taboos, they now confront a dilemma: They do not want 'woke' hate speech or sensitivity standards applied to Palestinian-aligned activists, and they are unwilling to police speech that unnerves many Jews in the way that they policed speech they considered upsetting to other identity groups; yet they cannot subject Jews to such a blatant double standard without alienating many Americans and losing moral standing and attendant influence.... One faction wants to resolve the double standard by treating Jews as the woke left treats Black and brown people and members of the LGBTQ community—to grant them the status of an oppressed group and to police speech on their behalf. A more farsighted faction wants everyone to get equal treatment, regardless of identity, when speaking or being spoken about. This conflict is especially hard for institutions that moved away from old-school-liberal speech attitudes toward leftist identitarianism, and created diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging bureaucracies, only to treat Jews inequitably while leaving many Jews and Palestinians alike feeling slighted and aggressed. Why conserve that?"

Writes Conor Friedersdorf, in "How October 7 Changed America’s Free-Speech Culture/The identitarian left cannot go on as it did before the attacks" (The Atlantic).

"The dreariest aspects of the 'woke' movement are partisanship, outrage, victimhood and an obsessively political view of the world."

"But just as politically correct comedians trade on stories of their own oppression, anti-woke comedians now delight in referencing their own cancellations — Gervais and Chappelle’s shows are full of tales about people who have attacked them on the internet and in real life.... The outrage of woke comedians at the immorality of their enemies is echoed by the ceaseless outrage of anti-woke comedians at the absurdity and stupidity of their enemies. Comedy should offend. Comedians should speak freely.... But offensiveness is not synonymous with wit. And the best comedy is anarchic, not partisan. Surprising, not predictable. The antidote to an age of political polarisation and outrage is not more of the same. That men as talented as Chappelle and Gervais have succumbed to the temptation is a testament to just how powerful those forces are."

Writes James Marriott, in "Sorry, anti-woke comedians, the joke is on you/The problem with Ricky Gervais is not that he’s outrageous, it’s that he’s not outrageous enough" (London Times).

Yes, having watched the new Netflix shows from Ricky Gervais and Dave Chappelle, I think this criticism is apt.

The sound of coots at dawn, on Lake Mendota.

They almost seem to be barking.

ADDED: Those are, mostly, coots in the video, but I don't think the sound is coming from the coots. I think it's the ducks/geese that float amongst them.

"[P]ublic support for DEI has cratered.... [T]he political right has learned how to fight more effectively.... I watched the political dynamics develop from the inside."

Writes Christopher Rufo, in "How We Squeezed Harvard" (Wall Street Journal).
The key, I learned, is that any activist campaign has three points of leverage: reputational, financial and political. For some institutions, one point of leverage is enough, but, for a powerful one such as Harvard, the "squeeze" must work across multiple angles.

Journalists "applied reputational pressure" with charges of plagiarism. Donors applied financial pressure, "withholding a billion dollars in contributions." And the political pressure came through Congress, "exposing Ms. Gay's equivocations on antisemitism and threatening consequences for inaction."

This wasn't a secret. Rufo proudly credits himself with "narrating the strategy in real time."

"It is incredible that anything as foolish would be made in this day and age."

"And the suggestions in advertisements and awesome press releases that there is something 'adult' about it, that is a little too strong for the kids, are sheer, unadulterated eyewash. It's as naughty as a cornsilk cigarette. There is ever so slight a suggestion that the prostitute, portrayed by Capucine, is admired by the madame of the bordello, played by Barbara Stanwyck. But that this is any more than the admiration of an employer for a highly productive employe is a thing that only the most susceptible to press-agentry might suspect...." 

Wrote Bosley Crowther, in 1962, reviewing the movie "Walk on the Wild Side."

I like the way Crowther, scoffing at the mildness of the suggestiveness, can only bring himself to mildly suggest that the Barbara Stanwyck character is sexually attracted to a woman. 

Why did I watch that movie? Because it's one of the movies the Criterion Channel has assembled under the heading "cat movies":

The only cat in the movie is in the opening and closing credits, which were done by Saul Bass:

"Enough. It’s time to apply the plain language of the Constitution... without fear of the consequences. Republics are not maintained by cowardice...."

"You don’t have to be a lawyer to comprehend those words. You simply need some basic familiarity with American civics, the English language and a couple of common-sense rules of thumb. First, when interpreting the Constitution, text is king. If the text is clear enough, there is no need for historical analysis. You don’t need to know a special 'legal' version of the English language. Just apply the words on the page. Second, it’s crucial to understand that many of the Constitution’s provisions are intentionally antidemocratic.... Yes, it is undemocratic, exactly as it was intended to be...."

David French expounds on legal interpretation in the NYT, in "The Case for Disqualifying Trump Is Strong."

Unraveling the pillars.

I'm trying to read "Claudine Gay: What Just Happened at Harvard Is Bigger Than Me," written — it says here in the NYT — by Claudine Gay.

It would be beneath me to make the obvious joke — questioning whether the woman caught plagiarizing wrote the column that appears under her name — but I'm reading this prose and wondering who writes like this:

King Frederik Twitter.

January 3, 2024

At the Wednesday Night Café…

 … you can talk about whatever you want. 

"How many American cats live largely or entirely outdoors? (More than a hundred million.) What proportion of them kill birds? (More than half.)"

"And how many birds does a bird-killing cat kill in one year? (Perhaps three dozen.) Each of these multipliers had a range of uncertainty, so the model needed to be run repeatedly. The number it generated most often was 2.4 billion birds a year. Outdoor-cat advocates were quick to dismiss the paper as 'junk science.'... But I, too, at first, being skeptical of models, had trouble believing that the numbers could be so vast.... The most dismal number in the Nature Communications paper was its median estimate for the birds killed annually by cats with owners: six hundred and eighty-four million. Unlike the death toll from unowned cats, this number could be zero, because tame cats can be kept indoors.... I... have friends who, if I suggest that they might not want to let their cats outside, respond not with rationales but with uneasiness. My guess is that, just as I will sometimes eat a tuna sandwich, despite knowing what I know about tuna fisheries, my friends are doing a small thing that they know isn’t right but is convenient. In a darker way, I wonder if one of the attractions of having cats as pets is precisely that, however affectionate they may be, they have a savage side as well, sharp of tooth and keen of claw...."

Writes Jonathan Franzen, in "How the 'No Kill' Movement Betrays Its Name/By keeping cats outdoors, trap-neuter-release policies have troubling consequences for city residents, local wildlife—and even the cats themselves" (The New Yorker).

Much more from Franzen — the great novelist and bird defender — at the link.

"Like many other Americans struggling to find scraps of calm and slivers of hope in this anxious era..."

"... I resolved a while back not to get overly excited about Donald Trump’s overexcited utterances.... But I can’t shake a grandiose prophecy that he made repeatedly last year as he looked toward the 2024 presidential race. He took to calling it the 'final battle.'... [A]s he continued to rave biblically... my reaction changed, and it surprised me: He just may be right. Not in his cartoonish description of that conflict... but in terms of how profoundly meaningful the 2024 election could be...."

Writes Frank Bruni, in the NYT.

What I hear him saying in those opening lines to his column is: I'm not going to let Trump play me... and yet I just can't resist.

Bruni resolved not to get overly excited, so he's got his loophole. He's sticking with his resolve, but he still can get excited... whenever excitement is appropriate. He's not overly excited. Just the right amount of excited. 

Me, I am far more deeply resolved not to let Trump rhetoric excite me. I am a cool and distant observer. To me, the things he says are merely bloggable or not bloggable. I listen to Trump and to the people he plays — one way or another. I'm not one of the many Americans "struggling to find scraps of calm and slivers of hope in this anxious era." How can you struggle to find calm? To struggle is to be uncalm. How can calmness come in scraps?

Back to Bruni and skipping into the middle of things:
If the people on the losing side of an election believe that those on the winning side are digging the country’s graveyard, how do they accept and respect the results? The final battle we may be witnessing is between a governable and an ungovernable America, a faintly civil and a floridly uncivil one....

Ha ha, I skimmed over the context and, for an instant, I couldn't tell which side was which. Either side, losing, will go nuts looking for some way out, won't they? I lived through the Wisconsin uprising of 2011. 

But, of course, I know what I'm reading, what side Bruni is on, and that the general rule in politics is — as we say in Wisconsin — "All the assholes are over on the other side."

"All he could see were articles instructing him on how to exert his will over recalcitrant patients, how to give them more standard treatment aimed at full weight restoration."

"And sometimes, because that was all he had to offer, his patients would simply stop coming to appointments. Yager would discover, later, that they had gone home and died alone on their sofas. Maybe by starvation, maybe by suicide. Maybe in pain. 'I felt like a failure,' Yager told me. 'They fired me, basically, at the end, knowing that I wasn’t able to help them anymore and wasn’t eager to just see them through the end.'... He came to think that he had been impelled by a kind of professional hubris — a hubris particular to psychiatrists, who never seemed to acknowledge that some patients just could not get better.... In academic journals, he came across a small body of literature, mostly theoretical, on the idea of palliative psychiatry.... 'I developed this phrase of "compassionate witnessing."... That’s what priests did. That’s what physicians did 150 years ago when they didn’t have any tools. They would just sit at the bedside and be with somebody.'"

From "Should Patients Be Allowed to Die From Anorexia? Treatment wasn’t helping her anorexia, so doctors allowed her to stop — no matter the consequences. But is a 'palliative' approach to mental illness really ethical?" (NYT).

"Yager" = Joel Yager, a psychiatrist at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital.

"Historically, children did not automatically get their fathers’ surnames, and customs vary in other parts of the world."

"In England, until the 18th century, surnames were fluid, and it was common for children to have their mother’s or grandmother’s last name.... In many Spanish-speaking countries, a child is given two last names, one from each parent.... More common in the United States is hyphenating.... Many parents said the logistics of having different names — like at school or when traveling — hadn’t been a big obstacle. For some, questions had been welcome.... 'It does seem to confuse some people, but I kind of love that about it.... It actually solidifies the decision even more, because I like that we are helping to normalize different naming conventions.' One longstanding way for parents to include the mother’s lineage is to give children her surname as a middle name...."

From "Why Parents Give Their Children a Last Name Other Than the Father’s/Some American parents have been breaking the patrilineal tradition for generations, but the number who do so remains small" (NYT).

"I was exploring Horizon Worlds, using the Oculus headset... where a British schoolgirl under the age of 16 was allegedly 'gang-raped' by a group of online strangers."

"The police are investigating whether, under the legislation, there is any crime here to prosecute. I used inverted commas around 'gang-rape,' since the crime of rape is narrowly defined as someone being penetrated against their consent. That didn’t happen here: the child was alone with her VR headset, possibly thousands of miles from her antagonists, and was physically unharmed.... Does the fact that the girl’s attack happened virtually mean it didn’t really happen at all? Or, given that we are all going to — at least according to the business plans of Zuckerberg and Elon Musk — spend more and more time in a virtual world, does this mean that this is our new reality, a Wild West in which male sexual predators have the time of their lives?..."

Did the case of Claudine Gay give new energy to the conservative campaign against left-wing academia?

I'm reading "How a Proxy Fight Over Campus Politics Brought Down Harvard’s President/Amid plagiarism allegations and a backlash to campus antisemitism, Claudine Gay became an avatar for broader criticisms of academia" by Nicholas Confessore, in The New York Times.
Dr. Gay’s defenders... warn[ed] that her resignation would encourage conservative interference in universities and imperil academic freedom. (Though some experts have rated Harvard itself poorly on campus free speech during Dr. Gay’s tenure in leadership.)...

What a delicious parenthetical!

That link on "poorly" goes to the FIRE website, where you have to do a search to see where Harvard ranks. I did the search (and you can too). We're told the "speech climate" is "abysmal."

But of course, this article, outside of its parentheses, portrays conservative critics of academia as the threat to freedom.

"And you came by and you were pushing in chairs, and you said, 'Hi, my friend, how is it going?' And my dad told you he was not doing well."

"And you said, 'Thank you for coming to the library. Thank you for being here. Never be afraid to ask for help. That’s what the library is for. We’re here to help you.' ... And that meant the world to my dad."/" The father began to go to therapy and work on mending a broken relationship with his family, the person told Mr. Threets. 'And I’m telling you this story because I didn’t save that person’s life,' Mr. Threets said in the video. 'The library did. The library is here to help you. Never be afraid to ask for help.'"

Go here to watch Mychal Threets's videos on TikTok (or, here, at Instagram).

January 2, 2024

Sunrise — 7:19, 7:35.



Claudine Gay resigns.

The NYT reports.

The latest accusations were circulated through an unsigned complaint published Monday in The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative online journal that has led a campaign against Dr. Gay over the past few weeks. The new complaint added additional accusations of plagiarism to about 40 that had already been circulated in the same way, apparently by the same accuser....

"In 2016, a good deal of the old, postwar structure of media remained in place, like evening news broadcasts, along with the cable news apparatus..."

"... that got layered on during the 1990s and the basic infrastructure of digital news in the 2000s.... Twitter introduced the quote-tweet function in 2015 and shifted toward an algorithmic timeline in the spring of 2016; the combination juiced essentially every Trump tweet into a conflict that sat there like an electromagnet.... Mr. Trump knew and understood the old media (the desire for spectacle and participation) and was the perfect vessel for social media (constant debate about him). The result of the old and new at the same time was like a Trump cacophony."

Writes Katherine Miller, in "Trump Cacophony Hits Differently This Time" (NYT).

"Eight years later, Mr. Trump is often on TV less... and fewer people are watching; he’s not on social media in the same way, and social media is kind of falling apart, except for TikTok, which is less centralized.... It just feels as though it requires much more work to find and understand the main news events of any given day now.... Perhaps this fractured landscape is why Trump’s seeking re-election can feel more muted than last time. People are perhaps holding a static image of Mr. Trump in their brains or forestalling the reality of what another Trump nomination would mean...."

Perhaps. Perhaps.

"The entire cabin was filled with smoke within a few minutes.... We threw ourselves down on the floor. Then the emergency doors were opened and we threw ourselves at them."

Said Anton Deibe, 17, a passenger, quoted in "Plane Explodes in Flames While Landing at Airport in Tokyo/Japan Airlines said all 367 passengers and 12 crew members had evacuated the jet. Five crew members on a Coast Guard plane that collided with it were killed" (NYT).

"How the Biden campaign hopes to make 2024 less about Biden and more about a contrast with Trump."

That's the headline at CNN for a column by Edward-Isaac Dovere, and it's the opposite of what I think Biden should do, which is to run on his own merit and not on the demonization of Trump.
The 2024 campaign year for President Joe Biden’s inner circle will largely be about carefully ratcheting up the intensity against Donald Trump, wary of voters becoming dulled to what they expect to be the former president’s ever wilder rhetoric and promises about what he would do if back in power. Or, as some of the younger aides on Biden’s reelection campaign have been grimly joking, it’s about when to go “full Hitler” – when the leading Republican candidate’s speeches and actions go so far that the Biden team goes all the way to a direct comparison to the Nazi leader rather than couching their attacks by saying Trump “parroted” him. 
The campaign so far, these aides believe, has essentially been Biden running against himself....

What?! His people think they have been doing what I think they need to start doing, and they're planning to ramp up what has not worked — demonizing Trump?!

"Instead of thinking of better ways to play up policy achievements, he argues, Democrats rely too much on depicting former President Donald Trump as a crook."

"'It’s almost like Democrats are doing this purity test. America is not pure. The people of America are not pure. We’re flawed,' he said. 'I’m not looking for my politicians to be pure, … I’m looking for my politicians to be effective.'... Charlamagne doesn’t consider himself a Democrat or a Republican — a position he says allows him to call bullshit on empty campaign rhetoric politicians spew when they decide it’s time to engage Black audiences to wrangle up votes. 'In 2024, it’s a race between the cowards, the crooks and the couch,' he said, referring to Biden, Trump and the option to stay home. Charlamagne suspects the couch will win...."

From "Trouble with tha God/The influential radio host of 'The Breakfast Club” is a thorn in the side of Democrats — but he’s also representative of one of their biggest problems" (Politico).

Go to the link if you need to be reminded of how Biden said — on Charlamagne's show — "If you’ve got a problem whether or not you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t Black."

That was back in 2020. These days, we're told, Charlamagne is irritating Biden supporters, who fear that he "may unintentionally elevate Trump."

"I told him he must treat the political audience as one coming, not to see an etching, but a poster. He must, therefore, have streaks of blue, yellow, and red to catch the eye, and eliminate all fine lines and soft colors."

Said Theodore Roosevelt, recounting a conversation he'd had with presidential candidate William Howard Taft, quoted in "Theodore Rex."

I earn a commission if you use that link, which goes to Amazon. I'm just finishing the book this morning. It's the second in a trilogy. Volume 1, "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt," is much more fun to read, and I think that says something about how impoverished we are for staring constantly at the presidency.

Seen from the perspective of a President, we, "the political audience," are stupefyingly shallow, come to see "a poster," not "an etching," looking for garish colors and bright lines.

ODDLY ENOUGH: I've already blogged about a Taft campaign poster, here.

"There is an obvious case to be made against Trump being seen as a 2023 winner. On Jan. 1, he faced no criminal charges."

"Now he stands indicted in four cases on 91 charges. His attempts so far to evade a moment of truth — asserting his immunity, seeking to run out the clock and riling up his base with verbal attacks on prosecutors and judges — are far from guaranteed to succeed. Meanwhile, Trump is ratcheting up his incendiary rhetoric, lambasting opponents as 'vermin,' threatening to use the justice system to go after political foes and accusing unauthorized immigrants of 'poisoning the blood of our country.' But Trump emerges as a winner from the year simply because he is in a far stronger position at its close than he was at the start."

Writes Niall Stanage, in "The political winners and losers of 2023" (The Hill). 
Back then, he seemed vulnerable even within the GOP after several of his key endorsees in the 2022 midterms were defeated. The DeSantis threat loomed large. But the Trump Teflon proved more resilient than his detractors expected. On Dec. 30, Trump was more than 50 points ahead of DeSantis in the national polling average.... [G]iven Biden’s low approval ratings, it would be reckless to bet against Trump taking back the White House.

As for the other "winners" — there are only Mike Johnson and Nikki Haley. Though there is a "mixed" category, Biden is relegated to "loser" — "If a Biden-Trump general election were held today, Biden would almost certainly be defeated...."

It hasn't worked for the Democrats to demonize Trump. Biden must try to win on his own merit, not Trump's lack of merit. 

January 1, 2024

Sunrise — 7:30.


"Law professors report with both awe and angst that A.I. apparently can earn B’s on law school assignments and even pass the bar exam."

"Legal research may soon be unimaginable without it. A.I. obviously has great potential to dramatically increase access to key information for lawyers and nonlawyers alike. But just as obviously it risks invading privacy interests and dehumanizing the law.... At least at present, studies show a persistent public perception of a 'human-A.I. fairness gap,' reflecting the view that human adjudications, for all of their flaws, are fairer than whatever the machine spits out.... Judges, for example, measure the sincerity of a defendant’s allocution at sentencing. Nuance matters: Much can turn on a shaking hand, a quivering voice, a change of inflection, a bead of sweat, a moment’s hesitation, a fleeting break in eye contact. And most people still trust humans more than machines to perceive and draw the right inferences from these clues.... Many appellate decisions turn on whether a lower court has abused its discretion, a standard that by its nature involves fact-specific gray areas. Others focus on open questions about how the law should develop in new areas. A.I. is based largely on existing information, which can inform but not make such decisions...."

Wrote Chief Justice John Roberts, quoted in "Chief Justice Roberts Sees Promise and Danger of A.I. in the Courts/In his year-end report, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. focused on the new technology while steering clear of Supreme Court ethics and Donald J. Trump’s criminal cases" (NYT).

Speaking of humanity, remember when Senator Barack Obama voted against the confirmation of Justice John Roberts because Roberts said "he saw himself just as an umpire"?: "But the issues that come before the court are not sports; they’re life and death. We need somebody who’s got the empathy to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom.... In... 5 percent of cases, you’ve got to look at what is in the justice’s heart, what’s their broader vision of what America should be."

By the way, in literal, as opposed to figurative, baseball, A.I. does a better job of calling balls and strikes.

"I was one of those people that caused the state to be weakened, that harmed people. I created a split, I created a rift, and I created tension. And this tension brought weakness. And this weakness, in many ways, brought massacre."

Said Galit Distel Atbaryan, a lawmaker from Netanyahu’s Likud Party,  quoted in "In rare apology, Israeli minister says she ‘sinned’ for her role in reforms that tore country apart/Distel Atbaryan appeared to accept the argument that the internal divisions created perceptions of weakness that encouraged Hamas to attack" (Politico).

ADDED: Atbaryan seems to be relying on the proposition those who criticize the government are aiding the enemy.

Did Mickey Mouse just enter the public domain?

"An early Walt Disney movie featuring the first appearance of Mickey Mouse is among the copyrighted works from 1928 moving into the public domain on Jan. 1, 2024....  'What is going into the public domain is this particular appearance in this particular film,' [says Kembrew McLeod, a communications professor and intellectual property scholar]. That means people can creatively reuse only the Mickey Mouse from Steamboat Willie. Not the Mickey Mouse in the 1940 movie Fantasia. Nor the one on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.... New versions of Mickey Mouse remain under copyright. Copyright applies to creative characters, movies, books, plays, songs and more. And as it happens, Mickey Mouse is also trademarked.... 'And of course, trademark law has no end, adds Harvard Law School professor Ruth Okediji.... As long as the mark remains distinctive in the supply of goods and services, the owner of the trademark gets to protect that trademark. 'It's something copyright scholars like myself have been concerned about.... This effective undermining of the public domain by allowing trademark law to effectively extend the life of a copyrighted work.....'"

From "'Steamboat Willie' is now in the public domain. What does that mean for Mickey Mouse?" (NPR).

The most NPR part of that article is telling us that in "Steamboat Willie," as opposed to later versions of Mickey, "his roots in the blackface minstrel shows of the time are more apparent."

ADDED: From a 2019 Snopes article, "Was Mickey Mouse Modeled After a Racist Caricature Named 'Jigaboo'? Mickey Mouse may have a connection to minstrel shows, but he wasn't based on a racist 'Jigaboo' character":

"If it were badly written how could it be a great book?" — said David Mamet, answering the question "Can a great book be badly written?"

"Perhaps if it contained Great Ideas? According to whom? The writer? Who died and left him boss? In the estimation of the reader? If I am he, nope, for why should I credit any ideas of a lox who didn’t realize he couldn’t write? Reading great prose is one of my chiefest joys. When I find myself rewriting the book I’m reading, I not only throw it away, I do not recycle it."

From an interview in The New York Times.

Is reading great prose one of your chiefest joys?

Do you credit any ideas of a lox?

Do you infuse your recycling decisions with considerations irrelevant to the process of recycling?

It's a new year.

What are you going to do about it?

CORRECTION: This post title was originally "It a new year." Yes, I started the new year of blogging with an error. The very first word, too. Glad I got that out of the way. What was your first mistake?

That was your first mistake/You took your lucky break and broke it in two/Now what can be done for you?/You broke it in two....

December 31, 2023

Sunrise — 7:25.


"There are implications for the wider culture in derogating our appetites. We are effectively telling people... not to trust their bodies..."

"... in ways that smack of gaslighting. Imagine a world where we could override our need to sleep with a medication far more powerful and long-lasting than caffeine: a new class of amphetamines, say, that could suppress the need to sleep for days if not weeks. And so we come to pronounce ourselves afflicted with 
'sleep noise,' rather than simple human tiredness — thereby depicting normal bodily need as weakness and the drugs to treat such weariness as a solution to this non-problem. The idea of billing our body’s pleas for rest as mere noise — and hence as something that ought not be listened to — borders on dystopian...."

Writes Kate Manne, in "What if 'Food Noise' Is Just … Hunger?" (NYT). 

"Food noise" is current slang for thinking about food — for "hearing" food calling out to you.

"You won’t hear President Biden talking about it much, but a key record has been broken during his watch."

"The United States is producing more oil than any country ever has. The flow of huge amounts of crude from American producers is playing a big role in keeping prices down at the pump, diminishing the geopolitical power of OPEC, and taming inflation.... The politics of oil are particularly tricky for Democrats, whose chances for victory in the 2024 elections could hinge on whether young, climate-conscious voters come out in big numbers. Many of those voters want to hear that Biden is doing everything in his power to keep oil in the ground.... Trump recently told Fox News’s Sean Hannity that he would act as a dictator only on the first day of his presidency in 2025, in part because he wanted to 'drill, drill, drill' for more oil. The former president has constantly attacked Biden’s clean energy agenda and accused him of squandering America’s prior 'energy independence' because of allegiance to 'environmental lunatics.'"

WaPo reports.

"A girl being like, 'Um this guy didn’t report.' Is the most female ref way to ruin a game."

A tweet I found after Meade put some time into trying to explain what happened in that Lions game, but I got tired of the explanation. First time I'd ever heard of this "report" concept. In any event, I'd seen this headline earlier this morning — "Lions rip refs for penalizing first 2-point try: 'don’t want to talk about it'" — and got excited reading the first 2 words, then realized it was about football and got bored.

"What’s in the best interest of the country is not to have an 80-year-old man sitting in jail that continues to divide our country."

"What's in the best interest of our country is to pardon him so that we can move on as a country and no longer talk about him."

The day 123123 is here at last.

"[T]he one class I hated was hula. It was mostly because the instructor was a flamboyant gay man and it scared me. That was my own internalized homophobia."

Said Patrick Makuakān, describing the "cultural exploration camp" he attended when he was 10.

"Some New Yorkers harbor fantasies that instead of building more, we can meet our housing needs through more rent control, against the advice of most economists..."

"... or by banning pieds-à-terre or by converting all vacant office towers into residential buildings, despite the expense and complexity. Given the enormity of the crisis, such measures would all be drops in the bucket, leading many to worry that if we were to actually build the hundreds of thousands of homes New Yorkers need, we would end up transforming the city into an unrecognizable forest of skyscrapers... New York could add dwellings for well over a million people — homes most New Yorkers could afford — without substantially changing the look and feel of the city."

Writes Vishaan Chakrabarti, "founder of Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, a New York City architecture firm, and the former director of planning for Manhattan," in "How to Make Room for One Million New Yorkers" (NYT).

Click through to see visualizations of architecture projects that add housing without "substantially changing" the various locations. Some are improvements. At least one is an atrocity. I like a parking lot replaced by a mid-sized building, but loathe the low-rise apartment building stuck in the one empty lot in a neighborhood of single-family houses.

Chakrabarti's firm has identified over half a million locations for new apartments in New York City.