June 19, 2024

Red spotted purple and sandhill cranes.

Yesterday, at noon:

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This morning at sunrise:

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On the day before the solstice, the group "Just Stop Oil" besmirches Stonehenge.

The group stresses its moderation: "The orange cornflour we used will soon wash away with the rain, but the urgent need for effective government action to mitigate the catastrophic consequences of the climate and ecological crisis will not."

I'm told there were a lot of these "Please Remember" billboards along the backroads north of Milwaukee.

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Photographed from Meade's truck.

Here's an article about the phenomenon: "Mysterious Trump and Epstein billboards are popping up across Wisconsin" (UpNorth News).

"The support I found on this platform helped me face the toughest days..."

From a TikTok video that begins, "If you're reading these words right now, then I have died."

A view looking out at the crowd — and beautiful Lake Michigan — at the Trump rally in Racine yesterday.


"... he looked like he didn't know where the hell he was, but he didn't know where he was. He's blaming it now on AI, oh yeah, he's saying —he doesn't know what AI is — that's okay. Now, they're saying the media is manipu- — oh, he's saying the media is manipulating...."

Video by Meade, of course. As I said in yesterday's post, with the still photographs, I was not there.

"No, you keen-eyed MAGA sleuths, Biden’s aides didn’t schedule an early debate so that they could replace him after he flails."

"Nor did they engineer Hunter Biden’s conviction just to look virtuous. Democrats, it is not the case that if journalists just stop talking about Biden’s age, many Americans miraculously won’t notice it. Nor are there tea leaves auguring a revolt against Trump at the Republican convention. A respected public intellectual privately promoted that idea to me. And Michelle Obama will not — abracadabra! — be riding to the rescue.... Indulging such illusions is dangerous. Those of us who believe that Trump’s return to the White House would be ruinous must prosaically and persistently make the case for Biden’s superiority, flaws and all. We must plan, plod, slog. No sorcery will save us."

Writes Frank Bruni, in "The Election of Magical Thinking" (NYT).

Is it just dangerous illusion and hope of "sorcery" that has us thinking about ways to replace Biden as the Democratic candidate?! Biden plainly looks and sounds as though he's not capable of performing the job anymore. Trusting him even until January 2025 seems like more of a dangerous game of magical thinking. Bruni has written his column to pooh-pooh those of us who are seriously worried about Biden and to take credit for pretending there's no problem worth talking about. 

But I don't think Bruni is delusional. I think he's bullshitting in print but in his head he's got it figured out. It's too hard to replace Biden* and it seems less likely to work than just crossing your fingers and — la la la — moving along as if nothing is amiss and you are crazy if you think so.** And you know who's really crazy? Donald Trump.

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* Word that does not appear in Bruni's column: Kamala.

** There's a word for this: gaslighting.

"An exuberant style of play and an effervescent personality made Mays one of the game’s, and America’s, most charismatic figures..."

"... a name that even people far afield from the baseball world recognized instantly as a national treasure.... Mays propelled himself into the Hall of Fame with thrilling flair, his cap flying off as he chased down a drive or ran the bases. 'He had an open manner, friendly, vivacious, irrepressible,' the baseball writer Leonard Koppett said of the young Mays. 'Whatever his private insecurities, he projected a feeling that playing ball, for its own sake, was the most wonderful thing in the world.'... 'Willie could do everything from the day he joined the Giants,' Leo Durocher, his manager during most of his years at the Polo Grounds, said when Mays was elected to the Hall of Fame.... 'He never had to be taught a thing. The only other player who could do it all was Joe DiMaggio.' But even DiMaggio bowed to Mays. 'Willie Mays is the closest to being perfect I’ve ever seen,' he said."

June 18, 2024

Sunrise — 4:51, 5:16, 5:21, 5:33.

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Pictures from the Trump rally in Racine, Wisconsin.

Waiting in line... the shirts...

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... the people...

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I'm not there, but Meade is, with his friend Ray:

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Ray says: "Hey Ann, totally happy with the picture being there. If you give your readers the context that I’m very open to learning and meeting and getting the whole picture in detail instead of the soundbite that I get from the news. I want to feel this thing, talk to the people too. That context would be make me feel good about it. I’d like both sides to explore. I sincerely believe that if we sit and talk and listen with an open mind, we will come together. The fact that there’s so much political engagement makes me feel optimistic."

Great sentiments! 

Photos by Meade.

"The Democrats are making up stories that I said Milwaukee is a 'horrible city.' This is false, a complete lie..."

"... just like the Laptop from Hell was a lie, Russia … was a lie, and so much more.... It’s called disinformation, and that’s all they know how to do. I picked Milwaukee, I know it well. It should therefore lead to my winning Wisconsin. But the Dems come out with this fake story, just like all of the others. It never ends. Don’t be duped. Who would say such a thing with that important state in the balance?"

Said Trump, on Truth Social, quoted in "Trump to stage Wisconsin rally days after calling Milwaukee a 'horrible city'/Ticket-only event follows unflattering remark about state’s biggest city that will host Republican national convention" (The Guardian).

He also said this on Fox 6 News, which shows that he said something about Milwaukee: "I think it was very clear what I meant. We’re very concerned with crime. I love Milwaukee. But as you know the crime numbers are terrible, and we have to be very careful. But, I was referring to, also, the election."

Fungus of the Day.

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But was there any competition? Yes, there was this mushroom who dreamed he was a sunflower and loved it... But now the dream is over... and the mushroom is awake....

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"These are my 2 ravens. They're not actually mine. I'm just taming them...."


1. Is this a political message in metaphor?


2. Is this just exactly what it is — a man interacting with wildlife that happens to frequent his backyard?


3. The use of "taming" prods us to read the relevant section of "The Little Prince"

"But it only recently struck me that in this new Cold War, we—and not the Chinese—might be the Soviets."

"It’s a bit like that moment when the British comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb, playing Waffen-SS officers toward the end of World War II, ask the immortal question: 'Are we the baddies?' I imagine two American sailors asking themselves one day—perhaps as their aircraft carrier is sinking beneath their feet somewhere near the Taiwan Strait: Are we the Soviets?...  The self-destruction of homo sovieticus was worse. And yet is not the resemblance to the self-destruction of homo americanus the really striking thing? ... The bloated, dysfunctional bureaucracy, brilliantly parodied by South Park in a recent episode—is great for the nomenklatura, lousy for the proles.... A bogus ideology that hardly anyone really believes in, but everyone has to parrot unless they want to be labeled dissidents—sorry, I mean deplorables? Check. A population that no longer regards patriotism, religion, having children, or community involvement as important? Check. How about a massive disaster that lays bare the utter incompetence and mendacity that pervades every level of government? For Chernobyl, read Covid. And, while I make no claims to legal expertise, I think I recognize Soviet justice when I see—in a New York courtroom—the legal system being abused in the hope not just of imprisoning but also of discrediting the leader of the political opposition.... I still cling to the hope that we can avoid losing Cold War II...."

Writes Niall Ferguson, in "We’re All Soviets Now/A government with a permanent deficit and a bloated military. A bogus ideology pushed by elites. Poor health among ordinary people. Senescent leaders. Sound familiar?" (Free Press).

"The Biden campaign seems to believe that journalists should stop reporting on polls, rallies, and other tentpoles of traditional presidential races..."

"... and instead devote their resources to telling Americans that Trump wants to be a dictator, over and over again. If that means ignoring Biden’s missteps and weaknesses, well, the Biden campaign can accept that.... [V]ilifying the media has been a building block of Trump’s political identity.... Trump can win this race without favorable media coverage... Biden is in a different, arguably opposite position. His campaign argues that Democrats, unlike Republicans, are actually tethered to reality. Biden’s people are desperately trying to convince voters that the country is in much better shape than most Americans seem to believe. That elections are safe. That the economy, and unemployment, are not as bad as you’ve heard. Biden’s team needs voters to trust reputable publications that reliably print and publish facts—such as the [New York] Times and the [Wall Street] Journal. Then some campaign staffers and high-profile Democratic supporters turn around and attack these publications, in the process casting doubt on their reliability. It’s a losing proposition.... Biden’s belief in the Constitution means he supports a free and independent press. Authoritarians rise by lying and sowing mistrust...."

Writes John Hendrickson, in "The Biden Campaign’s Losing Battle/Beating up on the media is Trumpian and ineffective" (The Atlantic)(free link: here).

Hendrickson's unexamined belief in Biden's belief in the Constitution makes me want to reverse engineer that sentence I boldfaced: Biden's failure to support a free and independent press means he does not believe in the Constitution. 

I resist even examining why I have a strong mental barrier that stops me from reading this article.

Marrying an American citizen generally provides a pathway to U.S. citizenship. But people who crossed the southern border illegally..."

"... must return to their home countries to complete the process for a green card.That means long separations from their spouses and families. The new program would allow families to remain in the country while they pursue legal status. Officials briefed on the discussions said the announcement could amount to the most sweeping unilateral move by a president to provide relief to unauthorized immigrants since President Barack Obama implemented DACA. In a separate move on Tuesday, Mr. Biden is also expected to announce new ways to help people in DACA, known as Dreamers, gain access to work visas."

From "Biden to Give Legal Protections to Undocumented Spouses of U.S. Citizens/Undocumented spouses of American citizens will be shielded from deportation, provided work permits and given a pathway to citizenship, according to officials briefed on the plan" (NYT).

"The decision comes as Mr. Biden tries to strike a balance on one of the most dominant political issues in 2024. Aware that many Americans want tougher policies on the border, Mr. Biden just two weeks ago announced a crackdown that suspended longtime guarantees that give anyone who steps onto U.S. soil the right to seek asylum here. Almost immediately after he issued that order, White House officials began privately reassuring progressives that the president would also help undocumented immigrants who had been in the nation for years...."

"I now assume that any prosecution or regulatory attack on a business not overtly aligned with the Democrats is undertaken for partisan political reasons."

  A Glenn Reynolds rule of thumb.

"Corporate media has spent 8 years, in consensus, branding Trump a racist and White Nationalist."

"Meanwhile, actual Black voters are migrating away from Dems/Biden to Trump in what even CNN is describing as a historic shift (following Latino voters)."

Writes Glenn Greenwald, looking at this:

June 17, 2024

Sunrise — 5:23, 5:25, 5:36, 5;36

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That's me in the 4th picture, the one taken by Meade. 

"Calm down people, it is not raw/cold, it is a veggie burger patty underneath a slice of tofu."

Said Chuck Schumer [CORRECTION: No, just some random commenter], quoted in "Chuck Schumer deletes Father’s Day photo tweet in front of grill after critics slam his spatula skills" (NY Post).

Oh, Chuck! Stand up for yourself. 

Fungus of the Day.

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Found near the tiny beach:

"[M]y notes weren’t always as illuminating as I’d expected them to be. 'What does ‘Alt’ mean?' I asked Hugh over dinner one night."

"He looked down at the page. 'It’s not "Alt,"' he said. 'It’s "A.L.T."' Then I remembered. We’d been out early that morning, observing a short parade of ostriches. It was misty, and I pointed to a vague shape on the horizon. 'What’s that?' I asked Dalton. He followed my finger and told me it was likely an A.L.T. 'Animal-looking thing,' he explained."

I'm so glad to see a new David Sedaris essay in The New Yorker, "Notes on a Last-Minute Safari/We saw every animal that was in 'The Lion King' and then some. They were just there, like ants at a picnic, except that they were elephants and giraffes and zebras."

I liked seeing the first syllable of my last name in a new context, but more important was the opportunity to find out David Sedaris's opinion of going on "safari," because I had quite recently asserted, to a complete stranger, that going on safari was really basically the same thing as going to the zoo. These things are packaged. It's not as though you're exploring the authentic natural habitat of elephants, giraffes, and zebras.

"These officials declare that it is now unprofessional or reckless for lawyers to draw historical comparisons to show trials or..."

"... to question the motives or ethics underlying these cases. They warn lawyers not to 'sow distrust in the public for the courts where it does not belong.' Yet, many believe that there is an alarming threat to our legal system and that distrust is warranted in light of prosecutions like the one [against Trump] in Manhattan. ... [C]ritics of political prosecutions under the Crown and during the Adams Administrations were often threatened with disbarment or other legal actions for questioning the integrity or motives of judges or prosecutors. It is not enough to say 'well that was then and this is now.' The point is that the bar association also has a duty to protect the core rights that define our legal system, particularly the right of free speech."

Writes Jonathan Turley, in "Think twice? Bar group tells members it’s OK to criticize, but don’t dare call Trump conviction 'partisan'/Connecticut Bar Association makes chilling claim that calling the case one of political prosecution has 'no place in the public discourse'" (Fox News).

"There is no seatbelt for parents to click, no helmet to snap in place, no assurance that trusted experts have investigated and ensured that these platforms are safe for our kids...."

"Parents aren’t the only ones yearning for solutions. Last fall, I gathered with students to talk about mental health and loneliness. As often happens in such gatherings, they raised the issue of social media.... 'I just don’t feel good when I use social media,' [a young woman named Tina] said softly.... Her confession opened the door for her classmates.... There was a sadness in their voices, as if they knew what was happening to them but felt powerless to change it.... Why is it that we have failed to respond to the harms of social media when they are no less urgent or widespread than those posed by unsafe cars, planes or food?... Students like Tina... do not want to be told that change takes time, that the issue is too complicated or that the status quo is too hard to alter.... Now is the time to summon the will to act...."

Writes Vivek H. Murthy, the Surgeon General, in "For Our Kids’ Safety, Social Media Platforms Need a Health Warning" (NYT).

WARNING — THE QUESTION THAT FOLLOWS MAY AFFECT YOUR BRAIN. How dare the government slap its message on the writing and photography of its free citizens?

Let's have a congressional hearing...

"The design brief provides... that the background of the flag must be colored 'buff'... and the flag should be 'so simple that a child can draw it from memory.'"

"It must also have a pine tree in the center and a blue five-pointed North Star in the upper corner, the brief said.... The contest rules specify that the design has to be an original work and not generated by artificial intelligence. The contest winner will not be compensated and the design can be modified by the secretary of state...."

I'm reading "Maine Accepting Designs for a New State Flag/Maine is seeking design ideas before voters in November determine whether to adopt a new, more distinctive flag" (NYT).

Maine is one of the many states with a flag based on the state seal. These flags are way too cluttered, the polar opposite of something a child could draw from memory. Central to Maine's flag, however, is a pine tree, and the contest requires continued focus on the pine tree. There's also a well-placed desire to return to something like Maine's 1901 flag, which is seal-free and seems to adhere to good principles of flag design:

 

But a pine tree at this screwy moment makes us think of trumped-up controversy surrounding Samuel Alito's wife:

"It was technically illegal, of course, but everyone was benefiting.... By the end of the ’70s, however, loft living had become quite fashionable..."

"... and some landlords were looking to cash in, pushing out the artists for a wealthier clientele. The artists pushed back, and in 1982 state lawmakers enacted Article 7-C of the New York Multiple Dwelling Law, which is commonly known as the 1982 Loft Law. This legislation gave protection and rent stabilization to people who had been living in these spaces. It also required landlords to bring the units up to residential code. When the law was enacted... there were tens of thousands of artists living in lofts across the city. Now just a few hundred remain...."

From "A look inside New York’s historic artist lofts, the last of their kind" (CNN). Nice pictures of present-day artists lofts.

June 16, 2024

Sunrise — 5:03, 5:17, 5:34, 5:47.

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Fungus of the Day.

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"Oh. Backordered? Estimated to ship August 13th...."

A TikTok moment.

Over at The New York Times, it looks as though Trump has already won the election.

At the top of the front page:

 

A quick look at the 4 articles:

"Polls suggest that several of Mr. Biden’s core constituencies — young people, Black people and Hispanics — are increasingly Trump-curious."

"In a Wall Street Journal poll of swing states, 30 percent of Black men said they would definitely or probably vote for Mr. Trump. For the disaffected, Mr. Trump offers the promise of radical change. In [a recent New York Times-Siena College survey], these 'tear-it-down' voters — some 15 percent of registered voters — prefer Mr. Trump by 32 percentage points.... 'The polling data has been wrong all along,' [President Biden] said in an interview.... Rejecting the polls — relying instead on anecdotes, instincts and vibes — is political malpractice.... ... Mr. Biden should assume [the polls] are right — and act accordingly."

From "Biden should assume the polls are right, not wrong" by the Editorial Board of The Washington Post.

Exactly how does one "act accordingly"? Just because Biden says the polls are wrong doesn't mean he believes they are wrong. One way to act as if the polls are right is to assert that they are wrong.

"Stanford’s top disinformation research group collapses under pressure/The Stanford Internet Observatory provided real-time analysis..."

"... on viral election falsehoods but has struggled amid attacks from conservative politicians and activists." 

That's the headline at WaPo, and I'm wondering how the 2 parts of the headline relate to each other. Why did the Stanford Internet Observatory collapse? Was it because conservatives attacked it? How much of a struggle is it for a research group that specializes in monitoring disinformation to handle attacks? The word "amid" fudges the causal connection. Did X happen because of Y or did X and Y just happen around the same time?

The word "amid" also appears in the first sentence: "The Stanford Internet Observatory... has shed most of its staff and may shut down amid political and legal attacks that have cast a pall on efforts to study online misinformation."

"Amid" appears again in the 4th paragraph: "Students and scholars affiliated with the program say they have been worn down by online attacks and harassment amid the heated political climate for misinformation research, as legislators threaten to cut federal funding to universities studying propaganda."

Have I ever gone on "amid" alert before? Yes! In October 2013, there was a NYT headline, "Obama’s Uncertain Path Amid Syria Bloodshed." 

June 15, 2024

Sunrise — 4:56, 4:58, 4:59, 5:20.

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"China is the prime AI threat... and... what they need more than anything else is electricity."

"They have to have electricity, massive amounts of electricity.... [T]he electricity needs are greater than anything we've ever needed before to do AI at the highest level, and China will produce it because they'll do whatever you have to do, whereas we have environmental impact people.... We have a lot of people trying to hold us back, but massive amounts of electricity are needed in order to do AI, and we're going to have to generate a whole different level of energy. And we can do it, and I think we should do it, but we have to be very careful with it right we have to watch it.... A lot of smart people... say it takes over it takes over the human race. It's really powerful stuff, AI, so let's see how it all works out...."

"Joe and that other guy are essentially the same age. Let’s not be fooled. But what this election is about..."

"... it’s about the character of the person leading our country. Joe Biden is a healthy, wise 81-year-old ready and willing to work for you every day to make our future better. Joe isn’t one of the most effective presidents of our lives in spite of his age, but because of it."

Said Jill Biden, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, quoted in "Jill Biden pitches the benefits of age on the campaign trail" (CNN).

"The woman I am today is wiser, stronger, more insightful and more confident than I was all those years ago. Every line on my face has been earned by the furrowed brows of difficult decisions made. By the sun of countless roads traveled, by the sweet strain of deep laughter with the people I love. Age is a gift.”"

That made me want to ask ChatGPT, "Write a short speech about why it's good for a candidate to be quite elderly." Here's the answer I got, written out, in less than 5 seconds:

"In a chapter entitled 'He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not,' Dr. Fauci described how Mr. Trump repeatedly told him he 'loved' him while at the same time..."

"... excoriating him with tirades flecked with four-letter words. 'The president was irate, saying that I could not keep doing this to him,' Dr. Fauci wrote. 'He said he loved me, but the country was in trouble, and I was making it worse. He added that the stock market went up only 600 points in response to the positive Phase 1 vaccine news, and it should have gone up 1,000 points, and so I cost the country "one trillion dollars."' (The president added an expletive.)..."

Yesterday, I blogged about an Axios article that said neither Biden nor Trump were doing much to prepare for the debate.

And I said I doubted that the debate would take place. I took a little poll and 60% of you agreed with me that Biden would back out.

"It’s rare to find anyone these days who actually wants to get to early retirement by living off beans..."

"... those people, with their stringent penny-pinching, are largely known in the community as LeanFIRE. A lot more people aim for CoastFIRE (a more measured approach that involves front-loading your retirement savings and 'coasting' on compound interest and working lightly until you’re ready to quit) or BaristaFIRE (quitting your job but buttressing your retirement with a side gig, such as that of a part-time barista, to receive health-insurance benefits) or FatFIRE (a luxurious, no-sacrifice approach to retirement, the polar opposite of LeanFIRE — and the subset to which Wong belongs). You might be tempted to regard early retirees as layabouts, soaking up sunshine while everyone else toils. But why not see them as brave maniacs, daring to build an entirely new vision of the world?"


I'm glad this article mentions the 1992 book "Your Money or Your Life" (commission earned). Here's a WaPo article from a couple years ago, "Why this 1992 personal finance book still has a cult following" (free access link).

The NYT article was the subject of yesterday's episode of The Daily Podcast, and it's an excellent listen, with things that are not in the article. I was drawn in by this part, going into the psychology of one of the "FatFIRE" retirees, Alan Wong, who looked at the question "who am I without work?" 

June 14, 2024

Sunrise — 4:52, 5:18, 5:20, 5:23, 5:23:38.

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Write about whatever you want in the comments.

That last photograph is by Meade (and of me).

"But with Democrats, even when they talk about the good things they've done, it sounds fake. And I know that they're capable of sounding real."

I was watching the old HBO series "John Adams" — Episode 1, "Join or Die" — and I was amazed to see this shot.

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It's that terrible flag! Today's Flag Day — and Donald Trump's birthday — so I thought I'd show you the photograph I was inspired to take.

The Biden campaign is a disaster and this is what The New York Times dredges up?

I'm reading "A Hollywood Heavyweight Is Biden’s Secret Weapon Against Trump/The longtime movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg always sought scary villains for his films. Now he has found what he considers a real-life one in Donald J. Trump."
Trim and wiry, intense but amiable, Mr. Katzenberg at age 73 still exudes a kind of ambitious, animal energy as if he were one of his movie protagonists. He is famous around Hollywood, and now Washington, for rising at 5 a.m. and riding an exercise bicycle for 90 minutes while simultaneously reading four newspapers before taking as many as three breakfast meetings — and waffles or eggs-and-extra-crispy-bacon breakfasts, not the leafy California kind. “The guy eats like a horse and he doesn’t gain any weight,” his close friend Casey Wasserman, the sports, music and entertainment mogul, groused good-naturedly.

Are Biden supporters in such deep delusion that they would take comfort from this "secret weapon"? This inane filler says: Time to panic! 

Katzenberg once ran Disney, so...

"Jeremy was competitive while young and felt immense pressure to demonstrate gifted achievement every day."

"'I could only work in fear. Only the fear of failure made me work in the end,' he said. As a young adult, he was paralyzed by the number of life options in front of him. He went into medicine and spent about 13 years as a medical student and doctor but eventually was hit by depression so severe, he couldn’t function. He wound up as a musician — not celebrated but enjoying himself and paying the bills...."

Writes David Brooks, in "What Happens to Gifted Children" (NYT).

Neither Biden nor Trump is doing much to prepare for the debate. Why is that?

I'm reading "Biden — and Trump — in no rush to prep for debate" (Axios).
Joe Biden, busy being president, is leaving most of the prep sessions for his big debate against Donald Trump to the last minute. Trump's team says the ex-president doesn't need much practice.... The message from Trump's campaign: Debate rehearsals are beneath us. We have nothing to worry about....

Both men have done plenty of debates in the past, including with each other, and they're unlikely to change their style. They could bone up on likely questions — on the substance — but what's the point? Both men will finesse or bungle their way through. I expect Biden to have some prepared one-liners, but there's no value to pre-memorizing that stuff. 

House Committee on the Judiciary — Hearing on the Manhattan District Attorneys Office.

Here's the whole thing:

SCOTUSblog is live-blogging the announcement of new opinions, expected imminently.

Here.

UPDATE: "We have the third and final ruling of the day, in Garland v. Cargill, the bumpstock case. It is by Justice Thomas, and the vote is 6-3. Sotomayor dissents, joined by Kagan and Jackson.... The question in this case is whether a bumpstock (an accessory for a semi-automatic rifle that allows the shooter to rapidly reengage the trigger to fire very quickly) converts the rifle into a machinegun. The court holds that it does not."

The second case was Campos-Chaves v. Garland. 5-4. "The court holds that the non-citizens in this case received adequate notice of the removal hearings that they missed and at which they were ordered removed, so that they can't seek rescission of their removal orders (issued in their absence) on the basis of defective notice.

The first case was US Trustee v. John Q Hammons. "The court held that the a statute violated the Bankruptcy Code because it allowed different fees for Ch 11 debtors depending on where they filed their cases. The remedy, the court holds today, is parity going forward, rather than a refund for past fees. This is a victory for the government."

Young sandhill cranes at sunrise on the UW Marching Band practice field.

Why they choose to spend the night on the artificial turf, I don't know. But as the sun rouses them, they're moved to preen:


They get moving, onto the real grass, where breakfast awaits:


They cross the yard lines that mean nothing to them... or perhaps the lines do mean something to them. As I said, I am not privy to the thoughts of cranes. Nor was Meade, who took these photos and who, somehow, inspired the young crane to come over, just for a moment:

Biden is lost.

ADDED: If you think more context would help, take a look at this:

A Flag Day post, by Meade, on X.


That photo was not taken today, but on January 13, 2024.

"We could probably go outside right now here in California — or really, wherever you are at in North America — and we could easily find a new species of mushroom or fungus that hasn’t been described."

Said the mycologist Mandie Quark, quoted in "The Mushroom Hunters Can’t Stop Finding Mysterious Fungi/For years, mycologists and hobbyists alike have been using DNA sequencing on foraged fungi" (NYT)(free access link).
Recent years have brought an explosion in sequencing, Ms. Quark said. More than 21,000 samples have already been sequenced this year, she said, up from 5,600 in 2022. “We will probably end the year with over 40,000,” she said.... Some of these organisms, living as a network of threads hidden in the soil, may not have sent up a fruiting body in years. But after a drenching rain in Southern California, collectors might encounter mushrooms that have not been seen for decades, Ms. Quark said....

"The official website of the Biden for President campaign is a complete mystery. It’s basically a half-hearted request for money with a promise to 'Finish the Job.'"


"Finish the job?? Does this make much sense when voters think the job you’ve been doing is so bad?... Of course, 'Bidenomics,' which famously crashed and burned as a campaign theme, was no better and probably worse. But what is 'finish the job' but Bidenomics without the name or mentioning Biden at all?"

Writes Ruy Teixeira, in "Democrats Should Swap Out 'Bidenomics' for an Abundance Agenda
'Finish the Job' ain’t gonna cut it."

Okay, so "Bidenomics"... "Finish the job"... how about "I'm not done yet" or "Can I get a time extension"?

Teixeira suggests: an “abundance agenda.” 

"The 45th president indicated that he’s likely to stick with his plan to announce his VP choice at next month’s Republican National Convention in Milwaukee."

"'I think it’s – probably I’ll do it the way it’s usually done,' Trump said. 'You announce it at the convention.' The convention runs from July 15 to 18...."

From "Trump hints he has settled on his VP pick: ‘Sort of a pretty good idea'" (NY Post).

Is Trump on Ozempic?

Trump likes to talk about what drugs Biden might be using to get into State-of-the-Union condition for the upcoming debate, but what drug is Trump using? A TikTok video:

"Influencers have been given exclusive tours of the White House.... They’ve been wined and dined at lavish parties in New York and at State of the Union watch parties..."

"... in the White House. And they’ve been promised extraordinary access to party officials at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August, where for the first time ever they’ll be given a special room of their own, outfitted with quiet spaces for making videos. At least one has been offered an interview with the president at the convention, but said he was asked not to bring up Gaza. Priorities USA, a super PAC supporting Mr. Biden’s campaign, has pledged to spend at least $1 million on influencers, some of whom will be paid to share talking points online...."

From "Don’t Forget to Like, Subscribe and Vote: Biden’s Rocky Influencer Courtship/The Biden campaign is trying to work its way into social media feeds. But the young, left-leaning voices that control the conversation aren’t making it easy" (NYT).

June 13, 2024

At the Thursday Night Café...

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... you can talk about whatever you want.

(Photo by Meade.)

"Supreme Court Upholds Broad Access to Abortion Pill/The justices unanimously rejected a bid to sharply curtail access to a widely available abortion pill, finding that the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue."

The NYT reports.

I made that a free-access link.

In a unanimous decision, written by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, the court held that the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the F.D.A.’s actions....

When the court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, it indicated that it was getting out of the abortion business, leaving the issue to the elected branches. The abortion pill decision vindicated that promise, at least for now....

When the case was argued, Justice Alito said he was troubled that it seemed no one had standing to challenge the F.D.A.’s action. Justice Kavanaugh wrote that not every dispute was for judges to decide: “Some issues may be left to the political and democratic processes.”

The classic Trump monologue about sharks and batteries.

Maybe you're noticing "Let’s Talk About Trump’s Gibberish/What the former president’s shark tirade says about American politics and media" and "Trump Rants About Sharks, and Everyone Just Pretends It’s Normal/Par for the course. Trump is Trump. But imagine the response if Joe Biden had said it." Both at The Atlantic. 


Is anyone "pretending" that's "normal"? No, I think people who like Trump feel as though they're listening to a stand-up comic. A highly gifted one, not a normal one. It's not "par for the course." It's a birdie. An eagle.

Trump's sharks-and-batteries monologue is a classic. Here... use it in your next audition:

"He writes graphically of his own deflowering; how he passes on the favor to his friend Carrie Fisher; of the almost-hand job he gets..."

"... in the back seat from someone’s wife when hitchhiking, as everyone used to do before the Manson murders; how Tennessee Williams grabs his testicles when he’s waiting tables at a dinner party — for better and worse, people always seem to be making a run at Griffin’s crotch — and Martin Scorsese’s wrath when he violates an order of celibacy during the filming of 'After Hours' (1985).... Much of [this memoir] is a privileged young man’s search for a place in the showbiz court to which he was born.... dropping Timothy Leary’s finest acid. Sean Connery, then playing James Bond, saved him from drowning! Bob Denver from 'Gilligan’s Island' had a temper!"

Writes Alexandra Jacobs, in "Growing Up With Joan Didion and Dominick Dunne, in the Land of Make-Believe/In his memoir 'The Friday Afternoon Club,' the Hollywood hyphenate Griffin Dunne, best known for his role in Martin Scorsese’s 'After Hours,' recounts his privileged upbringing" (NYT).

Here's the book, "The Friday Afternoon Club: A Family Memoir" (commission earned).

"For those of us who love to travel, the question of whether to revisit a place you’ve been to before is a repeated conundrum...."

"You’ve changed and the place has changed. You’re visiting not simply a place, but a place captured in a moment in time — one that exists for you in the past and to a past version of yourself.... Every traveler has been told on one journey or another, 'You should have been here 30 years ago.' You missed Angkor Wat when it was largely abandoned. Beijing when the sky was still blue. Iceland before Instagram. It can seem like you’ve always arrived too late...."

Writes Pamela Paul, in "The Joys and Perils of Return Travel" (NYT).

I would think that any place that turns out to have been worth traveling to once is better seen on the second visit. This principle applies to many other things, such as seeing a movie, reading a book, eating a food, and — most obviously — meeting a person. If your reaction to a first encounter is once is enough, then, in retrospect, you're seeing that it didn't really meet the better-than-nothing standard.

"There was one really good thing about 'Hillbilly Elegy,' meaning the response to it: People were actually genuinely trying to understand something about a part of the country they didn’t understand."

"But there was something that wasn’t so good, which is that people were looking for some interpretive lens for Trump’s voters that never really asked them to challenge their priors or to rethink what they felt about those people. And I realized that I was being used as this whisperer of a phenomenon that some people really did want to understand, but some people didn’t. And the more that I felt like, not an explainer and a defender, but part of what I thought was wrong about the liberal establishment, the more that I felt this need to go very strongly away from it...."

Said J.D. Vance in an interview with Ross Douthat, "What J.D. Vance Believes" (NYT). This is a long interview, and that is a free-access link.

ADDED: This interview made me want to go back and read the reviews of "Hillbilly Elegy," which became a best-seller in the summer of 2016, before the shock of Donald Trump actually winning the election. I bought the book then myself, and I had the sense that it was written for liberals... who were pretty much exactly like what Vance describes in his new interview. 

"For more than 20 years, South Korea has prohibited food or food scraps from going into trash bins."

"Instead, food waste is used to create compost, animal feed or biogas. France has a mandatory composting law, which means municipalities must provide residents ways to divert organic waste from landfills. In 2016, France became the first country to require supermarkets to donate still-safe food. California is furthest along. Since 2022, the state has required grocery stores to donate, not throw away, 'the maximum amount of edible food that would otherwise be disposed,' or face fines. This year large restaurants, hotels and hospital cafeterias also came under the law. The legislation also requires every city and county to reduce the volume of organic waste that goes into landfills by 75 percent by 2025, compared with 2014 levels. That means building more composting facilities or putting in machines that create biogas from organic waste...."

From "White House Announces Strategy to Keep Edible Food Out of Landfills/The government will look at ways to extend the shelf life of foods and to create more composting and other facilities, as well as urge companies to donate more food" (NYT).

June 12, 2024

Sunrise — 5:15, 5:20, 5:20:18.

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"The president declared flatly last week that he would not pardon his son if convicted, but did not address a commutation..."

"... which would leave the guilty verdict intact but wipe out some or all of the punishment. Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Wednesday that she could not say whether the president might consider such an action. 'He was very clear, very upfront, obviously very definitive' in ruling out a pardon.... But as for a commutation, she added, 'I just don’t have anything beyond that.' Ms. Jean-Pierre said she had not spoken with the president about the matter yet and so her careful response may only reflect not wanting to go beyond her talking points, not an effort to leave the option open...."

Goodbye to Françoise Hardy.

From the WaPo obituary: "Françoise Hardy, a French singer-songwriter whose melancholy voice, doe-eyed beauty and trendsetting sense of style made her an international sensation in her teens, captivating fashion designers and beguiling musicians such as Bob Dylan and David Bowie, has died at 80."

The Biden campaign throws a random celebrity at me.

That's just sad. The email goes on to ask me to "join" Carole King by giving money to "Joe and Kamala."

What celebrity are they throwing at you? At least I know they're not using Spotify to try to find out which musical artist might be able to reach me. The answer is no one, but I don't think I've ever played one of Carole King's recordings. I've been subjected to them on a number of occasions. I don't dislike her. I just don't care. And even if I did care about her — or anyone else's — music, I wouldn't care about her name slapped on some political email... other than to find it insulting that the campaign thinks I might be stirred to action by a celebrity's name.

Carole King. I mean, it's annoying. It's like some idiot was wondering how to call out to Boomers.

"Something is wrecking Joe Biden, but it isn’t the economy—at least the economy that economists know how to measure—and it isn’t inflation...."

Writes Zacahry D. Carter, in "Inflation Is Not Destroying Joe Biden/But something is!"

Why did the crow cross the road?

(Video by Meade.)

"Joe Biden desperately needs some wins — real, not cosmetic, ones. Who in his administration is thinking about how to get him some?"

"The Gaza cease-fire isn’t it. It merely punts a problem that needs to be solved.... Ukraine could be another win for Biden, an easier one.... Why does Ukraine always need to come to the verge of defeat before the president finally relents and gives it the weapons it needs?... But the biggest win Biden will need will be domestic. It won’t be his executive order all but banning asylum for migrants: That only confirmed that he had failed to use every option at his disposal to tackle the crisis. It won’t be low unemployment: No magic wand will erase 2022’s inflation or today’s high interest rates. It won’t be Trump’s legal travails, which seem to have galvanized his supporters.... And it won’t be finding a way to offload Kamala Harris from the ticket.... It all leaves the president with one option that can be a win for America and, ultimately, his place in history. He can still choose not to run, to cede the field to a Democrat who can win.... There’s still time, if only just. It would be a courageous, honorable and transformative legacy."

Writes Bret Stephens, in "The Most Courageous Thing That Joe Biden Can Do" (NYT).

"Later on, Madonna would admit to sharing a lot with the character of Susan. Both used their powers of persuasion..."


"... to get friends and lovers to do what they wanted. Both were charming con artists that didn’t let you know you were being conned. There was an art to seduction, and Madonna had mastered it. She was a flirt who made everyone she flirted with feel a little bit sexier. Men and women. That was her gift."

Writes Susan Seidelman, in "'Directors Don’t Cry!'/Madonna, Rosanna Arquette, and the Wild Birth of Desperately Seeking Susan/In an excerpt from her memoir, Susan Seidelman watches Madonna go from newcomer ('I’ll do anything to get this part') to icon" (Vanity Fair).

June 11, 2024

Sunrise — 5:05, 5:14, 5:19.

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Hunter Biden found guilty.

"Hunter Biden guilty of felony gun charges, faces 25 years in prison" (NY Post).
Hunter Biden became the first child of a sitting president to be convicted of a crime Tuesday after a federal jury found him guilty on three counts related to lying about his drug use in order to buy a gun....

The first son stared at the jury and made no visible reaction as the foreperson read the verdict.... First lady Jill Biden, who was present at every day of the trial except one, was caught out by the speed with which the verdict was reached — entering the courtroom two minutes after it had been read.

"There’d be a cell-like capsule to provide for some basic human needs, from which one could emerge into a big, semipublic space that was open to the sky."

"This was a vision less of a home than of a refuge within a striking concrete art work.... Ye sent... various drawings showing an arrangement of amenities within a small space. One image contained spherical and ovoid objects—'cooker,' 'pump,' 'fridge'—but no mattress. Another included three crates, a 'flat pack shower,' and a 'robot platform.'... There were... desultory exchanges about recycling rainwater and cutting a hole in the floor to make a toilet. Ye remained adamant about disconnecting the house from the grid; he also opposed installing solar panels...."

Writes Ian Parker, in "Kanye West Bought an Architectural Treasure—Then Gave It a Violent Remix/How the hip-hop star’s beautiful, dark, twisted fantasy turned a beach house in Malibu, designed by the Japanese master Tadao Ando, into a ruin" (The New Yorker).

"This is strictly for the grown and sexy, so we’re keeping it classy — ladies 30 and up, fellas 35 and up."

A restaurant announces its policy, quoted in "A restaurant wanting a ‘grown and sexy’ vibe bans diners under 30/At Caribbean restaurant Bliss outside St. Louis, age limits draw support and condemnation" (WaPo).
Many of their patrons seem to appreciate the restrictions. “Some people wanna celebrate or kick it to a different vibe sometimes,” one patron posted on Facebook. “Bliss gives you that. I think this is what the city needs.” And he had a message for young people: “WE’RE TIRED OF YALL TEARING EVERYTHING UP!!!!!”

But others chafed at the rules, with some suggesting that managers should simply crack down on unruly patrons if that is the problem....
It's not illegal... the article says, looking at it as age discrimination. But men are treated differently from women, so I think the problem is sex discrimination. 

From the comments over there: "Amen! Crowded NYC restaurants with a table full of 20-something woo-girls (getting drunk means screaming "wooo" alot inside) or tech bros out-yelling each other is a circle of hell. We have stopped going out on Thur/Fri/ or Sat nights because the places are intolerable. Grown-ups at a grown-up restaurant! Great concept and I am all in favor."

"During the coronavirus hearing this week, [Marjorie Taylor] Greene attacked [Anthony] Fauci as she held up a photo of two sedated puppies, their heads placed in mesh cages..."

"... as they lie on a table while being swarmed by sand flies.... [I]t’s silly to personally blame Fauci for the design of research studies... endorsed many levels below the director..... Female sand flies carry a parasite that produces zoonotic visceral leishmaniasis (ZVL), an often-neglected tropical disease in humans. Domestic dogs are the main reservoir host and sand flies are the main vector.... [T]here is something about using dogs... that make many people squeamish.... [N]early 16,000 dogs in 2019 were subjected to pain in the United States during research experiments — and nearly 400 received no pain medication. The White Coat Waste Project hit a nerve when it publicized the Tunisia sand fly study in 2021, emphasizing the dramatic photo that Greene waved at Fauci. The Post reported that Fauci’s office got 3,600 phone calls in 36 hours.... The emails show that NIH was not fully transparent as it tried to handle a public-relations nightmare...."

Writes Glenn Kessler, the WaPo "fact checker," in "Unpacking the story of Fauci and painful experiments involving dogs/Documents obtained by an animal rights group show that NIH was not fully transparent when the controversy erupted in 2021."

Were dull sheep cowed?

I'm reading  in "A Federalist Society co-chair promotes a stolen-election theory/Cherry-picking vote numbers and ignoring history make it easier to elevate baseless claims of election theft" by Philip Bump (in WaPo).

Why I read something this blurry.

I'd just watched "What a Way to Go" — the Criterion Channel is featuring Shirley MacLaine movies — and checking Rotten Tomatoes, I saw that Joan Didion wrote a review in the May 1964 issue of Vogue. I could subscribe to Vogue just to read that paragraph, but I found that by calming down and believing in myself, I could read it. It's not much different from reading without one's reading glasses. It's an apt and pithy review. "What a Way to Go" was a big movie in its day, so it deserves the bad reviews it got, but 60 years later, it's fun to look at the stars and the costumes and the sets. The Hollywood that produced it no longer exists. Nothing to get mad at now. Here's a sentence from the contemporaneous NYT review by Bosley Crowther:
Inspired by a Gwen Davis story, which has not swum into my ken, so I cannot tell you how fairly or fouly it has been used, the team of musical-comedy writers is making kookie jokes about a girl whose sad fate it is to marry a succession of burgeoning millionaires.

The "girl" hates money, loves Henry David Thoreau, and only wants to live the simple life, but the movie seems to have been made on the theory that the way to make good art is by spending as much money as possible.

June 10, 2024

At the Monday Night Café...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"The theory largely rests on the fact that former top Justice Department official Matthew Colangelo joined the investigation in 2022."

"But Colangelo had previously worked alongside Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg(D) in the New York attorney general’s office, where he had worked on Trump-related investigations before. It’s about as circumstantial and speculative as you can get. Attorney General Merrick Garland last week firmly denied, under oath, that he had sent Colangelo to Manhattan. He denied any contact with Colangelo since he joined the D.A’s office.... [F]ormer Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina, who worked on Trump’s defense early in the Manhattan prosecution [said]... 'Joe Biden or anyone from his Justice Department has absolutely zero to do with the Manhattan district attorney’s office... People who say that... it’s scary that they really don’t know the law or what they’re talking about.'"

Writes Aaron Blake, in "GOP overwhelmingly supports a Trump conspiracy theory, yet again/There remains no evidence that Biden was behind the Manhattan prosecution of the former president, but 80 percent of Republicans say otherwise" (WaPo).

"I think she’s beautiful — very beautiful! I find her very beautiful. I think she’s liberal. She probably doesn’t like Trump. I hear she’s very talented. I think she’s very beautiful, actually — unusually beautiful!"

Said Donald Trump, quoted in "Donald Trump Calls Taylor Swift ‘Unusually Beautiful’ but ‘Liberal’ in New ‘Apprentice’ Book" (Variety).

Also from the book, he says, "She is liberal, or is that just an act? She’s legitimately liberal? It’s not an act? It surprises me that a country star can be successful being liberal." By that time, Swift had transitioned to being a pop star. With pop stars, it would be surprising if they can be successful without being liberal... or just acting liberal. 

"On one side or the other — one side or the other is going to win. I don’t know. I mean, there can be a way of working — a way of living together peacefully..."

"... but it’s difficult, you know, because there are differences on fundamental things that really can’t be compromised. They really can’t be compromised. So it’s not like you are going to split the difference."

Said Justice Alito, quoted in "Justice Alito Caught on Tape Discussing How Battle for America 'Can’t Be Compromised'" (Rolling Stone). 
Alito made these remarks in conversation at the Supreme Court Historical Society’s annual dinner on June 3.... His comments were recorded by Lauren Windsor, a liberal documentary filmmaker.... She asked questions of the justice as though she were a religious conservative.... 
The recording... captures Windsor approaching Alito at the event and reminding him that they spoke at the same function the year before, when she asked him a question about political polarization. In the intervening year, she tells the justice, her views on the matter had changed. “I don’t know that we can negotiate with the left in the way that needs to happen for the polarization to end,” Windsor says. “I think that it’s a matter of, like, winning.”

Alito responded "I think you're probably right" and then said the lines quoted above. I consider his remarks anodyne. When people are ideologically polarized, they don't go in for compromises. They keep fighting. Just like Rolling Stone is keeping fighting with this article and its inflammatory headline. Alito doesn't use the word "battle" or say anything about a "Battle for America." He just responds to the instigator Windsor by observing that ideologues are not compromisers.

Alito talks about sides without putting himself on one of the sides. He doesn't join Windsor in the use of the pronoun "we." His words are neutral: "one side or the other," "there can be a way," "it’s difficult," "there are differences," "They" (meaning the "differences"). It must have been frustrating to Windsor. And yet, here's Rolling Stone serving them up as if Alito had declared himself a bitter ender battling for Christian Nationalism. Ludicrous!

"During the N.B.A. finals that began on Thursday, the Biden campaign ran a TV ad titled, 'Flag,' which really mirrors a strategy..."


"... that senior officials described to The New Yorker earlier this year. It’s highly focused on “freedom” conceptually, through the prism of abortion, voting rights and a few other issues. While the issues are definitely longstanding Democratic priorities, if you watch it, the solemn patriotic tone of the ad feels a little old school Republican to me — it’s an interesting artifact of how things have changed. Biden is running to preserve rights and freedoms, or, through another lens, conserve the old ways."


This gets my "left-or-right ambiguity" tag. 

Where was I just reading that displaying a flag by your front door was the equivalent of a sign saying We're voting for Trump

Here's the ad:


Did you notice how opposition to gun rights fit the rhetoric of freedom? It's "the freedom for our children to be safe from gun violence."

The New Yorker article, from last March, is "Joe Biden’s Last Campaign/Trailing Trump in polls and facing doubts about his age, the President voices defiant confidence in his prospects for reëlection" by Evan Osnos. I started to read it, and when I got to the line "Biden, always a little taller than you expect," I knew I'd blogged it at the time. Here. Before reading my old post, I was getting ready to make a large-boulder-the-size-of-a-small-boulder joke, but then I saw that's what I did at the time:

Bus stop.

"For progressives, waiting to have children has also become a kind of ethical imperative."

"Gender equality and female empowerment demand that women’s self-advancement not be sacrificed on the altar of motherhood.... Unreserved enthusiasm for having children can come across as essentially reactionary.... Yet it wasn’t that long ago that Republicans and Democrats fought over who could rightfully claim to be the party of 'family values.'... After [Bill] Clinton was impeached in the wake of his own family-values hypocrisy and George W. Bush was elected with the help of energized evangelical voters, family-friendly rhetoric became anathema to liberals — perceived as phony, intrusive and toxic...."

From "The Success Narratives of Liberal Life Leave Little Room for Having Children" (NYT).

The essay — by Anastasia Berg and Rachel Wiseman, authors of  “What Are Children For?: On Ambivalence and Choice” — has to end with hope for progressives. They're given this admonition:
[P]rogressives must not let partisan loyalties stop them from thinking about the ways in which having children does or does not express their values, and what shape they really want their lives to take. Children are too important to allow them to fall victim to the culture wars.

How do you read that and not jump back to that line I put in boldface above: "Gender equality and female empowerment demand that women’s self-advancement not be sacrificed on the altar of motherhood." Of course, children are extremely important, but — watch out — it will be too late if you release one into your life and it doesn't "express [your] values" or fit the "shape [you] really want [your life] to take." You will have "sacrificed" your "self-advancement... on the altar of motherhood."

How do you get out of that bind without drinking the “phony, intrusive,” right-wing toxin? I thought of the answer: You fall in love....

I rushed to search the essay for the word "love." It's not there. Maybe it's "essentially reactionary."

"France is braced for its 'most consequential' election in decades after the country’s president, Emmanuel Macron, stunned politicians and the public..."

"by announcing snap legislative elections following a drubbing at the hands of the far-right National Rally (RN) in Sunday’s European parliamentary elections. The RN won about 32% of the vote on Sunday, more than double the 15% or so scored by Macron’s allies, according to exit polls. The Socialists on 14% came within a whisker of the Macron group... The unexpected decision... could hand major political power to the far right after years on the sidelines and neuter his presidency three years before it ends...."

The Guardian reports.

"There's a line from the first 'Batman,' Joker, he's like 'I’ve already been dead once already. It's very liberating.'"

"That's not reckless, that's just freeing. It's just freeing in a way. And I just think after beating all of that, I just really want to be able to say the things that I have to really believe in and not be afraid of if there's any kind of blowback."

Said John Fetterman, responding to Bill Maher's question whether there was a connection between his "physical and mental health issues" and his political courage, quoted in  "Sen. Fetterman Explains Political Independence: 'I've Been Dead Once Already, It's Very Liberating'" (Real Clear Politics).

June 9, 2024