January 13, 2024

At the Saturday Night Café…

 … you can talk about whatever you want. 

"At the Pentagon, staffers often share the meme of Homer Simpson backing into a hedge and disappearing from view to characterize their boss’s aversion to any limelight."

"But that reticence, [Lloyd] Austin’s backers say, reflects decades of cultural challenges for a Black man who has succeeded in the military by learning not to showcase too much of himself.... It has been more than a year since he appeared in the Pentagon briefing room to talk to reporters, and he usually avoids reporters who travel with him on his plane trips. Ditto for much of his staff; when traveling, he prefers to dine alone in his hotel room when he doesn’t have a scheduled engagement with a foreign counterpart. He does not like to schmooze or engage in lubricating political relationships.... He rarely bothers to defend himself to political critics.... 'We have now politicized a deeply personal and private issue in a deeply personal and private man,' Adm. Mike Mullen, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, said in an interview. 'We should move on.'..."

"I firmly believe that by the time a person, man or woman, is 19, 20, 21, they know what they’re going to do with their life."

"And if you’re on that path and things are being done to your satisfaction, it’s easy to keep going to look for the next goal."

"The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether an Oregon city can enforce its ban on public camping against homeless people...."

"San Francisco, which spent over $672 million during the last fiscal year to provide shelter and housing to people experiencing homelessness, told the justices in a 'friend of the court' brief that its inability to enforce its own laws 'has made it more difficult to provide services' to those people.... [In a 2018 case, the 9th Circuit] held that punishing homeless people for public camping would violate the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment if they did not have access to shelter elsewhere. The court of appeals reasoned that, just as the city could not punish someone for their status – being homeless – it also could not punish them for conduct 'that is an unavoidable consequence of being homeless.'"

Writes Amy Howe, at SCOTUSblog.

Here's the 9th Circuit opinion: Johnson v. City of Grants Pass.

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board quickly responded with "Is There a Constitutional Right to Vagrancy?":

When Obama won the Iowa caucuses in 2008 — "It felt then as if we were embracing modernity and inclusion, moving away from the image of John Wayne’s America."

"How could we have gone from such a hopeful moment to such a discordant one? Of course, every time there’s a movement, there’s a countermovement, where people feel that their place in the world is threatened.... Trump has played on that resentment.... Trump is a master at exploiting voters’ fears. I’m puzzled about why his devoted fans don’t mind his mean streak. He can gleefully, cruelly, brazenly make fun of disabilities in a way that had never been done in politics — President Biden’s stutter, John McCain’s injuries from being tortured, a Times reporter’s disability — and loyal Trump fans laugh. He calls Haley 'Birdbrain.'... Obama’s triumph in Iowa was about having faith in humanity. If Trump wins here, it will be about tearing down faith in humanity...."

Writes Maureen Dowd in her column this week, "Here Comes Trump, the Abominable Snowman" (NYT).

To repeat the question: "How could we have gone from such a hopeful moment to such a discordant one?" Does Dowd really believe it's all Trump's fault? Couldn't Obama himself have used his presidency more effectively and built American optimism? He promised hope, but why didn't he deliver more of it? Why did we end the Obama years with so much division and strife? Dowd puts no responsibility on Obama. It's all about the reactionaries — the countermovement that automatically follows any movement. It happens "every time." Dowd chooses to portray the American people as a machine, behaving mechanically — and perversely. And yet somehow it is Trump who is devoted to "tearing down faith in humanity." 

"On the Ballot in Iowa: Fear. Anxiety. Hopelessness."

A NYT article.

I'm linking if only to marvel at the photograph at the top of the page. The faces! Caption: "Vivek Ramaswamy spoke to voters at a town-hall meeting at Wellman’s Pub and Rooftop in Des Moines. Credit... Haiyun Jiang for The New York Times." 

The  article, by Lisa Lerer, is subtitled, "As Monday’s caucuses approach, voters casually throw around the prospect of World War III and civil unrest, anxious of divisions they fear are tearing the country apart."

Key concept: Anxiety.
Four years ago, voters worried about a spiraling pandemic, economic uncertainty and national protests. Now, in the first presidential election since the siege on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, those anxieties have metastasized into a grimmer, more existential dread about the very foundations of the American experiment....

But isn't it this fearful fragility the real threat to democracy? Why do mainstream media stoke despair and anxiety? Why don't they — why don't we — build our resiliency and optimism?

January 12, 2024

Today is my 73rd birthday, but, more importantly, 2 days from now is the 20th anniversary of the beginning of this blog.

That's a huge milestone! Is there anything I can do to mark the occasion? There are more than 71 thousand posts on this blog, quite evenly spread out over the years and days. It's not as though I can make a top 20 best posts list. 

Do I even have a favorite post from all these years? I used to say my favorite post — the post that exemplifies what I most hope will happen when I set out on a new post — was "Tattoos remind you of death." But that's from back in 2005. Surely, something in the succeeding years topped that.

I was just talking to my son John, and he urged me to include the post about "the Washington Post guy with the mustache." My post, from 2006, is here: "Of oversized things, MSM, and the internet."

John — wishing me a happy 10th bloggiversary (in 2014) — declared that it represented the "essence" of this blog.

So that gave me the idea to ask you, my dear readers, if you have some post — in there among the 71,000+ posts — that represents what you think is the best (or the essence) of this blog? I would like to learn something about what you think is the reason for doing this.

You don't have to like what you imagine is what I most want to do. Maybe you groan when I veer into tattoos-remind-you-of-death territory and wish I could give more clear answers about who should win the next election and how the Supreme Court should decide this or that case. That's okay. I'm just soliciting material for a blog post I feel I ought to write when we get to that milestone.

"We’re not interested in a war with Yemen. We’re not interested in a conflict of any kind."

"In fact everything the president has been doing has been trying to prevent any escalation of conflict, including the strikes last night."

I wouldn't have watched this "God Made Trump" video, but the NYT and other Trump antagonists are making it viral.

Rand Paul: "I'm ready to make a decision on someone I cannot support. I'm announcing this morning that I'm Never Nikki."

"I don't think any informed or knowledgable libertarian or conservative should support Nikki Haley. I've seen her attitude toward our interventions overseas. I've seen her involvement in the military-industrial complex: $8 million being paid to be part of a team. But I've also seen her indicate that she thinks you should be registered to use the internet.... I think she fails to understand our Republic was founded on people like Ben Franklin, Sam Adams, Madison, John Jay, and others who posted routinely, for fear of the government... anonymously. And I think her failure to really understand that or to think that you should register through the government somehow for the internet is something that should disqualify her in the minds of all libertarian-leaning conservatives. So I'm announcing today: I'm Never Nikki."

"Donald J. Trump’s... impassioned defense during closing arguments... attacked both the New York attorney general who brought the case and the judge overseeing it...."

"[He] cast[] himself as a victim of what he claimed was their partisan crusade against him.... He took the microphone, said that he did not see how he could stick to the facts and the law when the case went beyond them and then monologued for five minutes. He attacked the judge, saying, 'You have your own agenda.' He went after Ms. James, accusing her of perpetrating 'a fraud on me.' Perhaps the most surprising feature of Mr. Trump’s closing argument was that he stopped willingly after five minutes. When the lunch break arrived, Justice Engoron asked him to finish, and Mr. Trump obliged...."

From "What to Know After Closing Arguments in Trump’s Civil Fraud Trial/A judge’s decision lies ahead, and appeals are highly likely. But this case could end Mr. Trump’s decades-long role in the New York real-estate business" (NYT).

The NYT writers find it "surprising" that Trump — who disrespects the Attorney General and the judge — respects lunchtime.

This part of the article makes me think it's clear what the judge is going to do:

"What explains the disjunction between the remote figure in the photos and the loving grandmother who once harvested onions?"

"Was it just the Trump family attempt at privacy? Or was it too hard for the media to make sense of a grandmother who seemed to prefer Manolos to fuzzy slippers?... Now, with her passing, we are learning more about Mrs. Knavs, and can connect the dots from her hardscrabble beginnings in a former Soviet bloc country to her recent life in Palm Beach. Acknowledging Mrs. Knavs’s origins during her lifetime might have gone a long way toward softening Mrs. Trump’s image during her time as first lady. Instead, Mrs. Knavs was presented to us as a near clone of her daughter, a retinal after-image of Mrs. Trump’s own inscrutable glamour."

So ends "The Inscrutable Glamour of Melania Trump’s Mother In public, Amalija Knavs did not adhere to the stereotypes of an American grandmother" by Rhonda Garelick, in The New York Times.

I was surprised to see this very positive-looking presentation on the front page:

Is the article positive? We're told in the end that Amalija Knavs could have been exploited to greater political effect, and we don't even know exactly why she wasn't. There was all this great material that could have been deployed to soften Melania Trump. Maybe when Melania dies, the NYT will discover material that could have been used to soften her.

The unexamined premise is that women are supposed to be soft. And that human beings are supposed to be used.

Found poetry.

I found "Incomplete Shopping List" by Siri:

"To condemn him for saying they should ‘believe’ what the scene is trying to convey, seems like nonsense."

From the Rolling Stone article:

January 11, 2024

At the Turnaround Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

That's yesterday's fox. Today it looked like this (in a photo by Meade):


It was nice to see the sun today, after snow again last night. Tonight, they're saying 8 to 13 more inches, with wind gusting to 35 mph. They're predicting 3 days of snow, followed by a week of very cold weather, as low as minus 13°. We stocked up on food today, with plans to make a lot of soup and pot roast and potatoes. 

Oh, and tomorrow is my birthday. I'm proud to turn 73.

"Biden’s Appeal to Black Voters Needs an Overhaul."

Writes Charles M. Blow, at the NYT.

The president’s speech [at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C.] was a chance to offer a vision for his second term, but there was hardly any vision in it. It focused on what his administration has done and not what it will do. It landed like someone coming to collect a payment for services rendered rather than to celebrate victories with a partner before mapping out future plans.... 

"It is not common to have a dual emergence between Broods XIII and XIX. They occur once every 221 years and the last time these two broods emerged together was in 1803."

Metafilter links to "Cicada Safari/Mapping the double emergence of Broods XIII and XIX."

"The Defense Department inspector general said Thursday it will investigate the mishandling of Lloyd Austin’s recent hospitalization..."

"... which the Pentagon chief and others close to him kept secret for days in an apparent breach of protocol after he developed serious complications from prostate cancer surgery.... The independent review will be conducted in addition to a 30-day assessment directed by Austin’s office and a parallel review ordered by the White House...."

WaPo reports.

AND: Why isn't Austin already gone? Is the White House afraid of criticism for letting him go or is it the problem of who will replace him? Here's a Politico discussion of who could be the next Secretary of Defense.

"More than $1 billion worth of shoulder-fired missiles, kamikaze drones and night-vision devices that the United States has sent to Ukraine have not been properly tracked by American officials..."

"... a new Pentagon report concludes, raising concerns they could be stolen or smuggled at a time Congress is debating whether to send more military aid to Kyiv.... 'It was beyond the scope of our evaluation to determine whether there has been diversion of such assistance,' the report stated.... As of last June, the latest data available, the United States had given Ukraine more than 10,000 Javelin anti-tank missiles, 2,500 Stinger surface-to-air missiles and about 750 Kamikaze Switchblade drones, 430 medium-range air-to-air missiles and 23,000 night vision devices. Dangerous combat conditions made it largely impossible for Defense Department officials to travel to the front lines to ensure the weapons were being used as intended...."

From "U.S. Military Aid to Ukraine Was Poorly Tracked, Pentagon Report Concludes/The Defense Department’s inspector general found that American defense officials and diplomats in Washington and Europe had failed to quickly or fully account for all of nearly 40,000 weapons sent to Ukraine" (NYT).

"White emerged as a sex symbol at a time when his country needed him...."

"With his tattooed, grungy intensity, he was the snack the people were craving after two years of slathering on hand sanitizer and stockpiling Clorox wipes. (As one fan put it to MEL Magazine, 'This is a dude who will eat you out in a porta-potty at Warped Tour.')..."

Some of the ads use still photography. And here's the live-action commercial, replete with Lesley Gore soundtrack denying someone the power to deprive another person of the right to "go with other boys":

Biden agrees with Trump that Trump gets credit for the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Joyce Carol Oates casts aspersions on Donald Trump's visualization of his mother-in-law in Heaven.

Here's the relevant "Sopranos" clip:

RFK Jr.: "Now it becomes clear: 'trust the science' really means 'obey authority.'"

What exactly did Fauci say? The NY Post has this: "COVID ‘6-feet’ social distancing ‘sort of just appeared,’ likely lacked scientific basis, Fauci admits."

"Everyone has something they can offer."

Elon Musk tweets, "New York City just forced kids out of their school to house illegals."

He's responding to a tweet that displays this video of Massachussetts governor Maura Healy saying listening to* "Everyone has something they can offer" and inviting citizens to offer their homes as housing for those who are in the country illegally:

Are you willing to have "an additional family be part of your family"?

I note that Musk uses the emotive expression "illegals," but what is the respectful term? I found this Department of Justice memo recommending "undocumented noncitizen"and "undocumented individual," but these terms don't fit easily in conversation and they confusingly suggest that it's about paperwork and bureaucracy.

ADDED: I'm seeing some people nudging me to accept "illegal aliens" as the respectful term. That's more respectful than "illegals," but it is not respectful. First, even "aliens" is rejected. As you can see from that memo, the current preference is "noncitizen." Second, it's bad to say that the person is "illegal." Their entry into our country was illegal, but they are human beings. It's crude (and nonsensical) to describe the entire person as illegal. A person is not a thing. To say "illegal immigrant" is not like saying "illegal drugs." I would say "a person who has illegally immigrated," but that's too long to work in natural conversation.

* A commenter informs me "Governor Maura Healy is not the person speaking in this video, she is the person to the right of the speaker."

AND YET: We don't generally follow a rule of refraining from referring to a person by one thing that he has done. If a person escapes from prison, we wouldn't refrain from calling him a "fugitive." We wouldn't think it was important to display our goodness by eschewing the simple expression and calling him "a person who has escaped from prison."

Why we watched the Trump town hall and not the Haley/DeSantis debate.

We'd signed up for Fubo — to watch football — and it turns out there's no CNN on Fubo. But there was Fox News. And so, our interest in the Packers (and Michigan) has skewed the politics of our news-watching. Because we'd prioritized sports in selecting a TV service, we've ended up in a more right-wing news environment. 

I was puzzled, but I found this Cord Cutters News article from 2020:

“Sometimes to help us bring you new channels at the best value, and to deliver premium features like live sports in 4K, we need to remove other channels and adjust subscription prices,” fubo said in an email to subscribers. “Turner networks will be leaving fuboTV as of July 1, 2020, and subscription prices will be changing.”

As of early Wednesday morning, fuboTV is no longer carrying TNT, TBS, CNN, Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, truTV, HLN, TCM, CNN Español and CNN International....

If both shows had been on Fubo last night, we would have recorded them both, so the head-to-head conflict in real time wasn't an issue for us, other than that we'd see something about ourselves in what we chose to watch first. But, of course, we'd have prioritized Trump. It's been a long time since we've seen Trump subjected to serious/"serious" questioning, and there have been many debates. The idea of Haley and DeSantis alone together at last was not that thrilling. It's not a duel. It's not as though when 2 candidates go out to debate each other, only one returns

I can read the morning print media to see what happened in that debate. Did anyone "win"? I expect the commentators to quip: Trump. Hasn't that been the conventional wisdom all along? Trump wins every Trumpless debate. How does he do it? That man. His own town hall was very good, I thought. He was calm and upbeat and there was a bizarre amount of love streaming from the faces of the Iowans in the audience. Those people were shockingly aglow. It was like a movie about a charismatic politician. The man is loved. Hated too. Hated with bizarre intensity. He exists in a different dimension from all the other politicians, and that reinforces my recommendation that he fought as if he were a normal candidate. Deprive him of his magic!

But, no, his haters won't, and his lovers sure won't.

Side note: He's lost a lot of weight! 

January 10, 2024

Sunrise — 7:36, 8:13.

IMG_4962 (1)

IMG_4977 (1)

We went back out later this afternoon:

"It appears Chris Christie was just captured on a hot mic before his town hall in New Hampshire, saying of Nikki Haley: 'She’s going to get smoked...'"

"... and you and I both know it. She’s not up to this.' Christie added of Ron DeSantis: 'DeSantis called me, petrified.'... Ron DeSantis, responding to Christie’s hot mic moment, posted on social media that 'I agree with Christie that Nikki Haley is "going to get smoked."' He doesn’t mention the other part of Christie’s comment, his claim that DeSantis had called him in a 'petrified' state...."

From "Election 2024/Chris Christie Suspends His Campaign in Republican Presidential Primary/His decision, days before the Iowa caucuses, clears a wider path for Nikki Haley in the second state to vote, New Hampshire. Donald J. Trump remains the favorite" (NYT).

"The House Judiciary Committee voted on Wednesday along party lines to hold Hunter Biden, the president’s son, in contempt of Congress..."

"... hours after he surprised Republicans by appearing unannounced on Capitol Hill, prompting a partisan free-for-all. The 23-to-14 vote sends the matter to the full House, which is controlled by Republicans.... The day began with a dramatic twist: the unexpected arrival of the younger Mr. Biden, who has repeatedly offered to testify publicly in the impeachment inquiry but refused to be interviewed behind closed doors, in the Oversight Committee’s hearing room.... Democrats on the panel urged the Republicans who control it to let Mr. Biden testify right then and there, but G.O.P. lawmakers insisted he must submit to a closed-door deposition as ordered by their subpoena.... 'You are the epitome of white privilege, coming into the Oversight Committee, spitting in our face, ignoring a congressional subpoena to be deposed,' [Representative Nancy] Mace said to Mr. Biden as he sat in the audience. 'What are you afraid of? You have no balls.'..."

"The bargain a staffer strikes has always been this: You get to influence the decisions of the most powerful government in the history of the world."

"In exchange for that influence, you agree to back the final decision even if it goes against your advice. If confronted with a decision that crosses one’s ethical, moral, social, political lines, the choice is clear: Shut up and support it, or resign."

Said Paul Begala, quoted in "Bosses in the Biden admin are pressed over young staffers’ anonymous letters/Protest letters, like those over Israel, were rare in past administrations. White House veterans can barely contain their disdain over how times have changed" (Politico).
In the Trump presidency, unauthorized leaks became a form of political currency, with anonymous officials writing op-eds, and wild bits of drama routinely finding their way into the news. Inside the current White House, there’s a feeling that the culture has now irrevocably changed....

So... it didn't work to change the culture temporarily, to deal with Trump, that horribly abnormal President. The old culture didn't just pop back into place when Trump was gone. You have to take care of a culture and maintain its values in good times and bad.

RELATED: "Impeachment frenzy hits Capitol Hill" (WaPo)(noting "impeachment projects centering on President Biden, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin"). 

Quebec police warn citizens not to post video of individuals stealing packages from doorsteps because it might amount to "defamation."

On that theory, they should tell you never to speak in public about anyone, because you might defame them. What is the law of defamation in Quebec? Is there still a criminal provision?

How could a video of package theft be false? I don't know, but I'm going to stop redelivering misdelivered packages that arrive at my door. What if that video were run backward and put it on line? Context!

Just now, from my window.


"When classes were virtual, students would log on some days, and some days they wouldn’t.... For parents, it might seem easier that way."

"No dragging kids out of bed before daybreak. No wrestling them into proper clothes. No getting them to the bus stop as one’s own work waited. 'You were able to just do the things you needed to do,' Johnson said. 'Everybody was comfortable. It was, "I can go to my computer, my baby is in my room on the computer. We’re good."' After that hiatus, relearning old behaviors was hard. 'If I were a child, and I could stay at home on my computer, in my room, and play with my little toys on the side, pick up the game for your break or lunchtime, how hard is it to sit in a school building for seven hours?' she said. 'It takes us to help build those habits, and I don’t think just one person can do it alone.' Some parents, unimpressed by what instruction consisted of during remote learning, didn’t see missing school as that consequential. Some simply liked having their kids around."

Writes Alec MacGillis, in "Has School Become Optional? In the past few years, chronic absenteeism has nearly doubled. The fight to get students back in classrooms has only just begun" (The New Yorker).

"Johnson" = Shepria Johnson, employed by Concentric Education Solutions, which contracts with school districts to make home visits to families with truant children. 

Interesting detail: "Concentric hired dozens of employees, many of them young Black college graduates. It gave them two weeks of training, which included instruction as basic as how to knock on doors. 'I tell everyone, "Knock a little harder, but don’t knock like the police,"' a Concentric manager said."

"Ms. Haley isn’t getting attacked just by Mr. DeSantis in Iowa but also by Mr. Trump in New Hampshire."

"The former president’s super PAC has started running a tough ad dredging up a line she used in 2015 in which she said those who were in America illegally were not 'criminals.' 'They’re families that want a better life, and they’re desperate to get here,' Ms. Haley said in 2015, in comments that the Trump operation has highlighted in conservative news media. 'Illegals are criminals, Nikki — that’s what "illegal" means,' says the narrator in the new Trump super PAC ad.... The narrator in Ms. Haley’s most recent ad says, 'Your family deserves a border, secured.' So although the debate is in Iowa, her answers on immigration will also play in New Hampshire, where she is being blitzed with negative advertising on the topic."

From "What to Watch at the Haley-DeSantis Debate and the Trump Town Hall/Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis will debate on CNN on Wednesday night, at the same time that Donald Trump is holding a Fox News town hall" (NYT). 

Here's that heavy-handed anti-Haley ad:
Poundingly, oppressively negative.

Here's Haley's ad, sunny and generic:

Pivoting to remote.

January 9, 2024

At the Snow-Bound Café...

... you can talk all night.

"She wants to run. So, this is her way — now that she’s talking about politics, if she were really concerned about..."

"... the future and tenor of the country, she would be on the campaign trail with Joe Biden. She is just as concerned about him as she is about Donald Trump. This is her way of sending out a little canary into the coal mine to see if it lives, and I think this could be beginning of her campaign."

Said Fox News commentator Kennedy, quoted in "Fox News Hosts Claim Michelle Obama Isn’t Helping Biden’s Campaign Because 'She Wants To Run'" (Mediaite).

"Quora once encapsulated a central premise of the internet, that connecting people with questions and people with answers across the globe would create..."

"... an exchange of information unlike anything before it; that rather than seeking answers from a friend or in a library, you could put your query to … everyone. Today, the website spams my inbox with questions such as 'Has your husband ever shared you with another woman?' Fourteen years into its run, Quora now provides an answer to one fundamental question: How has the internet evolved? From idealism to opportunism, from knowledge-seeking to attention-grabbing, from asking questions to shouting answers."

Writes Jacob Stern, in "If There Are No Stupid Questions, Then How Do You Explain Quora? The tragedy of Q&A sites is the story of the internet" (The Atlantic).

Listen to the argument in United States v. Trump. (The issue is presidential immunity.)

"He claimed magnets don’t work underwater.... He bragged about his ability to put on pants.... He said the Civil War could have been 'negotiated.'..."

I'm reading "8 Awful Things Trump Said in Iowa, Ranked" (NY Magazine).

Is it not a good thing to believe wars can be avoided? Is it an article of faith that American slavery could only have been ended through warfare? Why is it "awful" to say that, as President, Trump would have tried to end it peacefully?

"Skeptics of disqualification have... argued that, even if Section 3 does cover a former President, it is not 'self-executing'..."

"... meaning that states have no authority to make disqualification decisions under the Fourteenth Amendment unless Congress first passes legislation that authorizes them to do so.... Trump’s petition goes even further, asserting that only Congress, not states, may resolve questions about a Presidential candidate’s qualification.... Trump’s petition also includes an intriguing point that hinges on a sentence in the disqualification clause that has not previously been emphasized: 'But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.' That means a former government officer who did engage in insurrection or rebellion can hold office after all, with Congress’s permission. The petition argues that the clause, which is about 'holding office,' 'does not prevent anyone'—even an insurrectionist—'from running for office, or from being elected to office,' because it is always possible that Congress will vote to permit him to 'hold' office. That has in fact occurred in the past: multiple Confederate rebels won election to federal or state offices around 1868, and Congress removed their disqualifications. So, even assuming that Trump is disqualified from being President, he is not disqualified from running for President in expectation of Congress later allowing him to take office...."

If the Supreme Court chooses that interpretation, then electing Trump will become a way to make the VP candidate President, because we would expect Congress to deny Trump that super-majority vote he needs. Trump would still get all the glory of winning and a monumental new complaint against his antagonists. Imagine the effect on his supporters. Where does all that strange new political energy go?

"People used to say, 'It snew last night' or 'It's snowen all week' – and not so long ago."

I'm reading "An alternative vocabulary of winter" by Ruth Walker (in the CSM).

That article is a decade old. I dyggyd it up this morning because — waiting for the blizzard — I wondered why the past tense of "snow" was not "snown," like the way the past tense of "show" is, at least sometimes, "shown."

From the article:

"District Attorney Fani Willis improperly hired an alleged romantic partner to prosecute Donald Trump and financially benefited from their relationship..."

"... according to a court motion filed Monday.... The bombshell public filing alleged that special prosecutor Nathan Wade, a private attorney, paid for lavish vacations he took with Willis using the Fulton County funds his law firm received. County records show that Wade, who has played a prominent role in the election interference case, has been paid nearly $654,000 in legal fees since January 2022. The DA authorizes his compensation. The motion, filed on behalf of defendant Michael Roman, a former Trump campaign official, seeks to have the charges against Roman dismissed and for Willis, Wade and the entire DA’s office to be disqualified from further prosecution of the case...."

Should a politician hold a campaign rally in a church?

Here's "Charities, Churches and Politics" at the IRS website.

I'm not going to give a tax law lecture. I just want to say politicians using churches usually attempt to be somewhat subtle. Is this some kind of joke:
Here's the article, "Biden Tries to Rally Disaffected Black Voters in Fiery Condemnation of Trump."
President Biden sought to rally disaffected Black supporters on Monday with a fiery condemnation of former President Donald J. Trump, linking his predecessor’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election to the nation’s history of white supremacy in what he called “the old ghost in new garments.”

Ghost?! If Trump used the idea of a ghost to scare black people, he'd be accused of trading on the old racist trope

Lloyd Austin only just got out of intensive care yesterday.

I'm surprised to read (in The Washington Post).

Austin, 70, remains under doctors’ supervision at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland. He was taken there by ambulance Jan. 1, while in “severe pain” with undisclosed complications from a Dec. 22 medical procedure that included an overnight stay, administration officials said.

He's still in the hospital, and we still don't know what the original procedure was. Something that includes an overnight stay, so, I'm thinking... not a colonoscopy. Why would they withhold this information, with so much attention aimed at this case? Perhaps they are bolstering the argument that it's something so private that it justified the initial failure to disclose? I can think of some things like that, but I won't put them in writing. Too private!

January 8, 2024

At the Monday Night Café…

 … you can talk about whatever you want. 

"The New York Times is under fire for publishing a piece speculating on Taylor Swift’s sexuality."

"In a 5,000-word opinion piece titled Look What We Made Taylor Swift Do, editor Anna Marks listed references to the LGBTQ+ community overt or perceived in Swift’s music and theorized that the singer was sending coded messages that she was secretly a member of the community.... 'This was the least defensible op-ed I can remember ever seeing the NYT run, made all the worst by the fact that it was written by a staffer, who specializes in these speculations,' Chris Wilman, the chief music critic at Variety, wrote on Twitter. (In 2022, Marks wrote a guest op-ed essay for the Times speculating on Harry Styles’s sexuality, as well.)... Marks argued that since early in her career, Swift has been trying to secretly signal that she identifies as queer.... 'Every time an artist signals queerness and that transmission falls on deaf ears, that signal dies. Recognizing the possibility of queerness – while being conscious of the difference between possibility and certainty – keeps that signal alive.'"

Writes Adrian Horton, in The Guardian.

I clicked over to read the Marks essay. It's really long. Excerpt:

"I consider despicable the practice of so-called surrogate motherhood, which represents a grave violation of the dignity of the woman and the child, based on the exploitation of situations of the mother’s material needs."

Said Pope Francis, quoted in "Francis Urges Ban on Surrogacy, Calling It 'Despicable'/The pope said that an unborn child must not be 'turned into an object of trafficking,' expanding his condemnation of a practice already illegal in Italy and some other European countries" (NYT).
Surrogacy is already illegal in Italy and compensated surrogacy is also illegal or restricted in much of Europe.... Surrogate mothers in the United States and Canada are often hired by Europeans, including same-sex couples, seeking to have children, though some American states have outlawed the practice. 
Francis, a constant critic of consumerism’s corrosive effects on humanity, is deeply wary that a profit motive will warp the traditional creation of life.... 

"Around 55 residents, including 15 children, live in the village as 'missionals'..."

"... unpaid neighbors generally motivated by their Christian faith to be part of the community. All missionals undergo a monthslong 'discernment process' before they can move in. They pay to live in R.V.s and manufactured homes distinguished by an 'M' in the front window. Their presence in the community is meant to guard against the pitfalls of concentrated poverty and trauma.... Though the village is open to people of any religious background, it is run by Christians, and public spaces are adorned with paintings of Jesus on the cross and other biblical scenes. The application to live in the community outlines a set of 'core values' that refer to God and the Bible. But Mr. Graham said there is no proselytizing and people do not have to be sober or seek treatment to live there.... 'This is absolutely not nirvana,' Mr. Graham said. 'And we want people to understand the beauty and the complexity of what we do. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else on the face of the planet than right here in the middle of this, but you’re not fixing these things.'"

From "Can a Big Village Full of Tiny Homes Ease Homelessness in Austin? One of the nation’s largest experiments in affordable housing to address chronic homelessness is taking shape outside the city limits" (NYT).

"Mr. Graham" = Alan Graham, a real estate developer who raised $20 million to build a village to house the homeless on land near Austin, Texas where there are no zoning laws.

"I don’t quite understand all of these Democrats who say Trump is an existential threat to decency, democracy and maybe life on the planet and then..."

"... insist they’re sticking with Biden instead of another candidate. It’s like refusing to seek better medical care for a desperately sick child because the family doctor is a nice old man whose feelings might get hurt if you left his practice."

Said Bret Stephens, in "The Conversation," with Gail Collins, in "The Election No One Seems to Want Is Coming Right at Us" (NYT).

Collins responds that "he’s done a good job" and his speech on Friday showed "he’s going to campaign against Trump very, very, very hard."

That gets Stephens to blithely/deviously quip: "Well, let’s hope it doesn’t kill him.

I'm reading and disbelieving "Democrats question whether Biden should agree to debate Trump."

Here, at The Hill.

I think the opinion is all firmly on the side of saying that Biden should not debate Trump. Anyone who supports Biden is only bringing up this subject in order to say what they always say, that Trump cannot be considered a normal candidate. The linked article should be read as an effort to shape public opinion away from thinking that Biden can't debate or is afraid to debate. You need to understand that Trump is a monster. And Biden is... well, he's not Trump.

"Being evangelical once suggested regular church attendance, a focus on salvation and conversion and strongly held views on specific issues such as abortion."

"Today, it is as often used to describe a cultural and political identity: one in which Christians are considered a persecuted minority, traditional institutions are viewed skeptically and Mr. Trump looms large.... At a recent rally in Waterloo, Iowa, Mr. Trump cast Christians as a broadly persecuted group facing down a government weaponized against them. Catholics are the current target of 'the communists, Marxists and fascists,' he said, citing a recent controversy about a retracted F.B.I. memo, and adding that 'evangelicals will not be far behind.'... As ties to church communities have weakened, the church leaders who once rallied the faithful behind causes and candidates have lost influence. A new class of thought leaders has filled the gap: social media personalities and podcasters, once-fringe prophetic preachers and politicians...."

From "Trump Is Connecting With a Different Type of Evangelical Voter/They are not just the churchgoing, conservative activists who once dominated the G.O.P." (NYT).

The morning after the Golden Globes.

The New York Post collects 93 looks from The Golden Globes — all displayed on one page.

My general impression is that women are hiding within great rolls and flows of fabric and armoring their breasts inside stiff structures.

My specific impression is that Karen Gillan (#28) is wearing the dress of the future. I don't know how that was made, but I'm thinking: A.I.

I actually started watching the Golden Globes. We signed up for a free trial of Fubo so we could watch the Packers game, and with old-time-y "live" TV again, we rediscovered the lost art of channel surfing and ended up on the GGs. It was the opening monologue, some comedian I didn't know, and he was terrible. He absolutely did not belong there, taking shots at the stars, as if he were Ricky Gervais. Who turned down this work before they got to him? He referred to Barbie's "boobies" and we, the home audience, saw Greta Gerwig giving him the stinkeye, like Who the hell are you? You're nobody and now you've ensured that you will never be anybody

So I guess you don't need to learn the poor guy's name, but, for reference, it's Jo Koy. Here's the whole disaster:

Someone? Why would it be anyone but Lloyd Austin himself?

I'm trying to read "‘He’s a cipher’: How Austin’s need for privacy just backfired/Pressure is growing on Capitol Hill and within the administration for someone to lose their job" (Politico).
Austin’s failure to inform his most senior advisers, congressional leaders and even President Joe Biden of his hospitalization last week due to complications from a medical procedure has erupted into a controversy that’s left senior White House and Pentagon officials infuriated and befuddled. Some Republicans quickly called for investigations or even for Austin to be disciplined or fired....
Even for Austin...

Some... Republicans....

We're talking about the defense of the United States!
Austin’s job appears safe — at least for the moment, but pressure is growing within the administration and on Capitol Hill for someone to lose their job.....
Why protect Austin?

January 7, 2024

Sunrise — 7:33.


"When is a bad photograph good? Why Juergen Teller’s unorthodox celebrity photos for W Magazine’s annual Performance Issue caused a stir yet again."

A WaPo article by Rachel Tashjian.
Now that smartphones have made all of us into photographers, and portrait artists at that, it’s easy to believe that a photograph’s purpose is to make the subject look good in a way that is universally agreed upon, accessible. When someone violates or plays with that contract between photographer and subject, by making that person look silly, or unguarded, or overly familiar, it’s uncomfortable, which may be why Teller’s photographs are so contentious.
Go here to see the photographs at W Magazine.

"Lloyd Austin Owes Americans an Explanation/The secretary of defense has taken 'full responsibility' for failing to inform the public of his hospitalization, but that’s not enough."

Writes Tom Nichols in The Atlantic.
[W]hat possible reason could there be for Austin’s failing to inform President Joe Biden and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan...?... If Austin’s illness was kept under wraps by his aides to shield him from criticism or scrutiny, that’s evidence of a dysfunctional staff environment, in which actions to protect the boss’s equities overtake both necessary procedures and plain good sense. The fact that Austin’s hospitalization, according to Politico, was “a closely guarded secret, kept from even senior Pentagon officials and congressional leaders,” suggests that this strange episode was the result of more than just an oversight.... 

This idea that the politics of the other is a mental disorder — literally.

"These are some of the most maligned groups in historical chronicles: the uncivilized; the barbarians at the gate..."

"... the tribes who seem to appear from some demonic portal, destroy everything in sight, and then recede back into darkness. The steppe restoration repositions them. It treats them as subjects in their own right—as peoples who have their own histories, who formed societies no less complex than the sedentary states they confronted, and who helped craft the world we inhabit...."

Singh faults this historical project:

"That Should Be a Movie — 'The River of Doubt.'"

It should be a movie, but if it were, how could it be better than the book?

That night, while the camaradas lay wound up in their cocoonlike hammocks under dripping palm leaves and a black sky, the officers took turns watching over Roosevelt in their tiny, thin-walled tent. As his temperature once again began to rise sharply, Roosevelt fell into a trancelike state, and he began to recite over and over the opening lines to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s rhythmic poem “Kubla Khan”: “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure-dome decree. In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure-dome decree. In Xanadu . . .”