January 20, 2024

At the Ice Lake Café...


... you can talk about the Packers or anything you want.

"On April 13, 2023, former President Donald Trump sat for a pre-trial deposition in his civil fraud case in New York."

"CBS News obtained recordings of the questioning from the New York Attorney General's Office after a public records request...."

"The evolution of cooperation required out-group hatred. Which is really sad."

Said the sociologist Nicholas Christakis, quoted in "Science is revealing why American politics are so intensely polarized/Political psychologists say they see tribalism intensifying, fueled by contempt for the other side" (WaPo).

The article is by Joel Achenbach, who cites this study:
Social psychologist Muzafer Sherif took 22 Boy Scouts and separated them into two groups camping at Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma. Only after a week did they learn that there was another group at the far end of the campground.What they did next fascinated the research team. Each group developed irrational contempt for the other. The boys in the other group were seen not just as rivals, but as fundamentally flawed human beings. Only when the two groups were asked to work together to solve a common problem did they warm up to one another.

Ironically, the top comments over there are about how Republicans are fundamentally flawed human beings. 

"She looks so simple in her way/Does the same thing every day/But she's dedicated/To having her own way/She's very complicated...."

I'm listening to the old Rolling Stones song a propos of this NYT headline:

"'Brb — trying to think up a witty pickup line'.... He skimmed her dating profile, which mentioned that she liked men who..."

"... cared about their mental health and used proper grammar. 'My first thought is, think up how many ways I can use "your" and "you’re" incorrectly in a sentence,' he joked...."

From "She Went on 100 Dates Before They Met. He Hadn’t Been on Any in Years. After Molly Hunt matched with Harry Rimalower on Bumble, they went out to a bar — Mr. Rimalower’s first date since his separation" (NYT)(a wedding story).
“I awkwardly asked, ‘What are you looking for?’” he said, to which she replied, “I’m on the fast track to marriage and kids.” So was he.

"Look at the way Mary looked then! Good Lord, she was only 15! She had the perfect tough girl image."

"Hers was a look that in those days -- where I was anyway, in northern New Jersey -- we called 'hoody.' It was the alternative to the mod look, which I personally favored. I knew one girl, a friend of my sister's, who had the Mary Weiss look. It was sort of the dark side to the candy-colored mod/psychedelic style that I believed would conquer all. But this other thing! It came from the wrong side of town. My sister's friend scared me a little. She didn't live with her parents. She was from over in Boonton. She wore Tabu perfume. Really, I would never wear Tabu perfume. It's unbelievably sweet and strong. But I'd love to have some to dump into a handkerchief to inhale while listening to old Shangri-Las records."

I wrote, about Mary Weiss, back in 2007. 

Now, I see this morning, she has died.

Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no no no no no.

"You distance yourself from 'other' white people. You see only unapologetic bigots, card-carrying white supremacists and white people outside your own circle as 'real racists.'"

"You put other white people down, trash their work or behavior, or otherwise dismiss them. You righteously consider yourselves white people who have evolved beyond our racist conditioning. This is another level of denial. There are no 'exceptional white people.' You may have attended many anti-racism workshops; you may not be shouting racist epithets or actively discriminating against people of color, but you still experience privilege based on your white skin color. You benefit from this system of oppression and advantage no matter what your intentions are. This distancing serves only to divide you from potential allies and limit your own learning."

That's the "reality check" on item #21 of a DEI handout called "Common Racist Attitudes and Behaviors That Indicate a Detour or Wrong Turn into White Guilt, Denial or Defensiveness."

"Immediately I knew that’s not a wild rat... It had a shorter, rounder nose, its ears were on the side of its head and it was white. … If you know rats, you know rats."

Said Elm Dylan, quoted in "A waterfront park is overrun with rats. Rescuers are trying to find homes for them. A group of volunteers believes the rodents at Harbor View Memorial Park in Portland are domestic, not wild, and is working to rescue them and find foster homes" (Portland Press Herald).

The rats must be saved... because they are white? White rats, unlike brown rats, are perceived as pets.

"The problem with eating out in America today is that it’s making us fat."

"Studies done at my laboratory at Tufts University showed that the relationship between eating out and weight gain is very straightforward: The more frequently you eat out the more likely you are to carry excess pounds.... Our metabolism, hunger, and even the synthesis of addiction neurochemicals like dopamine are controlled by our environment.... When we see, smell, or taste something good, the sensory signals that get into our brain through our eyes, nose, and mouth activate what is known as the cephalic (preparatory) phase of digestion. Our saliva secretion increases; our blood glucose drops; our stomach muscles relax (so we have a larger stomach that needs more food in it to feel full); and our digestion accelerates (so we can put away that food more quickly to get ready for more)....."

From "Why Restaurants Make You Fat/Restaurant Syndrome: 1. Eat out. 2. Eat too much. 3. Feel bad. 4. Repeat" by Susan B. Roberts (The Daily Beast).

By chance, last night, I was watching a movie where there were characters who regarded a restaurant as a strange new form of business that was going to wreck the good thing that they had going (a saloon). 

"Have you ever seen a restaurant? They serve food. Next, the church will open up again...."

"The Judge is losing his grip. He's afraid of a place that sells vittles. Vittles and a pack of calf-faced girls...."
The "calf-faced girls" were the wholesome women who were coming to town to work in the restaurant — so different from the saloon women. 

Joe Biden campaign style: He shows up, with fast-food take-out, at this one guy's house.

I hope Biden fans don't feel body-shamed. Are your kids athletic? You'd better be "an impressive family" if you want a chance at being the place Joe stops by next. Ease up on that take-out food, for now. Get your kids in shape. Then maybe Joe will come around with a bag of Cook Out.

January 19, 2024

At the Friday Night Café…

 … you can talk about whatever you want. 

Malia Ann — AKA Malia Obama — hopes her film makes you feel "a bit less lonely."

It's "an odd little story," we're told, and, judging from the photographs and the voiceover, it seems to be about man who needs to follow instructions left in his mother's will to do something with her heart — her actual physical heart, which we see him holding in a jar.

"[Authentic Brands Group] has owned [Sports Illustrated] since 2019 and sold the publishing rights to a company called the Arena Group."

"The Arena Group missed a recent payment for those publishing rights, prompting ABG to pull the publishing license.... 'As a result of this license revocation, we will be laying off staff that work on the SI brand,' the note to staff read...."

From "Sports Illustrated lays off most of its staff, threatening iconic brand’s future" (WaPo).

IN THE COMMENTS: There are many variations on "Get woke, go broke" — including "Sports Illustrated Bud-lit itself" (from Ice Nine) — but I like this from Prof. M. Drout:

"Following the E. Jean Carroll trial feels like watching one 80-year-old woman realize there is just nothing she can do to rid herself of this omnipresence..."

"... and then realizing that we are, all of us, that 80-year-old woman. That we have been, for some time, subsumed and consumed by one man and his very strong MAGA base. In the future when sociologists and historians study this period of time, I wonder if this will be the most lasting psychological stain. Not any specific acts, but the general weight, the inescapable pull, the black hole, the fog, the fug, the reality that our atmosphere is coated in a thin, smoggy layer of Donald Trump...."

Writes Monica Hesse, in "E. Jean Carroll used to be somebody/Once you enter Trump’s world, your own world evaporates" (WaPo).

Trump is responsible for whatever bad acts he's committed, such as, if Carroll is right, raping a woman in a department store dressing room, but subsuming and consuming the entire world and coating it with thin smog... that's something that you're doing to yourself.

"Nearly 50% of elites believe the U.S. provides 'too much individual freedom' — compared with nearly 60% of voters who believe there is too much 'government control.'"

"Seventy-seven percent of elites support 'strict rationing of gas, meat, and electricity' to fight climate change, vs. 28% of everyone else. More than two-thirds of elite Ivy graduates favor banning things like gasoline-powered cars and stoves and inessential air travel in the name of the environment. More than 70% of average voters say they'd be unwilling to pay more than $100 a year in taxes or costs for climate -- compared with 70% of elites who said they'd pay from $250 up to 'whatever it takes.'... While this elite is small, its members are prominent in every major institution of American power, from media to universities to government to Wall Street, and have become more intent on imposing their agenda from above. Many American voters feel helplessly under assault from policies that ignore their situation or values."

Writes Kimberley Strassel, in "The Them-vs.-Us Election" (Wall Street Journal).

Drooling winters.

I don't have an EV, nor did I want one... even before all the talk this year about how bad they are in cold weather. But somehow I clicked on "Frigid weather saps EV batteries. Here’s how to keep yours running."

Is there really any good advice, or are you just screwed when it's really cold?

Let's read Trump's brief, filed yesterday, in the Supreme Court case about kicking him off the ballot in Colorado.

Here it is.

I like the way the key citation I've been using in my posts on this issue — see here, here, here, and here — appears in the 3rd sentence of the brief:
[I]t is a “‘fundamental principle of our representative democracy,’ embodied in the Constitution, that ... ‘the people should choose whom they please to govern them.’” U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779, 783 (1995) (first quoting Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486, 547 (1969); then quoting 2 Elliot’s Debates 257 (A. Hamilton, New York)).

That's a principle that ought to be kept in mind in considering each of the 5 different grounds for overturning the Colorado Supreme Court's decision:

How strategic was Trump's lawyer's choice of the word "haughtiness"?

I'm reading — in The New York Times — "Trump Prosecutor in Georgia Seeks to Avoid Testifying in Colleague’s Divorce Case/Fani T. Willis was subpoenaed in the divorce case of a colleague she hired to manage the Trump prosecution in Georgia, with whom she is accused of having a romantic relationship."

I already think it is a huge problem when someone who wields prosecutorial power — threatening the liberty of private citizens — asserts that she is the real victim here, the victim of racial prejudice, racial prejudice bubbling under the surface.

But look at this:

"When [Hugh Hefner] died of cardiac arrest at 91, [his last wife] at first protected his reputation."

"She writes about how, before he died, Mr. Hefner made her promise to 'only say good things.' Ms. Hefner’s resolve to keep that promise began fading in 2019, she said, when she started therapy after watching 'Leaving Neverland,' the documentary that details sexual-abuse allegations from two men who had long-running relationships with Michael Jackson. Looking back at their marriage now, Ms. Hefner said, evokes feelings of regret and disgust. She is still learning how to build healthy relationships and break the codependent tendencies she developed during her relationship with Mr. Hefner. 'When I started dating again, that was hard,' she said, 'because with Hef, he just wanted me by him all the time.' It was only recently, she said with a nervous laugh, that she learned the concept of setting boundaries. 'I didn’t have any when I was at the mansion,' she said. 'If you wanted to be there, you couldn’t have boundaries.'"

From a NYT article with such an off-putting headline that I almost avoided clicking, even though Hugh Hefner is a very longstanding interest of mine: "No More Bunny Business/In a tell-all memoir, Crystal Hefner recounts her former days as a Playboy model and the third (and last) wife of Hugh Hefner."

One of the boundaries you can set in your life is to see yourself as not bound by a promise you made to someone else. Another person can make you feel bound as he sets his boundaries to hold you in. She wanted to be inside that boundary. On balance, at the time, it felt worth it to her. But how can that bind her for life? He could have set it up with enough of a financial penalty that she would have chosen to keep quiet for the rest of her life, but it seems he just "made her promise to 'only say good things.'"

It's almost a generic death-bed wish: Speak well of me when I'm gone. Remember the good. It was good for you too, my darling, wasn't it?

January 18, 2024

At the Winter Light Café...


... you can write about whatever you want.

"Judge in Trump Georgia case orders hearing on Fani Willis misconduct claims."

WaPo reports.

"Former President Donald Trump is a cultural phenomenon.... For his legion of passionate supporters, he is more than a politician."

"He is like a sports team or a rock band that helps define who they are as much as the families and communities to which they belong.... Uninhibited by concerns about decorum and tradition, Trump has aggressively figured out ways to market himself like a cultural product, not a standard politician, knowing that this would forge much deeper ties....To be sure, Trump is not the first president to command strong cultural currency with voters that goes beyond traditional political attachments. Stuffed toy bears identified with President Theodore Roosevelt became a phenomenon in the early 20th century. During the 1930s, saloon owners famously hung portraits of President Franklin Roosevelt over their bars.... There were President Ronald Reagan dolls in the 1980s while Shepard Fairey’s 'Hope' poster from President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign remained iconic throughout his two terms.... Rational appeals about the inconsistencies of his rhetoric, the dangers of his positions and the practical reasons for choosing someone such as DeSantis... don’t mean much to the fans whose homes are stuffed with MAGA hats, shirts and coffee mugs...."

Writes Julian Zelizer, a Princeton history and public affairs professor, in "What’s really working for Trump" (CNN).

There's always a lot of irrationality in politics, but it's very disturbing when the candidate you fear and hate is working the emotional backchannels of the human mind much better than the guy you're stuck with. Yes, of course, that fear and hate is also irrational. But it's negative, and isn't it a bitch that that positivity is stronger? Love beats hate. 

Hey, remember "Love trumps hate"?

What a dress! Worn by Emma Brooks McAllister at the Emmys.

I don't know why this isn't done more often — this "drawing" of the underlying anatomy on the surface of a dress. I guess it's a lot like some horrible T-shirts....

"[E. Jean] Carroll was also in the courtroom on Tuesday. She is eighty years old. She made her name as a sassy, knowing, charming advice columnist..."

"... for Elle in the heyday of women’s magazines. All Tuesday morning, she calmly sat a few feet from the man who’d attacked her, who has promised to take revenge on his enemies if he is reëlected President this November. [Her lawyer] said that Carroll now sleeps with a loaded gun next to her bed."


Yesterday, someone sent me the video I'm embedding below. I can see that people on X have been sharing it and saying it shows E. Jean Carroll is "a nut job."

I disagree. Judge for yourself:
I see a woman with a cute/cutesy, quirky self-presentation who is leaning into an arty, hippie vibe.

I have no idea what really happened between her and Trump, but I do think that once the first trial ended, and she won (to some extent), he needed to accept the outcome of the legal process. It was a defamation case, brought on by his accusing her of lying. To go back to the assertion that she lied about their encounter is a new defamation, and now he needs to pay for that.

Even if you were trying anew to prove that she lied about the encounter, her literary shed, Annie Hall clothing, and painting rocks and trees blue have precious little probative value.

Thanks to Jamie Dimon for saying just the right thing about Trump supporters.

I didn't know who I was listening to when I first heard this clip. Meade was playing it out loud and I was just overhearing it. I kept injecting comments like: "That's what I've been trying to say," "That's what I think," "This is what Democrats need to hear," and "Who is that guy?"

It was the CEO of JP Morgan, Jamie Dimon.

Video and text at the link. From the text:

I wish the Democrats would think a little more carefully when they talk about MAGA....

Light pillars.

January 17, 2024

At the Wednesday Night Cafe…

 … you can talk about whatever you want.

"Weight loss is easiest at the beginning, before your body starts actively working against it."

"'Your brain doesn’t know you’re trying to lose weight on purpose... it thinks that something is wrong.'... First of all, you become hungrier, obviously. And not just because you want to eat as much as you did before; you actually want to eat more than you did prior to losing weight. 'With every one kilogram you lose, your appetite goes up above baseline by 90 or so calories per day'.... At the same time, your body looks for ways to conserve energy. Your muscles work more efficiently... so walking that normally burned 100 calories might now burn only 90. By making you want to eat more and burning fewer calories, your body is eventually able to slow weight loss down to zero. Here is your plateau. This is, all told, a remarkably elegant and robust system, if what you wanted to do is to maintain your weight."

From "The Ozempic Plateau/Everyone hits a weight-loss plateau, but the race is on for next-generation drugs that can help patients lose even more weight" (The Atlantic).

"[Trump] said 'witch hunt' and 'it was a con job,' loudly enough that jurors could hear, said Shawn Crowley, one of [E. Jean] Carroll’s lawyers."

"Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who had sparred all morning with Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, over her objections to Ms. Carroll’s testimony, appeared to be losing his patience. 'Mr. Trump has a right to be present here,' Judge Kaplan said. 'That right can be forfeited and it can be forfeited if he is disruptive, which is what has been reported to me, and if he disregards court orders.' He then addressed the former president directly. 'Mr. Trump, I hope I don’t have to consider excluding you from the trial,' he said. Mr. Trump, who had spent most of the morning shaking his head during Ms. Carroll’s testimony, threw up his hands. 'I would love it,' he said."

From "Judge Threatens to Eject Trump From Carroll Trial After His Complaints/The former president’s right to be at his defamation trial 'can be forfeited,' the judge warned. E. Jean Carroll is seeking $10 million in damages for his denials that he sexually assaulted her" (NYT).

"I would love it"! Sarcastic? Or he's basically saying: Exclude me and you will be reinforcing my idea that I'm being persecuted. The people will see it as a witch hunt. A con job.

"Judging from questions in two hard-fought arguments that lasted a total of more than three and a half hours, the fate of a foundational doctrine of administrative law..."

"... called Chevron deference appeared to be in peril.... Discarding it could threaten regulations in countless areas, including the environment, health care, consumer safety, nuclear energy and government benefit programs. It would also transfer power from agencies to Congress and the courts...."

"The Biden Administration went all in on the false claim as a cudgel to use against Texas for trying to secure the Southern border with its own personnel to stop the unprecedented surge of illegal migrants."

Writes Jonathan Turley, in "The Biden Administration and Media Accused of Another False Claim on the Border."

Perhaps you heard: "On Friday night, a woman and two children drowned near Eagle Pass, and Texas officials blocked U.S. Border Patrol from attempting to provide emergency assistance." 

I looked up the Celtic Sea, because it came up in my readings... and I was entranced....

.... by the reviews people had given it in Google Maps. To quote 4:

1. "It was wetter than I expected. Lots of fish swimming about under the surface, if you like that sort of thing."

2. "Very good sea. Compared to other seas, lakes and natural reservoirs it is undoubtedly superior. However, looking at the oceans, we need to admit that Celtic sea is slightly inferior. Nevertheless, it is a great representative of a sea.

3. "Against all the odds it does appear to be a genuine sea! I can confirm the presence of both waves and sky, with the correct one being above the other. Very tricky to get around if you don't have a boat. Minus 1 star."

4. "Lovely spot of water."


I was reading "Colonel Roosevelt" (commission earned). This part:

"Chinese women have been shunning marriage and babies at such a rapid pace..."

"... that China’s population in 2023 shrank for the second straight year.... China said on Wednesday that 9.02 million babies were born in 2023, down from 9.56 million in 2022 and the seventh year in a row that the number has fallen. Taken together with the number of people who died during the year — 11.1 million — China has more older people than anywhere else in the world, an amount that is rising rapidly. China’s total population was 1,409,670,000 at the end of 2023, a decline of two million people, according to the National Bureau of Statistics...."

From "China Told Women to Have Babies, but Its Population Shrank Again" (NYT)

"The authorities have tried to silence China’s feminist movement, but its ideas about equality remain widespread...."

"Politics seeped into the courtroom as the judge asked whether potential jurors had voted in recent presidential elections.... Had they attended Mr. Trump’s rallies?"

"Had they contributed to the campaigns of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or Joseph R. Biden Jr.? Or of Mr. Trump? Jurors were asked if they belonged to fringe groups like QAnon, Antifa, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. None answered yes. When Judge Kaplan asked if anyone thought that Mr. Trump was being treated unfairly by the court system, at least a couple of jurors said yes and for an instant, Mr. Trump half-raised his hand, seemingly more a reflex than an act of defiance...."

Note the scope of this trial: "The judge has said that Mr. Trump may not dispute in court Ms. Carroll’s version of the events that occurred at Bergdorf’s — as he frequently does in posts on his Truth Social website, on the campaign trail and recently, in a news conference in Manhattan."

Still too cold to go out, but from my window, I'm watching a fox pick its way through the snow.


"Winter and her husband struggled with when and how to tell their sons about their arrangement..."

"... and wanted to wait until their children were mature enough to handle it. That plan failed when their oldest son, then 13, saw his dad’s online dating profile on his laptop, and texted his mother in a panic, asking if they were in an open marriage. Her youngest son found out in a similar way a few years ago, when he was 14, she said. By now, her sons, who are 19 and 21, are blasé about their parents’ sex lives. Her oldest has read her book, and told Winter he skipped some of the 'nitty-gritty' sex scenes, while her youngest chose not to read it, she said.... Her parents, Mary and Philip Roden, were a bit uncomfortable with the intimate details their daughter shares in her memoir, but... 'For the most part, I totally approved of what she was saying.'..."

From "How a Polyamorous Mom Had 'a Big Sexual Adventure’ and Found Herself/In her memoir, 'More,' Molly Roden Winter recounts the highs and lows of juggling an open marriage with work and child care" (NYT).

It's hard to write a memoir and publish it into the minds of everyone you know.

There must be moments when you think, this is just for me, or this ought to be rephrased as fiction, and then the great breakthrough, where you realize, no, this is memoir, and I will be heard.

And let's be fair. The sons didn't learn about their parents nonmonogamous relationship from their mother's memoir. They learned it from their father's online dating profile. The mother's memoir was just an inroad into mother's mind, and they didn't even want to go there.

"One of the ways in which President Trump will challenge that testimony is by demonstrating that the intelligence community has operated with a bias against him..."

"... dating back to at least the 2019 whistle-blower complaint relating to his call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky."

Write Trump's lawyers, papers filed last night in Federal District Court in Florida, quoted in  "Trump Signals Plans to Go After Intelligence Community in Document Case/Court papers filed by his lawyers, formally a request for discovery evidence, sounded at times more like political talking points" (NYT)

"People are saying it feels like we’re sleepwalking off a cliff... The left is kind of despairing and divided and exhausted...."

"When you talk to people outside of politics — maybe you’ve had this experience too — they say, oh, I’m just pretending it’s not happening. I have to block it out for my own mental health.... This is a long, long time that we’re going to be living with this both extreme low energy but extremely existential fight.... A year ago, most Republicans wanted to move on.... And so what happened in between then and now? I mean, part of it, obviously, is the indictments and — I don’t know that it was preordained that he would come out of that with most Republican voters believing that he was a martyr.... There’s people who say, well, I did fine during the Trump years... but... people just forget how scary it often was to have someone so out of control in charge.... He has changed the culture. He has shifted our conception of what’s normal in a way that we might never get back the kind of innocence that many of us enjoyed in 2015 and 2016.... [I]magine what it will be like to see Donald Trump inaugurated again.... I strongly suspect that people won’t be able to say this isn’t who we are. It will manifestly be who we are. And I think people will just turn inward and try to shut it out...."

From "Michelle Goldberg Imagines a Second Trump Inauguration/Sounding the alarm on 'the utter bleakness'" (NYT)(transcript of this audio).

1. "Imagine what it will be like," not would be like — Goldberg is already resigned to Trump's return to the presidency. 

2. "The kind of innocence" — what kind of innocence was that?

"We will let you know if there is any news made in that speech, if there is anything noteworthy, something substantive and important."

Said Rachel Maddow, quoted in "Rachel Maddow defends MSNBC's refusal to air Trump's Iowa victory speech: ‘Not out of spite’/Maddow claimed that not airing Trump's victory speech was 'not an easy decision'" (Fox News).

You can read that or — better — watch Russell Brand's presentation of Maddow's travesty of journalism:

If not for homophobia, we could have had Utopia... through LSD.

I'm reading "Could LSD Have Achieved World Peace? Ask Margaret Mead. In 'Tripping on Utopia,' Benjamin Breen chronicles the legendary anthropologist’s doomed effort to save the world through hallucinogens" (NYT).

Here's the book: "TRIPPING ON UTOPIA: Margaret Mead, the Cold War, and the Troubled Birth of Psychedelic Science" (commission earned).

The the reviewer, Charlotte Shane, writes:

January 16, 2024

No photos today. It's too cold!

Frankly, I haven't left the house in days.

Write about whatever you want in the comments.

After winning the Iowa caucuses last night, Trump is using Truth Social this morning to put up 30+ posts in a row about E. Jean Carroll.

Now, the timing is foisted on him. Today, the new E. Jean Carroll defamation trial begins.

There's another trial because he continued to deny certain facts that had been established at the first trial, so he, arguably, re-defamed her. He doesn't seem too worried, this morning, about re-re-defaming her. 

Here's his Truth Social feed. Just go there now and scroll. I can't embed everything. Most of it is re-posting things she's written. Like this:

But some of it is written-out text like this (and I assume it will be used against him at trial):

"How I laughed at The Times headline yesterday that said, 'siblings are a source of teenage stress.'"

"Apparently, the more siblings you have, the more stress you experience in teenage life because, claimed Professor Douglas Downey of Ohio State University in the Journal of Family Issues, 'siblings are best understood as competitors for resources' and the more of them you have, the worse the effect of this on your mental health. What tosh. I had a sibling in my teenage years (and still have one) and cannot see how she had anything but a positive effect on my mental health. While I was away at boarding school between the ages of 13 and 17, for example, being bullied, cold-showered and rogered senseless by the prefects, she was at home in the bosom of our Cricklewood family, hanging out with my parents and their famous friends.... What do you think I was, jealous or something?... If what these Yankee boffins are postulating is true, such an experience would have turned me into an angry, thwarted, attention-seeking little man....."

Writes Giles Coren, seeking attention in "I’m so lucky my sister never came to anything" (London Times).

Here's the article he's commenting on: "Why siblings are a source of teenage stress/An adolescent with more brothers and sisters is more likely to feel depression, anxiety and low self-esteem."

"If the Obama administration helped create the conditions for the genuine grievances propelling Trump to power in 2016..."

"...the Biden administration has tried to arrest that decline by unleashing a vast programme of federal spending totalling some $3.8trn.... In his three years in the White House, [Biden] has not been able to reverse the stagnating life expectancy and increasing inequality of incomes.... In many parts of the US, school absenteeism has risen sharply, as has homelessness and dependency on food stamps.... Almost half of the population thinks the porous US-Mexico border constitutes a crisis.... All this plays into Trump’s hands and fuels his shameless demagoguery – demonising his political foes as 'vermin' and accusing immigrants of 'poisoning the blood' of America.... Trump’s incendiary language cuts through, thrilling his supporters by infuriating his opponents.... His unapologetic populism and incorrigible personality are two sides of the same coin, and go with a brazen confidence and an irrepressible desire to win...."

Writes Adrian Pabst, in "Why Trump will win/His rhetoric – and even his personality – continue to appeal to ordinary American voters" (The New Statesman).

"As her work has shifted, a generation of Potter enthusiasts have been increasingly disillusioned by Rowling’s evolution from saint-like Labour Party-supporting children’s author..."

"... to polemical political activist, seemingly obsessive about the tabloid media, Scottish nationalism and, most provocatively for her millennial readers, gender-critical feminism. It is a disillusionment that Rowling shares, but for all her books’ world-weary criticism of a political world polarised by social media, they show little self-awareness.... In another world, JK Rowling could be a character in a book by Robert Galbraith: brittle, insecure, cruel. When she assumed the Galbraith pseudonym a decade ago, Rowling was putting on a mask. The mask of anonymity, the mask of detachment, the mask of adulthood. But on another level, she was taking off a mask – and showing herself in full, nasty glory for the first time."

Writes Nick Hilton, in "JK Rowling, Britain’s gloriously nasty novelist/Her electric Robert Galbraith novels portray a Britain populated by paedophiles, domestic abusers, rapists and terrorists" (The New Statesman).

"A third-place finish didn’t deliver the boost Nikki Haley wanted as she tries to turn the race into a one-on-one with Donald Trump."

That's the subheadline in the NYT for Nikki Haley and Iowa. Headline: "Haley’s Missed Opportunity: Iowa Slows Her Roll Into New Hampshire"

Haley got "the boost [she] wanted" from the media in the run up to the Iowa caucuses. It didn't work. Taking down Trump didn't work, and making Haley into his one true rival didn't work.

"The Most Durable Force in American Politics" — The New York Times gives Trump his due.

That's the front page — solid respect without hedging.

Bill Clinton once explained the nation’s two political parties by saying that Democrats want to fall in love while Republicans want to fall in line.

That adage has not withstood the Trump era. Today, it is Republicans who are besotted....
Donald Trump is loved. It's finally front-page news in The New York Times.

Trump is also hated, but hate does not destroy love.

Trump's Iowa victory speech: "I really think it's time now for everybody — our country — to come together. We want to come together — whether it's Republican or Democrat or liberal or conservative."

"It would be so nice if we could come together and straighten out the world, straighten out the problems, and straighten out all the death and destruction.... We're gonna come together. It's gonna happen soon too. It's gonna happen soon."

"[H]is bleak vision of millennial and Generation Z voters 'starved for purpose, meaning and identity,' with a black hole in their hearts had surprising resonance with older voters."

"He used the debate stage to clash fiercely with Republican rivals for the nomination not named Trump, mocking Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida for what he said were high heels on his boots, calling Ms. Haley, the former South Carolina governor, a stooge for China and the defense industry, and tarring the entire field as pawns of the wealthy financiers of their super PACs. He even called the G.O.P. a 'party of losers.'... Mr. Ramaswamy had privately told backers that his strategy was to cling to Mr. Trump in the hope that the former president’s myriad legal battles would force him out of the race — and Mr. Ramaswamy would be the logical next choice for Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters.... But with Mr. Trump making it clear not even a conviction would force him from the race, Mr. Ramaswamy’s strategy and self-funding proved unsustainable."

From "Vivek Ramaswamy, Wealthy Political Novice Who Aligned With Trump, Quits Campaign/A self-funding entrepreneur, Mr. Ramaswamy peaked in late August but deflated under attack from his rivals. He endorsed Donald J. Trump after dropping out after the Iowa caucuses" (NYT).

Trump's secret: hats... always hats.

Much of the Trump campaign’s focus was on enlisting 'caucus captains,' devoted supporters who agreed to recruit 10 friends and neighbors to caucus for Mr. Trump. To incentivize them, the campaign offered signed hats and chances to meet the former president. The campaign held trainings for caucus captains at its headquarters, where it taught them the ins and outs of caucusing so the captains could pass their knowledge on to new caucusgoers.... At his rallies, caucus captains and volunteers collected information from attendees, and the campaign followed up with emails, phone calls and text messages.... The campaign... deployed educational videos — one with a cartoon blob named Marlon, the other with Lara Trump, the former president’s daughter-in-law — that offered step-by-step instructions to first-time caucusgoers.

Hats and simple cartoons — here's that Marlon thing — maybe politics is far simpler than anybody but Trump understands.

ADDED: Political hats are a big topic. There are metaphorical hats — the hat that you throw into the ring, the white hat that designates the hero. And there are literal hats, like the shockingly powerful MAGA hat. And remember pussy hats? To go back in history, there's the liberty cap.

And look, here's a liberty cap, atop the flagpole, in The Great Seal of the State of Iowa:

"I can attest that to speak as a black man often at odds with the stated consensus of his fellow blacks can be liberating."

"Just as often, however, race becomes a burdensome constraint on how one’s statements are received. For some, I will always be speaking, thinking, and acting 'as a black man.' The specter of race always threatens to impart an undue exemplarity to whatever I—or whatever any black people—say or do, as though the firing of every synapse in our brains could be traced back to a racial origin. In that sense, race is both qualifying and disqualifying—a reason to believe a speaker’s account of himself (for, of course, blacks are always 'authentic') and, at the same time, a reason to disbelieve it (for, of course, a black person would say that)...."

The loyalty trap does not spring unexpectedly and maim you; it welcomes you in and fills you with the warmth of comradeship. That is what makes it so deadly: it feels good to be trapped....

January 15, 2024

At Winter Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Denmark welcomed a new king on Sunday in a ceremony that didn’t feature crowns or scepters or multiple robes..."

"Denmark reinvented tradition on Sunday when 83-year-old Queen Margrethe II, Europe’s longest-serving monarch, gave up her throne, and her 55-year-old son became King Frederik X.... After she signed her abdication papers, Margrethe turned to her son and said, 'God bless the king.'... [T]here were no exceedingly heavy bejeweled crowns, no anointing of the monarch with holy oil behind a screen... 'We probably could have had a little more fuss, but not as much fuss as they do in Britain; that’s too much,' said Linda Martinsen, 56, who was standing close to the balcony. 'I don’t want to offend anyone, but it’s too much to wear a robe and a scepter,' Jakob Steen Olsen, a royal commentator for Denmark’s Berlingske newspaper.... 'The Brits are very heavy on mysticism. You have this old man being massaged with mysterious oils — it’s very weird. The Danish way is meant to show the link between democracy and royalty,' he said, as a contrast to 'how it was in the old days.... If it’s too ordinary, does the magic disappear?'"

From "Denmark remakes royal tradition with a new king — but no crown" (WaPo).

At some point, you've got to wonder, why do it at all?

It makes me think of the expression "Go big or go home" — which, I see, seems to have originated in a 1990s ad for "oversized Harley Davidson pipes."

"Schools were closed, cars veered into ditches, and DeSantis did his best to bond with locals over their strange, snowy ways."

"'I actually do have a winter coat, and I forgot it,' he told a group of highway-construction contractors, on Wednesday morning. 'So the next people that are coming up from Tallahassee, they’re going to bring it.... But I think I’m going to need earmuffs and all that other stuff. So any tips you can give me....'"

Writes Sarah Larson, in "When Ron DeSantis Forgot His Coat/On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, the Florida governor faces blizzards, skeptical voters, and the chill of his own campaign" (The New Yorker).

Lots more at the link. I just want to quote this sentence: "Posing for photographs, DeSantis looked as if he were trying to keep his smile perfectly still while it attempted to crawl off his face."

"'Do my work, ignore the distractions,' she said God told her."

"She" is Fani T. Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, who wants us to think God speaks directly to her.

We're told "Ms. Willis said she turned to prayer last week, at one point even writing a letter to God in which she expressed self-doubt." Expressed self-doubt but also seems to have reprimanded God for not telling her how challenging life would be:

January 14, 2024

Bangs came up, organically, reminding me I still need to do that post about today being the 20th anniversary of the first day of this blog.

I've been looking forward to this date, so I could say, look, I've been writing this blog — writing every single day — for 20 years. 20 years! But what I like about blogging is that it's in the moment, spontaneous, so any sort of required occasion feels contrary to the essential nature of the enterprise.

That's why I've already written 6 posts today, and I've yet to do the 20-year anniversary post. But now it's happened. And all because I wanted to tell you what Theodore Roosevelt said about the 1913 Armory Show, and he'd used the phrase "lunatic fringe."

It turned out he was the first one, as far as the OED has noticed, to use "lunatic fringe" to mean something other than women's bangs. In 1874, someone had used "lunatic fringe" to mean "A woman or girl's hairstyle in which the front is cut straight and square across the forehead":

'Was that why you studied so hard all winter, and wouldn't go to singing-school, you sly thing?’ said Lizzie, eyebrows and lunatic fringe almost meeting again. Our Boys & Girls....

And there it was, the spontaneous thing: a portal back to the first day of the blog, January 14, 2004. There are a number of posts in the 20-year archive that bear the tag "bangs," but click on that and scroll, and you'll get back to...

Next to me at the hair-washing station of the salon was a woman who was ranting about bangs. "I've always had bangs. Then, not having bangs, I was going crazy." Googling "bangs," by the way, is not a good way to come up with websites about the kind of bangs people rave about in hair salons.

That was the fifth and last post of the first day. One thing fell trippingly after another... for 20 years!


Here's the post from 2 days ago where I noted the upcoming blog milestone and — seeking material for today's post — asked readers if they'd point out something in the 20-year archive that somehow might seem to them to represent the essence of what this blog is. There are 143 comments there, and you can add more here, but let me pick out a few: 

"It is vitally necessary to move forward and to shake off the dead hand... of the reactionaries; and yet we have to face the fact..."

"... that there is apt to be a lunatic fringe among the votaries of any forward movement. In this recent art exhibition the lunatic fringe was fully in evidence, especially in the rooms devoted to the Cubists and the Futurists, or Near-Impressionists...."

Wrote Theodore Roosevelt, in 1913, in "A Layman’s View of an Art Exhibition."

"The Cubists are entitled to the serious attention of all who find enjoyment in the colored puzzle pictures of the Sunday newspapers. Of course there is no reason for choosing the cube as a symbol, except that it is probably less fitted than any other mathematical expression for any but the most formal decorative art. There is no reason why people should not call themselves Cubists, or Octagonists, or Parallelopipedonists, or Knights of the Isosceles Triangle, or Brothers of the Cosine, if they so desire; as expressing anything serious and permanent, one term is as fatuous as another."

"[V]oters with a college degree... have quietly powered [Trump's] remarkable political recovery inside the party..."

"... a turnaround over the past year that has notably coincided with a cascade of 91 felony charges in four criminal cases."

Writes Michael C. Bender, reporting from Des Moines, in "How College-Educated Republicans Learned to Love Trump Again/Blue-collar white voters make up Donald Trump’s base. But his political resurgence has been fueled largely by Republicans from the other end of the socioeconomic scale" (NYT).

I'm seeing phrase "91 felony charges" is everywhere this morning. It seems those who loathe Trump don't realize how it can help Trump to stress the overabundance of charges. 

But this is another article that purports to understand the Trump supporter, and it's interesting to me because it's got the college-educated going for Trump. I thought that's what isn't happening. So let's read this piece, which is based on "interviews with nearly two dozen college-educated Republican voters":

"Thousands of protesters participated in the rally, some carrying signs that read: 'No votes for Genocide Joe,' 'Biden has blood on his hands' and 'Let Gaza live.'"

"Biden has been a supporter of Israel and approved an 'emergency sale' that sent nearly 14000 rounds of tank ammunition worth $106M to the Jewish State last month...."

From "Pro-Palestinian protesters chant ‘f–k Joe Biden,’ damage fence outside White House" (NY Post).

ME: Maybe the chants will get to him, like they got to LBJ, and he'll withdraw.

MEADE: Stop making me like Joe Biden.

"When you finally get to the phrase that needs improving, you have to rotate the platen downward in order to squeeze fresh words above it...."

"Because of this awkwardness, the tendency of the typer, as opposed to the writer (in Truman Capote’s famous distinction), is to move ever forward, ever faster. Why waste thirty seconds revising an obscure clause, when you can tack on an explanatory sentence in five? Hence paragraphs come out longer than they should be, and an accretion of verbal debris weighs the typescript down. Such debris, of course, can be cleared away in revision. But the tolerance that permitted it in the first place tends to lower critical standards the second time around. The pen, on the other hand, is an instrument of thrilling mobility. Its ink flows as readily as the writer’s imagination. Its nib flickers back and forth with the speed of a snake’s tongue, deleting a cliché here, an adjective there, then rearing up suddenly into white space and emitting a spray of new words.... Unlike the electric typewriter, it does not buzz irritatedly when motionless, as if to say, Hurry up, I’m overheating. It sits quietly in the hand, comforting the fingers with acquired warmth, assuring you that the sentence you are searching for lies somewhere in its liquid reservoir...."

From the essay "The Pen Is Mightier Than the Smith-Corona" — written in 1981, before writers used word processors.

The essay, by Edmund Morris, is collected in "This Living Hand: And Other Essays" (commission earned). 

I added the link on "Truman Capote's famous distinction." My link goes to Quote Investigator, which looks into whether Capote really said — about "On the Road" — "That’s not writing, that’s typing."

The central question is too "complex" for David Brooks... that is, it involves understanding the people he doesn't want to understand.

I'm reading "What Makes Nikki Haley Tougher Than the Rest." 

It ends:
Trump... has an advantage that Haley can’t match. He is reviled by the coastal professional classes. That’s a sacred bond with working-class and rural voters who feel similarly slighted and unseen. The connection between working-class voters and a shady real estate billionaire is a complex psychological phenomenon that historians will have to unpack. But it’s a bond no amount of Nikki Haley toughness can break.

Leave it to the historians to figure out who the hell these Trumpsters were.

Why wouldn't you want to understand your fellow citizens? Your aversion to them might have something to do with their aversion to you.

Instead, Brooks writes a column about the abstraction "toughness." Politics is tough. Politicians need to be tough. Nikki Haley is tough. He muses: "I wonder if Haley would be seen as tougher if she were a man." On the toughness of women, he quotes Maya Angelou. At length!

At the end, he pivots: "This campaign is about toughness... but it’s also about identity and class." And it's here that Haley falls short. She "does better among more educated voters... and she does poorly among evangelicals, which these days is as much a nationalist identity category as a religious one."

You don't want to understand them, you want to leave them to the historians, but you are willing to cast aspersions on their religiosity and their patriotism. 

"[F]or the sake of argument, let’s stipulate that forms of violence on a much smaller scale than the Civil War could qualify as an insurrection or a rebellion..."

"... under the terms established by the 14th Amendment. [Adam] Serwer and [Ilya] Somin argue that relevant examples abound in American and world history.... One example Somin cites is the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch.... Another example that both mention is the Whiskey Rebellion... [These] are obviously different from Jan. 6.... What transforms a political event from a violent riot or lawless mob (which Jan. 6 plainly was) to a genuinely insurrectionary event is the outright denial of the authority of the existing political order and the attempt to establish some alternative order in its place...."

Writes Ross Douthat, in "Why Jan. 6 Wasn’t an Insurrection" (NYT).