February 10, 2024

Sunrise — 7:10.


"I stopped my hormone regimen because I had doubts about the idea of marrying a straight man, since they’re generally less funny than gay men."

"However, I continued to have access to prescription estrogen, and would dabble for months at a time when I felt I wanted to mix things up. If this lifestyle sounds irresponsible or unsustainable, then this is because we operate within a conception of identity that forces us to conform to the same systems that privilege heterosexuality as the norm. Unfortunately, when it comes to gender-affirming care, it is indeed political, as long as we continue to treat people like they’re 'born this way' and therefore only valid insofar as they satisfy a standard of biological determinism. It’s political because politics should be able to account for lives that inevitably twist and turn and proceed, unbidden by convention or expectation. I never detransitioned, I just kept transitioning...."

From one of nine letters to the NYT — free link here — responding to the article "As Kids, They Thought They Were Trans. They No Longer Do," which I blogged here.

"Mr. Biden’s voice has grown softer and raspier, his hair thinner and whiter. He is tall and trim but moves more tentatively..."

"... than he did as a candidate in 2019 and 2020, often holding his upper body stiff, adding to an impression of frailty.... Mr. Trump, by contrast, does not appear to be suffering the effects of time in such visible ways. Mr. Trump often dyes his hair and appears unnaturally tan. He is heavyset and tall, and he uses his physicality to project strength in front of crowds. When he takes the stage at rallies, he basks in adulation for several minutes, dancing to an opening song, and then holds forth in speeches replete with macho rhetoric and bombast that typically last well over an hour, a display of stamina. 'It is the perception of how you communicate,' said Carol Kinsey Goman, a speaker and coach on leadership presence. 'When Trump makes those kinds of faux pas, he just brushes it off, and people don’t say, "Oh, he’s aging." He makes at least as many mistakes as Joe Biden, but because he does it with this bravado, it doesn’t seem like senility. It seems like passion.'"

From "Why the Age Issue Is Hurting Biden So Much More Than Trump/Both Donald J. Trump and President Biden are elderly men. But voters are much less likely to worry that Mr. Trump is too old to serve" (NYT).

Bedbugs and cat juice.

From "The ‘Unthinkable’ New Reality About Bedbugs/Another, much stronger species is headed north" (The Atlantic):
Bedbugs can survive a year or more without feeding. About as big as flattened apple seeds, they squeeze into tiny cracks in walls or in the joints of bed frames during the day; they crawl out at night, attracted by a sleeper’s exhaled carbon dioxide and body warmth. At the turn of the 20th century, an estimated 75 percent of homes in the U.K. contained bedbugs. Bizarre prescriptions for remedies have circulated down the years, including a recipe for “cat juice” in a pest-control guide from 1725. The formula called for suffocating and skinning a cat, roasting it on a spit, mixing the drippings with egg yolk and oil, and smearing the concoction into crevices around the bed....

"'No reasonable prosecutor': remember him? He’s back! No, not James 'Higher Loyalty' Comey. He’s sitting in a corner somewhere..."

"... counting his doubloons. But like some inky creatures of the deep, he emitted lots of spawn. They’re maturing now and taking after dear old dad. Remember the original sitcom. Despite the best efforts of every one from the country’s 'intelligence' chiefs to its fawning media, news emerged that Hillary Clinton had essentially run the State Department from an insecure server in her home. On that server, it transpired, there were thousands of classified documents (along, of course, with yoga routines and plans for her daughter’s wedding). Presented with a subpoena to turn in the classified docs — there were some 30,000 of them. Hillary simply BleachBit the lot and dared Comey to do something about it. He didn’t, of course. 'No reasonable prosecutor,' you see would pursue such a case. Now James Comey’s spiritual heir has strode into the limelight. Meet Robert Hur...."

Writes Roger Kimball, in "The Justice Department won’t prosecute Biden? Color me shocked/Don’t we have trials precisely to establish the guilt or innocence of a defendant?" (The Spectator).

"The White House announced that Joe Biden would deliver remarks at 7.45pm – giving the press just 23 minutes to prepare...."

"As it happened, many White House correspondents were at a meeting near the Watergate building about a mile and a half away. The Guardian was among four who jumped in a car, raced across town and sprinted up sedate Pennsylvania Avenue, greeting the Secret Service in a breathless and disheveled state. Perhaps the press were about to witness history. Was Biden set to announce peace in the Middle East or Ukraine? Was this his Bin Laden moment, a military strike that killed a top terrorist leader? Or after a devastating justice department report said his memory is shot due to old age, was he about to do a Lyndon B Johnson and announce he is not seeking re-election?"

"Do you think if there were a new administration... you would be able to reestablish communication with the US government?"

"Or does it not matter who the president is?"

Putin's answer: "It is not about the leader. It is not about the personality of a particular person. I had a very good relationship with say, Bush. I know that in the United States he was portrayed as some kind of a country boy who does not understand much. I assure you that this is not the case. I think he made a lot of mistakes with regard to Russia, too.... [T]he decision... to open the NATOs doors for Ukraine... happened during his presidency. He actually exercised pressure on the Europeans. But in general, on a personal, human level, I had a very good relationship with him. He was no worse than any other American or Russian or European politician. I assure you he understood what he was doing as well as others. I had such personal relationship with Trump as well. It is not about the personality of the leader. It is about the elite’s mindset. If the idea of domination at any cost based also on forceful actions dominates the American society, nothing will change; it will only get worse...."

Notice that Putin chose which former Presidents to bring up, and he brought up George W. Bush and Trump. Nowhere else in the interview is Trump mentioned by name. Carlson's "if there were a new administration" implies Trump, but Putin's answer refers to Trump in the past. So, Putin, invited to take a position on the American election, chose to distance himself. And yet he did say he had a "personal" and "human level" relationship with Trump.

"Mr. Biden’s performance at his news conference on Thursday night was intended to assure the public that his memory is fine and argue..."

".... that Mr. Hur was out of line; instead, the president raised more questions about his cognitive sharpness and temperament, as he delivered emotional and snappish retorts in a moment when people were looking for steady, even and capable responses to fair questions about his fitness.... [T]he stakes in this presidential election are too high for Mr. Biden to hope that he can skate through a campaign with the help of teleprompters and aides.... "

Writes The New York Times Editorial Board, in "The Challenges of an Aging President."

The Board recommends that Biden get out there interacting with voters and journalists, in spontaneous and unscripted settings, town halls and news conferences. The Board refrains from speculating that the reason Biden eschews opportunities to reassure us is that it wouldn't be reassuring.
For the second year in a row, Mr. Biden has even refused to do an interview before the Super Bowl, a practice that allowed presidents to speak to Americans informally before the country’s largest sporting event of the year, unpersuasively citing a desire to give the public a break from politics.

Give me a break, man.

February 9, 2024

Sunrise — 7:06, 7:07.



Putin: "the Poles overplayed their hand and forced Hitler to start World War II with them."

"Nine in 10 parents rate their relationships with their young adult children as good or excellent, and so do eight in 10 young adults."

"Rather than feeling worried or disappointed about how things are going in their children’s lives, eight in 10 parents say they feel proud and hopeful. 'These parents, who are Gen X, are more willing to say, "Hey, this is good, I like these people, they’re interesting, they’re fun to be with,"' said Karen L. Fingerman, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies adults’ relationships with their families. As for the adult children, she said, 'You get advice from a 50-year-old with life experience who is incredibly invested in you and your success.'... In previous research, parents often expressed ambivalence about their continued involvement in their adult children’s lives. But the Pew study suggests that has changed, Professor Fingerman said, perhaps a sign they have come to embrace it."

Word that doesn't appear in the article: "helicopter."

All the women Trump might pick for VP fit "the demeaning gendered stereotypes Trump basks in..."

"... whether it’s the steely, stilettoed vixen or the no-nonsense broad. Of the first sort, [Kristi] Noem and [Kari] Lake both look the part, which has always been top of mind to Trump, who told his female staffers to 'dress like women.' They’re impeccably groomed in the ready-for-TV mold of Ivanka Trump and Kellyanne Conway. Of the second type, there’s Mean Girl Marjorie Taylor Greene, a QAnon fantasist whose relationship to the truth rivals that of the election lawyer turned criminal Sidney Powell, and the forceful but unthreatening Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Yes, these are all distasteful stereotypes...."

Writes Pamela Paul, in "Please Let It Not Be a Woman" (NYT).

Why is it okay to articulate these stereotypes... and what's so bad about them? Anyone who hopes to be seen as a possible President must be steely and no-nonsense. What's "demeaning"? These adjectives only sound demeaning when attached to the nouns the New York Times writer chose: "vixen" and "broad." Those terms are used to divide the women into 2 groups based on looks. And Trump is supposed to be the sexist here? The writer is expressing contempt for women if they glam up and if they don't. And that's in a column expressing the hope that all the female options are rejected.

By the way, did you know that "vixen," referring to a human woman, originally meant a quarrelsome shrew

"I was so determined to give the special counsel what they needed that I went forward with five hours of in-person interviews over two days on Oct. 8 and 9 of last year..."

"... even though Israel had just been attacked on Oct. 7 and I was in the middle of handling an international crisis. I just believed that’s what I owed the American people.”

Said President Biden's written statement, quoted in "Special Counsel’s Report Puts Biden’s Age and Memory in the Spotlight/After an inquiry concluded that President Biden was 'well-meaning' but had 'a poor memory,' he angrily fired back in an attempt at political damage control" (NYT).

And president’s lawyers wrote: "It is hardly fair to concede that the president would be asked about events years in the past, press him to give his ‘best’ recollections and then fault him for his limited memory. The president’s inability to recall dates or details of events that happened years ago is neither surprising nor unusual."

The "elderly man with a poor memory" holds a press conference to demonstrate that he is not "an elderly man with a poor memory,"

If you click on the image, you'll see it goes to RNC Research, at Twitter, where the text is:
After a special counsel found Biden "willfully retained and disclosed classified materials" and called him an "elderly man with a poor memory," Biden held a brief — but angry and incoherent — press conference. It did not go well, so we're sharing it in its entirety....

I don't agree that Biden seems "angry and incoherent." When I watched a partial clip last night, I had the impression that "[i]t did not go well," but sitting through the whole thing now, I'd say it's not that bad. It's typical Biden.

February 8, 2024

Sunrise — 7:00, 7:15, 7:16, 7:21.





Tucker Carlson interviews Vladimir Putin.

"The climate scientist Michael Mann on Thursday won his defamation lawsuit against Rand Simberg... and Mark Steyn...."

"The six-member jury announced its unanimous verdict after a four-week trial in District of Columbia Superior Court and one full day of deliberation. They found both Mr. Simberg and Mr. Steyn guilty of defaming Dr. Mann with multiple false statements and awarded the scientist $1 in compensatory damages from each writer. The jury also found the writers had made their statements with 'maliciousness, spite, ill will, vengeance or deliberate intent to harm,' and levied punitive damages of $1,000 against Mr. Simberg and $1 million against Mr. Steyn in order to deter others from doing the same."

From "Michael Mann, a Leading Climate Scientist, Wins His Defamation Suit/The researcher had sued two writers for libel and slander over comments about his work. The jury awarded him damages of more than $1 million" (NYT).

I'm very sorry to see this. I've been following the trial through the "Climate Change on Trial" podcast.

"I'm not here as an apologist for Donald Trump and I'm certainly not here as a lawyer... but I'm trying to imagine what it would be like..."

"... if the Supreme Court said we're removing the front-running Republican candidate from the ballot and essentially saying to the American people, you won't have the opportunity to vote for him. And I think it would be very, very disruptive in this country. I think it will create a huge reaction and that worries me. It worries me partly because of Donald Trump. There's so much cynicism about our institutions already. And the strength of our democracy are these institutions. You can argue that's why you have to go the way the Colorado court suggests. But I think in the minds of many voters, this would be a subversion. And it would draw very strong reaction."

Said David Axelrod, on CNN last night, before today's oral argument.

Very strong reaction... but what, exactly? Another/"another" insurrection?

"The special counsel investigating President Biden said in a report released on Thursday that he had decided not to seek prosecution..."

"... of Mr. Biden over his handling of classified material after leaving the vice presidency in early 2017, but had found evidence that Mr. Biden willfully retained and disclosed some sensitive material.... 'We conclude that the evidence does not establish Mr. Biden’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” wrote [Robert K. Hur, the special counsel]. Mr. Hur cited Mr. Biden’s cooperation with investigators, in stark contrast with former President Donald J. Trump’s behavior when documents were discovered at his resort in Florida...."

From "Special Counsel Seeks No Criminal Charges in Biden’s Classified Records Case/The inquiry found that the president had willfully retained material after finishing his term as vice president and had shared sensitive information with a ghostwriter" (NYT).

"Mr. Hur said... a jury was unlikely to convict Mr. Biden, given the fact that he had grown accustomed to legally retaining documents as vice president.... 'Mr. Biden would likely present himself to a jury, as he did during our interview with him, as a sympathetic, well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory,' Mr. Hur wrote."

"I think that the question that you have to confront is why a single state should decide who gets to be President of the United States."

"In other words, you know, this question of whether a former president is disqualified for insurrection to be president again is, you know, just say it, it sounds awfully national to me. So whatever means there are to enforce it would suggest that they have to be federal, national means. Why does -- you know, if you weren't from Colorado and you were from Wisconsin or you were from Michigan and it really -- you know, what the Michigan secretary of state did is going to make the difference between, you know, whether Candidate A is elected or Candidate B is elected, I mean, that seems quite extraordinary, doesn't it?... Why should a single state have the ability to make this determination not only for their own citizens but for the rest of the nation?"

Said Justice Elena Kagan in today's oral argument in Trump v. Anderson (transcript here).

Kagan's question was reinforced by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson: "Can I just ask you about... the concern about uniformity and the lack thereof if states are permitted to enforce Section 3 in presidential elections.... I guess my question is why the Framers would have designed a system that would -- could result in interim disuniformity in this way where we have elections pending and different states suddenly saying you're eligible, you're not, on the basis of this kind of thing?"

"The hosts seem to pride themselves on making [the podcast] 'Advisory Opinions' a venue for 'abject legal nerdery,' separate from partisan politics..."

"When the Colorado Supreme Court issued a ruling, in December, that blocked Trump from the Republican primary ballot, [Sarah] Isgur and [David] French convened an 'emergency pod' to discuss the case. French argued that the court was probably correct to disqualify Trump, in light of the Fourteenth Amendment, which states that former officeholders who have 'engaged in insurrection or rebellion' after taking an oath of office are ineligible to serve. Isgur, by contrast, was wary. 'The whole point of the Fourteenth Amendment was to strip the states of power, because they had, y’know, not behaved well,' she said—the Amendment was ratified three years after the end of the Civil War. 'So the idea that we then empowered each state to decide who’s qualified to be on the ballot seems insane to me.' But both were dismayed by the idea that Republicans might be able to retaliate by disqualifying Biden, perhaps by claiming that he had failed to protect the country from invading immigrants. 'Give me an effing break,' French said during a recent episode, coming about as close as he ever does to cursing. Isgur reacted as if she had just unwrapped a thoughtful birthday gift. 'Wow,' she said. 'I got an "effing" from David!'"

I have a tag already for David French. He's a NYT columnist. I'll make a tag for Sarah Isgur. I hadn't noticed her until this New Yorker profile came out, and now I've listened to a podcast and a half, and I intend to keep listening. Nice work! Listen to them here.

"Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked a series of questions reflecting what seemed to be an emerging consensus..."

"... that the 14th Amendment was not meant to permit states to determine whether a candidate was an ineligible insurrectionist. 'The whole point of the 14th Amendment was to restrict state power, right?' he asked, adding that the challengers’ contrary argument was 'a position that is at war with the whole thrust of the 14th Amendment.' Chief Justice Roberts noted that the challengers’ position would have empowered the former Confederate states to determine whether candidates were disqualified from holding federal office. The 14th Amendment was adopted to constrain states’ rights and empower the federal government, the chief justice said, and it is 'the last place you’d look for authorization for the states, including Confederate states, to enforce the presidential election process.'"

Writes Adam Liptak, about this morning's oral argument, pointing to a passage that I was going to wait until I had the transcript to write about. 

"Thursday’s case arose from a December ruling from the Colorado Supreme Court disqualifying Mr. Trump from the state’s Republican primary ballot..."

"... based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. The provision was adopted after the Civil War to bar insurrectionists who had taken an oath to support the Constitution from holding office.... Mr. Trump has attacked the Colorado court’s ruling on at least a half-dozen grounds, though their unifying theme is that the election should be decided by the voters...."

The NYT describes the case — Trump v. Anderson — that is up for oral argument in the Supreme Court this morning.

You can listen in real time at the Court's website, here.

UPDATE: I listened to the entire argument in real time, and I have some things I want to say that require the transcript, but I did think that the conservative Justices accepted the argument that the President is not covered by the text of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. And I believe that both Kagan and Jackson were concerned about letting the states decide this matter of such great national interest. Sotomayor wasn't strong on the other side. After the beginning, she was quiet for a long time, then spoke up and sounded, I'm sorry to say, lost.

"A very liberal man in New York who said he doesn’t even consider dating people who put 'moderate' in their dating profiles..."

"... said, 'It’s probably unfair, but with such a deep left-leaning dating pool, there’s no scarcity mind-set forcing us to interact and test that assessment.' A very liberal woman in Denver had the opposite perspective because she felt that liberal men were scarce: 'I was in a pretty bad relationship, but I stayed in it so long in part because I worried I wouldn’t find another man who is a Democrat,' she said."

Writes Jessica Grose, in "When It Comes to Dating, Ambition Might Matter More Than Politics" (NYT)(free-access link).
If you live in a big city that has lots of people who are politically like-minded, you can afford to filter out the people who don’t align with you very closely. If you live in a smaller or more politically mixed environment, you can’t afford to be so choosy without severely restricting your dating pool.

This is phrased in terms of the person doing the choosing, but the same kind of "scarcity" thinking must influence the person writing the profile. That very liberal New York man sees a "deep left-leaning dating pool," but isn't it full of people who figured they'd better say they're on the left? But maybe that's all New York man is himself and all he wants. 

February 7, 2024

At the Wednesday Night Café...


.... you can talk about whatever you want.

Incorrect "Literally" of the Day.

"Why put out the effort to challenge the Haley effort ahead of time when Trump knows he’s going to win Indiana no matter what? The bottom line is he’s completely unhinged. He is literally off his rocker."

Said Mike Murphy, a former Republican member of the Indiana House of Representatives, quoted in "'Literally off his rocker': Why Trump is fixated on Indiana/Trump’s focus on the heavily Republican state has become a bizarre subplot of the 2024 primary" (Politico).

The straining to characterize Trump as crazy is... crazy. But it's especially absurd to put "literally" next to such a concrete metaphor.

I don't know the origin of the phrase "off his rocker" — the OED finds it in an 1890 "Dictionary of Slang" — but it feels ageist to me, as though the person belongs in a rocking chair... and can't even do that right.

About that revolution....

"Until recently, the very notion of prescribing any form of weight loss whatsoever to an elderly patient—i.e., someone 65 or older—was considered suspect, even dangerous."

"'Advising weight loss in obese older adults is still shunned in the medical community,' the geriatric endocrinologist Dennis Villareal and his co-authors wrote in a 2013 'review of the controversy' for a medical journal. More than a decade later, clinicians are still struggling to reach consensus on safety, Villareal told me.... When a person addresses their obesity through dieting alone, as much as 25 percent of the weight they lose derives from loss of muscle, bone, and other fat-free tissue. For seniors who, through natural aging, are already near the threshold of developing a functional impairment, a sudden drop like this could be enfeebling...."

From "Older Americans Are About to Lose a Lot of Weight/People over 65 make up a sizable portion of Americans on GLP-1 drugs. That might be trouble" (The Atlantic).

"But our best understanding of how reality works is entirely bound to finitude."

"Physics is all about conservation principles. There are no infinities.... Technical culture often longs for freedom from finitude. A profound truth, however, is that the greatest mysteries are found in conserved systems, which can become rich and complex, not in infinite ones, which stretch out like blank white sheets to the edge of the cosmos. And so another urgent question is whether people can enjoy the storied reality of finitude after coming down from the high of fake infinity. Can being merely human suffice? Can the everyday miracle of the real world be appreciated enough? Or will the future of culture only be viral? Will all markets become Ponzi-like fantasies? Will people reject physics forever, the moment we have technology that’s good enough to allow us to pretend it’s gone?"

Writes Jaron Lanier, in "Where Will Virtual Reality Take Us? Apple’s Vision Pro headset suggests one possible future—but there are others" (The New Yorker).

"From early boyhood, Hayton, now 55, fought a powerful inner urge to be female, yet went on to marry and father three children."

"After full gender reassignment surgery at 47, she initially embraced trans activism before starting to believe its central precepts — that trans people are 'born in the wrong body' and can literally change sex — are both false and unhealthy for trans people. For this she was ostracised and denounced... She is, as per the title of her new memoir, a 'transsexual apostate.'... [She] broaches the biggest trans taboo by arguing many men who transition — including herself — are driven by 'autogynephilia' (AGP), literally the desire for oneself as a woman.... A few months after surgery, she was invited to a seminar on trans rights where she heard a feminist academic... point out that the concept of 'gender identity,' on which it was predicated, was totally undefined. Hayton realised that, having transformed her body to align with her supposed female gender identity, she had no proof it existed. So what had compelled her real, urgent need to be seen as a woman?"

From "Debbie Hayton: the trans woman taking on the trans activists/She was married with children when she transitioned. But when Debbie Hayton began questioning the idea that people with gender dysphoria are born in the wrong body, she found herself under attack by the trans community" (London Times).

What about Stephanie, the woman Debbie had married?

"The fact that a 'none of the above' option could overpower any enthusiasm from the supporters of Ms. Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, is another blow..."

"... to her slim chances of winning the nomination over Mr. Trump, who maintains a commanding lead in polls. It also blunts any effort of hers to demonstrate momentum or score at least a symbolic victory. Mark Reynolds, 56, had planned to vote for Mr. Trump in Thursday’s caucuses. But he stopped by a polling place briefly on Tuesday morning to cast a vote for 'None of These Candidates.' 'It’s just to send a message,' Mr. Reynolds said, noting that the primary itself was a 'waste of time.'"

1. Even writing this post feels like a waste of time.

2. Nevada has an idiotic system. I resent even having to put effort into understanding it. 

3. "Slim chances"... give me a break.

4. Why is it surprising that "none of the above" did well? I think "none of the above" is just about everybody's preference in any election. But, of course, here, "None of These Candidates" was literally on the ballot, and everyone understood that "None of These Candidates" meant Trump.

5. Elsewhere, people are trying to get "Trump" off all of the ballots. If they succeed, watch for the raging response from the "none of the above" supporters.

It seems that President Biden can't remember how to say "Hamas."

Elon Musk makes a big move to fund anti-DEI litigation against Disney, ABC, ESPN, and Marvel.

"Americans have a right to know all they can about a war they're implicated in, and we have the right to tell them about it..."

"... because we are Americans, too. Freedom of speech is our birthright. We were born with the right to say what we believe. That right cannot be taken away no matter who is in the White House. But they're trying anyway. Almost three years ago, the Biden administration illegally spied on our text messages and then leaked the contents to their servants in the news media. They did this in order to stop a Putin interview that we were planning. Last month, we're pretty certain they did exactly the same thing once again, but this time we came to Moscow anyway.... Elon Musk, to his great credit, has promised not to suppress or block this interview once we posted on his platform X, and we're grateful for that...."

A New York Post reporter asked the White House Press secretary about Carlson's accusation:

February 6, 2024

Sunrise — 7:16, 7:19, 7:22.




"The United States House of Representatives rejected impeachment charges against Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary..."

"... on Tuesday after a small group of Republicans broke with their party and refused to support what amounted to a partisan indictment of President Biden’s immigration policies. The 216-214 vote dealt a stunning defeat to Speaker Mike Johnson, who had expressed confidence that he had the votes to charge Mr. Mayorkas with high crimes and misdemeanors for failing to lock down the United States border with Mexico amid a migrant surge, a move that Republicans have been promising for more than a year."

The NYT reports.

Good. As I wrote on January 28th, "What's the 'high crime'/'misdemeanor' bringing this policy disagreement within the constitutional power to impeach?"

"The prosecutors argued that Ms. Crumbley should have noticed her son’s distress and stopped him from committing an act of unspeakable violence."

"Marc Keast, one of the prosecutors, said that she and her husband 'didn’t do any number of tragically small and easy things that would have prevented all of this from happening.'...  Jurors were shown messages that Ethan sent to a friend in April 2021, complaining of insomnia, paranoia and hearing voices. The jurors were also shown messages that he sent to his mother in March 2021, in which he suggested that their home was haunted by a demon. Ms. Crumbley, prosecutors pointed out, did not always respond. But in her testimony, Ms. Crumbley said that Ethan and his parents had joked for years about whether their house was haunted, adding that her son was just 'messing around.'... 'As a parent, you spend your whole life trying to protect your child from other dangers,' [Ms. Crumbley testified]. 'You never would think you have to protect your child from harming somebody else.'..."

From "Mother of Michigan Gunman Found Guilty of Manslaughter/Jennifer Crumbley was convicted on four counts of involuntary manslaughter, one for each student her son killed in Michigan’s deadliest school shooting" (NYT).

"Three male figures surrounded her avatar in... a virtual live events program created by Meta. They touched her avatar’s breasts..."

"... and pressed their torsos rhythmically against her, telling her that she wanted it. A fourth took photos of the incident in the app. 'My physical body was responding,' said [Nina Jane] Patel, 45, a virtual reality researcher and consultant with the Zero Abuse Project, describing the 2021 attack. 'I was very uncomfortable. Fight or flight mode kicked in.' Meta declined to comment on the incident...."

From "Attacks in the metaverse are booming. Police are starting to pay attention. A growing cohort of activists are urging police forces to grapple with sexual attacks in virtual reality, but prosecuting digital abuse could be tricky" (WaPo).
“People kill each other all the time in video games but we don’t call them murderers,” said Aya Gruber, a law professor at the University of Southern California who has studied rape laws and called jail a “blunt tool” for addressing online behavior.... 
Many of the earliest adopters of virtual reality came from the video game industry — a sector that has struggled with racism, sexism and harassment. These issues exploded into the public in the 2014 phenomenon known as “gamergate,” when internet trolls organized to harass women in gaming circles....

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals panel rejects Trump's claim of immunity.

WaPo reports.

Here's the opinion. Excerpt:

"I’d like to debate him now because we should debate. We should debate for the good of the country."

Said Trump, reported by NBC News.

Biden's response: "Immediately? Well, if I were him, I’d want to debate me, too. He’s got nothing else to do."

Trump avoided participating in any of the Republican debates, apparently because it was not in his political interest to do so, and not because it was "for the good of the country."

Presumably, the desire to debate Biden now — Trump has said he wants 10 debates! — is another calculation of political interest. Biden's got the perfect excuse for refusing to engage, at least for now. He's busy being President. But I suspect he'll attempt to dodge all the debates, and as the months wear on and we get to late summer, the too-busy excuse will need to be bolstered. I predict the argument that Trump is too odious to deserve to be on the same stage as President Biden. 

You might think that if Biden's poll numbers continue to decline that at some point debating will seem like his best option. Is he capable of debate though? If he is, maybe he should. Otherwise, we're out here thinking the man can't debate. And then maybe he's not "too busy." Maybe he's not busy at all. I think a lot of people don't believe that Biden is, right now, performing the role of President.

"I have seen claims on social media saying that semen retention can boost your testosterone levels, cure erectile dysfunction, make you more manly..."

"... make you stronger, cure depression, make you more successful, clear your skin.... And there is no medical evidence that it does any of those things."

Says Ashley Winter, "a urologist who has been publicly critical of nofap ideas," quoted in "Masturbation abstinence is popular online. Doctors and therapists are worried" (NPR).

The experts are worried — worried about respect for their authority. But whether there is "medical evidence" or not, individuals will experiment with their own body and mind and observe the results and make their own choices.

"Our kids already know about 99.9 percent of this stuff. What concerned me..."

"... is that they have a lot of misinformation, no matter how much they tell us, and I wanted them to get accurate information."

Said Robie Harris, quoted in "Robie Harris, Often-Banned Children’s Author, Is Dead at 83/Her children’s books on matters of sex and sexuality — notably 'It’s Perfectly Normal' — became fodder for the culture wars" (NYT).

The obituary links to a 2010 New Yorker article by Jill Lepore, "Too Much Information," which is about books for children that explain sex. That whole article is interesting, and the beginning is hilarious.

Here's some of what Lepore wrote about Harris:

"This is people taking it upon themselves to use a space that in many ways was abandoned by people with money and power."

"In the 1990s, there was this moral panic about graffiti being linked to gangs, but times have changed... Even if people don’t like it — and they’re entitled not to like it — they understand that graffiti is not connected to violence."

Human activity flows into unused spaces. It's the story of civilization. But is that unlinked to gangs? Don't gangs come into existence where there is emptiness in the social order?

Nature abhors a vacuum.

February 5, 2024

Sunrise — 6:58, 7:14.



"Wouldn’t it be wiser to stop the madness now and just jam that Silly Putty right back under Ms. Greene’s sofa?"

That's the last sentence of "Impeach Him! No, Him! And Him, Too!" by Michelle Cottle in the NYT.

I made a free access link, in case you feel motivated to decode the quote. I find the metaphoric violence unsettling. 

An excellent teaching demonstration, but who is this man? He's so relaxed and on point, that I suspect it's scripted.

"Taking the baton from Stevie Wonder, Annie Lennox sang the second portion of the 'In Memoriam' segment..."

"... delivering a stark rendition of 'Nothing Compares 2 U' in tribute to the late Sinéad O’Connor. Flanked by Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman of Prince’s legendary Revolution, Lennox concluded the balled by raising her fist in solidarity with Gaza: 'Artists for cease-fire!'"

From "Grammys 2024 performances, ranked from best to worst/Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs’s duet of ‘Fast Car’ was the highlight of the night, along with Joni Mitchell and Annie Lennox’s moving ballads" (WaPo).

Was that "solidarity with Gaza" or an attempt to resolve the longstanding conflict between O'Connor and Prince? No way for the 2 dead artists to declare a truce, but maybe some will see Lennox and Wendy and Lisa as proxies for the departed disputants.

But if we want to talk about symbolism, how does a raised fist represent a cease fire? Doesn't the fist let slip that a cease fire is wanted so that the struggle can continue?

And look at that typo: "balled" for "ballad."

"They shake their heads and say Joni, you've changed."

Last night at the Grammys. I've never cared at all about the Grammys, but this was Joni Mitchell performing last night.

Was the choice of "Both Sides Now" intended to provide insight into the passage of time — Joni is 80 — or was it playing the odds and maximizing the chance that the audience would recognize the tune?

February 4, 2024

Sunrise — 7:10.


"I, thank God, had no idea what that meant, so I said to him, 'What are you talking about? I’m coming back on Wednesday.' Literally, it was an honest answer. I had no idea what he’s talking about."

Said E. Jean Carroll's lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, reflecting on Trump's saying "See you next Tuesday."

Quoted in "E Jean Carroll lawyer says Trump used coded version of C-word against her/Roberta Kaplan says ex-president directed ‘See you next Tuesday’ remark at her after deposition in unrelated case at Mar-a-Lago" (The Guardian).

According to Wikipedia:

See you next Tuesday (C U next Tuesday) is a common euphemistic backronym for the word "cunt".....

I've always associated it with Stanley Kubrick. It's surprisingly hard to find references to that on the web, but there's this from Roger Ebert: "John Landis... includes the dialog 'See you next Tuesday' in every one of his films, after first hearing it in Kubrick's '2001.'"

Is Trump really going that far out of his way to get women to talk dirty to him? How much speaking in code is going on out there? You risk seeming nutty if you make assertions that you've been spoken to in code. When is it worth speaking in code? When you're luring someone into seeming nutty by accusing you of speaking in code? When you know the code will be understood and you want to get your message out? But here's Kaplan asserting that she "had no idea what that meant" — flaunting her innocence of Trump's scurrilous rhetoric. Did Trump deliberately elicit that performance? So complex. So inane. What would Elvis do?

"But I’m fascinated by tradwife life... It’s less the campy, colour-saturated, submissive 50s-housewife cosplay...."

"That feels like fantasy or fetish, designed, I suspect, to appeal mainly to men.... But the other kind – families forging a wholesome, homesteading existence – taps into a longing for things it’s objectively reasonable to long for. It’s stuff I long for: a slower, simpler, more intentional way of life, making do and mending, a hands-on relationship with nature, the seasons and food production. The world is chaos, cruelty and despair, but in a peaceful corner of the internet, a woman in sprigged muslin is meditatively pickling beets in a shaft of sunlight or pouring raw milk into a pitcher. A knock-kneed lamb is warming by the Aga, there are freshly podded peas on the table and there is sourdough cooling. They make it look so lovely, this 19th-century drudgery...."

Writes Emma Beddington in "Sometimes I long for the life of a tradwife. Then I remember it’s a reactionary fantasy" (The Guardian).

We're told that it's possible to have a "pared-back life" that's not "trad" but "radical, diverse, engaged and outward-looking." Beddington points us to 3 Instagram accounts: @poppy.okotcha ("growing food ecologically"), and @Blackyardchickenz (a "hen-keeping experiment"), and  @farmlifeiceland ("a lesbian sheep-farming couple")...

"Their recent mission was simple, but strenuous: hike several miles into the mountains near the border, and leave supplies in well-traveled areas..."

"... where a migrant in need would easily be able to spot them. Plastic bags of food and clothing were positioned in little piles along the informal route, dated and adorned with short messages from the volunteers: 'Con mucho amor' and 'Buena suerte.' The border wall, which in California is sometimes made up of towering steel slats, and then tapers out entirely when the rugged landscape becomes a natural barrier, was a felt but unseen presence in the distance. As the volunteers climbed higher into the mountains and closer to the border, hoisting themselves up rock faces and scrambling down scrubby hills, they spotted many signs of life, including weathered shirts and hats, empty water bottles and wrappers from Mexican-brand candy...."

From "The fight to save lives in the treacherous California desert: ‘A broken ankle is a death sentence’/Hundreds of migrants die during southern border crossings each year. Volunteers are hiking for miles to support them" (The Guardian).

"Saturday Night Live" collaborates with Nikki Haley and it's embarrassing.

Even the Trump impersonator guy is off:

Will "I see dead people" earn a visit from the Secret Service? Or is it suitably nonthreatening to passively gaze at old people and visualize them at the end of a natural life span?

"An unscientific bias against 'feral' or 'invasive' animals threatens to undercut one of the great stabilizing trends making ecosystems healthier...."

"Introduced species such as feral pigs, horses, donkeys and camels represent a powerful force of 'rewilding' — the reintroduction of wild animals into ecosystems where humans had eradicated them — according to a study published Thursday in Science."

The Hill reports, in "Feral pigs and donkeys may be more salvation than scourge for ecosystems, study finds."
“One way to talk about this is: whether a visitor from outer space, who didn’t know the history, could tell what megafauna are native or introduced based solely on their effects,” said Erick Lundgren, a doctoral student in biology at Arizona State University.... In the case of big animals... if our alien visitor couldn’t tell the difference, Lundgren said, “then nativeness isn’t actually a helpful way to understand how ecosystems work.”...

"The guy we’re running against, he is — he’s not for anything, he’s against everything."

I believe — based on this Hill article — that was yesterday and not at a campaign stop but at Biden's own campaign headquarters.

How can it be that Trump is not for anything? He's for a strong southern border, for example. Obviously, that can be rephrased into being against something: He's against an open border. What does Biden think he's saying? Was there some longer, more specific speech that enumerated good things that Biden supports and that Trump is against, and Biden decided to ditch the enumeration and substitute "everything"?

Meanwhile, Trump would like you to know he looks like Elvis. He's for Elvis. That's not nothing.

It worked for Bill Clinton:

"It’s absolutely ludicrous that you have an officer with pink hair and nails longer than their fingers."

"We’re a police department not a hip hop department. Let’s go back to being police officers."

Said one Manhattan police officer, quoted in "NYPD to go ‘old school’ by banning facial hair and changing uniforms, new video reveals: ‘Bring back some traditions’" (NY Post).

Retired NYPD sergeant Joseph Giacalone, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said: "I was against all the beards.... It’s about a sense of pride.... This is absolutely a necessary aspect about showing a good front to the community because I think once the cops look good that comes with a modicum of respect because people perceive if you look like a slob they treat you like one."

The named person speaks in terms of looking "good" and the unnamed person speaks in terms of "hip hop" characteristics.