February 17, 2024

At the Saturday Night Café...

... you can write about whatever you want.

"Here’s the [Hur] report’s biggest revelation: Biden held on to classified top-secret national-security documents..."

"... after he left the vice-presidency, and he did it intentionally. This was no accident. Biden had those documents for this specific reason: He believed he had been right on American policy in Afghanistan (and that President Barack Obama had been wrong), and he wanted to paint himself as the visionary hero (and Obama as the heel) in the historical narrative. That’s why Biden shared some of their contents with his ghostwriter — though Hur acknowledges that Biden may have disclosed that classified information inadvertently, citing Biden’s 'lapses in attention and vigilance.' Here’s the single most important piece of evidence in Hur’s report: In a recording made by the ghostwriter in February 2017 — a month after Biden left the vice-presidency — Biden says he had 'just found all the classified stuff downstairs.'...  He kept those sensitive documents and said nothing for five more years. Not until 2022 — after the FBI executed its search warrant on Trump at Mar-a-Lago — did Biden’s people alert the authorities...."

Writes Elie Honig, a former federal and state prosecutor, in "The Real Biden Documents Scandal (It’s Not the Old-Man Stuff)" (NY Magazine).

In an alley next to the Palace Güell in Barcelona, Spain...

Photo by Chris in Barcelona, Spain

... my son Chris photographs that mural and this poster....

Photo by Chris in Barcelona, Spain

A closer look:

10 pages?!!

I'm reading "75 Hard Has a Cultish Following. Is It Worth All the Effort?/Thousands of people each year partake in the 75-day program meant to build 'mental toughness,' according to its creator, but health experts caution the program may be too rigid and intense" (NYT).
Two 45-minute daily workouts. One gallon of water. 10 pages of a nonfiction book. A diet. No “cheat meals” or alcohol. For 75 days. And if you mess up, you have to start from the beginning.

Sound like a lot? It’s supposed to be. The program, called 75 Hard, is meant to build mental toughness. Some say that rigidity is what makes it great, and others say that makes it problematic...

How do you get 10 pages of a nonfiction book as a grueling challenge? That's just sad. That should be part of a program called 75 Easy. Two 5-minute daily workouts. One quart of water. Only one drink and one dessert per day. For 75 days.

"Aleksei A. Navalny’s political allies on Saturday confirmed his death...."

The NYT reports.
Kira Yarmysh, Mr. Navalny’s spokeswoman, said in a statement on X that Russian investigators had transferred Mr. Navalny’s body from a penal colony in the Arctic to the nearby town of Salekhard, where it is being examined....

In their statement about his death, Russian prison authorities said that its causes were “being determined.” Local investigators said that they launched a “procedural check” into Mr. Navalny’s death....

"In recent years, I’ve come to believe that the decision to treat the pacing of cognitive jobs like manufacturing jobs was a mistake."

"We seemed to have forgotten that life in the mills and factories was miserable.... And yet, as more of us shifted into the comparable comfort of office buildings, we carried over the same flawed model forged on the factory floor.... The process of producing value with the human brain — the foundational activity of many knowledge sector roles — cannot be forced into a regular, unvarying schedule...."

Writes Cal Newport, in "To Cure Burnout, Embrace Seasonality" (NYT).

"In the real world, Mr. Trump is a former president who lost an election and has been denying it ever since."

"In the dock, he is a defendant required to submit to the proceedings of law. He is a courtroom sketch, rendered in two shaky dimensions, with hooded eyes and a glum look. But outside the court, he recasts himself as the defiant fighter. Appearing on camera at his own properties, arrayed in flags, he is in control. He is vested with authority. He is, the set dressing seems to suggest, still the president. His appearances may be inaccurate or irrelevant or unhelpful to his legal defense. But they are forceful, a perception he always sought...."

If tomorrow all his things were gone he'd worked for all his life, and he had to start again, with just his children and his wife, he'd thank his lucky stars to be living here today, because the flag still stands for freedom, and they can't take that away....

February 16, 2024

Sunrise — 6:44.


"Trump Ordered to Pay $355 Million and Barred From New York Business."

"The ruling in Donald J. Trump’s civil fraud case could cost him all his available cash. The judge said that the former president’s 'complete lack of contrition' bordered on pathological."

The NYT reports.

"One thing Mr. Trump likes about a 16-week federal ban on abortions is that it’s a round number. 'Know what I like about 16?'..."

"... Mr. Trump told one of these people, who was given anonymity to describe a private conversation. 'It’s even. It’s four months.' When discussing prospective vice-presidential candidates, Mr. Trump often asks whether they are 'OK on abortion.' He is instantly dismissive when he hears that a Republican doesn’t support 'the three exceptions.'"

From "Trump Privately Expresses Support for a 16-Week Abortion Ban/In supporting a 16-week ban with exceptions, Donald Trump appears to be trying to satisfy social conservatives who want to further restrict abortion access and voters who want more modest limits" (NYT)(free access link).

The 3 exceptions are when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest and when it is necessary to save the life of the mother. 

"In a Fox News town-hall event in January, a week before the Iowa caucuses, a socially conservative voter asked Mr. Trump to 'reassure me' that he would protect 'every person’s right to life, without compromise.' Mr. Trump declined to reassure her. 'I love where you are coming from,' he told the voter. 'But we still have to win elections. And they have used this — you know, we have some great Republicans and they are great on the issue, and you would love them on the issue. And a lot of them have just been decimated in the election.'"

"For those who generally have faith in Willis, she was understandably enraged and gave a master class in how to defend oneself in a public setting."

"For others, her protestations were over the top. Even so, the fact that there was even a hearing into Willis and whether she has a financial conflict of interest in the case was a windfall for Trump. Obviously, it would be an enormous boon for him if Willis or the entire Fulton County district attorney’s office is disqualified. But even if neither Willis nor her office is disqualified and her office is allowed to continue prosecuting this case, the damage done to the public’s perception of the case is incontrovertible...."

From "Fani Willis just gave Donald Trump exactly what he wants/The fact that there was even a hearing into Willis' alleged financial conflict of interest is great news for defendant Trump" (MSNBC).

That's MSNBC, take note.

"It will also be a chance for her to prove herself on the world stage in an election year in which her running mate, President Biden, faces questions about his age."

"While no one in the White House would say this too openly, Ms. Harris’s challenge in the campaign is to demonstrate that she is up to the job so that voters will not worry about re-electing an 81-year-old president who would be 86 at the end of a second term."

From this NYT front-page piece:

I'd like to see her handle herself answering tough questions, not merely delivering the scripted platitude in the subheadline — "global partnerships are critical to U.S. security, not a burden to be lightly discarded."

"We have no reason to believe state propaganda. If this is true, then it’s not 'Navalny died,' but 'Putin killed Navalny,' and only that."

Said Leonid Volkov, Aleksei A. Navalny’s longtime chief of staff, quoted in a NYT article that seems to need a better headline, "Aleksei Navalny, Putin Critic, Dies in Prison, Russian Authorities Say/The opposition leader, who was poisoned in 2020, had spent months in isolation" (NYT).

What good would it do Putin to lie about this? Does the NYT know that it's not a lie? What good would it do the NYT to report this as a fact if it were not verified?

"More of our children want to explore, learn about, challenge, change, or move inside and outside the bounds of masculinity and femininity."

"Many kids seem to get that with increased access to an evolving gender spectrum, more people can experience more joy. In the trans community, I’ve heard this idea described as 'genderful.'"

Said Joji Florence, founder of the proposed Miss Major Middle charter school, quoted in "Proposed NYC ‘trans’ and ‘queer’ charter school would encourage 9-year-olds to ‘explore their gender’: ‘Indoctrinating’" (NY Post).

There's also this from evolutionary biologist Colin Wright: "If you’re a parent who doesn’t know much about gender ideology and you hear that a kid can be themselves, not judged, it looks so progressive and fantastic. It sounds really good. These parents probably think the school is about just being yourself, free to be you and me, but it’s absolutely not what’s happening. They’re saying you can’t just be an effeminate boy and masculine girl. It’s saying, 'If you’re an effeminate boy, you’re actually a girl.'"

How does he know that?

Today's garnering.

I was reading "Vera Wang, 74, flaunts age-defying appearance in hooded gown at the BAFTA Gala 2024" —in the NY Post (and marveling at the photographs) — when I encountered that word:
"The fashion designer, whose impressive appearance at 74 years old continues to garner attention, arrived at London’s swanky Peninsula Hotel in a stunning white gown."

Others may get attention, but Vera Wang garners attention. The comments over there are funny. No one seems to agree that she has defied age.

By the way, did the Post get the flaunt/flout distinction right? Yes. She may be flouting age, but she's flaunting age defiance.

"You are dead to me. Please get off Twitter and just stay on Substack."

Tweeted Elon Musk at Matt Taibbi, reported at Mediaite.

February 15, 2024

Snow in the woods — 1 p.m.


"Everywhere I turn, people are rightly laboring to sound the alarm about Donald Trump’s spectacularly reckless, deeply evil expectorations...."

Frank Bruni expresses his frustration, in "We’re Running Out of Names for Trump. At Least Polite Ones" (NYT)(free access link!).

"Everywhere I turn...." reminds me of the famous Pauline Kael remark. But Pauline Kael was more self-aware. She said (get it right!):
"I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them."
If everywhere you turn you see nothing but hatred of Trump, you're missing millions of your fellow citizens.

Kael was talking about the 1972 election, which Richard Nixon won by a stunning landslide.

"In 2003, the typical female pet owner spent much more time socializing with humans than playing with her cat or dog."

"By 2022, this flipped, and the average woman with a pet now spends more time 'actively engaged' with her pet than she spends hanging out face-to-face with fellow humans on any given day...."

"Unhappiness with air travel took a new turn when maggots rained down on passengers on a Delta flight from Amsterdam to Detroit...."

"A passenger reportedly brought rotten fish on to the plane in a carry-on bag, and placed it in an overhead bin, before the maggots broke free...."

The Guardian reports.

"A scientist defamed can publish a thousand peer-reviewed articles in the effort to clear his or her name, but when scientists and lawyers join forces, disinformation can more readily be defeated."

"What’s disheartening is that it took more than a decade and countless hours by a team of lawyers to win a jury verdict in our case when the verdict on human-caused global warming was rendered decades ago...."

Writes climate scientist Michael Mann, along with lawyer Peter J. Fontaine, in the NYT op-ed "We Don’t Have Time for Climate Misinformation." 

"A friend of Ms. Willis, Robin Bryant-Yeartie, testified that she had 'no doubt' that the romance began before Ms. Willis hired Mr. Wade for the case."

That would contradict the timeline presented by the prosecutors, who said it began after Mr. Wade was hired...."

From "Live Updates: Key Witness Contradicts Trump Prosecutors’ Timeline of Relationship/A former friend and colleague of Fani Willis says the district attorney’s romance with the lead prosecutor in the Georgia election interference case began before he was hired, possibly bolstering defense lawyers’ claims of a conflict of interest" (NYT).

There's live video at that link. Wade is testifying as I write this.

UPDATE: "Nathan Wade is sticking to his contention that his romantic relationship with Fani Willis began in 2022, after he started working for the district attorney's office in November 2021. It was 'early' 2022, he says in response to the defense attorney's probing.... A key sticking point has been who paid for trips that Nathan Wade and Fani Willis took together.... Wade says that Willis typically reimbursed him in cash for their joint travel, so there aren’t credit card receipts available to show that."

"Justice Juan M. Merchan’s decision to start former President Donald J. Trump’s hush money trial in Manhattan next month opens the possibility..."

"... that Mr. Trump’s federal trial on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election could take place in the late spring or early summer. But the scheduling of the election interference case, which is taking place in Washington, is now in the hands of the Supreme Court.... The election trial in Washington had initially been set to begin on March 4. But the judge overseeing it, Tanya S. Chutkan, recently scrapped that date as Mr. Trump pursued his immunity claims. Justice Merchan has set the hush money case for March 25 in Manhattan, noting on Thursday that the trial could last about six weeks. He also mentioned that he had spoken to Judge Chutkan about the timing of their cases, all but sealing that the Washington matter would not go to trial until May at the earliest...."

From "Live Updates: Judge Sets Trial Date in Trump’s Manhattan Criminal Case/Ruling that the case against Donald J. Trump can proceed, Justice Juan M. Merchan said he planned to begin the trial on March 25" (NYT).

"TikTok is, arguably, the ascendant platform for news online, so being there makes sense. But the problem for the Biden campaign..."

"... is that this type of social media is no longer a reliable means to reset narratives. Twitter, which was once the epicenter of the political elite and media conversation, is now a wasteland called X, and its many platform competitors lack a central political focus.... TikTok’s algorithm is excellent at assessing a user’s behavior and feeding them targeted content.... Will TikTok show an avid user who rarely interacts with political content a Biden TikTok?.... Is a TikTok that gets more than 8 million views—as Biden’s Super Bowl video did—considered successful if it’s also widely mocked?... The Biden campaign seems to [have]... what amounts to the Moneyball strategy.... 'We’re going to look for home runs but we’ve got to collect singles and doubles.'... There are vanishingly few people who can bend our current, fragmented internet to their will; the rest of us have to hustle, throwing posts at the wall to see what sticks. Joe Biden, it turns out, is just another creator."

Writes Charlie Warzel in "The Moneyball Theory of Presidential Social Media/Not even the president can bend the internet to his will" (The Atlantic).

Here's the "widely mocked" Biden Super Bowl TikTok:

"Vivague Ramaslimey backpedaling more than his receding hairline."

Tweeted Nalin Haley, quoted in "One Haley Who Isn’t Afraid to Let Insults Fly Nikki Haley’s 22-year-old son, Nalin, has hit the campaign trail and is taking shots at his mother’s political attackers" (NYT).

Nalin, who obscures his own hairline with massive bangs...

... even as high-foreheaded folk lurk behind him, doubles down on the receding-hairline theme:
Ha ha. Hilarious. Are we allowed to make fun of how people look? More importantly, should candidates unleash their handsome offspring to hurl insults at their parent's opponents? If the answer is yes, then tremble at the thought of Trump releasing the Barron. But who can imagine Barron launching out onto the political landscape with blithe insults and memes? When Barron springs forth it will be with grandeur and momentousness... won't it?

"My brain wants to delete everything it’s heard from people who have spent time in [Biden's] presence in the last year. (It’s not encouraging.)"

I wanted to highlight those 2 stray sentences that appear in "Biden Must Win. But How?," an opinion piece by Pamela Paul in The New York Times.

I really don't care what her "brain" "wants." Your brain is you. If it feels like a separate entity that you need to speak about in the third person, something is very wrong. Maybe you think it's humorous. But you're talking about withholding information from us. You're admitting that you know things that would hurt Biden's campaign, and you won't share it with the voters. You just wish you didn't know.

This is destructive of democracy. There must be a flow of information to the voters.

Paul goes on to argue that the Biden campaign should stress substantive policy differences between Trump and Biden. That's what I've been saying too. But you can't simply hide the candidate and forefront the party's policy agenda as if the man is nothing at all. You can't beat something with nothing.
If this becomes a personality contest — as hideous and inconceivable as that may sound to steadfast Trump loathers — Biden may well lose. 

ADDED: Pamela Paul exhibits the problem that Ricky Gervais mocks Karl Pilkington about: 

"The family is lovely. They are so appreciative. It has been wonderful."

Said Jessica Stokes, of Brookline, Massachusetts, quoted in "Massachusetts couple volunteers to host migrants, four show up an hour later: 'We really knew nothing'" (NY Post).


Matthew 25:35: "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in...."

ADDED: This reminds me of Season 6, Episode 1 of "Curb Your Enthusiasm": "You know what some people are doing that I personally think is a really great idea? They're bringing in displaced families. You know, I've been doing a little research and we could actually have a family here tomorrow.... Imagine how they would feel, to come here, and live in our house...."

February 14, 2024

Sunrise — 7:01, 7:02.



"Biden attacked Hur for asking him when Beau died. That didn't happen, sources say."

 NBC News reports.

Biden raised his son’s death after being asked about his workflow at a Virginia rental home from 2016 to 2018, the sources said, when a ghost writer was helping him write a memoir about losing Beau to brain cancer in 2015. Investigators had a 2017 recording showing that Biden had told the ghost writer he had found “classified stuff” in that home, the report says.

Biden began trying to recall that period by discussing what else was happening in his life, and it was at that point in the interview that he appeared confused about when Beau had died, the sources said. Biden got the date—May 30—correct, but not the year....
I see that former Attorney General Eric Holder said that Hur was "a rube, perhaps." 

"Before it was possible to connect with strangers around the world instantaneously, they would sometimes appear erratically, intermittently, and mysteriously, in print...."

"[A] lot of young people are returning to a seemingly outdated form of self-expression; it seems that there are more how-to workshops and zine fairs than ever before. These efforts exist in a space that’s out of the Internet’s reach. Any one of us has access to a global megaphone. But maybe what we seek are smaller, out-of-the-way conversations, forms befitting minor histories. Zines... allow us to feel like we are still sketching the outlines of our true selves. They are work, but not an onerous amount, just enough to make the endeavor seem a path of slight resistance. That friction—between doing something yourself and choosing to do nothing—is where politics emerges. I still keep Snotrag on my desk, along with a few other zines that retain a sense of mystery for me...."

Typing "zines" in the box to add tags to this post, I was amused to see "zines" in "laziness" and surprised to see I had never made a tag for "zines." In the pre-blogging days, I cared about zines. Not that I had a zine, but I had a lot of hand-drawn/hand-written notebooks that I imagined distributing on a poignantly small scale. That's part of this blogger's backstory.

There, I created a new tag and added it retrospectively to 5 old posts. 

"[Jon] Stewart intends to host 'The Daily Show' through Election Day. In order to succeed, whoever comes after him will need to avoid the excesses of the format..."

"... that he popularized: so-called clapter comedy, a phrase that has been credited to [Seth] Meyers which describes the kind of jokes that, instead of making audiences laugh, elicit applause by pandering to their preëxisting beliefs. Stewart resorted to such lines at least occasionally during his tenure; in the Trump era, the tactic exploded. The use of clapter as a crutch, and a general ethos against 'punching down' among moral-minded standups, has rendered much of today’s political comedy predictable...."

Writes Inkoo Kang, in "Jon Stewart Knows 'The Daily Show' Can’t Save Democracy/The comedian transformed the late-night landscape before his departure almost a decade ago—and returns to reckon with a nation that’s been transformed, too" (The New Yorker).

"This guy basically had his own little, you know, sweatshop of children. It’s insane. I’m still in disbelief."

Said Joel DeBellefeuille, quoted in "Teacher sued over accusations he tried to sell junior high students’ art" (WaPo).

DeBellefeuille brought suit after his 13-year-old son Jax learned that his art teacher was selling merchandise — mugs, cushions, etc. — with his students' art work printed on it.

I don't know if it affects the legal issue, but the assignment had been to do works in the style of Jean-Michel Basquiat

Quite aside from the teacher's appropriation of the children's work, what do you think of the original assignment? Note that each image is titled with the student's name plus "Creepy Portrait." Would you like your children required to draw/paint creepy versions of themselves? Shouldn't children be uplifted and encouraged to see themselves in a positive way? Here, the idea is to look at yourself and see sickness, decay, ghoulishness, and despair.

"Indiana teachers unions are calling for the state attorney general to shut down a new website that invites parents to report 'potentially inappropriate materials' in schools..."

"... describing the measure as a 'blatant attack' on educators.'Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) last week launched the Eyes on Education website, which he said is a 'transparency portal' for parents to see 'real examples of socialist indoctrination from classrooms'.... Alongside the form for submissions, Rokita’s office linked the Parents’ Bill of Rights, which in part outlines the state’s legislative efforts, including a bill passed in 2023 that requires schools to catalogue their library books and allows parents to request removal.... As of Tuesday evening, the portal had more than 30 documents uploaded to it.... One document showed a photo of a rainbow Pride flag hanging on a school wall, emblazoned with a raised fist — a symbol of Black power. Another was a screenshot of a scholarship form that said priority would be given to students from underrepresented groups...."

From "Indiana AG’s site to report school content ignites fear for teachers" (WaPo).

"We are not here to denounce body positivity or detract in any way from the strides we, as a community, have made in inclusivity."

"The reality is that two truths exist — obesity can impact health, but the discrimination, stigma and shame experienced by people living with obesity for their weight is also very real."

Jessie Diaz-Herrera, who is a plus-size certified fitness instructor, posted an Instagram video saying that if she received another partnership offer from a company selling medical injectables she would throw her computer.

“If some of your favorite fat influencers start doing paid campaigns for this stuff, it’s because they sold themselves into diet culture, period,” she said in the video, using an expletive.

"Another alternative is for Biden to win the primary delegates needed for the nomination, then announce at the August convention he’s dropping out."

"That would set off a scramble where party bosses and delegates anoint the nominee. It would be the most backroom and least democratic maneuver since the primary system became paramount, but it would override a [Kamala] Harris claim of being next in line because she wouldn’t have a prayer of getting a majority of delegates...."

Writes Michael Goodwin, in "Kamala Harris’ vow that she’s ‘ready to serve’ is a reminder of how much worse she’d be over Biden" (NY Post).

Too undemocratic? The primaries already feel undemocratic this time around, but it's too late now to use the primaries to select a Democratic Party nominee other than Biden. It does seem that Biden will need to follow through the primary season and collect his delegates. Then it's a question of when he drops out and what sort of process will be used.

Goodwin envisions "a scramble where party bosses and delegates anoint the nominee." But the people could be included in that decision-making process. I'm thinking of polls and even debates. Or there could be a very quick realization that it simply must be Kamala Harris. Don't scramble at all. Harris is next in line. A democratic process led to the selection of Harris in 2020. Let her rise to the open position when it becomes vacant.

Even if they could persuade Harris to step aside because she's not a good enough candidate and they need to swap in somebody else, no one will believe she wasn't pushed aside, disrespected, humiliated.

Goodwin ends his column imagining Michelle Obama as the swapped-in replacement for Harris. I know Michelle Obama is ahead of Harris in the betting markets. The betting markets are not like polls. They don't show what people want, just what people believe will happen. And the various gamblers are trying to predict what would result from a party-boss scramble in the backroom. 

February 13, 2024

Sunrise — 6:59, 7:00.



"But the charges against [Mayorkas] broke with history by failing to identify any [personal corruption and other wrongdoing]..."

"... instead effectively declaring the policy choices Mr. Mayorkas has carried out a constitutional crime. The approach threatened to lower the bar for impeachments — which already has fallen in recent years — reducing what was once Congress’s most potent tool to remove despots from power to a weapon to be deployed in political fights...."

From "House Republicans Impeach Mayorkas for Border Policies/In a redo of their first failed attempt, Republicans pushed through the charges over solid Democratic opposition, making the homeland security secretary the first sitting cabinet member to be impeached" (NYT).

"Americans who test positive for the coronavirus no longer need to routinely stay home from work and school for five days..."

"... under new guidance planned by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.... 'Public health has to be realistic,' said Michael T. Osterholm, an infectious-disease expert at the University of Minnesota. 'In making recommendations to the public today, we have to try to get the most out of what people are willing to do.… You can be absolutely right in the science and yet accomplish nothing because no one will listen to you.' The CDC plans to recommend that people who test positive for the coronavirus use clinical symptoms to determine when to end isolation.... The plan to further loosen isolation guidance when the science around infectiousness has not changed is likely to prompt strong negative reaction from vulnerable groups...."

Might also get a strong negative reaction from people who've thought for a long time that the restrictions were not realistic. 

"President Trump’s claim that presidents have absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for their official acts presents a novel, complex and momentous question..."

"... that warrants careful consideration on appeal.... Conducting a monthslong criminal trial of President Trump at the height of election season will radically disrupt President Trump’s ability to campaign against President Biden — which appears to be the whole point of the special counsel’s persistent demands for expedition."

Wrote Trump's lawyers in this application to the Supreme Court, quoted in "Supreme Court Gives Prosecutors a Week to Respond in Trump Immunity Case/The schedule the justices set was not particularly speedy, though nothing prevents the special counsel from filing sooner than the court’s Feb. 20 deadline" (NYT).

From the application, which seeks a stay of the D.C. Circuit's mandate pending the filing of a petition for certiorari:

"Why is the political right so hostile to Ukraine?"

"It seems like the kind of freedom-fighting, Western-tilting country they’re supposed to adore."

Asks Gail Collins, in "The Conversation" at the NYT.

Her interlocutor, Bret Stephens, answers:
Our colleague David French offered what I think is the smartest answer to your question in a recent column. It comes down to this: general nuttiness connected to sundry Hillary Clinton and Hunter Biden conspiracy theories, plus a belief that Putin (a former K.G.B. agent) somehow represents manly Christian values in the face of effeminate wokeness, plus a kind of George Costanza 'do the opposite' mentality in which whatever Biden is for, they must be against."

Jon Stewart returns to "The Daily Show" (and they've put the whole thing up on YouTube).

I like the way he's still got exactly the same style — same intonations, same attitude, same laughing at himself. This is "The Daily Show" as I know it, and I've pretty much avoided all the hosts who replaced Stewart after he'd gone. I think this is great, but he's only doing Mondays, so it won't be habit-forming.

February 12, 2024

Sunrise — 6:51, 6:58.



"I want to send a message that we do love and kindness for all the people who do good and who do bad."

"We want them to give up all the bad things in daily life. You have to work. You have to find money appropriately in daily life.... It was disappointing that they acted like that. But when they ask us 'Are you hating them?' I explain that a Buddhist man tries to stay calm in all situations, good or bad. That is the rule of the Buddhist man.”

Said Suthea Kong, quoted in "Buddhist monks used coat hanger in defense after armed gang stormed NYC temple, urge bungling thieves to 'give up' crime" (NY Post).

"If you’re looking for a cool peninsula, you’ve found it bro."

From a discussion of U.S. state mottos at Reddit.

I'm enjoying the colorful map with all the mottos. I've been inspired to memorize them (other than the extra mottos some states have (one per state, please)).

Some states have crazily long mottos. (Massachusetts is my favorite overlong motto.) Some are super-short, the shortest being that of Rhode Island, which is also the smallest state. 

My personal favorite motto is Maryland's: "Manly deeds, womanly words."

The Washington motto got me playing this old song.

"G.O.P. Officials, Once Critical, Stand by Trump After NATO Comments."

Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan explain, in The New York Times. (free access at the link).

Key quotes:

Lindsey Graham: "Give me a break — I mean, it’s Trump. All I can say is while Trump was president nobody invaded anybody. I think the point here is to, in his way, to get people to pay."

Marco Rubio: "He told the story about how he used leverage to get people to step up to the plate and become more active in NATO... I have zero concern, because he’s been president before. I know exactly what he has done and will do with the NATO alliance. But there has to be an alliance. It’s not America’s defense with a bunch of small junior partners."

"Unlike sheep, people feed themselves, wash their own hair and pay to be shorn at barbershops and salons."

"All Kollar has to do is collect it. But all the processing that comes afterward is expensive, especially because Human Material Loop is a start-up producing fabrics in small batches.... For the human-hair textile industry to take off, it would have to collect massive amounts of hair, which can be a logistical challenge.... 'If you look in the garbage can of a hair salon, it’s 95 percent hair,' said Lisa Gautier, who founded Matter of Trust in 1998. 'All we have to do is get that 5 percent of debris out of there. It’s really very doable.'... [A]rchaeologists have found mummies with human hair wigs that are thousands of years old. 'Imagine a sweater you can buy that will last 9,000 years,' she said. 'The products we will produce will outlast humanity.'"

From "Would you wear a sweater made from human hair? Entrepreneurs are looking for ways to recycle human hair, including weaving clippings swept off the floor of salons and barbershops into clothes" (WaPo).

My sweaters tend to wear out at the elbows. Mummies don't lean on their elbows. And mummies don't utilize laundry services. Cleaning takes a toll on one's sweaters. But a hair sweater — not to be confused with a hair shirt — might be nice. I have a yak hair sweater that I like a lot. Not counting on it lasting 9,000 years though.

"The business models that will sustain journalism in the future won’t be perfect."

"They’ll leave people out who need good-quality news the most. They will probably cater to older, wealthier men who (for now) make up the demographic most likely to pay for news. There will be idiocy and the enablement of rich idiots. But there will also be new generations of journalists willing to leap into an unsteady industry because they think explaining the world around them is worthwhile, if not particularly remunerative. The sanctimony that Brown sniffs at certainly exists, but a little bit of the holy spirit is probably necessary to report on contemporary America. Even if past experience has taught journalists that change is often a destructive force, the crisis is here, and it needs solutions if we’re going to keep recommending, in good conscience, that promising young talent join the media’s ranks."

"The sanctimony that Brown sniffs at" — Tina Brown (once the editor of The New Yorker) said that British reporters see journalism "as a job" and "They don’t see it as a sacred calling," and she added "I think there’s something to be said for that."

Catching the sun.


At 7:13 a.m.

"There is forgetting and there is Forgetting. If you’re over the age of 40..."

"... you’ve most likely experienced the frustration of trying to grasp hold of that slippery word hovering on the tip of your tongue. Colloquially, this might be described as ‘forgetting,’ but most memory scientists would call this 'retrieval failure,' meaning that the memory is there, but we just can’t pull it up when we need it. On the other hand, Forgetting (with a capital F) is when a memory is seemingly lost or gone altogether. Inattentively conflating the names of the leaders of two countries would fall in the first category, whereas being unable to remember that you had ever met the president of Egypt would fall into the latter...."

From "Biden Seems Forgetful, but That Doesn’t Mean He Is 'Forgetting'" by Charan Ranganath (NYT). Ranganath, a professor of psychology and neuroscience, is the author of the "Why We Remember: Unlocking Memory’s Potential to Hold on to What Matters."

So... the idea is that Biden is forgetting but not Forgetting. 

I noticed something else while reading this article, something that I thought Ranganath was going to talk about but did not. He quotes the famous line from the Special Counsel's report:

"I'm so sorry if the Super Bowl advertisement caused anyone in my family pain."

"The ad was created and aired by the American Values Super PAC without any involvement or approval from my campaign. FEC rules prohibit Super PACs from consulting with me or my staff. I love you all. God bless you."

Tweets RFK Jr., about this ad, which I'm seeing because he has it pinned in his Twitter feed: Do you have a problem with the ad? Should RFK Jr. refrain from trading on his name entirely or is there just some line that he should not cross? But where is that line? And how can he force his supporters to stay behind it? It's one of the many travails of being a Kennedy.

February 11, 2024

Sunrise — 7:00.


"Putin’s obsession with history is genuine, as is his belief in a narrative that justifies, indeed makes inevitable, Russia’s war against Ukraine."

"That Carlson was surprised suggests that he either didn’t watch Putin’s earlier appearances in preparation for the interview, or that, despite copious evidence to the contrary, he imagined that Putin the man would match Putin the role: a dictator whose opponents get killed and jailed and who invades neighboring countries ought to be larger than life, terrifying in person, and certainly not boring.... 'The professional liars in Washington . . . are trying to convince you that this guy is Hitler, that he is trying to take the Sudetenland, or something,' Carlson [said afterward]. 'Not analogous in any way!' In fact, Putin had clearly, and more explicitly than ever before, channelled Hitler during the interview. This is what a tyrant looks like: small, and full of tedious resentments...."

Writes Masha Gessen, in "Tucker Carlson Promised an Unedited Putin. The Result Was Boring/In an interview that lasted more than two hours, the Russian President aired well-trod grievances and gave a lecture full of spurious history meant to justify his war in Ukraine" (The New Yorker).

"[T]he only plausible scenario for Democrats to get a new nominee would be for Biden to decide to withdraw...."

"If Biden were to drop out between now and August, it would most likely create a free-for-all at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August. If Biden calls it quits before he wins the majority of the Democratic delegates, it likely wouldn't make a difference. Any new candidate who tried to enter the race would be unlikely to get on enough of the remaining ballots and therefore couldn't win enough delegates. Ultimately the decision would likely come down to the convention delegates who were initially pledged to Biden.... If large swaths of the Democratic Party lost faith in Biden, delegates to the national convention could theoretically defect en masse. Of course, they were chosen to be delegates because of their loyalty to Biden and have pledged to support him at the convention. But, unlike many Republican delegates, Democratic delegates are not technically bound to their candidate. DNC rules allow delegates to 'in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them,' providing some wiggle room...."

From "Could Democrats replace Biden as their nominee? It is nearly impossible for the Democratic Party to replace Biden, and the president has given no indication that he intends to step aside — nor is anyone asking him to" (NBC News).

"Jill Biden and his other advisers come up with ways to obscure signs of senescence — from shorter news conferences to almost zero print interviews..."

"... to TV interviews mainly with fawning MSNBC anchors.... [T]he Biden crew clearly has no plan for how to deal with the president’s age except to shield him and hide him and browbeat reporters who point out that his mental state... is a genuine issue.... Cosseting and closeting Uncle Joe all the way to the end — eschewing town halls and the Super Bowl interview — are just not going to work. Going on defense, when Trump is on offense, is not going to work. Counting on Trump’s vileness to secure the win, as Hillary did, is not going to work...."

Writes Maureen Dowd, in "Mr. President, Ditch the Stealth About Health" (NYT).

So... sift through all that jaunty prose and you'll see Dowd predicting a Trump victory.

"For Ms. Morgan, being solo poly means there’s no expectation for her to live with any of her partners and she’s at the center of all her relationships..."

"... which include a long-distance relationship, a few more meaningful partnerships and some casual connections. She said she didn’t love any one of her partners more or less than another. 'I experience so much freedom and happiness in being solo and just prioritizing myself first,' she said. 'As somebody who’s a recovering codependent and people pleaser, it feels good to center myself in relationships and not feel like I have this hard obligation to necessarily be with a particular group of people.'..."

From "You’re ‘Solo Poly’? So … You’re Single?/Not quite, according to practitioners, who want people to understand that the lifestyle is more than a dressed-up 'friends with benefits'" (NYT).

1. It's a term, and you may think it's inaccurate or silly, but maybe it's helpful. If it's helpful, how is it helpful?

2. When did people become enamored of labels? Why not just be whoever you are? If it's that you want to belong to a group, it's funny when the group consists of people who are going "solo."

3. If it's a way to live, is it a good way to live, and are you telling the truth about it? If it's mainly a fantasy, is it a good fantasy?

"73% of Democrats think Biden is too old to serve but only 35% of Republicans think Trump is too old to serve."

"Ninety-one percent of independents think Biden is too old to serve, and 71% say the same about Trump." 

According to the poll, conducted using Ipsos' Knowledge Panel, 86% of Americans think Biden, 81, is too old to serve another term as president. That figure includes 59% of Americans who think both he and former President Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, are too old and 27% who think only Biden is too old.

Did The Guardian properly paraphrase Trump here: "Donald Trump says he would encourage Russia to attack Nato allies who pay too little."

I'm skeptical. 

Let's find the actual quote in the text of the article. By the way, I watched the rally last night, and I heard the line in context and reacted at the time. I think I said something like "Did Trump just say he told Russia to attack NATO countries?"

I wish I'd rewound and made my own transcription at the time and blogged it fresh, but I will do with this Guardian article:

"Four years ago, months before Trump launched his stolen-election conspiracy, Lessig and Seligman devised a class at Harvard law school: Wargaming 2020."

"They looked at whether it would be possible to hack the presidential election and send the losing candidate to the White House. Their conclusion was that American democracy had dodged a bullet. 'We discovered that Trump didn’t really understand what he could have done,' Lessig says. 'There were obvious moves he and his team could have made, but they didn’t take them.' The insurrection on 6 January 2021 was tragic in its loss of life, but as a method of overturning the election it was the 'dumbest thing they could have possibly done. No court would ever allow the election to be decided by force of bayonets.'..."

From "How to steal a US election: Harvard’s Lawrence Lessig on Trump’s new threat/Law professor’s new book offers a stark warning about loopholes that could let Republicans overturn the election" (The Guardian).

1. If physically taking over the building is an incredibly dumb way to try to steal the election, that's a reason to infer that there was no intent to steal. It would make more sense to say that Trump thought that a big demonstration would motivate Congress to undertake some additional process that would determine whether the votes had been accurately counted and that might legitimately change the outcome.

2. If it's obvious that different moves can be made to steal the election, why is it supposed to be so outlandish for Trump to have questioned whether the Democrats stole the election? Maybe they made some of those "obvious moves."

3. Is it too much to ask for some nonpartisan assurance that American elections are not stolen? I like the idea of a book called "How to Steal a Presidential Election" (commission-earned link), but is it just about how Trump might steal the election or does it take threats from all sides seriously? I can't believe that only Trump is tempted to cheat and that only his stupidity saved us last time. Surely, some cheating has gone on throughout American history, and democracy is always under attack, whether the orange man is afoot or finally, at long last, out of our hair.

4. It's not anti-democratic to be suspicious that what purports to be the result of a democratic process could be wrong. Lessig himself is expressing that suspicion. 

ADDED: There's an old saying: It takes a thief to catch a thief. That's why they have to teach theft at Harvard Law School.

"Although still rare, euthanasia of couples was first noted in a review of all cases in 2020..."

"... when 26 people were granted euthanasia at the same time as their partners. The numbers grew to 32 the following year and 58 in 2022.... Elke Swart, spokesperson for the Expertisecentrum Euthanasie, which grants the euthanasia wish of about 1,000 people a year in the Netherlands, said any couple’s requests for assisted death were tested against strict requirements individually rather than together. 'Interest in this is growing, but it is still rare,' she said. 'It is pure chance that two people are suffering unbearably with no prospect of relief at the same time … and that they both wish for euthanasia.'"

From "Duo euthanasia: former Dutch prime minister dies hand in hand with his wife/Dries and Eugenie van Agt, both 93, died as number of couples in Netherlands choosing joint end to life grows" (The Guardian).

1. "Although still rare...." implies that we know where we're going and it will ultimately be routine.

2. It's a commitment beyond the marriage vow "'Til death do us part." Even death will not part them.

4. The claim is that the 2 who apply to depart together are evaluated independently, and their wish to journey together counts for nothing. Should it? A reason to say no is that it's hard to tell which way it should count. There could be too much charity or elevation of the other's interests over one's own. But perhaps that is part of self-definition. If you're allowing euthanasia — you've already gone this far — why deprive the individual of the spiritual aspect of the decision. 

The Guardian's "Most viewed" list brings me close to despair, even as I plan to read half of them.

2 of these headlines are so inherently unbelievable that I feel angry at The Guardian for publishing them like that: