March 23, 2024

At the Saturday Night Café...

 ... you can talk about whatever you want.

"For decades, bench jockeys — also known as 'holler guys' — were a standard feature of professional baseball."

"The best and most effective bench jockeys, who may have owed their success to a fierce wit, a piercing voice or a penchant for creative slurs, could even cling to a roster spot after their actual baseball skills had so degraded that they were as useful to a team as an empty tin of chewing tobacco.... At the most basic level, talking trash raises the stakes of a competitive confrontation. It puts more on the line — like pride and possible humiliation — and that makes the outcome of the contest matter more than it otherwise would. It puts more pressure on the performances of all involved, both the talker and the target, and demands to know whether they can handle that added stress and expectation...."

Writes Rafi Kohan, in "Hey, Losers! Here’s How to Bring Baseball’s Very Boring Era to an End" (NYT). Kohan wrote a book about this: “Trash Talk: The Only Book About Destroying Your Rivals That Isn’t Total Garbage.”

Kohan never talks about politics in this column, only baseball, so I did a search for Trump and "trash talk," and I enjoyed finding "'He’s Like a Coach in a Locker Room Talking S__t': How Donald Trump Uses Trash Talk for Political Gain/Author Rafi Kohan on the role of smack talk in American political history—and where Trump fits in" (Washingtonian). Here, Kohan says:

"A suspicion of mine is that there are too many preachy females [dominating the culture of the Democratic party]."

"'Don’t drink beer. Don’t watch football. Don’t eat hamburgers. This is not good for you.' The message is too feminine: 'Everything you’re doing is destroying the planet. You’ve got to eat your peas.' If you listen to Democratic elites — NPR is my go-to place for that — the whole talk is about how women, and women of color, are going to decide this election. I’m like: 'Well, 48 percent of the people that vote are males. Do you mind if they have some consideration?'"

Said James Carville, quoted in the Maureen Dowd column, "James Carville, the Cajun Who Can’t Stop Ragin’" (NYT).

ADDED: The quote above followed the observation by Dowd that "Lately, [Carville] has been obsessed with Biden bleeding Black male voters."

Oddly enough, the very next thing I saw was this clip from the new episode of Bill Maher's show, where he's advising Democrats to give up racial politics:

"As I see it, Google and other search engines are recklessly directing traffic to porn sites with nonconsensual deepfakes."

Writes Nicholas Kristof, in "The Online Degradation of Women and Girls That We Meet With a Shrug" (NYT).

That's a free access link so you can read the description of how easy it is to "nudify" real individuals and make stills and video. Ugh! I realize that giving out that information will cause more people to produce that material, but how else are those of us who loathe this sort of thing going to get outraged enough to have any effect?

"The Islamic State, through an affiliated news agency, claimed responsibility on Friday for the attack."

"U.S. security officials said they believed it was carried out by a branch of the terrorist group known as the Islamic State in Khorasan, or ISIS-K, which has been active in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. But there were some signs that Russia might try to pin blame for the attack on Ukraine, despite the claim of responsibility. The F.S.B., Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, issued a statement on Saturday saying that the attackers had planned to escape to Ukraine 'and had contacts on the Ukrainian side,' according to the Russian state media. Kyiv has denied any involvement and American officials have said there is no evidence that Ukraine played a role...."

The NYT reports on the Moscow concert hall attack.

"Former president Donald Trump claimed Friday that he had 'almost $500 million' in cash, undercutting his lawyers’ previous statements..."

"... that he would not be able to pay a bond of more than $450 million to secure a massive judgment in his New York civil fraud case. 'I currently have almost five hundred million dollars in cash, a substantial amount of which I intended to use in my campaign for president,' Trump said Friday morning in a TruthSocial post in all caps..... Gregory Germain, a law professor at Syracuse University, said the post undermines his credibility and the credibility of his witnesses who testified that he doesn’t have the money. 'It definitely hurts him to say "I’ve got the cash, I just don’t want to put it up,"' Germain said. 'It’s just very difficult to understand why he would do something like that.'... Adam Levitin, a professor at Georgetown Law who specializes in bankruptcy, said in an email that Trump 'might have cash on hand, but if he has to commit it to posting the appellate bond, it won’t be available for use in his businesses, which require a certain amount of cash for their normal operations.' Levitin added that 'the real question is whether he’ll post a bond in the end, and that hasn’t happened yet.'"

From "Trump claims he has $500 million in cash, undercutting his lawyers/The former president says he has ‘almost $500 million’ in cash, days after his lawyers stated that it would be nearly impossible to post the judgment of nearly half a billion dollars in his New York civil fraud case" (WaPo).

"The Justice Department called out Apple for afflicting Android smartphone users with the dreaded 'green bubble' in text messages..."

"... calling it a mark of 'social stigma, exclusion and blame' as part of its landmark antitrust case against the iPhone maker. 'Green bubble' status has long been a source of mockery online, with some women even jokingly declaring that they find men who own Androids less attractive...."

The New York Post reports.

"In some ways, 'dysregulation' is an updated version of another science-coded phrase we used to like: 'chemical imbalance.'"

"Picture the Zoloft commercial from the early aughts that featured line drawings of 'nerve A' and '“nerve B' on a plain-white background. 'Depression may be related to an imbalance of natural chemicals between nerve cells in the brain,' chirped the voiceover, as dots floated erratically between the two illustrated nerves.... A major 2022 umbrella review showed what had been an open secret in the field: There is no substantial evidence that low serotonin causes depression.... Dysregulation... 'implies relationships.'... 'It’s saying your body has been harmed, or decentered, or stressed from a set of traumatic events, so you are dysregulated, and that is just a normal biological consequence of what you’ve experienced.'... The fundamental appeal of regulatory language is the idea that there is a calm stasis to return to, a 'you' separate from your acute distress.... You may be a wreck on a hair trigger now, but that isn’t at the core of who you are...."

Writes Rachel Sugar, in "When Did Everyone Get So ‘Dysregulated’? How managing our mental health became a matter of monitoring our nervous systems" (NY Magazine).

Here's the original Zoloft commercial with the nerves and the dots:

"... Trump doesn’t own Trump Tower.... Trump Tower is owned by the people who own the apartment units...."

"What he actually owns at Trump Tower is 'the parking garage, the valet booth, room-service kitchens, lobby bathrooms, a restaurant space, and one unit.' That’s his apartment.... His basic model is that he goes to a city, lines up money to build the building... essentially licenses his name to operation, builds it and then gets what amounts to an ongoing residual in the form of some kind of servicing contract tied to the structure. You sell the units to a mix of people who are wowed by the Trump name and others from Russia and Saudi who want to park their money through a blind LLC..... [W]hat he does own is by design deeply intertwined with the real stuff that other people own.... The stuff he actually owns owns is the stuff [Letitia] James is going after — golf courses, big houses...."

Writes Josh Marshall, in "We Have Met the Enemy and He Owns the Valet Booth at Trump Tower" (TPM).

March 22, 2024

Stopping by woods on a snowy noon.


Open thread in the comments.

"The whole point of the First Amendment is to give ordinary citizens the power and the tools to decide for themselves what information to listen to and what ideas to find persuasive."

"That’s the foundational principle of the First Amendment and a foundational principle of any democracy—that the power to decide what information to access and listen to and how much weight to give it are left to the ordinary citizen and not to the government."

Said Jameel Jaffer, executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, quoted in "The Misguided Attempt to Control TikTok/The freedom to use social media is a First Amendment right, even if it’s one we should all avail ourselves of less often" (by Jay Caspian Kang in The New Yorker).

I'm afraid that young people today are losing the power and the inclination to decide what to listen to and to sift through things and decide what to think. Why bother when the failure to think the right thing will bring all sorts of trouble? And how can you really believe anything if that's how you acquire your "beliefs"? Everything is completely shallow, even the fear that leads people to say that they believe what they've been told they're supposed to believe.

But yes, at the very least, keep the information flowing, even what the prescribers of correct thought condemn.

"Time will tell whether Mr. Garland and Ms. Monaco made the right calls in the period before they turned the investigation over to Mr. Smith..."

"... who within eight months brought not only the election-case indictment but the separate charges against Mr. Trump for mishandling classified documents. But like many before them, Mr. Garland and his team appear to have underestimated Mr. Trump’s capacity for reinvention and disruption, in this case through delay...."

I'm reading this long NYT article by Glenn Thrush and Adam Goldman, "Inside Garland’s Effort to Prosecute Trump/In trying to avoid even the smallest mistakes, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland might have made one big one: ending up in a race against the clock."

That's a free-access link. I only get 10 of them a month, and I'm selecting this one so you can do your own reading and help me answer the questions I had when I saw this as the top news article on the front page of the Times today. What are they trying to do with this article and why now? It feels like a pre-post-mortem to me.

A lucky break for Trump.

The NYT reports: "Trump Media Merger Is Approved, Providing Fresh Source of Cash/The deal will pump money into Trump Media, which will allow Truth Social to keep operating. Mr. Trump’s personal stake in the company will be worth more than $3 billion on paper."

MEANWHILE, on Truth Social: Trump writes:

"Acyn Torabi... posted a video clip of the 'bloodbath' quote, shorn of most of the surrounding verbiage, garnering 22 million views..."

"... on ... Joe Biden’s campaign posted a similar clip soon after Torabi did, implying Trump was fomenting violence. By Sunday morning, Republicans on the news-making talk shows were asked about Trump’s comment. They responded by arguing Trump was just talking about the economy and Democrats were taking the word 'bloodbath' out of context. Ever since we have been subjected to a semantic debate over 'what did Trump really mean.' Such chin-stroking works to Trump’s advantage, dulling the potential for mass outrage when he makes outrageous statements. How can we avoid this semantic trap?... [We need to connect] Trump’s rhetoric to his presidency without burdening Trump’s critics to prove a remark was intended to provoke violence. It doesn’t matter what he meant by any particular riff.... If the Biden team deploys this narrative... then future instances of Trump’s explosive asides tossed in convoluted word salads can be easily prosecuted without a linguistics seminar on what he meant."

Writes Bill Scher, in "No More 'Bloodbaths' or How to Avoid Stupid Debates Over Trump’s Semantics/Forget parsing his words. Democrats should connect Trump’s past rhetoric to the street violence and Capitol insurrection of his last year in office" (Washington Monthly).

Yes, be more substantive. Stop relying on quirks of language to get attention. And speaking of quirks of language, stop saying "garner." 

"But what is interesting is that a few voices on the Left have spoken up to question the fairness of the proceedings."

"Not to defend Trump — they could never bring themselves to do that — but to ask whether the process being used to go after him is fair. Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, firmly in the liberal camp and firmly anti-Trump, expressed worries about the precedent the Trump case could set. From her column this week: 'The essence of Trump’s argument on appeal is that the supposed harm he caused was minimal at best — all his lenders were repaid — and that the penalty levied against him was therefore wildly excessive....' Progressive commentator Cenk Uygur, also firmly anti-Trump, had a similar view. 'To me, putting up all the cash upfront before you appeal the case seems draconian for everyone, not just Trump.... But what if he wins the appeal? So you made him sell all of his properties to get the collateral, but then he can’t buy them back....'... Someday, of course, what goes around will come around for Democrats, probably in circumstances that none of them could predict right now...."

Most Trump antagonists seem to be laughing and salivating. I suppose they would enjoy seeing the man tortured. It's bizarrely shortsighted. Do they think Trump is uniquely evil and nothing that happens to him will set a precedent?

"The rule is projected to eliminate more than seven billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over the next 30 years...."

That's what it says in "What to Know About the Clean Auto Rule: It’s Not a Ban on Gas Cars/The measure aims to encourage sales of electric vehicles and hybrids. Here’s how it works" (NYT).

Is "seven billion tons" supposed to sound like a lot when we're talking about the earth's atmosphere? I realized I had no idea of the weight of the entire earth's atmosphere. The answer isn't in the article. 

It's 5.5 quadrillion tons. A quadrillion is a million billion.

Also, what's "unclean" about carbon dioxide? When it comes to cleanliness, aren't electric cars worse that gas cars? From a recent article in The Atlantic:
New EV models tend to be heavier and quicker—generating more particulates.... In other words, EVs have a tire-pollution problem, and one that is poised to get worse as America begins to adopt electric cars en masse.

The use of the word "clean" in the title to the rule is deceptive. And it's deceptive to try amaze us with the number 7 billion when it's in relation to 5.5 quadrillion.

March 21, 2024

Sunrise — 6:43, 6:57.



"If the government tries to sell before Trump exhausts his appeals, whoever picks up a Trump-seized property will take on an inordinate amount of risk."

"If Trump prevails, he could get his buildings back. Which might come only after the buyer has laid down money to inspect the property, pay brokers and attorneys to review paperwork, and figure out the logistics.... Someone who buys a former Trump office tower faces the risk of Trump besmirching their reputation, or even rallying supporters to boycott them. And those interested in the smattering of units he still owns at his branded buildings could face a sort of inverse problem — having to face Trump protesters...."

From "It’s Hard to Imagine Who’d Want to Buy Trump’s Seized Properties" (NY Magazine).

"The kitchenless apartment is nothing new in New York real estate. For most of its existence..."

"... it’s been acceptable, if not exactly ideal, because it generally meant cheap rent. Sure, you’ve only got a microwave and mini-fridge, but takeout is abundant and electric-kettle aesthetics are kind of peaking right now. But the social contract is fraying, and some of these apartments are currently running for upwards of $2,500. The market has created a new monster — the luxurification of the hot-plate apartment...."

"We need to be doing legal ballot harvesting — something that has never been done by the RNC, but I can promise you will be a huge part of what we’re planning to do."

Said Donald Trump, quoted in "Republicans Can’t Beat Democrats’ Ballot Harvesting Game Until They Actually Start Playing It" (The Federalist).

"While it’s somewhat hard to believe Ohtani could know so little about the man he seemed to spend 20 hours a day with..."

"... folks around Ohtani — the ones who actually know him, not the P.R. folks — say they believe he’s a one-track ballplaying genius, a genius who’s oblivious to things off the field, including money. That’s the preferred storyline, at least for today. Ohtani certainly doesn’t seem very interested in money, which supports their contention that he didn’t know what was going on, that millions were removed from his account without his knowledge. If he cared about money, would he have played for pennies for years? Or more to the point, if he had a gambling issue, would he have deferred 97 percent of his contract — $680 million — for 10 years?"

Writes Jon Heyman, in "Shohei Ohtani’s camp wants you to believe he’s a baseball legend and a financial dimwit" (NY Post).

Biden and Trump make their pitch to Hispanic voters.



"The Justice Department and 16 state attorneys general filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple on Thursday...."

"The government argued that Apple violated antitrust laws by preventing other companies from offering applications that compete with Apple products like its digital wallets, which could diminish the value of the iPhone. Apple’s policies hurt consumers and smaller companies that compete with some of Apple’s services.... 'Each step in Apple’s course of conduct built and reinforced the moat around its smartphone monopoly,' the government said in the lawsuit."

The NYT reports.

"Search for birth control on TikTok or Instagram and a cascade of misleading videos vilifying hormonal contraception appear..."

"... Young women blaming their weight gain on the pill. Right-wing commentators claiming that some birth control can lead to infertility. Testimonials complaining of depression and anxiety. Instead, many social media influencers recommend 'natural' alternatives, such as timing sex to menstrual cycles.... While doctors say hormonal contraception — which includes birth-control pills and intrauterine devices (IUDs) — is safe and effective, they worry the profession’s long-standing lack of transparency about some of the serious but rare side effects has left many patients seeking information from unqualified online communities. The backlash to birth control comes at a time of rampant misinformation about basic health tenets amid poor digital literacy and a wider political debate over reproductive rights, in which far-right conservatives argue that broad acceptance of birth control has altered traditional gender roles and weakened the family...."

From "Women are getting off birth control amid misinformation explosion" (WaPo).

"How many statutes on the books these days, many of which are hardly ever enforced. You’re saying they can all sit there unused except for one person..."

".... who alleges that ‘I was the only person in America who’s ever been prosecuted for this because I dared express a view protected by the First Amendment’ and that’s not actionable?"

Asked Neil Gorsuch, at oral argument yesterday, quoted in "Supreme Court debates whether Texas councilwoman who says her arrest was politically motivated can sue the mayor" (CNN).

The case is Gonzalez v. Trevino, and here's the full transcript of the argument. Here's the audio.

"For years, Sinema was on the receiving end of a... single-target PAC.... [W]hatever you think of Sinema, the effort against her..."

".... is... likely to speed up some of the most brutal trends in politics... The Replace Sinema super PAC, by contrast, existed solely to run robust oppo research on, buy ads against, pitch unflattering media stories about and otherwise hound, harry and hector one solitary elected official.... Why raise money to merely spend a year messing with a political rival when you can do it for an entire six-year term? There are a lot of underemployed off-year Washington operatives who could embrace that kind of mission."

Writes Michael Schaffer, in "An Obscure Group Hounded Kyrsten Sinema for Years — and It Worked. Is This a Sign of Things to Come? The Replace Sinema super PAC had the sole goal of ousting the senator — but may inspire a new model of endless campaigning" (Politico).

"Ha ha ha. The media audience, of course, laughed. With one joke, Biden acknowledged the work his party’s lawfare warriors have done..."

"... in the Trump matter. And how could Biden not be grateful? He’s trailing Trump in the polls, is facing an electorate that largely believes he is too old for a second term, and is underwater in approval ratings for his handling of most issues."

Writes Byron York (at the Washington Examiner).

The joke:
“Our big plan to cancel student debt doesn’t apply to everyone. Just yesterday, a defeated-looking man came up to me and said, ‘I’m being crushed by debt. I’m completely wiped out.’ And I said, ‘Sorry, Donald, I can’t help you.'”

Meanwhile, Trump has jokes too, and over at Politico, Michael Kruse is trying to convince us that there's something terribly wrong with that: "In on the Joke: The Comedic Trick Trump Uses to Normalize His Behavior/His supporters love it. Critics call it a sign of his autocratic tendencies."

Autocratic tendencies... can you believe it? He unleashed the deadly power of... humor.

March 20, 2024

At the Wednesday Night Café...

 ... you can talk about whatever you want.

How would this tactic play out? Is it a trick?


I've been thinking about this. Trump could let the March 25th deadline arrive and force James to act. Let her seize Trump Tower. How will that look? How can she manage the place? What will people think? Is he calling her bluff?

The 91 felony indictments helped Trump in the polls. His popularity could skyrocket if James confiscates his tower. The political value might exceed the half a billion dollars in wealth it will cost.

In any case, it would be chaotic. One "insider" said:

"You committed the ultimate act of betrayal, leaving your baby terrified, alone, unprotected, to suffer what I’ve heard was the most gruesome death imaginable, with no food, no water, no protection."

Said Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Brendan Sheehan, quoted in "Mother who left baby at home for 10-day vacation gets life for murder" (WaPo).

The woman, Kristel Candelario, 32, left her 16-month-old daughter "alone in a playpen... while she traveled to Detroit and Puerto Rico."

"It is the driver who takes tourists on Jeep tours. It is the veteran who works as a carpenter. It is the person who works at the Whole Foods..."

"... that sells sashimi-grade salmon for $44.99 a pound. They all live a precarious life sleeping every night in their cars parked somewhere around Sedona, Ariz. It’s become a big problem for the tony tourist town, which is why the Sedona City Council approved a program last week that temporarily converts an empty parking lot into a place where families or workers or students can live while trying to find a permanent home.... There was an outpouring of emotion from both sides of the issue.... 'The site is likely to become a magnet for chronically unemployed people who come to Sedona seeking an essentially free place to sleep,' wrote resident William D. Noonan.... Another resident, Joanne L. Makielski, wrote that it was unfortunate that it had to be considered, but it did. 'These are people who work in our town and we all depend on them. We must support them....'  [Mayor Scott] Jablow said... 'Who’s gonna run the food stores?'..."

From "Wealthy Sedona’s answer to housing crisis: A parking lot to sleep in" (WaPo).

"The real fun... begins when you start to use Google Maps in multiplayer mode: building shared lists of saved locations with and for others..."

"... remotely populating their digital landscape with little pins. It’s a simple action that conjures an increasingly rare sense of virtual care. Populating a shareable map is an exercise in memory. I started making shared maps as a way of staying in touch with faraway friends and as a key to my own psycho-geography, doled out to give dear ones a glimpse into my world.... When my German bestie told me she was planning a trip to New York... I nudged her to my favorite haunts; hearing her report back, I felt as if my past were intertwined with her present."

From "I Was Lonely In a New City. This Tech Trick Helped Me Belong/There is a comfort in having somewhere tried and true to go, especially when you’re a stranger in a foreign city" (NYT).

"150 Greatest Rock Lists Ever: Q Special Edition (July 2004)."

Saved by the Wayback Machine, here. I got up to list #49 before noticing there were 150 lists. 

I stumbled upon that compilation of compilations while reading a 2021 article, "How Led Zeppelin's 'Going to California' Crushed on Joni Mitchell." 

"The women have historically served as a combination of brood mares and mannequins. Their job is to stay thin, say little..."

"... look good in clothes, and produce heirs who will stay thin, say little and look good in clothes. (Prince Philip was said to have approved of Diana’s entry into the family because she would 'breed in some height.') When something threatens the reputation of a more senior, male Windsor, the women have another essential role: human shield. Has King Edward VIII abdicated and run off to France to be with Wallis Simpson? Let’s be sure to blame the American divorcée. Has Prince Charles taken a mistress? Blame his mom for not letting her son marry his true love; blame his wife for not keeping him faithful — oh, and call the mistress ugly. Has Prince Harry declined to perform his family duties and decamped for sunny California? Let’s blame his 'narcissistic' wife for ensorcelling him!"

Writes Jennifer Weiner, in "How the Windsor Women Became Human Shields" (NYT).

It had seemed, until recently, that "Catherine might become the rule-proving exception, the single privileged Windsor wife allowed to float above the fray." But then something popped in her abdomen.

"[T]he Ladies Lounge of Australia’s Museum of Old and New Art... a conceptual artwork, is decorated with Picassos and other expensive adornments..."

"... and is separated from the rest of the museum with opulent green curtains. A staff member is posted outside to prevent the entry of any visitor who does not identify as a woman, and guests can indulge in a $325 high tea service featuring fancy finger food.... The American artist behind the lounge, Kirsha Kaechele, who is married to the private museum’s owner, told the tribunal that the practice of requiring women to drink in ladies lounges rather than public bars only ended in parts of Australia in 1970 and that in practice, exclusion of women in public spaces continues.... But she said she 'got a rise' out of the discrimination complaint and was 'pretty excited' when she learned it had been filed over her work. 'It carries it out of the museum and into the real world.'... Kaechele attended the tribunal Tuesday flanked by 25 female supporters dressed in pointedly court-appropriate attire — think pearls, suits and stockings...."

From "She made an artwork that excluded men. A man sued for discrimination" (WaPo).

Here's the museum's website for the artwork. Sample text: "The lounge is a tremendously lavish space in our museum in which women can indulge in decadent nibbles, fancy tipples, and other ladylike pleasures.... [Y]ou are a participant in... the art itself, part of a living installation."

I wonder if the lawsuit, too, is part of the art itself, the living installation. 

You'd think just having a $325 high tea service would be enough to keep the men out. The product itself is exclusionary — exclusionary of everyone who doesn't love stuff like that. But they had a guard to actively exclude any man, and that made a point: See how you feel when the tables are turned? But the point is only made at the men who are not stereotypical men, the men not put off by the service of $325 high tea.

"I thought Democrats had learned a lesson from the Ruth Bader Ginsburg episode.... Building a cult of personality around one particular justice..."

"... served to reinforce the idea that it was reasonable for her to stay on the bench far into old age.... All liberals have to show for this stubbornness is a bunch of dissents and kitsch home decor. In 2021, it seemed that liberals had indeed learned their lesson—not only was there a well-organized effort to hound the elderly Stephen Breyer out of office, but the effort was quite rude. (I’m not sure screaming 'Retire, bitch' at Stephen Breyer was strictly necessary, but I wasn’t bothered by it either—he was a big boy, and he could take it.) But I guess maybe the lesson was learned only for instances where the justice in question is a white man."

Writes Josh Barro, in "Sonia Sotomayor Should Retire Now/If she leaves the Court this year, President Joe Biden will nominate a young and reliably liberal judge to replace her" (The Atlantic).

The link on "kitsch home decor" goes to an Etsy page for a $20 item called the Our Lady of Dissent Prayer Candle.

I'm not quoting this because I agree with it. I shouldn't have to say that, but I just watched Don Lemon charge Elon Musk with responsibility for words Musk had simply quoted. When I quote something, I might mean let's talk about this or this is crazy or this is articulated colorfully

"Some measures under discussion would give law enforcement and domestic intelligence agencies more latitude...."

"The interior ministry has proposed a 13-point plan that would, among other things, enable security forces to investigate the finances of anyone viewed as having 'threat potential,' as opposed to only those people being investigated for incitement or violence. Another would allow civil servants to be dismissed based on suspected ties to extremists, placing the burden of proof on employees rather than the state...."

"How far should a democracy go in restricting a party that many believe is bent on undermining it?... Today, German lawmakers are rewriting bylaws and pushing for constitutional amendments to ensure courts and state parliaments can provide checks against a future, more powerful AfD. Some have even launched a campaign to ban the AfD altogether...."

From the comments over there: "I'm alarmed by these proto-fascist movements but it's neither correct nor a winning strategy to reflexively label them 'threats to democracy.' Unfortunately they are products of democracy. They're reflections of society, and this is what democracy can and very often does look like."

March 19, 2024

At the First Day of Spring Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Trump sues ABC and Stephanopoulos, alleging defamation over Mace interview."

The Hill reports.

... Stephanopoulos... said Trump had been found “liable for rape.” The jury had found Trump liable for sexual abuse under New York law, but not rape....

“Indeed, the jury expressly found that Plaintiff did not commit rape and, as demonstrated below, Defendant George Stephanopoulos was aware of the jury’s finding in this regard yet still falsely stated otherwise,” [Trump’s attorney, Alejandro] Brito continued....

ADDED: The complaint quotes 12 times that Stephanopoulos said "rape," so he really leaned into what he had to know was wrong:

"Former President Donald J. Trump says that his recent warning of a 'blood bath'.... was made in the context of electric vehicles..."

"... and that he was not talking about political violence generally. But if discussing a type of automotive technology in bloody terms seems odd to some, it fits in the increasingly brutal language Mr. Trump has been applying to electric vehicles, one of his favorite foils. He has long claimed electric cars will 'kill' America’s auto industry. He has called them an 'assassination' of jobs. He has declared that the Biden administration 'ordered a hit job on Michigan manufacturing' by encouraging the sales of electric cars.... Jennifer Mercieca, author of 'Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump,' noted that... 'his speech was so disjointed it makes it difficult to know if he was threatening the U.A.W. workers, the U.S. auto manufacturers, or the nation as a whole.... In a sense, it doesn’t matter because Trump was threatening all at once.... Trump paints a dire picture of the nation, threatening economic ruin if he isn’t put in charge.... Using threats of force to gain power over a nation is authoritarian... not democratic.'"

Writes Lisa Friedman, in "Trump’s Violent Language Toward EVs/The former president has deployed increasingly aggressive talk about electric vehicles and their effect on the American economy" (NYT).

I should note that Trump's antagonists paint a dire picture of the nation ruined if Trump is put in charge. There's a lot of metaphorically violent rhetoric going around, but it's only denounced when it comes from the Trump side.

Much has been made of Trump's use of "bloodbath," but if Biden had used that word in his State of the Union, it would have been praised as feisty and fiery.

This is what gets my tag "civility bullshit."

"Rahmatullah Anwari, 30, who used to grow rain-dependent wheat... borrowed money to feed his family of eight and..."

"... to pay for his father’s medical treatment. One of the villagers who had lent him money demanded his 8-year-old daughter in exchange for part of the loan. 'I have a hole in my heart when I think of them coming and taking my daughter,' he said. Mohammed Khan Musazai, 40, had bought cattle on loan.... The lenders took his land and also wanted his daughter, who was just 4 at the time. Nazdana, a 25-year-old who is one of his two wives and is the girl’s mother, offered to sell her own kidney instead — an illegal practice that has become so common that some have taken to referring to the Herat encampment as the 'one-kidney village.' She has a fresh scar on her stomach from the kidney extraction, but the family’s debt is still only half paid. 'They asked me for this daughter, and I’m not going to give her,' she said. 'My daughter is still very young. She still has a lot of hopes and dreams that she should realize.'"

"I challenge you, Elon, to watch the whole interview and tell the world why this isn’t what you claim you want on X."

Said Don Lemon, introducing the interview, which you can watch below, quoted in "5 key moments from Elon Musk’s interview with Don Lemon/The X owner resists responsibility for the hate speech on the social media platform" (WaPo).

I think WaPo's idea "5 key moments" leans toward Lemon: "Musk resists responsibility for hate speech on X....Musk experiences depressive episodes.... Musk described his meeting with Donald Trump.... America needs to ‘move on’ from racism, Musk says.... Musk rejects the idea that the ‘buck stops’ with him." 

I watched the "Great Replacement" segment, and based on that, I'd say Lemon was straining for a gotcha against Elon Musk. Both men speak awkwardly, in different ways, so the conversation is unpleasant (the polar opposite of, say, The Joe Rogan Experience):

"The impression he gives is that our relationship was very fleeting — that I was a silly affair that broke up a marriage..."

"... and he got caught out. But it’s not just about our nearly five years together — this is the most enduring friendship of my life. Or it was.... We’ve offered each other a lot of emotional support. So in my heart of hearts, I always felt he would honour me properly if he were to write about me."

Said Lisa Dillon, quoted in "Patrick Stewart rewrote our five-year love story as a silly fling/The Star Trek actor’s autobiography glosses over his relationship with Lisa Dillon. The actress says she feels betrayed and diminished" (London Times).

Dillon was 23 when she was cast alongside Stewart in a production of Ibsen’s "Master Builder." Stewart was 62 and quite famous. 

What Stewart wrote in his memoir: "And so, another divorce. I felt stupid and responsible … I had cheated on my wife with a younger woman — again … And just like my affair with Jenny Hetrick, my time with Lisa Dillon would also prove to be relatively short … In a life chockablock with joy and success, my two failed marriages are my greatest regret."

How that "chockablock with joy" must irk. Stewart stayed with Dillon for 5 years, but in the memoir, she's the woman who broke up a marriage. And worse, even the transitory love was fake. Stewart writes in his book: "Life imitated art. I remember the warning I had received from an older actor decades ago, that if you keep saying ‘I love you’ to someone in a play, you can drift into believing the sentiment to be true."

"An award given in the name of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been abruptly canceled after the family of the late Supreme Court justice and others objected..."

"... that this year’s slate of recipients do not reflect her values. The Dwight D. Opperman Foundation last week announced that it would award the prize to Elon Musk, Martha Stewart, Rupert Murdoch, Michael Milken and Sylvester Stallone. Critics couldn’t help but observe that these 'five iconic individuals' — as the awards news release described them — included among them convicted felons and conservative billionaires who own right-wing media enterprises...."

What a mess! How does something like that happen?
Galas built around impressively named awards are a stalwart of the Washington elite social scene — and a way to entice celebrity honorees to rub elbows with politicians and business leaders over $1,000-a-head plates of prime rib....

Ugh. Let them stew in their own au juices.  

The promotional panopticon is forcing you to confront your preconceptions about exactly what empowerment means.

I encountered this sentence written by Vanessa Friedman, in "Kristen Stewart Uses Naked Dressing to Make a Point/Her press tour for 'Love Lies Bleeding' was something to see" (NYT):
"Ms. Stewart and her stylist, Tara Swennen, have taken the film’s carnality and covert politics and translated them for the promotional panopticon, forcing anybody watching to confront their own preconceptions about women’s bodies, their sexuality and exactly what empowerment means, while at the same time undermining the whole circus of branded celebrity dressing."

March 18, 2024

Sunrise — 7:05, 7:21.

At 1 minute after sunrise time, a thick bank of clouds blocked the sun...


16 minutes later, the sun made it over those thick clouds and into a distinctive cross shape...


"If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with, no more appeasement."

Said Ronald Reagan, in 1970, talking about dealing with unrest on college campuses, quoted at the time in "Ronald Reagan Is Giving ‘Em Heck" (NYT)(free access link).
Later he said the remark was a "figure of speech" and that anyone who took it seriously was "neurotic." Within a few days, four students were shot at Kent State.

I ran across that because I'd noticed that the NYT was spelling "bloodbath" as 2 words — "Trump defends his warning of a ‘blood bath for the country" — in its current reporting. I had 2 theories about why:

1. A compound word takes a long time to become standard. When we see "bloodbath" as one word, it feels more like a stock term. Trite. By spacing it out as 2 words, you might get people to think that Trump put it together in his own fervid brain. But maybe...

2. The NYT has a style guide, and it decided long ago that "blood bath" was the correct configuration, and people at the Times are meticulous about writing it the same way every time.

To narrow my 2 ideas about twoness and oneness down to one, I searched the NYT archive for the 1-word form. I found many examples of "bloodbath," including Reagan's crazy idea of sticking it to the students. There was also Russell Baker making jokes about Richard Nixon's "bloodbath" theory of Vietnam (in 1970, deploying a fictional character he called "Dandy"):

"Donald Trump told an appellate court here Monday that he can’t obtain a bond for the full amount of the civil fraud judgment against him — more than $450 million, including interest..."

"... raising the possibility that the state attorney general’s office could begin to seize his assets unless the court agrees to halt the judgment while the former president appeals the verdict. Trump’s lawyers said in a court filing that 'ongoing diligent efforts have proven that a bond in the judgment’s full amount is a 'practical impossibility,"' adding that those efforts 'have included approaching about 30 surety companies through 4 separate brokers.'...  Late last month, an appeals court judge denied Trump’s request to pause the enforcement of the judgment for widespread business fraud. A full panel of the New York appeals court — known as the First Department of the Appellate Division — is now considering whether to halt the judgment while Trump pursues his appeal."


This is the third post of the morning and, like the previous two, it has a title consisting of one word that's in the news this morning. I can see from the comments in those other posts and in last night's open thread, that people especially want to talk about "bloodbath."

I feel so pushed to talk about "bloodbath" this morning that I balk at churning out a "bloodbath" post. You already know what you want to say. Is it my job to expound on "bloodbath" as it relates to the free-speaking raconteur Donald Trump and his gasping, raging antagonists?

I'll just feed your bloodbathlust with my favorite "bloodbath" quotations from the OED:


"One day Sampson was walking alone/He looked down on the ground and he saw an old jawbone/He lifted up that jawbone and he swung it over his head/And when he got to moving ten thousand was dead" — Peter, Paul & Mary.

"Oh, Jawbone, when did you first go wrong? Oh, Jawbone, where is it you belong?" — The Band.

From "Moral Suasion" (Wikipedia):
"Jawboning"... is the use of authority to persuade various entities to act in certain ways, which is sometimes underpinned by the implicit threat of future government regulation. In the United States, during the Democratic administrations of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, officials tried to deal with the mounting inflationary pressures by direct government influence or jawboning.... 

From an amicus brief in National Rifle Association v. Vullo, one of 2 free-speech cases up for oral argument in the Supreme Court today:


I'm reading "White House’s Efforts to Combat Misinformation Face Supreme Court Test/The justices must distinguish between persuading social media sites to take down posts, which is permitted, and coercing them, which violates the First Amendment."

This is Adam Liptak's piece in the NYT about the case that's up for oral argument in the Supreme Court.
[A 5th Circuit panel] said the [Biden administration] officials had become excessively entangled with the platforms or used threats to spur them to act.... [The administration argues] that the government was entitled to express its views and to try to persuade others to take action.

“A central dimension of presidential power is the use of the office’s bully pulpit to seek to persuade Americans — and American companies — to act in ways that the president believes would advance the public interest,” Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar wrote.

In response, lawyers for the states wrote that the administration had violated the First Amendment. “The bully pulpit,” they wrote, “is not a pulpit to bully.”
As we await today's argument, let's take a moment to consider what the "bully" in "bully pulpit" means. In 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt exclaimed: "I suppose my critics will call that preaching, but I have got such a bully pulpit!" First, clearly, he was using "bully" — as he often did — to mean very good or excellent. And he used the word "pulpit," because he knew he was preaching, that is, proclaiming righteous opinions in public.

Pressuring people behind the scenes is not preaching. You're not in a metaphorical pulpit. You're in the metaphorical backroom. And you're not proclaiming righteous opinions, you're exerting power, intimidating people. It's not "bully" in the sense of excellent.

The OED entry for "bully pulpit" is clear that "bully pulpit" originates with Theodore Roosevelt. It explained "his personal view of the presidency." It is — as the OED puts it — "A public office or position of authority that provides its occupant with the opportunity to speak out and be listened to on any issue." 

We're also told: "In later use sometimes understood as showing bully n.1 II.3a." That meaning of "bully" is:
Originally: a man given to or characterized by riotous, thuggish, and threatening behaviour; one who behaves in a blustering, swaggering, and aggressive manner. Now: a person who habitually seeks to harm, coerce, or intimidate those whom they perceive as vulnerable; a person who engages in bullying.
If "bully pulpit" is sometimes understood that way, it's risky to argue "A central dimension of presidential power is the use of the office’s bully pulpit...."

The riposte was predictable: "The bully pulpit is not a pulpit to bully."

I want to add that what is said behind the scenes is not from the pulpit at all. A pulpit is an elevated and conspicuous platform. One thing about social media posts is that they are out there, in public, and perfectly conspicuous. If the President (or the shadowy people behind him) want to use the"central dimension of presidential power" that is the "bully pulpit," let them step up onto a conspicuous platform and proclaim opinions they intend us to find righteous.

In this case, the opinion that was conveyed behind the scenes was that social media platforms ought to take down posts on various political topics — coronavirus vaccines, claims of election fraud, and Hunter Biden’s laptop — that people wanted to debate. If it's pulpit-worthy, express that opinion outright and clearly to all of us. Don't go behind our back and intimidate the social media giants upon whom we, the little people, depend to slightly amplify our tiny voices.

March 17, 2024

Sunrise — 6:58.


"A forced sale of TikTok within 180 days, as House-passed legislation requires, would be one of the thorniest and most complicated transactions..."

"... in corporate history, posing financial, technical and geopolitical challenges that experts said could render a sale impractical and increase the likelihood the app will be banned nationwide.... A sale would require severing a company worth potentially $150 billion from its technical backbone while being the subject of legal challenges and resistance from China, which has pledged to block any deal...."

In short, realistically, it's a ban.

"[T]hey agreed on basically everything, including that new human life is not a gift but a needless perpetuation of suffering."

"Babies grow up to be adults, and adulthood contains loneliness, rejection, drudgery, hopelessness, regret, grief, and terror. Even grade school contains that much. Why put someone through that, Alex and Dietz agreed, when a child could just as well never have known existence at all? The unborn do not appear to be moaning at us from the void, petitioning to be let into life. This idea—that having children is unethical—has come to be known as antinatalism...."

Writes Elizabeth Barber in "The Case Against Children/Among the antinatalists" (Harper's). The author wants a baby.

Lots of stories of antinatalists at the link, but what I want to quote is some of the philosophical material:

It's sad to see the NYT framing the fight for freedom of speech as a perverse force.

I'm reading "How Trump’s Allies Are Winning the War Over Disinformation/Their claims of censorship have successfully stymied the effort to filter election lies online" (NYT)(free access link).
Academic researchers wrestled with how to strengthen efforts to monitor false posts. Mr. Trump and his allies embarked instead on a counteroffensive, a coordinated effort to block what they viewed as a dangerous effort to censor conservatives....

Waged in the courts, in Congress and in the seething precincts of the internet, that effort has eviscerated attempts to shield elections from disinformation in the social media era.
It tapped into — and then, critics say, twisted — the fierce debate over free speech and the government’s role in policing content.... Facing legal and political blowback, the Biden administration has largely abandoned moves that might be construed as stifling political speech.... Social media platforms now provide fewer checks against the intentional spread of lies about elections....

Much more at the link, including discussion of the case to be argued tomorrow in the Supreme Court (which "accuses federal officials of colluding with or coercing the platforms to censor content critical of the government"). 

"The 150g tins — enough for a single meal — will cost roughly £1 and contain a chicken dish created without harming a single animal."

"Rather than slaughtering chickens, Meatly’s scientists extract a sample of cells from a chicken’s egg, which are replicated and grown in vats in a process similar to making beer or yoghurt.... Meatly, which is also planning a product for dogs, hopes to appeal to animal lovers’ environmental conscience, with a growing trend for pet owners to feed their animals a vegan diet.... [Owen Ensor, the founder of Meatly], 35, who is vegan, has tasted his firm’s product. 'It tastes like chicken,' he said.... [H]e does not need to worry about texture, which bothers humans much more than animals. 'Pets care what food smells like and they care what it tastes like, and if it has the right nutrients,' he said. 'But they don’t particularly care what it looks like or if it has the right kind of texture.'... [R]eplicating the correct texture from a vat of cells is tricky."

From "Britain’s first lab-grown meat: it’s for cats/Tinned chicken cultivated from cells taken from an egg will be marketed to owners who want to supply a normal diet without the guilt. Its vegan creator explains" (London Times).

With cats in the picture, I'm inclined to read "lab-grown" to involve Labrador retrievers.

How does Ensor know cats don't care about texture? But it's not as though traditional cat food is providing the texture I presume cats love (which is the texture of a freshly killed mouse).

By the way, as a human being with a greatly diminished sense of smell (AKA taste), I am overwhelmingly concerned with the texture of food. Food texture matters!

"A long time ago, I got an email from a troll saying he could draw better than me with his penis."

"The unfortunate effect of these consolidations is that whether or not you can draw well with it, you must be in possession of one."

Said Hilary Price, creator of the comic strip “Rhymes With Orange,” quoted in "Female artists are disappearing from print comics at chain newspapers/Creators are thriving in other mediums. Are print comic strips nearing the end?" (WaPo).

Something I learned from the top-rated comment over there: The Washington Post website offers lots of comic strips, but they're so hard to see: "With an online subscription to WaPo, you have to scroll allllll the way down to see the link for the comics. Then you click each comic title, and there are dozens, to see each individual daily strip." Here's that link.

It's been so long since I've followed any comic strips, I don't know what to click on. I'm sort of (but not really) surprised to see many names that I read when I was a child: Andy Capp, Blondie, Beetle Bailey, Hi and Lois, Prince Valiant, Mark Trail, Mary Worth. With a webpage, I have the sense not to click on any of them, but if I had a real newspaper with "funny pages," I might read them because they were there.

"'I told them about my inside-out approach to dressing,' she said. She asked each of the women to identify three words..."

"... that describe who they are right now. Or, alternatively: who they might want to be and what they might want people to see when they look at you. Then, when they would go shopping — or go through their closet at home — they would have this list on hand. With each article of clothing they picked up, they had to consider, 'Does this say these three things about me?'... 'The women all came back and were like: "I never had a style. I feel like I have a style, I have a way to know how to get clothes now."' As for the words Slater chose to identify herself at this moment: writer, community worker, grandmother. 'When I wear a denim shirt and overalls, I am all those people,' she said...."

From "Your clothes no longer serve you. Now what? Lyn Slater, the 70-year-old former fashion influencer and author of ‘How to Be Old,’ offers lessons on what to wear for your next act in life" (WaPo).

"I did everything by the book the whole time. They changed the rules, and I should be grandfathered in. I shouldn’t have to abide by them."

Said Tony Cavallaro, quoted in "Authorities Seize Alligator Being Held Illegally in Home Near Buffalo/The alligator, Albert Edward, had been with his owner for 34 years" (NYT).
He was 11 feet long, 750 pounds heavy and 34 years old, and until this week, he lived in a pool house attached to his owner’s home in Hamburg, N.Y., about 13 miles south of Buffalo.

The [New York State Department of Environmental Conservation] said that Albert’s owner, Tony Cavallaro, had a license for the alligator, but it expired in 2021. In an interview, Mr. Cavallaro, 64, said that while visitors to his home did sometimes take pictures with Albert, they never swam with him or rode him. Instead, they would briefly get in the water for a quick photo with the animal, often when he was sleeping, Mr. Cavallaro said.

Cavallaro bought Albert as a newborn and believes "the poor thing loves me."

I'm interested in the law here, the always enticing notion that the law doesn't apply to you. Cavallaro also seems to believe that the law of nature — the dangerousness of alligators — does not apply to Albert.

But what's missing from this article is any mention of the comic strip that was once central to our culture: Pogo. There's an alligator named Albert, and you don't cite Pogo?

ADDED: The Wikipedia article linked above describes Albert Alligator as "An exuberant, dimwitted, irascible, and egotistical alligator."