April 6, 2024

The lake at 12:14 in the afternoon.


Open thread in the comments.

"An earlier version of this article misstated the age of Soon-Yi Previn when she and Allen began a romantic relationship. She was 21, not a teenager."

From "Woody Allen, Reputation Bruised, Finds Muted Reception to 50th Film/'Coup de Chance,' a milestone, is being released in the United States after opening in Europe months ago" (NYT).

And this is an interesting quote from Allen’s sister (and producer) Letty Aronson: "I’m happy that [the new movie is] opening. Woody is only interested in the creative part — once that’s done and he makes the film, he never sees it again. If you told him it wasn’t opening in the United States, it wouldn’t matter to him."

"President Biden will announce a new effort on Monday to reduce or eliminate student loan debt for millions of borrowers, an election-year attempt to..."

So begins the first sentence of the NYT article by Michael D. Shear, "Biden Will Try Again to Wipe Out Student Loan Debt for Millions of Borrowers/The Supreme Court blocked President Biden’s first attempt at large-scale student debt relief last summer."

The sentence piddles out tautologically:
... revive his goal of providing large-scale relief for Americans struggling to pay off their college loans, a person familiar with the plan said Friday.

Biden is reducing or eliminating debt in order to reduce or eliminate debt. Noted, and thanks for mentioning that this is happening in an election year.

But the word "attempt" doesn't fit. If what he's attempting to do is to reduce or eliminate debt, then how is the reduction or elimination of debt just an attempt to reduce or eliminate debt? A reduction or elimination of debt is a reduction or elimination of debt. We have the modifier "election-year": It's an "election-year attempt." That's such an awkward way to avoid having to say that what's being attempted — with our money — is to win the election. 

"Well, aren’t you all hot shit? And don’t tell me you haven’t been working it. You’re at the Kennedy assassination and you’ve got your seats on the grassy knoll."

Said Jerry Seinfeld, to the studio audience for the "Seinfeld" finale episode in 1998.

Quoted in "Larry David’s Last Stand/As the series finale of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ approaches, everything, it seems, has been building toward one of David’s most strongly held beliefs: that, actually, the ‘Seinfeld’ finale was pretty, pretty good" (The Ringer).

Nielsen estimated that 76.3 million viewers tuned in to the last episode of Seinfeld, making it the fourth most watched television finale since 1960. That’s an astronomically high number by any era’s standard, especially today’s. In a world where the NFL and almost nothing else consistently pulls in huge audiences, there are barely any truly widely watched scripted shows left....

The monoculture’s last gasp may have been in 2019, when 19.3 million people watched the Game of Thrones finale. Four years later, the Succession finale–the TV event of the year—drew only 2.9 million.

The last episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" becomes available for streaming — it doesn't "air"! — tomorrow. People are predicting that it will parallel the final "Seinfeld" episode. Presumably, there will be a trial. We've been headed toward that all season. And we've been told that since Larry did the act — he gave water to a lady who was waiting in line to vote (in Georgia) — the outcome will hinge on the jury's view of Larry's character. So how can it not be a review of all the bad things Larry's done, tracking the  "Seinfeld" finale? But who really cares, a quarter century later, whether the "Seinfeld" finale was actually good? Maybe somehow the finale "Curb Your Enthusiasm" episode will go meta and become an examination of Larry's longterm belief that he ended "Seinfeld" exactly the right way.

"Do you know — okay, a bit of a history lesson...."

Kamala Harris is all cutesy coyness as she purports to enlighten us and is so wrong it's hard even to figure out what she thought she was trying to say:

"Do you know — OK, a bit of a history lesson — do you know that the women’s teams were not allowed to have brackets until 2022? Think about that, and... talk about progress, you know, better late than never but progress. And what that has done, because of course — you know, I had a bracket, it's not broken completely, but I won't talk about my bracket. But you know what? How we love — we love March Madness, even just now allowing the women to have brackets and what that does to encourage people to talk more about the women’s teams, to watch them, now they’re being covered. You know, this is the reality. People used to say, 'Oh, women’s sports, who’s interested?' Well if you can’t see it, you won’t be. But when you see it, you realize, Oh...."

I thought maybe she was trying to say something about about how individuals pick brackets, as in the phrase she uses "I had a bracket."

"To see what happens at totality, how cold it gets, what the birds do, you know, if everyone gets hushed, and just kind of a surreal experience...."

Says a woman, anticipating the solar eclipse, quoted in "2024 solar eclipse preparations in home stretch in Carbondale" (ABC7Chicago).

That's a big if.

If everyone gets hushed, you may have a peak spiritual experience. 

But if you're in any kind of crowd, your shot at hearing a hush are approximately zero. Look at the videos from the 2017 eclipse and you will see how Americans respond. They scream:



Every mom within earshot will be yelling her own kid's name, insisting that he look at this thing. And that was 7 years ago. These days, the kids will probably be staring into smart phones and the moms and dads will need to scold them. I can't believe we came all this way and you'd rather look at that fucking phone!  NOAH! Look at the fucking sun!!! And all the little Noahs and Liams will respond in variations of Mom! I told you I didn't give a shit about the sun!

Oh, yes, there will be some lovely children too and maybe some of them will even respond with hushed awe. But those are not the ones you will hear. Maybe someone will attempt crowd control, screaming, "Everyone shut the fuck up!" Or, less likely, Please honor those of us who have traveled here to experience the eclipse in a state of hushed awe.

Maybe you think you'll find the ideal secluded place....

"Look! Look up there!" someone will surely scream, as if it's tricky to find where the sun is. What are the chances you won't hear the phrase "Oh, my God!" at least a hundred times? Well, who going to count? Some blogger who wastes the hushed-awe opportunity to count the annoying things other people shouted?

I'm suddenly torn from my reverie by Meade, who has been reading something and decides to read this aloud: "It will be remarkably awesome for a few life-altering minutes."

My response: "I'm writing a poem about that.... I mean... where did that come from? I'm writing a post."

April 5, 2024

Sunrise — 6:24, 6:27.



"I am concerned about the possibility that political objectives motivated the vigor of the prosecution of the J6 defendants, their long sentences, and their harsh treatment."

He added that if elected president he will "appoint a special counsel — an individual respected by all sides — to investigate whether prosecutorial discretion was abused for political ends in this case."

ADDED: Here's how the WaPo columnist Philip Bump writes about it: "RFK Jr. clarifies that his view of Jan. 6 is the conspiratorial one."

"When I was 20 and a junior at Harvard College, a series of great ironies began to mock me."

"I could study all I wanted, prove myself as exceptional as I liked, and still my fiercest advantage remained so universal it deflated my other plans. My youth. The newness of my face and body. Compellingly effortless; cruelly fleeting.... I could diligently craft an ideal existence, over years and years of sleepless nights and industry. Or I could just marry it early. So naturally I began to lug a heavy suitcase of books each Saturday to the Harvard Business School to work on my Nabokov paper. In one cavernous, well-appointed room sat approximately 50 of the planet’s most suitable bachelors.... I could not understand why my female classmates did not join me.... Why ignore our youth when it amounted to a superpower?..."

Writes Grazie Sophia Christie, in "The Case for Marrying an Older Man/A woman’s life is all work and little rest. An age gap relationship can help." This is from a series in New York Magazine called "The Good Life," which is "about ways to take life off 'hard mode,' from changing careers to gaming the stock market, moving back home, or simply marrying wisely."

"I think she does a magnificent version of it and it reinforces the civil rights message that inspired me to write the song in the first place."

Instagrams Paul McCartney, gently but pointedly pushing back those who are crediting Beyoncé with adding a civil-rights meaning to "Blackbird."

"Although [Michael] Douglas... considered using heavy prostheses and makeup to create [Ben] Franklin’s distinctive look..."

"... including that famously high forehead, they decided to go a more naturalistic route. Douglas wears gray, wavy hairpieces and extensions.... He looks more like Michael Douglas than someone trying to imitate Benjamin Franklin. Rather than experiencing 'eight hours of the full Ben Franklin covering up Michael,' Douglas says, 'I thought the audience would be more comfortable if they knew the guy. … It just freed me up so much more.' Still, he observes, that entailed a gamble: 'Can I give the persona of Franklin?'... In the series, the actor portrays Franklin... as an 18th-century rock star.... 'In five years of [writing a biography of] Ben Franklin, it never once occurred to me to confuse him with Michael Douglas,” says Stacy Schiff, who wrote 'A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America,' on which 'Franklin' is based. 'That said, as soon as Michael’s name came up, he seemed insanely right. … He has the Franklinian twinkle in the eye, the raw charisma, the physical and intellectual versatility, the ability to move a discussion along with a tilt of an eyebrow. Michael has better hair, but that’s a detail.'"

But your main question might be, What streaming service do I need? It's one I don't have: Apple TV. Is this at the level where you'd subscribe to a new service? I'll test it by watching the trailer. The first few seconds of atrocious sound effects (music?) are so off-putting to me that I immediately hit the pause button, but I'll keep going for the sake of this post....

Earthquake in NYC.

Did you feel it?

JJ's back....

Looming and dooming.

I'm reading "How Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Could Doom Joe Biden/The independent candidate looms as a serious drag on Biden’s Latino support in Arizona and Nevada" by Adrian Carrasquillo in Politico.
Kennedy’s popularity appears to be a function of name recognition and a general lack of enthusiasm for President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, not to mention voters brushing their views onto the somewhat empty canvas of his candidacy.

As if RFK Jr. is mainly an empty space and Biden and Trump are just guys people are blasé about. Sorry. That's just a random/filler sentence. The article is full of specific material Latinos in Arizona and Nevada. Those are important swing states and in both the Latino population is about 30%.

So... another excerpt:

"And the other thing is I hate, they put out tapes all the time. Every night, they’re releasing tapes of a building falling down. They shouldn’t be releasing tapes like that."

"That’s why they’re losing the PR war. They, Israel, is absolutely losing the PR war... releasing the most heinous, most horrible tapes of buildings falling down. And people are imagining there’s a lot of people in those buildings, or people in those buildings, and they don’t like it.... I don’t know why they released wartime shots like that. I guess it makes them look tough. But to me, it doesn’t make them look tough.... They’re losing the PR war. They’re losing it big. But they’ve got to finish what they started, and they’ve got to finish it fast, and we have to get on with life."

Said Donald Trump, on Hugh Hewitt's radio show, quoted in "Trump used to brag about his support for Israel. Now his criticisms are growing sharper/'I don’t know why they released wartime shots like that. I guess it makes them look tough. But to me, it doesn’t make them look tough,' Trump said" (Politico).

People who don't know — or pretend not to know — that Roseanne Barr is a comedian.

Here's the highly lovable video clip:

And here's where I found that: "Roseanne Barr Pushed QAnon Blood Drinking Conspiracy at Kari Lake's Mar-a-Lago Event/Barr also encouraged everyone to drop out of college" ("The people of Arizona will decide if they want to send someone who associates with QAnon conspiracy theories and those who against college to represent them in the senate").

That's at something called MeidasTouch, which I saw because it was featured at my favorite source of links, Memeorandum.

Punching back twice as hard: New Trump ad paints Democrats as the party of violence.

Sidewalk snowfish.


Found — not tampered with — this morning, at 6:56.

April 4, 2024

Sunrise — 6:49


No Labels, no candidate.

"The centrist group No Labels has abandoned its plans to run a presidential ticket in the 2024 election, having failed to recruit a candidate, its leader, Nancy Jacobson, said on Thursday," the NYT reports.  

"The group had told donors and members that it would put forward a candidate if President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump were the main parties’ nominees.... When former Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, the highest-profile No Labels supporter, died last week, the organization was left with little political firepower to recruit potential candidates. "

"Despite recent improvements in image quality, AI-generated images frequently presented a simplistic, whitewashed version of queer life."

"I used Midjourney, another AI tool, to create portraits of LGBTQ people, and the results amplified commonly held stereotypes. Lesbian women are shown with nose rings and stern expressions. Gay men are all fashionable dressers with killer abs. Basic images of trans women are hypersexualized, with lingerie outfits and cleavage-focused camera angles."

From "Here's How Generative AI Depicts Queer People/WIRED investigates how artificial intelligence tools, like OpenAI’s Sora, currently portray members of the LGBTQ community. Hint: It’s a lot of purple hair" (Wired).

So... you ask for a stereotype and you get a stereotype.

You could try to be specific, such as asking for a trans person in a particular job, but... "When asked to generate photos of a trans man as an elected representative, Midjourney created images of someone with a masculine jawline who looked like a professional politician, wearing a suit and posing in a wooden office, but who’s [sic] styling more closely aligned with how a feminine trans woman might express herself: a pink suit, pink lipstick, and long, frizzy hair":

That seems pretty good, except for the egregious mistake: The machine, like many human beings, thought "trans man" meant "trans woman." By the way, I'm interested in the phrase "feminine trans woman." The writer wants A.I. to know that a trans woman does not have to lean into femininity. 

"To get yourself into SBF’s mindset, consider whether you would play the following godlike game for real."

"In this game, there’s a 51 percent chance that you create another Earth but also a 49 percent chance that you destroy all human life. If you’re using expected value thinking, and if you think that human life has positive value, you must play this game. SBF said he would play this game. And he said he would keep playing it, double or nothing, over and over again. With expected value thinking, the slightly higher chance of creating more value requires endlessly risking the annihilation of humanity. Expected value is why SBF constantly played video games, even while Zooming with investors. He calculated that he could add the pleasure of the game to the value of the calls. The key to understanding SBF is that he plays people like they’re games too. With his long-suffering EA girlfriend, her expected value went up when he wanted sex and then down right afterward.... This is the perfection of the EA philosophy: Maximize the value of the use of any given resource. And aren’t other people resources that can produce value?"

"Make mental note to watch 'My Dinner with Andre' again soon."

That's something I blogged on July 6, 2005, in a post called "My declining NYT habit."

I was stunned to see that in the top post of a search of my archive this morning, 2 days after re-watching "My Dinner With Andre," and one day after blogging "A big theme in this movie is whether, when things connect up, it's not just a coincidence but something mystical and important...."

What do you think? Mystical and important?!

I don't know, but what I was searching for was the topic of habit. In the movie, there's some discussion — blogged here yesterday — of the problem of doing things out of habit. There is, one person thought, "a great danger" of "fall[ing] into a trance" and no longer "seeing, feeling, remembering."

Well, I was just wishing I'd created a tag for "habit," because it would collect some good material, and it's a topic I want to think about. I like my habits. I think my habits are good.

"In 2009, Christopher Frizzelle... pioneered the first 'silent reading party' at the city’s Hotel Sorrento."

"Accompanied by live piano music, the in-person and virtual reading series fosters 'healthy peer pressure' and a sense of community, according to the Silent Reading Party website. Silent Reading Party offshoots are proliferating worldwide.... The $20 events take place at night and typically sell out weeks ahead of time. Curious to explore the power of healthy peer pressure, I paid $10 to attend a recent late-night Silent Reading Party on Zoom.... For two hours, a pianist accompanied readers with dreamy New Age music, occasionally interrupted by the icy clink of a bartender’s cocktail shaker. I read my book, occasionally forgetting I was not alone. Then I’d peer at the hotel scene, where participants read in silence, took notes and sipped their drinks...."

Writes Stephanie Shapiro, in "I’m retired, and I still won’t let myself read in the daytime. Why not?" (WaPo, free access link).

You'll notice that the bit I quoted has nothing to do with what's in the headline. But it's a sidetrack that caught my interest. When I'd first read about the idea of a "silent reading party," I thought it was a pleasant idea. I thought the website was used to let people know where the group reading would take place. I was surprised that you had to buy tickets (and that some clown would be tickling the ivories). If you want to read with other people around you, go to a café. Or — here's an outlandish idea — a library.

April 3, 2024

At the Wednesday Night Café...

 ... you can write about whatever you want.


Am I too much of a creature of habit?, I wondered as I put up this post, capping off another day of blogging by putting up an open thread. It made me think of a line from "My Dinner With Andre" (which as you know I rewatched last night):
But ROC used to practice certain exercises, like for instance, if he were right-handed, all today he would do everything with his left hand. All day, eating, writing, everything — opening doors — in order to break the habits of living. Because the great danger, he felt, for him, was to fall into a trance, out of habit. He had a whole series of very simple exercises that he had invented just to keep seeing, feeling, remembering. Because you have to learn now. It didn't used to be necessary, but today....

Greetings from the Dustbin of History!

I'm reading Senator Tina Smith, of Minnesota, in "I Hope to Repeal an Arcane Law That Could Be Misused to Ban Abortion Nationwide" (NYT):
A long discredited, arcane 150-year-old law is back in the news... Last week at the Supreme Court, the Comstock Act of 1873 was referenced... during oral arguments in a case dealing with access to... drugs... used in medication abortions. Anti-abortion activists like to bring up the Comstock Act because one of its clauses prohibits sending through the mail 'every article, instrument, substance, drug, medicine or thing' that could possibly lead to an abortion.... That could effectively make abortion impossible to access even in places like Minnesota, which has affirmatively protected a woman’s right to choose.... Back in the 1860s, a former Civil War soldier from rural Connecticut named Anthony Comstock... lobb[ied] for federal legislation that would empower the post office to search for and seize anything in the mail that met Comstock’s criteria for being 'obscene,' 'lewd' or just plain 'filthy'.... In its broad wording, the law not only made it illegal to send pornography through the mail, it also outlawed the sending of medical textbooks for their depictions of the human body, personal love letters that hinted at physical as well as romantic relationships, and even news stories. The whole thing was very silly and impracticable, and that’s why the Comstock Act was relegated to the dustbin of history...."
It's interesting, this "dustbin of history." How does it work? Apparently not well enough to keep things from needing to be repealed by actual statutory law. 

William Safire wrote in the NYT about the phrase back in 1983— 40 years ago, but still fresh to me. And he himself was looking back 66 years:

"I can't believe I'm understanding this correctly. Ukraine's minimum age of conscription is currently 27 and they're THINKING of dropping it to 25?"

"THIS is the country that claims to be facing an existential threat from Russia? The minimum draft age in the US during the Vietnam War was 18 (although I've read that no one under 18 1/2 was actually drafted). It seems possible that the Ukrainian legislature isn't as enthusiastic about driving out the Russians as their president. On the other hand, these people being drafted are just more people who are going to die before a settlement is reached or Ukraine disappears from the map...."

I read that headline and imagined they were going as low as maybe 15, so I was extremely puzzled to read that they were only going "as low" as 25.

What's going on? From the article:

"It may very well be that 10 years from now people will pay $10,000 in cash to be castrated just in order to be affected by something."

Says Andre Gregory in "My Dinner With Andre" — page 59 of the screenplay — a 1981 movie. 

It's not 10 years later. It's more than 40 years later. But think of the things we're doing now just in order to be affected by something.

For example, there's Zoraya ter Beek, 28, who "expects to be euthanized in early May" (The Free Press):

She said she was hobbled by her depression and autism and borderline personality disorder. Now she was tired of living—despite, she said, being in love with her boyfriend, a 40-year-old IT programmer, and living in a nice house with their two cats.

I didn't vote in yesterday's primary.

I was the classic nonvoter: I didn't vote because the weather was bad. It wasn't even that bad. Early on, it was raining, but then it changed to snow, and it was even big fluffy flakes, the kind I tend to exclaim about with delight. And yet, it was windy, and it was getting a bit late. 

But who was I supposed to vote for? It's Wisconsin, where I could have voted in either party's primary. The most compelling candidate was in the Democratic Party primary: "uninstructed delegation."  This morning I see, in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Wisconsin 'uninstructed delegation' voters more than double Biden's 2020 margin." I had a little trouble understanding what that meant.

Voters who chose "uninstructed delegation" in Wisconsin's presidential primary Tuesday more than doubled the 20,000 votes President Joe Biden won the state by in 2020, sending a warning sign for his reelection chances in the battleground state.

Now, there was some constitutional amending going on, and I missed out on that.

Wake up and smell the instant coffee....

Yesterday, at 2:18 PM, 3 posts down, I was talking about "talking about instant coffee," and then, that evening, I was rewatching my old favorite movie "My Dinner with Andre" and that line jumped out: "we drank instant coffee out of the top of my shaving cream."

A big theme in this movie is whether, when things connect up, it's not just a coincidence but something mystical and important, such as when Andre — after feeling he's heard the voice of The Little Prince — runs across a copy of an old surrealist magazine with a page of handprints from 4 eminent men whose names begin with the letter A and 3 of them are Andres and the other one is Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Wikipedia has this about Saint-Exupéry:
In The Little Prince, its narrator, the pilot, talks of being stranded in the desert beside his crashed aircraft. The account clearly drew on Saint-Exupéry's own experience.... On 30 December 1935, at 2.45am, after 19 hours and 44 minutes in the air, Saint-Exupéry, along with his copilot-navigator André Prévot, crashed in the Sahara desert....

See? A random Andre.

April 2, 2024

At the Tuesday Night ☕️…

 … you can talk about whatever you want.

"Inmates in New York are suing to be allowed to see the solar eclipse."

WaPo reports.

The six plaintiffs in the class-action suit filed Friday, who are Christian, Muslim, Santerian and atheist, are... arguing it has religious significance. Some said it is critical to their practice of their faith — because the Bible describes the sun going dark during the crucifixion of Jesus Christ; because Muslims perform a special prayer upon the eclipse; and because it is important in the Santeria faith to make a spiritual offering.

“Watching the eclipse with the people I know here is a way for me to feel closer to God,” wrote Travis Hudson, a Protestant Baptist....

We were just talking about instant coffee — how you don't really need to go through a whole elaborate brew-your-own coffee ritual at home.

It's an easy choice for me because I don't have enough of a sense of smell to notice the difference, but now Meade has switched to instant. How did we all get so convinced that we needed so much equipment and fooling around to make coffee?

Back in the 1970s, there was an ad campaign aimed luring young people into the then-dying practice of drinking coffee. Coffee, we were told, was "the think drink." One thing led to another I guess, and we became way more wrapped up in coffee than the International Coffee Organization could have imagined. Do you ever stop and wonder if it's worth it, this long strange coffee trip?

Today, I run across "The Case Against 'Good' Coffee/Instant coffee tastes … just OK. And that’s fine by me" by the novelist Peter C. Baker in The New York Times.

J.K. Rowling's powerful defense of free speech in Scotland — #ArrestMe.

Here's what she did.

ADDED: Oh, how I love "your friend History":

I'm just noticing that today is primary day here in Wisconsin.

I genuinely wasn't sure and haven't heard much about it.

But I see in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Wisconsin spring election live updates today: Presidential primary, referendums, polling places, ballot, registration info and more."

Is Trump interfering? "Will Donald Trump's visit impact your ability to vote Tuesday? Likely not, the city says" (Green Bay Gazette).
Former President Donald Trump's arrival Tuesday in Green Bay may stir up political reactions on Election Day, but how will it impact the traffic?... [G]iven the fanfare, Trump's visit may slow down pedestrian and vehicle traffic, so plan your time to vote accordingly....

The "fanfare." How much "fanfare" do we get in Wisconsin?

"Fanfare" sounds like whatever it is that fans eat, but the original reference is to "A flourish, call, or short tune, sounded by trumpets, bugles, or hunting-horns" (OED). The figurative meaning can be understood by picturing Trump arriving something like this:

I think I've only used the word "fanfare" once in the 20-year history of this blog (not counting quoting others (you might be surprised how often people say "without fanfare" and "with little fanfare")). That was in a February 15, 2021 post called "Bipartisan Support Grows For 9/11-Style Commission To Probe Capitol Riot." Interesting to read that now. I said:

Does RFK Jr. still not have Secret Service protection?

I saw — blogged in the previous post — that RFK Jr. just called Joe Biden the first President in history to have "used his power over the Secret Service to deny Secret Service protection to one of his political opponents, for political reasons."

RFK Jr. said what needs to be said: Biden's use of government power to suppress the speech of his political antagonists is a worse threat to democracy than whatever Trump has done.

"I can make the argument that President Biden is the much worse threat to democracy, and the reason for that is President Biden is... the first president in history that has used the federal agencies to censor political speech, so to censor his opponent. I can say that because I just won a case in the federal court of appeals — and now before the Supreme Court — that shows that he started censoring not just me but, 37 hours after he took the oath of office, he was censoring me (sic). No President in the country has ever done that. The greatest threat in democracy is not somebody who questions election returns but a President of the United States who used the power of his office to force the social media companies — Facebook, Instagram, Twitter — to open a portal and give access to that portal to the FBI, to the CIA, to the IRS, to [???], to NIH, to censor his political critics. President Biden, the first President in history, used his power over the Secret Service to deny Secret Service protection to one of his political opponents, for political reasons. He's weaponizing the federal agencies. Those are really critical threats to democracy."

The interviewer — perhaps only pretending to misunderstand — asks how what Trump did is not a threat to democracy. RFK Jr. answers:

April 1, 2024

“Trump posts $175M bond to keep N.Y. authorities from seizing property.”

WaPo reports. 

AND: “Gag Order Against Trump Is Expanded to Bar Attacks on Judge’s Family/Donald Trump had in recent days targeted the daughter of Juan Merchan, the judge overseeing his criminal trial in Manhattan, in blistering social media posts” (NYT).

At the Monday Night Café...

 ... you can write about whatever you want.

"After two more sell-out shows... it’s the last night of my prom. I have to be realistic, I’m on my way out."

"The average life expectancy is 83 and with a bit of luck I’ll make that, but we need someone else to drive things. I’m not leaving [Teenage Cancer Trust] — I’ve been a patron since I first met the charity’s founders.... more than 30 years ago — and that will continue, but I’ll be working in the back room, talking to government, rattling cages."

Writes Roger Daltrey, who is now 80, in "Roger Daltrey’s backstage diary — and a farewell to organising 24 years of concerts" (London Times).

I've loved The Who since before they released their first album in the United States, but there's always somebody hearing about them for the first time:

"You have to finish up your war. You have to get it done. We have to get to peace. We can’t have this going on."

Said Donald Trump, quoted in "Trump’s Call for Israel to ‘Finish Up’ War Alarms Some on the Right/Recent remarks he made urging an end to the Gaza conflict, with no insistence on freeing Israeli hostages first, were another departure from conservatives’ support for Benjamin Netanyahu" (NYT).

"Alarms Some on the Right" says the headline, but it must also alarm the Biden team:

"Our former president WANTS to wear the orange jumpsuit. He's just taunting them now, asking for it. Can this be seen as anything but contemptuous behavior?"

Writes mezzrow in the comments to the first post of the day, which is about Trump's saying things like "This is a disgrace to our Legal System/Judge Merchan should be immediately sanctioned and recused."

Trump wants a prison sentence? I don't believe that. I think he's fighting hard, in his own stubbornly perverse, insubordinate, rebellious way.

But if he gets what mezzrow thinks he wants, and if he's also elected President, how would that work? I recommend house arrest in the White House.

You may not remember, but back in 2009, I recommended that the President of the United States stay in the White House and not travel: "Let the President stay in the White House — or, at most, retreat to Camp David." I was thinking of the expense and carbon footprint of Presidential travel and all of the security needs and risk as well as the world's extreme dependence on the U.S. President to be constantly on the job to deal with emergencies. 

So it would set a good example for President Trump to serve his term under house arrest. And let the rest of the U.S. Presidents voluntarily confine themselves to the White House. If any personal appearances are truly needed, they can be virtual....

"Would a third party candidate named Trump or Reagan have instant appeal with Republicans?"

Asks Paul Begala, in "RFK Jr.’s VP pick is a missile aimed at Biden" (CNN).

And: "As a former Clinton strategist, the dumbest myth I’ve had to deal with was that Ross Perot’s independent candidacy swung the 1992 election to Clinton. To believe that, one must ignore that Perot, like Clinton, was a change candidate; like Clinton, he was pro-choice, and like Clinton, Perot supported campaign finance reform."

Of course, Begala wants to believe that Clinton would have beaten Bush I in a 2-man race.

"He’s definitely been chosen by God. He’s still surviving even though all these people are coming after him, and I don’t know how else to explain that other than divine intervention."

Said Marie Zere, "a commercial real estate broker from Long Island who attended the Conservative Political Action Conference in February," quoted in "The Church of Trump: How He’s Infusing Christianity Into His Movement/Ending many of his rallies with a churchlike ritual and casting his prosecutions as persecution, the former president is demanding — and receiving — new levels of devotion from Republicans" (NYT).

And there's this from John Fea, a history professor at Messiah University, an evangelical school in Pennsylvania: "Trump has split the atom between character and policy. He did it because he’s really the first one to listen to their grievances and take them seriously. Does he really care about evangelicals? I don’t know. But he’s built a message to appeal directly to them."

"Sean 'Diddy' Combs aggressively marketed himself to the ultra-rich as he turned his edgy rap glamor into a billion-dollar fortune."

"Billionaires told The Post he would cold email with business proposals, while other Wall Streeters acclaimed him as a 'genius' and one CEO of the New York Stock Exchange called him an 'inspiration' on a par with the Founding Fathers.... [H]e partnered with billionaire investor Ron Burkle; was 'mentored' by hedge fund guru Ray Dalio; had his fashion line sold in Macy’s and Dillards; went into business with alcohol giant Diageo; opened the New York Stock Exchange with Estée Lauder heir William Lauder; struck deals with Zac Posen and Liz Claiborne; 50% owned his own TV channel Revolt; launched a water range with Mark Wahlberg; and teamed up with Salesforce’s Marc Benioff to launch a black business marketplace.... 'He was a master entrepreneur,' one music business insider... told The Post. 'He was a super intelligent hardworking guy and a genius at brands… he turned Cîroc into a billion dollar business.'"

From "Secrets of Diddy’s billionaire boys club: Rapper wooed Wall Street elite — who praised him as ‘genius’ before sex trafficking probe" (NY Post).

The article touts what it calls his "cache": "Diddy also used his own cache — the promise of entry into a world of celebrity — to attract investment for his projects.... [One] move gave him instant social cache. It let him rub shoulders, lucratively, with a New York social dynasty and in turn gave their decades-old brand a fresh, contemporary glamor...."

A "cache" is a hidden store of goods or ammo. Pronounced, some may be surprised to learn, "kash."

"... stay present in your emotions while scrolling...."

From "Fear of missing out? Find the joy in saying 'no'" — a 9-panel comic by Richard Sima and Pepita Sándwich. That's a free access link to WaPo.

"Creating a retention edited video requires a lot of work. 'Every clip in the video should be under two seconds,' said Dara Pesheva, a 17-year-old..."

"... who works as a freelance video editor for social media content creators. 'Every 1.3 to 1.5 seconds you have to have a new graphic or something moving, you have to [use] a lot of effects. For every image and every transition, you have to add a sound effect. You need flashing graphics, and you have to have subtitles in every video.' TikTok has trained users to scroll away if they aren’t hooked within the first half-second.... This is why so many retention edited videos start with a loud bang or whoosh sound.... 'People around my age can’t focus,' Pesheva said. 'They have very short attention spans. They’re used to TikTok, and so editors have to adjust for Gen Z. They have to adjust to the fact that people can’t keep their attention on something for more than a second if it’s not entertaining.'"

From "The 'Beastification of YouTube' may be coming to an end/The popularity of so-called retention editing made a generation of creators go viral, but when every video looks the same it’s harder than ever to stand out" (WaPo).

That's funny, when I use TikTok, I scroll away in less than one second if I see that it's edited like that. Nice to know there's a term for that annoying crap, "retention editing." They're trying to retain your attention... or really, trying to obtain it in the first place. But maybe it's not working anymore. ("Beastification," in case you're wondering, refers to a particular YouTube star, Mr. Beast.)

If you don't know what I'm talking about, look at this:

"Contemning and obstinately resisting authority; stubbornly perverse, insubordinate, rebellious.... Wilfully disobedient to the summons or order of a court."

I'm reading the OED definition of "contumacious," encountered this morning in Rolling Stone. 

The article is "Trump Launches Another Attack on Judge’s Daughter, This Time with Photos/The former president accused Judge Juan Merchan's daughter of presenting a conflict of interest, possibly violating a gag order":

In a Truth Social post on Saturday, Trump shared a link to a New York Post article ["Dem clients of daughter of NY judge in Trump hush money trial raised $93M off the case"]... and wrote, “This is a disgrace to our Legal System. Judge Merchan should be immediately sanctioned and recused, and this fake ‘case,’ only kept alive by the Highly Conflicted Judge, should be completely dismissed right away.”...

The judge issued a gag order on Tuesday — hours after Trump attacked his daughter — barring the former president from discussing witnesses and others involved in the case.

The daughter is not involved in the case, so what is the argument that he's violated the gag order? The District Attorney Alan Bragg seems to think he has, and he's going so far as to call Trump's speech "contumacious," presumably in the sense of "wilfully disobedient" to the court. 

March 31, 2024

Here’s an open thread.

Write whatever you like.

But my neighbor sucks.

"But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven."

Said Jesus Christ, quoted in Matthew 5:44-45.

Recalled on reading Trump's Truth Social Easter message:

"This image from Donald Trump is the type of crap you post when you're calling for a bloodbath or when you tell the Proud Boys to 'stand back and stand by'...."

"Trump is regularly inciting political violence and it's time people take him seriously — just ask the Capitol Police officers who were attacked protecting our democracy on January 6...."

Said Biden campaign communications director Michael Tyler, quoted in "Trump is 'inciting political violence' sharing Biden hog-tied video: Biden campaign/Trump shared the video on his social media platform on Friday" (ABC News).

You've seen the video, I'm sure:

Easter cold open.

Meade's comment, on watching that with me: "You can tell from the audience's reaction that even though they want to be thought of as hating Trump, underneath they really... love Trump."

5 minutes later:

Me: "From the standpoint of not liking fruit."

Meade: "You forgot the raccoons."

"Transgender Americans are part of the fabric of our Nation.... they help America thrive. They deserve, and are entitled to, the same rights and freedoms..."

"... as every other American, including the most fundamental freedom to be their true selves. But extremists are proposing hundreds of hateful laws that target and terrify transgender kids and their families.... These bills attack our most basic American values: the freedom to be yourself, the freedom to make your own health care decisions, and even the right to raise your own child.... Today, we send a message to all transgender Americans: You are loved. You are heard. You are understood. You belong. You are America, and my entire Administration and I have your back."

So reads the announcement from the White House — over the name of Joseph R. Biden — proclaiming March 31, 2024, as Transgender Day of Visibility.

March 31st had already been established as Transgender Day of Visibility, but in some years, including this one, that means Transgender Day of Visibility falls on Easter. 

And what's more Easter-y than increasing transgender visibility on Easter? I'll answer: maximizing your complaints about transgender people on Easter. But that's what's going on.

Happy Easter.