May 11, 2024

The sunrise view at 4:33 a.m.


We got to the vantage point an hour and 3 minutes before the official sunrise time, but you can see the sunrise beginning. Nautical twilight began at 4:25, so that beginning of light makes sense. Compare the Northern Lights photos in the previous post. Those were taken at 4. So it was a very early morning for us on Lake Mendota today. Maybe we'll get out there again tonight. I'm seeing that they might be good. Clear sky predicted. 

Talk about whatever you like in the comments.

The Northern Lights, seen from the south shore of Lake Mendota at 4 a.m. last night.




That's how they were seen by my iPhone camera, of course. Seen with the naked eye, the lights were much subtler. You had to be there.

"So we’re left with a two-bit case that has devolved into dirty bits, filled with salacious details...."

"Trump came across as a loser in her account — a narcissist, cheater, sad Hugh Hefner wannabe, trading his satin pajamas for a dress shirt and trousers (and, later, boxers) as soon as Stormy mocked him. The man who was the likely source of the 'Best Sex I Ever Had' tabloid headline, attributed to Marla Maples at the time, no doubt loathes Stormy for having described their batrachian grappling, as Aldous Huxley called sex, as 'textbook generic.' Like a legal dominatrix, Stormy continued to emasculate the former president after her testimony, tweeting: 'Real men respond to testimony by being sworn in and taking the stand in court. Oh … wait. Nevermind.' The compelling part of this case is not whether Trump did something wrong with business papers. The compelling part is how it shows, in a vivid way, that he’s the wrong man for the job."

Writes Maureen Dowd in her new column "Donnie After Dark" (NYT).

1. Dowd seems to approve of using the criminal process not for its proper purpose — to enforce specific written law — but to expose and humiliate one's political enemy. Let's look at him in his underwear and sneer at his sexual fumblings, as described by someone who openly hates him — please, emasculate him! — and let's laugh.

2. It's so exciting — sexually and politically — that she doesn't see the downside. The aggressive desire to humiliate and crush him makes him sympathetic and makes you look like a bully. 

3. I'm imagining the jurors talking about this testimony and trying to connect it to the elements of the crime — assuming they can get their mind around what this crime even is. In my vision, they say: What was that Stormy Daniels testimony even about? Why did we have to know what material his pajamas were made out of? Satin! A shiny fabric. Waved about... to distract us.

4. "Batrachian" — it means "Of or pertaining to the Batrachia, esp. frogs and toads" (OED). It wasn't Daniels's adjective. Dowd got it from and credited Aldous Huxley. I found the relevant passage, in his "Point Counterpoint":
‘But what has love to do with it?’ asked Slipe. ‘In Beatrice’s case.’

‘A great deal,’ Willie Weaver broke in. ‘Everything. These superannuated virgins—always the most passionate.’

‘But she’s never had a love affair in her life.’

‘Hence the violence,’ concluded Willie triumphantly. ‘Beatrice has a n*gger sitting on the safety valve. And my wife assures me that her underclothes are positively Phrynean. That’s most sinister.’

‘Perhaps she likes being well dressed,’ suggested Lucy.

Willie Weaver shook his head. The hypothesis was too simple.

‘That woman’s unconscious as a black hole.’ Willie hesitated a moment. ‘Full of batrachian grapplings in the dark,’ he concluded and modestly coughed to commemorate his achievement.

"There was some flooring that was laid down. A mini desk. Her clothing. A Keurig coffee maker. A printer and a computer – things you’d have in your home."

Said a police spokesman, quoted in "Michigan woman found living inside rooftop store sign with desk and coffee maker/The woman told police she had been living inside the grocery store sign for roughly a year, and had been able to get electricity" (The Guardian).

"I honestly don’t know how she was getting up there. She didn’t indicate, either."

This is an interesting and ingenious person. Who is she and what is she doing now? They're not telling.

"For several years, many university leaders have failed to act as their students and faculty have shown ever greater readiness to block an expanding range of views that they deem wrong or beyond the pale."

"Some scholars report that this has had a chilling effect on their work, making them less willing to participate in the academy or in the wider world of public discourse. The price of pushing boundaries, particularly with more conservative ideas, has become higher and higher. Schools ought to be teaching their students that there is as much courage in listening as there is in speaking up.... [M]any of those who are now demanding the right to protest have previously sought to curtail the speech of those whom they declared hateful. Establishing a culture of openness and free expression is crucial to the mission of educational institutions. That includes clear guardrails on conduct and enforcement of those guardrails, regardless of the speaker or the topic...."

Writes The Editorial Board of the New York Times in "A Way Back from Campus Chaos."  

"The American people expect their presidents to have the guts to make hard national security decisions, and to put our safety, interests, principles, and alliances above politics."

"That’s exactly what Joe Biden is doing. He is standing with Israel as they fight the Hamas terrorists who committed the hideous Oct. 7 attacks, and is making clear that how Israel defends itself matters because we do not want to see any more civilians killed."

Said White House spokesman Andrew Bates, quoted in "Biden’s isolation grows as Gaza report both criticizes and clears Israel/Like much of the president’s, at times, halting approach toward the war, the report released to Congress on Friday drew criticism from across the political spectrum" (WaPo)(free access link).

Biden is making the "hard decision" to please no one while purporting to please everyone. 

May 10, 2024

Sunrise — 5:40, 5:41, 5:42, 5:43.





"The description of Cricket’s Last Stand is the one time in this howlingly dull book that Noem demonstrates any sense of setting, character, plot and emotional honesty...."

"Picture it: Harvest season... hunting season.... She does everything possible to make sure friends from Georgia bag some pheasants, but Cricket — 'out of her mind with excitement' — ruins everything. 'I was livid,' Noem writes. Then, on the way home from that disaster, Cricket attacks some beloved, irreplaceable chickens at a neighbors’ house. The mother — holding a baby, no less! — runs toward the melee, sobbing: 'My chickens! No, not my chickens!' Noem pays for the birds and hauls Cricket into her truck. 'She whipped around to bite me,' she says. 'I hated that dog.'...  For a few glorious pages, Noem feels like a Flannery O’Connor character...."

Writes Ron Charles, in "Kristi Noem’s dog killing is pure Southern gothic/A literary critic’s take on the South Dakota governor’s memoir, 'No Going Back'" (WaPo).

It's not as though Charles likes the book — which is, "mostly a hodgepodge of worn chestnuts and conservative maxims, like a fistful of old coins and buttons found between the stained cushions in a MAGA lounge" — and he certainly doesn't approve of Noem's killing the dog. It's just that the rest of the book is the usual unreadable nothingness.

The progress of polyamory in The New York Times.

March 11, 2023: "To Fix a Broken Marriage, an Experiment With Polyamory" ("The couple tried polyamory, which rekindled their passion, but it did not address their other issues...").

May 16, 2023: "Interested in Polyamory? Check Out These Places/Laws granting rights to people in polyamorous relationships are being recognized in more cities" ("We have a population that’s more open to these ideas, and many of these folks are either currently nonmonogamous or have tried nonmonogamy or at the very least know someone who’s polyamorous").

January 13, 2024: "How a Polyamorous Mom Had ‘a Big Sexual Adventure’ and Found Herself/In her memoir, 'More,' Molly Roden Winter recounts the highs and lows of juggling an open marriage with work and child care" ("I felt like there were no stories from the mainstream about it, and I felt very closeted.... It often feels like mothers are not supposed to be sexual beings").

January 19, 2024: "My Relationships Have No Clothes/I have no moral objection to infidelity. For me, sex is just sex" ("If I had to wait until he had no other partner, we would have missed out on this relationship, which is 90 percent TV jokes and 'Mad Men' quotes. We never would have the pride it brings each of us when we make the other laugh out loud").

April 15, 2024: "Lessons From a 20-Person Polycule/How they set boundaries, navigate jealousy, wingman their spouses and foster community" ("It’s not clear when the word ['polycule'] was coined, but it seems to have started catching on around 15 years ago to suggest an intricate structure formed of people with overlapping deep attachments: romantic, sexual, sensual, platonic").

May 9, 2024: "What Kind of Husband Behaves Like Donald Trump?" ("And as Ms. Daniels explained how Mr. Trump would call her 'honeybunch' when he phoned her, and tell her he missed her, I found myself wondering: Is this a man who is capable of missing anyone?")

"Let me preempt the Hamlet routine... around whether Trump will take the stand in his own defense: He shouldn’t, and he won’t."

Writes former prosecutor Elie Honig, in "Will Donald Trump Take the Stand?" (NY Magazine).
We can already see Trump’s subtle but unmistakable retreat from bluster to sanity. At first, Trump boasted that he “would” testify in his own defense. Note the careful word choice: Would, which includes an element of conditionality, isn’t quite the same as will. Days later, he prudently stepped back: “Well, I would if it’s necessary. Right now, I don’t know if you heard about today. Today was just incredible. People are saying — the experts, I’m talking about legal scholars and experts — they’re saying, ‘What kind of a case is this? There is no case.’”...

[Trump has] two ironclad reasons not to testify. 

"Everyone’s going to say 'Joe Rogan was right.' No, Joe Rogan was saying – yeah, he was right – that’s not what matters.”

"What matters is, the entire medical community knew that Ivermectin couldn’t hurt you. They knew it … I know they knew it. How do I know? Because now I’m doing nothing but talking to these clinicians, who at the time were overwhelmed by COVID, and they weren’t saying anything!... My doctor was using it during COVID on her family and on her patients, and it was working for them. So. They were wrong to play scared on that. Didn’t know that at the time. Know it now, admit it now, reporting on it now."

The woman who says she's the Martha from "Baby Reindeer" — which Netflix bills as a "true story" — gets cornered by Piers Morgan.

I'm jumping to a point 34 minutes in where Morgan questions Fiona Harvey about the tens of thousands of emails the writer Richard Gadd says she sent to him. Harvey, a lawyer, is threatening to sue, and she knows that if the emails were sent they will be produced in that lawsuit. "These are easily provable things," Morgan says. "He's either got them or he hasn't." Watch the dramatics and tell me if you think she's credible. Either she or Gadd is lying.

Yes, Gadd is an artist, and he should be able to use his own life as source material and to process it into an interesting show, but he has stated that the story is true and the show, which is very successful, is promoted as a true story. Gadd has asserted that he has changed things to protect the privacy of real people, most notably "Martha," a vivid and fascinating stalker, but Martha was easily identified as Fiona Harvey. Direct quotes used in the show appeared in Harvey's social media.

The obvious complexity is that Harvey is saying both that she is and she isn't Martha. You have to first identify her as the character before you can accuse Gadd of lying about her. If you watch the clip, you'll see how difficult her position is. But maybe she's a liar and a stalker. If not, what is she? Should she be on TV explaining herself, cornered and (to my eye) terrified? If she is Martha — and if Gadd's presentation is true — she has serious mental problems.

"A Virginia school board voted to restore the names of two schools previously named after Confederate leaders...."

"The Shenandoah County School Board voted 5-1 to call the schools Stonewall Jackson High School and Ashby Lee Elementary School, four years after the board — under different members — changed the names of the institutions due to their ties to Confederate leaders Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Turner Ashby."

WaPo reports.

"And yet the relentlessly wholesome story that Jill Biden tells about herself, and possibly to herself, doesn’t quite add up."

"She hitched her wagon to a man who, even when she met him in the 1970s, had world-historical ambition and was angling to become president. (Joe and his siblings openly discussed this plan, and his two brothers took Jill to dinner to be certain she was on board with it.)... In American Woman, Katie Rogers, a reporter at The New York Times, sees Jill Biden as a one-woman force sniffing out her husband’s political enemies, bearing the Biden family grudges, and weighing in on everything from campaign strategy to cabinet hires. More recently, Jill, seventy-two, was reportedly crucial in urging her eighty-one-year-old husband to run for a second presidential term.... Jill Biden has done all this without ever seeming calculating or ambitious.... Rogers depicts a harmonious codependence between the president and his wife: the couple typically spend evenings together in the White House residence reading their briefing books. She’s a confidante and gut check, though her influence has limits. 'Stop it, stop it now, Joe,' he recently said she told him about the slaughter of Palestinian civilians in Gaza."

From "Dr. B/Jill Biden is a barrier-breaking national figure. What are we to make of the wholesome, at times bland story she tells about herself?" by Pamela Druckerman(NYRB)

"The court heard how the defendant's 'Eunuchmaker' pay-per-view website advertised services including castration, penis removal and the freezing of limbs."

I'm reading "'Eunuch-maker' mutilator jailed for 22 years" (BBC).

I first read about this case in The Daily Record, and it was so ludicrously, shockingly lurid that I didn't think I could write about it. But then I saw the BBC was covering it, so it became bloggable.

But for the sake of decency, I will put the rest after the jump:

May 9, 2024

At the Magnolia Café...


... you can write about anything you want — including how you think this magnolia isn't the right kind of magnolia.

"Sonny and Cher sing 'All I Ever Need is You' as the device destroys some of the most beautiful objects a creative person could ever hope to have, or see..."

"... a trumpet, camera lenses, an upright piano, paints, a metronome, a clay maquette, a wooden anatomical reference model, vinyl albums, a framed photo, and most disturbingly (because they suggest destructive violence against children's toys, and against the child in all of us) a ceramic Angry Birds figure and a stack of rubber emoji balls" (from


RFK Jr. would give women full control over the decision to have an abortion — "even if it's full term."

I think his feet were supposed to be off camera. I don't like seeing his stocking feet in this context. It's too serious, too deadly. 

"Necheles notes that in [Stormy] Daniels’s book, she describes the early part of the encounter, writing that she made him her 'bitch.'"

"Necheles seeks to suggest there’s an inconsistency here, because Daniels wrote about being aggressive with Trump but then testified that she was intimidated when he approached her for sex. Necheles is in extremely dangerous territory here: She could convince jurors that Daniels was inconsistent. But these jurors may also understand how complex these types of situations — and memories of them — are. Necheles eventually cuts right to the point of her cross-examination about the sexual encounter: 'You made all this up, right?' she asks. Daniels responds forcefully: 'No.'"

From the NYT coverage of the the cross-examination in the Trump trial. Nechelles is Trump's lawyer, Susan Nechelles.

From an earlier point, there's more about this "complexity": "Stormy Daniels’s story of her sexual encounter with Trump is very nuanced and complex, and Daniels describes a lot of different types of motivations and a really conflicted approach to the whole episode.... Susan Necheles, I think, is going to attack her mixed motivations directly, making her seem as if she was lying about how much she wanted to have dinner with Trump in 2006, and how she understood the encounter."

"Daniels smirks as she looks at celebratory tweets she sent on March 30, 2023, the day Trump was criminally indicted for the first time."

"She posted about drinking champagne and selling 'Team Stormy' merchandise.... So many of Stormy Daniels’s retorts are versions of 'so did Trump.' He calls her 'horseface,' so why can’t she call him an 'orange turd'? He sells his merchandise, so why can’t she sell hers?... Watching Susan Necheles attempt to pull Stormy Daniels apart, I am reminded of a point we made in coverage about Trump not long ago. His goal is not to make people think he’s pure so much as his goal is to suggest his antagonists are all impure.... The defense’s playbook is very clear: Portray Daniels as a money-grubbing, sleazy, dishonest operator who tried to use Trump to get fame and riches from the anti-Trump resistance.... Trump is leaning forward and staring at the screen showing the exhibits of Stormy Daniels’s merchandise, including t-shirts and comic books. He is seemingly very interested in her efforts to make money off of her account of the liaison with him. Necheles brings up a '$40 Stormy Saint of Indictments Candle,' with Daniels draped in a Christ-like robe. Trump recently made news by hawking a Bible for $59.99...."

From the NYT live-blog of the cross-examination.

ADDED: "He is seemingly very interested in her efforts to make money off of her account of the liaison with him" — that makes it sound like a challenge for the contestants on an episode of "The Apprentice." Imagine him coolly assessing the merchandising effort. Perhaps in some secret way, in his businessman/showman mind, he admires her dogged effort to work with what she had.

The loophole Stormy Daniels didn't see... or declined to take.

From the NYT live-blog of the cross-examination of Stormy Daniels, 25 minutes ago:
The defense is now showing a statement that was released in January 2018, in which Daniels said that she did not have an affair with Trump. But [Trump's lawyer Susan] Necheles did something clever, changing the wording to suggest she denied having sex with Trump — and Daniels agreed, not splitting hairs about the wording here....

So I take it the idea is that Daniels could have said: The statement is true. I did not have an affair with Trump. I had sex with him on one occasion. That is not an affair. 

Did Daniels miss an opportunity? The NYT credits Necheles with cleverness: She got Daniels to admit that she made an inconsistent statement by denying that she ever had sex with Trump. 

If Daniels had seen the loophole and chosen to take it, it would also have hurt her credibility. She'd look like someone who is crafty with word choice and issued a phony denial, claiming no "affair" and reserving the power to say that she did or did not have sex with Trump — whichever better served her interests.

"To be creative, you want to feel like you're getting away with something."

Also: "You spend all your life trying to save time, but when you get to the end of your life, there's no time left, and you'll go to heaven, and you go 'But wait, I had velcro sneakers, no-iron shirt, clip-on tie. What about all that time? It's gone.'"

And, though Seinfeld won't show you his Star of David necklace, he says "Yes, I wear a Star of David necklace, because it makes me feel closer to the people of Israel that I feel close to and that's why I wear it."

He reveals his favorite word: "quintessence." He discusses the meaning, but I wanted the OED meaning: "The most essential part or feature of some non-material thing; the purest or most perfect form or manifestation of some quality, idea, etc."

But that's the figurative meaning.

"We’re told the decision to act this way came last week but that Biden wanted to keep it quiet until he delivered his speech commemorating the Holocaust...."

Writes John Podhoretz in "Biden’s Shameful Betrayal" (Commentary).
Last week, the administration’s line was that it needed to see a plausible evacuation plan from Rafah—a statement indicating that it still supported the overall aim of eliminating Hamas and that the problem going forward was primarily logistical. So that might simply have been a lie....

But if his primary aim is to limit civilian casualties, his methods of doing so are insane. The munitions he is holding back would in part allow Israel to hit sites and areas in Rafah with great precision. That is how you limit casualties. Which leads me to believe that Joe Biden is literally trying to freeze the conflict in place permanently....

And why does Biden want this anyway? To what end? Unless your purpose is to prevent an Israeli victory, it’s nonsensical. And if he doesn’t want an Israeli victory, why did he spend months pushing for aid? Why? Why?...

I hesitate to attempt to answer, but my working theory would be that Joe Biden has prioritized his own reelection. And he's not even performing well at that. Ironically, his reelection theme seems to be that he — and not Trump — is a man of integrity. I would recommend that the old man step back from the tawdry exercise of getting reelected and actually behave with integrity.

But I suspect he's too far gone to give us that. May I recommend:

"If we have to fight with our fingernails, then we’ll do what we have to do."

From "Biden-Netanyahu rift causes ‘tremendous anger’ in Washington/US fears its goals for Gaza — freeing hostages and aiding Palestinians — do not align with Israeli PM’s desire for political survival and an invasion of Rafah" (London Times):
Biden has reiterated that America’s support to Israel remains “ironclad”, but has warned Jerusalem against a full-scale land invasion of Rafah, fearing it would lead to a civilian bloodbath. Israel insists that the operation will go ahead and is necessary to find and kill the architects of the October 7 attacks.

It then emerged that the US paused a shipment of weapons to Israel last week, consisting of 1,800 2,000lb bombs and 1,700 500lb bombs. The reaction from Jerusalem was swift. “If we have to fight with our fingernails, then we’ll do what we have to do,” a senior government official told Reuters.

On Wednesday Biden doubled down in an interview with CNN, saying for the first time that he would halt shipments of American weapons if Netanyahu went ahead with the operation. “I made it clear that if they go into Rafah … I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities — that deal with that problem,” he said.

May 8, 2024

Sunrise — 5:41, 5:44, 5:45.




"Florida is at the forefront of a dizzying and contentious array of statewide bans..."

"... outlawing lab grown meat, certain books from school libraries and classrooms, and most abortions after six weeks. But the balloon ban is rare for garnering widespread bipartisan support.... The new legislation makes it clear that balloons can pose an environmental hazard, supporters say. It equates intentionally releasing a balloon filled with a gas lighter than air with littering...."

"Balloons Harm Wildlife. Florida Is Set to Ban Their Release/In an effort to curb microplastics and marine pollution, lawmakers in the Sunshine State voted overwhelmingly to make it illegal to intentionally let a balloon fly away" (NYT).

Of course, releasing a balloon is littering! How did people ever convince themselves that it wasn't? Well, they just didn't think about it, did they?

Side note: Did you spot the free-range "garnering" released into the wild?

"Across the country, power companies are increasingly using giant batteries the size of shipping containers to address renewable energy’s biggest weakness..."

"... the fact that the wind and sun aren’t always available.... When power companies first began connecting batteries to the grid in the 2010s, they mainly used them to smooth out small disruptions in the flow of electricity.... But power companies also use batteries to engage in a type of trading: charging up when electricity is plentiful and cheap and then selling power to the grid when electricity supplies are tighter and more expensive. In California power prices often crash around midday, when the state produces more solar power than it needs.... Prices then soar in the evening when solar disappears...."

From "Giant Batteries Are Transforming the Way the U.S. Uses Electricity/They’re delivering solar power after dark in California and helping to stabilize grids in other states. And the technology is expanding rapidly" (NYT).

"It is a really bad feeling to have your Constitutional Right to Free Speech, such a big part of life in our Country, so unfairly taken from you..."

"... especially when all of the sleazebags, lowlifes, and grifters that you oppose are allowed to say absolutely anything that they want. It is hard to sit back and listen to lies and false statements be made against you knowing that if you respond, even in the most modest fashion, you are told by a Corrupt and Highly Conflicted Judge that you will be PUT IN PRISON, maybe for a long period of time. This Fascist mindset is all coming from D.C. It is a sophisticated hit job on Crooked Joe Biden’s Political Opponent, ME!. Judges Engoron and Kaplan, also of New York, are equally Corrupt, only in different ways. What these THUGS are doing is AN ATTACK ON THE REPUBLICAN PARTY, AND OUR ONCE GREAT NATION ITSELF. OUR FIRST AMENDMENT MUST STAND, FREE AND STRONG. 'GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH!'"

Writes Donald Trump at Truth Social.

"I would say that augmentation reached a peak in 2007 — there is a sense that the really big boobs look old-fashioned."

"Augmentation also skews more working class nowadays — actually, I would say conspicuous boob jobs skew working class. In one study, a segment of British working class women, for example, see fake tits as a form of consumption that gives them status and signals that they are independent women in command of the male gaze. And then similarly, a contingent of Brazilian women who began their lives in poverty want people to know they have implants as a form of financial accomplishment...."

Said Sarah Thornton, quoted in "Why Are We Obsessed With Breasts? After her own mastectomy, sociologist Sarah Thornton sought to answer the question" (NYT).

Thornton's book is called "Tits Up: What Sex Workers, Milk Bankers, Plastic Surgeons, Bra Designers, and Witches Tell Us About Breasts."

Her mastectomy — which was done as a precaution against a hereditary form of breast cancer — included breast implants — large ones that she later had replaced with smaller ones.

"But critics like me aren’t asking the Times to abandon its independence. We’re asking the Times to recognize that it isn’t living up to its own standards..."

"... of truth-telling and independence when it obfuscates the stakes of the 2024 election, covers up for Trump’s derangement, and goes out of its way to make Biden look weak."

Writes Dan Froomkin, in "New York Times editor Joe Kahn says defending democracy is a partisan act and he won’t do it." (Press Watch).

Froomkin is reading "an interview with obsequious former employee Ben Smith, now the editor of Semafor," where Kahn said: 
"To say that the threats of democracy are so great that the media is going to abandon its central role as a source of impartial information to help people vote — that’s essentially saying that the news media should become a propaganda arm for a single candidate, because we prefer that candidate’s agenda."

Small worm the size of a large worm.

RFK Jr. is my presumptive choice for President, so I'm keeping track of what the mainstream media has to say about him. They seem to be heightening the scrutiny, so let's take a look:

New York Times: "R.F.K. Jr. Says Doctors Found a Dead Worm in His Brain/The presidential candidate has faced previously undisclosed health issues, including a parasite that he said ate part of his brain."
In 2010, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was experiencing memory loss and mental fogginess so severe that a friend grew concerned he might have a brain tumor.... Several doctors noticed a dark spot on [his] brain scans.... The doctor believed that the abnormality seen on his scans “was caused by a worm that got into my brain and ate a portion of it and then died,” Mr. Kennedy said in [his 2012 divorce] deposition.... In the interview with The Times, he said he had recovered from the memory loss and fogginess and had no aftereffects from the parasite, which he said had not required treatment.... Several infectious disease experts and neurosurgeons said... they believed it was likely a pork tapeworm larva.... Though it is impossible to know, [one doctor said] it is unlikely that a parasite would eat a part of the brain.... 

Washington Post: "RFK Jr’s ‘history lesson’ on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine flunks the fact test/A line-by-line dissection shows he’s often echoing Russian talking points" (by Glenn Kessler, the "fact checker")(free access link). Excerpt from a long piece:

A reader asked us to fact-check a four-minute “history lesson” posted by presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on YouTube. International events — and the causes of war — are often open to interpretation. But Kennedy’s lecture, about how the United States allegedly provoked the Ukraine war, was filled with so much misinformation and Russian talking points that it seems worthy of a detailed look....

“When the wall came down in the Soviet Union and Europe, [Soviet President Mikhail] Gorbachev destroyed himself politically by doing something that was very, very courageous. He went to [President George H.W.] Bush. He said, ‘I’m going to allow you to reunify Germany under a NATO army. I’m going to remove 450,000 Soviet troops. But I want your commitment. After that, you will not move NATO one inch to the east.’ And we solemnly swore that we wouldn’t do it.”

"The grandson of President John F. Kennedy this week savaged his presidential-candidate cousin, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., in a series of mocking, meant-to-be-funny videos..."

"...that were, inarguably, uncharacteristically un-Kennedyesque, escalating a civil war within America’s most storied political dynasty. In a series of Instagram posts, the grandson, Jack Schlossberg, 31, variously called Mr. Kennedy, 70, a 'prick,' suggested he was using steroids, said he was 'lying to us' and portrayed him as a Russian stooge and a stalking horse for Donald J. Trump. But what viewers may be more struck by, or even insulted by, are the heavily accented caricatures the young scion used to dramatize his points. He impersonates a Massachusetts fan of the Kennedys named Jimmy.... 'You know, I’m a fan of his father,' Mr. Schlossberg says, as Jimmy. 'And you know his uncle? Rest in peace, I remember where I was the day he was killed, I mean it was a tragic day, the entire country wept. But listen, that guy, he’s a prick. The new guy, the young guy, he’s a friggin prick.' He channels a southerner named Wade.... And he conjures an Italian-American Long Islander named Anthony....What may be the edgiest impression, though, is Mr. Schlossberg’s depiction of Joshua, an older New York Jewish man...."

From "Using Cartoonish Accents, J.F.K.’s Grandson Insults and Mocks Robert F. Kennedy Jr./In an escalation of the family feud, the son of Caroline Kennedy portrayed heavily accented characters who suggested that his cousin, the presidential candidate, was on steroids, not too smart and a liar" (NYT).

Wow! Here's this famously handsome, hyper-privileged young man and he imagines it would be a good idea to put these cheap ethnic stereotypes on Instagram! How did this happen? It can't be merely that he's insanely out of touch with present-day standards of diversity and inclusiveness. And leave to one side the delusion that insults like "he’s a friggin prick" count as publicly shareable comedy. It must also be that the family and friends who surround him have been laughing at this stuff and encouraging him to post it, telling him it will be great for his future career in politics. Oh, Jack, you're so funny! And please, help us bring down RFK Jr. You can do it like no one else, because everyone is devastated by your good looks and your genetics. 

Here he is, defending himself in the voice of Wade, the southerner. Watch it, watch his long hair flapping in the breeze, and try to imagine the people who pumped up his ridiculous confidence over the years:

ADDED: Over at Daily Beast, you can see the encouragement in the raw: "Everyone Is Thirsting Over Kennedy Grandson Jack Schlossberg—for Good Reason/The Camelot heir’s goofy shirtless videos and ridiculing of cousin Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s presidential campaign has made Schlossberg the internet’s biggest crush of the moment" ("It’s so charming that I’m ready to vote for whoever Schlossberg tells me to").

May 7, 2024

Sunrise — 5:34, 5:38, 5:41, 5:43, 5:45, 5:47.



"Banning TikTok is so obviously unconstitutional... that even the Act’s sponsors recognized that reality, and therefore have tried mightily to depict the law not as a ban at all..."

"... but merely a regulation of TikTok’s ownership.... In reality, there is no choice.... [A forced sale ] is simply not possible: not commercially, not technologically, not legally.... If Congress can do this, it can circumvent the First Amendment by invoking national security and ordering the publisher of any individual newspaper or website to sell to avoid being shut down...."

So reads the filing quoted in "TikTok files court challenge to U.S. law that could lead to ban/The filing citing First Amendment and other grounds could prove to be an existential fight for one of the world’s most popular apps" (WaPo).

"Congress has never before crafted a two-tiered speech regime with one set of rules for one named platform, and another set of rules for everyone else.... [The government acted without] proof of a compelling interest, but on speculative and analytically flawed concerns about data security and content manipulation — concerns that, even if grounded in fact, could be addressed through far less restrictive and more narrowly tailored means."

"Stormy Daniels is talking about going to the bathroom in Trump’s hotel suite... Daniels keeps chuckling as she describes the scene, as if she's giving an interview."

Writes Maggie Haberman at the NYT.

I think "keeps chuckling... as if she's giving an interview" reveals Haberman's opinion that Daniels is not a good witness.

Then there's this from Jonah Bromwich, one of the other NYT reporters watching the trial:

"Is it possible that the prosecution thinks this works as a way to humiliate Trump?"

I wrote at the end of the last post, which is puzzling over why the prosecution has called Stormy Daniels to the witness stand. The desire to humiliate others is a very low form of self-gratification. It's a big theme in porn — or so I've read — but I won't further expound on the parallels between porn and politics.

I'm just starting a new post on this theme because the very next thing I read was a display of the desire to humiliate Trump. It's Jennifer Rubin, at The Washington Post, in "The New York trial is wearing down Trump — and it shows/His nodding off in court is a sign that he is weaker and more vulnerable than ever":

The trial is aggravating Trump’s lifelong fear of humiliation and his insistence on being the toughest bully on the block.... Any objective observer would acknowledge that things have not been going his way, to put it mildly....

"The dramatic decision to call Ms. Daniels to the stand would carry both possible benefits and definite risks for prosecutors...."

"Her presence would let Mr. Trump’s defense lawyers attack Ms. Daniels as an extortionist.... Ms. Daniels could also offer context about the environment in which she sold her story of their 2006 encounter, which Mr. Trump denies. She was shopping the story as Mr. Trump’s campaign was reeling in 2016 from the disclosure of a recording on the set of Access Hollywood in which he bragged of groping women. Michael Bachner, a New York City defense lawyer not involved in the case, said that if prosecutors did not call Ms. Daniels to testify, 'it would just be a glaring hole' that the defense would question.... Mr. Trump’s lawyers contend that he did not know that the checks he signed for Mr. Cohen were not for legal fees, and that Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump’s employees were responsible for any false records. They would be likely to portray Ms. Daniels as someone whose only real connection to Mr. Trump was wanting to be a possible contestant on his reality show...."

From "Stormy Daniels, Once Paid to Keep Quiet, Could Testify Against Trump/Ms. Daniels could take the stand this week, allowing jurors to see and hear from the person at the center of the criminal case against the former president" (NYT).

I would think the prosecutors want to avoid calling her:

"Respectability politics."

If that's a term of art, it's new to me. I'm seeing it, with a link to another article, in "Senators Need to Stop the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act," a NYT column by Michelle Goldberg. Context:
Some pro-Palestinian demonstrators seem to believe, given the moral enormity of mass death, displacement and starvation in Gaza, that deferring to mainstream Jewish sensitivities means buckling to so-called respectability politics, which whitewash horror in the name of civility. “To the Jewish students, faculty and trustees blocking divestment and urging the violent crackdowns on campus: You threaten everyone’s safety,” said a recent communiqué from the Columbia Law chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, a left-wing group that’s been providing legal support to the protesters.

The statement disdains the ethos of nonviolence, quoting Black Panther leader Kwame Ture, formerly Stokely Carmichael: “In order for nonviolence to work, your opponent must have a conscience. The United States has none.” Within the movement, I imagine such rhetoric functions as a sign of total commitment, a no-going-back rejection of hollow liberal pieties. Outside of it, to the extent that anyone takes this language seriously, it serves to stoke a raging panic about the protests that both distracts from the war and feeds a growing backlash that threatens academic freedom....

The linked article is "What are the politics of respectability during a genocide?" by Maryam Iqbal in the Columbia Spectator. Excerpt:

May 6, 2024

Sunrise — 5:37, 5:39, 5:42, 5:45.

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"Justice Merchan acknowledged that jailing Mr. Trump was 'the last thing' he wanted to do, but explained that it was his responsibility to 'protect the dignity of the justice system.'"

"The judge said that he understood 'the magnitude of such a decision' and that jailing Mr. Trump would be a last resort. He noted: 'You are the former president of the United States, and possibly the next president as well.' ... Mr. Trump stared straight at [the judge].... The violation for which he was punished on Monday stemmed from an incident on April 22, when Mr. Trump [said the jury]... had been picked 'so fast' and was 'mostly all Democrat,' adding, 'It’s a very unfair situation.'... Although [those comments] came before the judge issued his first contempt order — and initially warned Mr. Trump of jail time — Justice Merchan appeared exasperated by the continued violations.... 'The last thing I want to do is put you in jail,' Justice Merchan said, adding quickly, 'But at the end of the day, I have a job to do.'..."

From "Judge Cites Trump for Contempt, and Says He Is Attacking the Rule of Law/Donald J. Trump again broke a gag order meant to bar him from attacking participants in his criminal trial, Justice Juan M. Merchan ruled. He threatened the former president with jail" (NYT).

I guess Trump also has a job to do — run for President. He doesn't want to go to jail, but at the end of the day....

And here's Alan Dershowitz,  yesterday, denouncing the judge for not understanding free speech law and imposing a prior restraint:

"I like diversity. Diversité as you would say. I like diversité" — said Donald Trump.

Hilarious. Quoted in "Trump's real-time reviews of 2024 VP possibles and other surrogates," at Axios, which obtained an audio recording of Trump making comments about the various possible candidates.

He was talking about Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.). 

Go to the link to read Trump's assessment of the 11 possibles. What struck me — other than his jocose Frenchification of the word "diversity" — is how he had nothing but good things to say about each of them. Not a shred of negativity. And it's not as if he just inarticulately called them all "great."

"At the end of the day, I walked out of the courthouse with another journalist.... He didn’t buy Hicks’s tears."

"'Come on,' he said. 'She’s a crisis-communications professional.' She’d been terse at crucial moments for the prosecution, and generous with her praise of Trump. ('A very good multitasker and a very hard worker,' she called him.) Though she’d confirmed that Trump and his circle were worried that sex scandals would hurt him in the 2016 election, she’d also testified that Trump had asked his staff to hide newspapers from Melania when the Wall Street Journal published an article about McDougal. ('I don’t think he wanted anyone in his family to be hurt or embarrassed by anything that was happening on the campaign,' she said. 'He wanted them to be proud of him.') It wasn’t clear if her testimony had helped either side. Maybe it had helped Hope Hicks."

Writes Eric Lach, in "What Is Hope Hicks Crying About? During Donald Trump’s criminal trial, the inscrutable former White House aide was equally inscrutable on the witness stand, despite breaking out into tears while testifying" (The New Yorker).

"This shifting landscape is forcing companies and consultants to adapt on the fly, with many acting preemptively to guard against the legal threats..."

"... that have led some firms to recast or discard race-based initiatives. They’re renaming diversity programs, overhauling internal DEI teams and working closely with lawyers. Some are moving away from using racial and gender considerations in hiring and promotion.... Meanwhile, the DEI industry — which was worth an estimated $9 billion in 2023... — is also rethinking its public face, consultants say.... [I]nstead of referring to DEI, [Johnny C. Taylor Jr., chief executive of the Society for Human Resource Management] switched to calling these efforts 'IED,' putting the focus on 'inclusion' as DEI accrued cultural and political baggage.... Eric Ellis, CEO of Integrity Development, a DEI consultancy, said he’s seen the 'branding merry-go-round' playing out for decades, tracing back to the wake of the civil rights movement. He expects the language to keep changing in response to public attacks, especially those by high-profile figures like Elon Musk, who in January wrote on his social media platform X that 'DEI is just another word for racism.'... Joelle Emerson, chief executive of DEI consultancy Paradigm [said] 'DEI has only been the acronym du jour since 2020... Regardless of what we call it, we’ve done a really poor job storytelling what this work is actually about.'"

From "DEI is getting a new name. Can it dump the political baggage? Under mounting legal and political pressure, companies’ DEI tactics are evolving" (WaPo)(free access link).

Switching DEI to IED... brilliant. Either you're proud of what you're doing or you're trying to hide it. And if you think of your real-world justification as a matter of "storytelling," you're tipping your hand. Do you even believe yourself?

"This is the final battle. With you at my side, we will demolish the Deep State."

"We will expel the warmongers from our government. We will drive out the globalists. We will cast out the Communists, Marxists, and fascists. We will throw off the sick political class that hates our country. We will rout the fake news media. And we will liberate America from these villains. Once and for all."

Said Trump, in campaign ad video here, at Truth Social.

It's a super hero movie. And we are his sidekick. 

"The free show... was a grand finale to the pop superstar’s latest world tour, which has delivered 80 performances since last October...."

"[C]oncert crowd sizes can be difficult to gauge; Riotur, the municipality’s tourism department, estimated that 1.6 million people flooded onto the 2.4-mile stretch of sand on Saturday that had been turned into a roughly $12 million playground surrounding the 8,700-square-foot stage. It was the culmination of days of Madonna-mania in the city, where talk of the singer, 65, was inescapable. Her songs spilled out of stores and car stereos. Fans assembled outside her hotel and shouted her name. Updates about the concert, which was broadcast on the network Globo TV, dominated local media reports...."

From "Madonna Brings Massive Free Concert to Rio, Capping Celebration Tour/The pop superstar performed a final date on her global trek marking four decades of hits: a set on Copacabana Beach before the largest live crowd of her career" (NYT).

"'Here we are, the most beautiful place in the world,' Madonna announced.... 'This is magic.'... 'You have always been there for me,' she said. 'That flag: that green-and-yellow flag, I see it everywhere. I feel it in my heart.'"

"China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has diminished the role of women at work and in public office. There are no female members of Mr. Xi’s inner circle..."

"... or the Politburo, the executive policymaking body. He has invoked more traditional roles for women, as caretakers and mothers, in planning a new 'childbearing culture' to address a shrinking population. But groups of women around China are quietly reclaiming their own identities. Many are from a generation that grew up with more freedom than their mothers. Women in Shanghai, profoundly shaken by a two-month Covid lockdown in 2022, are being driven by a need to build community. 'I think everyone living in this city seems to have reached this stage that they want to explore more about the power of women,' said Du Wen, the founder of Her, a bar that hosts salon discussions.... At quietly advertised events, women question misogynistic tropes in Chinese culture. 'Why are lonely ghosts always female?' one woman recently asked, referring to Chinese literature’s depiction of homeless women after death...."

From "In China, Ruled by Men, Women Quietly Find a Powerful Voice/Women in Shanghai gather in bars, salons and bookstores to reclaim their identities as the country’s leader calls for China to adopt a 'childbearing culture'" (NYT).

An idea about structuring the presidential debates to hurt Trump that I think is more likely to help him.

I'm reading "Donald Trump Is 'A Colossal A**hole,' Jeffrey Katzenberg Says; Hasn’t Yet Reached Out To Taylor Swift To Endorse 'Decent' Joe Biden" (Deadline Hollywood). I just want to focus on one thing, Katzenberg's idea about how to rein in the Trump "chaos" at the presidential debates:
“When you look back and you just say, Okay, well, there’s a solution for that everybody in this room knows, everyone in media and entertainments knows, it’s very simple,” Katzenberg said of the possible rules of any Biden vs Trump face-to-face to stop the latter from steamrolling over everyone. “If you have two minutes to speak, you speak, and then at the end of two minutes the mic goes dead. Then you go to 30 seconds as a reply, and then the mic goes dead.”

AKA – Donald Trump’s worst nightmare.

Welcome to Trump's nightmare. I say he could nail this limitation. He can make very pithy statements quickly. He can either adapt to the microphone shut-off and speak clearly and shut up, or he can run on and interrupt anyway, and just rattle Biden and leave us wondering what he said. The lip-reading effort could go viral. Can't A.I. read lips and insert Trump's voice? Meanwhile, Biden is the one whose mind is slowing and who garbles his speech, fails to keep his talking points straight, and wanders into puzzling personal anecdotes. I think the stricter discipline would be more likely to hurt Biden. 

But why am I saying this? You tell me:

Why is Althouse wafting this theory? free polls

Sandhill cranes listen, then speak.

Just now, on the shore of Lake Mendota.

"[A]bsurd trends flooded [TikTok]: 'night luxe,' 'coastal grandmother' and 'clean girl,' each with a highly specific set of principles, imagery..."

"... and even beauty standards. They were usually framed as rejections of what came before. The 'mob wife' aesthetic, for example, was contextualized as a brash, dramatic and flashy rebuttal to the clean girl aesthetic, which encouraged women to be contained, efficient and beige. 'People on TikTok started to realize that they could go viral if they had a really pithy aesthetic name,' says Casey Lewis, who started her newsletter, After School, to chronicle these ridiculous trends. There was even a trend for anti-trends: 'quiet luxury.' Pitched as the ultimate dunk on all the trends that came before it, it claimed that people who really have money and taste wear understated labels that you’ve never even heard of.... [F]ashion media took this experimentation as gospel. When [Mandy Lee, a trend forecaster on TikTok] made a video... predicting the return of what she called 'indie sleaze,' or the 'amateur-style flash photography' and 'opulent displays of clubbing,' Dazed magazine wrote a story about it within a week. GQ, British Vogue, Vogue, Highsnobiety, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and Refinery29 heralded its return, and anything remotely related to mid-2000s indie rock or American Apparel was seized upon as proof...."

Writes Rachel Tashjian, in "How TikTok changed fashion/As the app faces a potential ban, it’s stepping into the spotlight at fashion’s biggest night: the Met Gala" (WaPo).

"I would like to know exactly what the problem was, but I can’t find it in multiple news stories filled with corporate euphemisms instead of information."

A commenter over at WaPo knocks its news about news, in "Kim Godwin steps down suddenly as president of ABC News/The first Black woman to head a major network news division recently saw her role weakened, but had also signed a contract extension."

By depriving us readers of substance, WaPo encourages speculation. Stop protecting powerful people! And stop patronizing the first Black woman and all the other firsts. Spread accountability around evenly.

ABC News, which I never watch, is the home of “The View,” “Good Morning America” and “World News Tonight with David Muir.” I have no idea how archaic broadcast TV like that is manufactured or what Godwin did that bothered people.

There's some information in this NY Post article from last March, "Embattled ABC News president Kim Godwin told staffers she’s ‘still in charge’ after effective demotion: sources." We're told that Godwin had created a “culture of fear” in the company. And "Godwin’s self-promotional, hands-off approach to running the Disney-owned network has empowered her coterie to 'settle scores,' a source said." 

May 5, 2024

Sunrise — 5:49.


"Couples have less time on a grand scale while contending, suddenly, with more free time in their waking hours."

"Many disagree on how to spend it. 'I can do anything I want, but lack an activity partner,' reported Danny Steiner, a recently retired 70-year-old high school teacher whose wife does not share his passion for travel — a difference that really manifested only once it was an option. More time can lay bare the reality that some couples did better with less of it. 'Being together just does not feel as special as it once did,' said Martha Battie, a retired college administrator in Hanover, N.H. 'Whatever conversations or sharing we have seems to be forgotten, or not really heard from the start.' And more time means more exposure to whatever irritating habits were easily endured in smaller doses. Among the things that grated on her, Barbara had texted, was that Joe 'mansplains everything.' He had always been that way, she knew, but now she had to deal with so much more of it...."

From "These Couples Survived a Lot. Then Came Retirement. For many relationships, life after work brings an unexpected set of challenges" (NYT)(free access link).

Can you imagine talking about your spouse like that to a NYT writer?! Joe ought to mansplain to Barbara about why she shouldn't talking-to-the-NYT-splaining about his mansplaining.

"At Washington dinner parties, dark jokes abound about where to go into exile if the former president reclaims the White House."

That's the subheadline of a NYT piece by Peter Baker, "Gallows Humor and Talk of Escape: Trump’s Possible Return Rattles Capital."

"Just as students [in 1968] could no longer tolerate the horrific images of a distant war delivered, for the first time, in almost real time by television..."

"... so many of today’s students have found the images from Gaza, now transmitted instantly onto their phones, to demand action. And just as students in ’68 insisted that their school sever ties to a government institute doing research for the war, so today’s students demand that Columbia divest from companies profiting from Israel’s invasion of Gaza.... Universities do have a serious obligation to protect Jewish students from antisemitism and to maintain order, but it is to their students and teachers that they must answer, not to Republicans eager to score points against woke 'indoctrination' at elite colleges or to megadonors seeking to push their agendas onto institutions of higher learning...."

Writes Serge Schmemann, a member of the NYT editorial board, in "Student Protest Is an Essential Part of Education" (NYT).

By the way, that headline is close to what I wrote to my parents when I participated in a student strike at the University of Michigan, circa 1970. I am in possession of this letter, and I can only imagine what my parents must have thought. I went so far as to assert that the protesting was more educational than the classes themselves. And it's not as though they'd asked for an explanation. I took it upon myself to pontificate. The issue at the time was affirmative action. The chant was: "Open it up or shut it down." What did I know about the wisdom of a program of affirmative action? It seemed vivifyingly clear at the time.

"The new cure-all for vacation excess: the IV drip/IV therapy has moved from hospitals to luxury spas, hotels and Airbnb house calls."

A WaPo article.

Recreational IV drips may be most famously associated with hangovers, but they can purportedly alleviate a wide range of symptoms, such as dehydration, brain fog, nausea and lethargy. Prices vary by city and type of IV cocktail, but basic drips start at about $150 and can rise fivefold or more... A number of Four Seasons spas — Orlando, Washington D.C., Maui, New York City — offer the amenity....

[A]ctress Sofia Vergara... provided the amenity at her 2015 nuptials. Since then... the “bougie luxury service” has gone mainstream....

This is part of a larger phenomenon of rejecting natural life. Everything becomes a medical issue, and people feel fortunate to gain access to a regimen of treatments.

"It was the third papal meeting for Laura, 57, a saucy Paraguayan sex worker who, in her realest moments, described herself as 'una travesti'..."

"... outdated Spanish slang for 'a transgender woman.' She lived by a code: Tough girls don’t cry. But the first time Pope Francis had blessed her, she couldn’t suppress her tears. On their second meeting, they chatted over lunch. He came to know her well enough to ask about her health. On top of her longtime HIV, she’d had a recent cancer diagnosis. During treatment, the church sourced her a comfortable hotel room in the shadow of the Colosseum and provided food, money, medicine and tests...."

From "How Pope Francis opened the Vatican to transgender sex workers/The outreach, reflecting the most radical stage of his papacy, has prompted backlash while also altering the lives of the nearly 100 people he has met" (WaPo)(free access link).

"'Groups of trans come all the time,' Francis told fellow Jesuits in Lisbon last August. 'The first time they came, they were crying. I was asking them why. One of them told me, "I didn’t think the pope would receive me!" Then, after the first surprise, they made a habit of coming back. Some write to me, and I email them back. Everyone is invited! I realized these people feel rejected.'"