June 29, 2024

Fungus of the Day.



"Jill Biden, lacking the detachment of a Melania and enjoying the role of first lady more, has been pushing — and shielding — her husband..."

"... beyond a reasonable point. After Thursday’s embarrassing debate performance, she exhorted the crowd and played teacher to a prized student: 'You did a great job! You answered every question! You knew all the facts!' This, to the guy who controls the nuclear codes.... The Democratic strategist Paul Begala... explained on CNN: 'The first Democratic politician to call on Biden to step down, it’s going to end their career... None of them are going to say, 'Hey, let me step forward and knife Julius Caesar.' Biden is a beloved man in the Democratic Party.'... James Carville... told me Biden should call former Presidents Clinton and Obama to the White House and decide on five Democratic stars to address their convention in August.... Carville said the president should give a July 4 speech announcing he will let the next generation of Democratic leaders bloom.... And what if Joe and Jill cling on? In reply, Carville quoted... That which can’t continue, won’t."

Writes Maureen Dowd, in "The Ghastly vs. the Ghostly" (NYT)(boldface added).

I don't get to use my "Julius Caesar" tag too often. I can't believe Dowd planted that in the text and then ended with "That which can’t continue, won’t." 

The adage is attributed to Herb Stein. See "Is Stein’s Law real?" (Robert J. Samuelson, WaPo, May 30, 2013):

Why not a coordinated double-coup?

What's brewing here?

"No conversations about that whatsoever. The Democratic voters elected, nominated, Joe Biden. Joe Biden’s the nominee."

Said Michael Tyler, director of communications for the Biden campaign, quoted in "There Are 'No Conversations' About Replacing Biden, Campaign Official Says/The official also said President Biden was committed to attending the next presidential debate in September" (NYT).

This immediately called to mind a tag I don't know why I don't use more often: "things not believed."

But even though I don't believe there have been "no conversations... whatsoever," I do believe "The Democratic voters elected, nominated, Joe Biden." That's the thing they like to excoriate Donald Trump for supposedly not believing. And when it's Donald Trump failing to say he believes it, he's denounced as an enemy of democracy, a man who wants to be a dictator. 

These people who want to oust Joe Biden — we don't even know who they are. They seemed to think they could stage a coup in 5 minutes, using CNN commentators in the immediate aftermath of the debate. Are these people not enemies of democracy? Do they not deserve the epithet "dictator"? And if they are the same people who have worked together to hide Joe Biden's incapacity from us, who exercise power through or instead of him, then the answer to those questions is even more emphatically yes.

Biden taunted Trump about his weight.

The debate has given us so much to talk about that something that ordinarily would have attracted a lot of attention has slipped by unnoticed: Biden brought up Trump's weight. He actually talked about the number of pounds.

Here's the transcript. The question, addressed to Trump, had been, "What do you say to voters who have concerns about your capabilities to serve?" 
TRUMP: Well, I took two tests, cognitive tests.... He took none. I’d like to see him take one, just one, a real easy one. Like go through the first five questions, he couldn’t do it... I took physical exams every year.... I just won two club championships, not even senior, two regular club championships... He can’t hit a ball 50 yards.... I think I’m a very good shape. I feel that I’m in as good a shape as I was 25, 30 years ago. Actually, I’m probably a little bit lighter....

In fact, Trump does look as though he's lost a lot of weight, so he brought up weight, but he was very low key about it, in the modest way that fits ordinary etiquette.

BASH: Thank you. President Biden? 

June 28, 2024

At the Prairie Café...


... you can talk all night.




Photos all taken today at the UW Biocore.

Enjoying it.

"Biden lacked oomph, but the transcript tells a different tale."

Headline at The Hill.

Could it be that this is like the old Kennedy/Nixon debate, where Kennedy famously dominated when you watched him on TV?

That article says: "His soft voice and bumbling manner played right into the MAGA narrative that he is past his use-by date. The chattering class said it was a disaster for Biden. He even alarmed many Democrats. But, reading the cold transcript, we get a very different picture of Biden. Substantively, he ably and forcefully made the case that that Trump should not be allowed back in the Oval Office."

Now, when I watched, I listened and thought in a "transcript-y" way some of the time. I thought Biden would get credit for producing long sentences containing substantive material, but after the debate, I saw that people were devastated by how awful he looked and sounded. That's why I just went looking for the transcript. 

The Hill picks out many good sentences from the transcript, e.g., on abortion, "The idea that the politicians — that the founders wanted the politicians to be the ones making decisions about women’s health is ridiculous. … No politician should be making that decision."

That's one of the many, many Biden sentences that began "The idea." I tried counting. It's more than 20.

"The Supreme Court sided on Friday with a member of the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, saying that prosecutors had overstepped in using an obstruction law to charge him...."

"Lower courts will now apply that strict standard, and it will presumably lead them to dismiss charges against many defendants. The most prominent defendant charged with obstruction is former President Donald J. Trump as part of the federal case accusing him of plotting to subvert the 2020 election...."

Writes Adam Liptak, in "Live Updates: Supreme Court Rules for Member of Jan 6. Mob in Obstruction Case/The decision concerned the scope of a 2002 law enacted in the wake of the collapse of Enron to address accounting fraud and the destruction of evidence" (NYT).
At issue was part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which was enacted after the collapse of the energy giant Enron and contains a broad catchall provision that makes it a crime to corruptly obstruct, influence or impede any official proceeding. Most Jan. 6 defendants have not been charged under the law, which prosecutors have reserved for the most serious cases, and those who have been charged under it face other counts, as well....

"The chief hasn't announced yet whether its the last day. We'll see if he says anything from the bench today."

From SCOTUSblog, as today's opinions are about to issue.

UPDATE: There are only 2 boxes, we're told, and that means a maximum of 4 opinions.

UPDATE 2: Grants Pass v. Johnson. Gorsuch. 6-3... the usual lineup. "The court holds that the enforcement of generally applicable laws regulating camping on public property does not constitute 'cruel and unusual punishment' barred by the Eighth Amendment."

UPDATE 3: Chevron is overruled! The Chief writes the opinion in Loper Bright Enterprises v Secretary of Commerce"Chevron, Roberts explains, 'defies the command of' the Administrative Procedure Act, the law governing federal administrative agencies, 'that the reviewing court--not the agency whose action it reviews--is to decide all relevant questions of law and interpret ... statutory provisions. It requires a court to ignore, not follow, the reading the court would have reached had it exercised its independent judgment as required by the APA.'... Roberts notes that today's decision does 'not call into question prior cases that relied on the Chevron framework... including the Clean Air Act holding of Chevron itself...'"  From the Kagan dissent: "Congress knows that it does not--in fact cannot--write perfectly complete regulatory statutes. It knows that those statutes will inevitably contain ambiguities that some other actor will have to resolve, and gaps that some other actor will have to fill. And it would usually prefer that actor to be the responsible agency, not a court."

UPDATE 4: If there are 2 more cases, there are 2 more Roberts-written cases. There's only one more case. The last case today is Fischer. Another 6-3 case written by Roberts. SCOTUSblog writes: "This was a case about whether a federal law that makes it a crime to corruptly obstruct congressional inquiries and investigations can be used to prosecute participants in the Jan. 6, 2021, attacks on the U.S. Capitol. The question comes to the court in the case of a former Pennsylvania police officer who entered the Capitol on Jan. 6. ... The court holds that to prove a violation of the law, the government must show that the defendant impaired the availability or integrity for use in an official proceeding of records, documents, objects, or other things used in an official proceeding, or attempted to do so."

UPDATE 5: The 6-3 in Fischer is not the usual 6-3. Barrett joins the dissenters and Jackson is in the majority. Jackson's concurrence refers to the "shocking circumstances" of January 6th.

UPDATE 5: The Court announced that there will be one more opinion day, Monday.

"The Vanishing Islands That Failed to Vanish/Low-lying tropical island nations were expected to be early victims of rising seas."

"But research tells a surprising story: Many islands are stable. Some have even grown."

The NYT reports. That's a free-access link, my last of the month. There are many details and diagrams — and beautiful photographs — at the link. It's a complicated phenomenon, so please try to understand it (and don't just guess that the seas are not rising!).

Too true: "He's the President you deserve."

"It’s true that the format did Biden no favors. CNN moderators Jake Tapper and Dana Bash avoided fact-checking..."

"... like it was the plague, which allowed Trump to steamroll an unsteady Biden with his usual stream of lies. Trump served up whoppers about abortion, his bungled covid response, Charlottesville, January 6, and more.... CNN finally ran an on-air fact-check of Trump more than an hour after the debate ended. But considering the relatively minuscule size of the audience at that late hour and the fact Trump was allowed to lie with impunity on the same network at length earlier in the evening, CNN’s belated attempt at basic journalistic accountability was worth very little."

Writes Aaron Rupar, in "Not great, Joe/Biden's debate showing stunk up the joint. But don't give up hope" (PublicNotice).

The format did Biden no favors? The format was engineered to favor Biden! Trump stepped up and did it the way Biden's people wanted. If the format chosen imposed disadvantages on Biden, it's only because his people thought other formats were more disadvantageous... unless the fix was in and the idea was to expose Biden's weaknesses.

Rupar, of course, is ridiculous. The "whopper about... Charlottesville" came from Biden. Who is still bitterly clinging to the notion that Trump said Nazis were fine people? Maybe Biden is so far gone that he actually believes it, but I don't believe Rupar believes it. I'm crediting him with rank cynicism. If the CNN moderators had been fact-checking in real time, they would have had to correct Biden on the "fine people" hoax... and on numerous other things, such as the claim that Trump told people to inject bleach into their arm. But Rupar is free to imagine that the moderators would have fact-checked in a biased way, a la Candy Crowley, and to pine about the debate that might have been.

CORRECTION: When first published, this post had a few stray sentences of Rupar's — at the bottom, after a big space — and I hope no one mistook that as mine! 

I want the names of everyone who is covering their ass by acting surprised that Biden performed the way he did at the debate last night.

Biden beat my expectations.

I expected the CNN panel to spin for Biden, just like his wife did:

Those who have had access to Biden over the last 2 years knew what everyone could see last night, and they choose to gaslight America, saying he's just fine — he's very sharp. They kept him away from any serious interviews, anything that would expose his weakness, but they sent him out for this debate. My hypothesis is that the debate was a set up, and the panic response — reported by the CNN commentators immediately after the debate — was not sudden and emotional but a cold sober plan to cover up 2 years of lying about Biden's condition.

In the last few weeks we've been scolded about believing our own eyes, told what we were seeing were "cheap fakes." These were people using Biden for their own concerted purposes, and now they'd like to drop him. They would have Weekend-at-Bernied him over the finish line if they could, but it seems they decided to wheel him out in public on one big occasion, let us watch him for 90 horrible minutes, and then act as if they suddenly realized this man can't do the job.

Meanwhile, he is the President of the United States, and he will be for 7 more months. That's the immediate emergency. Beyond that, I want responsibility. Shine a light on those who covered for him and who faked surprise last night. How did Democratic Party characters communicate with CNN and how did the CNN panel hit the ground running, all on the same page, all with such intensity? I want to know. So untrustworthy!

June 27, 2024

Let's watch the big presidential debate.

I don't know if I'll comment. It's a bit late for me. Maybe I'll have to comment tomorrow. But I wanted to put up a place for you to talk about the debate.

ADDED: My son John is live-blogging at Facebook, here.

AND: After the debate, the commentators on CNN seem to all be on the same page proclaiming that Biden was dismal and that Democrats are panicking and planning to figure out how to replace Biden. I didn’t think Biden was that bad. I thought it was bad, but not that bad. So it seems to me that the commentators and the Democrats — these panicking Democrats — were ready to go with this attack. This seems completely phony and planned to me.

Sunrise — 5:23.


Talk about whatever you like in the comments EXCEPT the big debate. I'll put up a separate post for that.

You know, yesterday's sunrise was so beautiful that I didn't even use this one, which, right now, looks to me like one of the best I've seen:


Fungus of the Day.


"25+ Years of Daily Show Clips Gone as Paramount Axes Comedy Central Site."

 LateNighter reports.

ComedyCentral.com had been home to clips from every episode of The Daily Show since 1999, and the entire run of The Colbert Report, but as of Wednesday morning, the site is gone.

"When I was 16 years old, I was ripped from my bed in the middle of the night and transported across state lines to the first of four youth residential treatment facilities."

"These programs promised healing, growth and support but instead did not allow me to speak, move freely or even look out a window for two years. I was force-fed medications and sexually abused by the staff. I was violently restrained and dragged down hallways, stripped naked and thrown into solitary confinement. My parents were completely deceived, lied to and manipulated by this for-profit industry about the inhumane treatment I was experiencing."

Paris Hilton testified to the House Ways and Means Committee, quoted in "Paris Hilton recounts child abuse in congressional testimony/The 43-year-old media personality’s statement was her latest push for change in what’s often called the 'troubled teen' industry" (WaPo).

New Supreme Court cases this morning.

Follow the live-blogging at SCOTUSblog, here.

UPDATE 1: "Justice Gorsuch has two opinions today. The first is Ohio v. EPA, the EPA 'good neighbor' policy case."

UPDATE 2: The second case is Harrington v. Purdue Pharma, a bankruptcy case: "[W]ord games cannot obsure the underlying reality... the Sacklers seek greater relief than a bankruptcy charge normally affords, for they hope to extinguish even claims for wrongful death and fraud, and they seek to do so without putting anything close to all their assets on the table." That's Gorsuch, writing for the majority, joined by Thomas, Alito, Barrett, and Jackson. An unusual grouping. The dissent is written by Kavanaugh, joined by Roberts, Sotomayor, and Kagan.

UPDATE 3: SEC v. Jarkesy. SCOTUSblog says: "The court framed the issue as whether the Seventh Amendment allows the SEC to compel Jarkesy to defend himself before the agency rather than before a jury in federal court. The court holds that when the SEC seeks civil penalties against a defendant for securities fraud, the Seventh Amendment entitles the defendant to a jury trial." It's 6-3, and the grouping is the usual grouping. From the dissent, by Sotomayor: "Today, for the very first time, this Court holds that Congress violated the Constitution by authorizing a federal agency to adjudicate a statutory right that inheres in the Government in its sovereign capacity, known as a public right." Gorsuch writes a concurring opinion, joined by Thomas, to say that it's not just about the Seventh Amendment. Also at play are Article III and the Due Process Clause. He writes: "The new law gave the SEC's Commissioners — the same officials who authorized the suit against Mr. Jarkesy — the power to preside over his case and issue the judgement." Yes, the case went to an "administrative law judge," "But the title 'judge' in this context is not quite what it might seem."

UPDATE 4: Finally, it's the abortion case that got leaked yesterday, Moyle v. Idaho. As expected, the writ of certiorari is dismissed as improvidently granted, and there are various opinions. Jackson concurs in part and dissents in part. Kagan concurs, joined by Sotomayor and in part by Jackson. Barrett, joined by Roberts and Kavanaugh, concurring, "agree with the decision to dismiss it because of the extent to which, in their view, the case has changed since they agreed earlier this year to take it up. Moreover, they note, there is now a 'difficult and consequential argument' in the case about whether the constitution would allow Congress to require Medicare recipients to 'violate state criminal law.'" 

AND: In Moyle, Alito dissents, joined by Thomas and Gorsuch.

"The 41-year-old inmate had garnered attention in previous years, including when he sought to donate a kidney in 2022 to atone for his crime — a petition Texas denied...."

"During his trial, psychiatrist Edward Gripon testified that recidivism rates among people who commit sex crimes are as high as 80 percent — a statistic that was widely used at the time to justify punishment, but that has since been debunked. Gripon told the court that Gonzales would be a future danger 'wherever he goes' because he suffered from an incurable and violence-inducing mental disorder. Gripon relied on written statements from Gonzales’s cellmate saying that Gonzales had spoken about the crime and said 'he would do it again.' The cellmate in 2019 recanted his testimony and said an officer had threatened him with a harsher sentence if he didn’t help vilify Gonzales...."

From "Tex. inmate executed after expert recanted testimony on ‘future dangerousness’/Ramiro Gonzales was executed by lethal injection Wednesday after Texas’s Board of Parole and Pardons unanimously voted Monday to deny his clemency petition" (WaPo).

"I have always loved immersion journalism, the fish-out-of-water yarn. I tried tantric sex when interviewing a practitioner..."

"... both of us cross-legged in kimonos, impaled on one heel. I trained in pro wrestling for six months after interviewing wrestlers and taking a shine to flying through the air. I’ve been 'choked out' by a black belt in jujitsu and roundly thrashed by a BDSM dom.... I recently shadowed two [bodybuilders]... But as it transpired, neither woman I followed took steroids, which seemed like an oversight. So I thought I’d take some myself.... A blast of testosterone might jazz things up a bit.... ... I decided to write about the experience of visiting a Melbourne anti-ageing doctor – one who offers everything from hormone replacement therapy to peptides and human growth hormone, and who looks pleasingly like Flash Gordon’s nemesis Ming the Merciless. I wanted to see what might be prescribed to a forty-something woman with no real business taking steroids.... I accepted a prescription for a testosterone gel, but turned down his offer of the steroid hormone DHEA.... He pulled me to a halt just before we reached the reception desk. 'I like to see people at their superhuman best,' he said softly...."

Writes Jenny Valentish, in "Journalism on steroids" (in The Monthly).

I'm reading that as a consequence of googling "journalists use performance enhancing drugs" while reading the WaPo article, "Trump keeps baselessly claiming that Biden will be on drugs at debate/The presumptive Republican nominee lodged similar evidence-free allegations in 2016 against Clinton and 2020 against Biden." Excerpt:

What did Trump do wrong lately that's getting the most attention right now on X?

He said that Taylor Swift is beautiful — and he repeated it too many times and with a weird intensity: Collection of commentary, here, at X.

The pause before the last "beautiful" is — essence of creepiness? — Woody-Allen-like.

"Tucker Carlson was praised by his supporters for effectively countering what they perceived as biased and poorly informed questions from an Australian journalist during an interview in Australia."

A Grok summary for this widely shared video:

Sinkhole action.

"Surveillance footage captures the moment a 100 foot wide and 30 foot deep sinkhole swallows a soccer field in Alton, Illinois...."

"Roberta A. Kaplan, the celebrated lawyer who took on former President Donald J. Trump... is stepping down from the law firm she founded..."

"... after clashing with her partners over her treatment of colleagues... Her departure was announced after The Times informed her personal lawyers that it was preparing to publish an article about Ms. Kaplan that would shine a light on complaints about what some employees said was an unprofessional office culture that she presided over.... Ms. Kaplan and her wife are deeply connected to the Democratic Party and she has been a heroic figure to many liberal activists.... Several people whom she worked with told The Times that she had insulted employees, inappropriately commented on their looks and threatened to derail people’s careers...."

Writes David Enrich, in "Prominent Lawyer Roberta Kaplan Departs Firm After Clash With Colleagues/The well-connected attorney, who founded a powerhouse firm at the dawn of the #MeToo era, has faced complaints that she mistreated and insulted other lawyers" (NYT).

Kaplan represented E. Jean Carroll against Donald Trump and won a $83 million verdict. The law firm she founded was supposedly "driven by a progressive mission and free of the macho culture" found in other law firms (as the NYT put it).

We're told that these complaints about Kaplan coincided with her response to Andrew Cuomo's request for her advice on how to fight allegations that he had committed sexual harassment. Interesting. I think Andrew Cuomo is due for a comeback. He should — as rumored — run for mayor of NYC. Perhaps Kaplan can help. Rehabilitate yourself and him in one grand endeavor.

"Could students take their college professor out to Chipotle for an end-of-term celebration? And if so..."

"... would it somehow become criminal to take the professor for a steak dinner? Or to treat her to a Hoosiers game?"

Wrote Justice Kavanaugh, quoted in "Corruption Law Allows Gifts to State and Local Officials, Supreme Court Rules/The court, which has limited the sweep of several anti-corruption laws, distinguished after-the-fact rewards from before-the-fact bribes" (NYT).

The alleged gratuity in the actual case was money — $13,000. The federal statute, §666 — to quote the opinion — "makes it a crime for state or  to 'corruptly' solicit, accept, accept, or agree to accept 'anything of value from any person, intending to be influenced or rewarded' for an official act." Importantly, federal law subjects federal officials to 2 different provisions, one for bribes and the other for gratuities, with a much lower sentence for corrupt gratuities. As for the non-corrupt gratuities, where is the line drawn?

The NYT reminds us that Clarence Thomas has received "luxury travel and gifts from the Texas billionaire and conservative donor Harlan Crow."

June 26, 2024

Sunrise — 4:49, 4:50, 5:05, 5:11, 5:17, 5:18.







This was one of the most beautiful and varied sunrises we've seen. Ordinarily when there's vivid color half an hour before sunrise — as in the first photo — it fades to gray by sunrise. This kept the bright color show going. And I liked how the texture changed from rough to fuzzy. Another nice feature was the intermittent gentle rain. And here's a picture Meade took of me at 4:52:

"Despite their courage and great sacrifice, thousands of LGBTQI+ service members were forced out of the military because of their sexual orientation or gender identity."

"Many of these patriotic Americans were subject to a court-martial. While my Administration has taken meaningful action to remedy these problems, the impact of that historical injustice remains. As Commander in Chief, I am committed to maintaining the finest fighting force in the world. That means making sure that every member of our military feels safe and respected. Accordingly, acting pursuant to the grant of authority in Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution of the United States, I, Joseph R. Biden Jr., do hereby grant a full, complete, and unconditional pardon to persons convicted of unaggravated offenses based on consensual, private conduct with persons age 18 and older under former Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), as previously codified at 10 U.S.C. 925, as well as attempts, conspiracies, and solicitations to commit such acts under Articles 80, 81, and 82, UCMJ, 10 U.S.C. 880, 881, 882...."

"Writing for the majority, Justice Amy Coney Barrett said companies such as Facebook and YouTube have long-standing content-moderation policies that place warning labels on certain posts and delete others."

"The challengers, Barrett wrote, did not demonstrate that the companies’ actions to remove posts were traceable to the government. Barrett said a lower court got it wrong when it 'glossed over complexities in the evidence' by attributing to the Biden administration every company decision to remove or moderate content. 'While the record reflects that the Government defendants played a role in at least some of the platforms’ moderation choices, the evidence indicates that the platforms had independent incentives to moderate content and often exercised their own judgment,' she wrote."

From "Supreme Court allows White House contacts with social media firmsIn a 6-3 ruling, the majority said the challengers did not have legal grounds — or standing — to bring the case against the Biden administration" (WaPo).

ADDED: Here's the NYT piece, by Adam Liptak.

"Among many Americans, [Biden] is blamed for wars started by other countries that national security veterans nonetheless credit him with navigating maturely..."

"... despite their own criticisms. He has not found a message on the economy that resonates more than the price of milk and eggs. Neither his persona nor his vision travel on today’s hyperactive, hypersonic, hyper-sensational social media the way that former President Donald J. Trump’s do. TikTok voters are not checking Mr. Biden’s legislative scorecard. 'It doesn’t mean a lot now because we’re in such a performative age,” said former Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia.... 'He’s just not equipped in this era we’re in of social media and constant scrutiny. The tools and attributes and talents that he may have had just don’t quite fit or lend themselves to the era we’re in.'"

From "Joe Biden: The Old-School Politician in a New-School Era/After more than half a century in Washington, President Biden has learned to make deals and work across the aisle. But that instinct is rarely rewarded in today’s political climate" (by Peter Baker in the NYT).

Remember Eric Cantor?

"Health officials in the Biden administration pressed an international group of medical experts to remove age limits for adolescent surgeries from guidelines for care of transgender minors..."

"... according to newly unsealed court documents. Age minimums, officials feared, could fuel growing political opposition to such treatments.... If and when teenagers should be allowed to undergo transgender treatments and surgeries has become a raging debate within the political world.... The draft guidelines, released in late 2021, recommended lowering the age minimums to 14 for hormonal treatments, 15 for mastectomies, 16 for breast augmentation or facial surgeries, and 17 for genital surgeries or hysterectomies. The proposed age limits were eliminated in the final guidelines outlining standards of care, spurring concerns within the international group and with outside experts as to why the age proposals had vanished.... One excerpt... stated that [assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services Rachel] Levine 'was very concerned that having ages (mainly for surgery) will affect access to care for trans youth and maybe adults, too. Apparently the situation in the U.S.A. is terrible and she and the Biden administration worried that having ages in the document will make matters worse. She asked us to remove them.'"

From "Biden Officials Pushed to Remove Age Limits for Trans Surgery, Documents Show/Newly released emails from an influential group issuing transgender medical guidelines indicate that U.S. health officials lobbied to remove age minimums for surgery in minors because of concerns over political fallout" (NYT).

"Paramount Erases Archives of MTV Website, Wipes Music, Culture History After 30 Plus Years."

 Headline at Roger Friedman's Showbiz 411.

All that’s left is a placeholder site for reality shows. The M in MTV – music — is gone, and so is all the reporting and all the journalism performed by music and political writers ever written. It’s as if MTV never existed. (It’s the same for VH1.com, all gone.)... 
MTV News became a force in music, entertainment, and politics in the early 90s. As the channel’s popularity soared, the News division — including the faces of Kurt Loder, Alison Stewart, Serena Altschul, Sway, and John Norris — became incredibly important especially to political campaigns. Now all those interviews — hundreds of thousands of hours with rock stars and what we now call influencers of generations — have been replaced by a link to “Help! I’m in a Secret Relationship.”...

There is fury among MTV.com writers past and present who now see their histories erased, along with all the music and political reporting....

The Fungus of Yesterday — an update.


It was funnier yesterday, here.

"In the event of a thunderstorm, the beach is a very dangerous place to be. So if you feel things like a wind shift, if it’s fluttering back and forth between hot and cold..."

"... you see the clouds, you hear little rumbles of thunder — those are signs to get off the beach.... By definition, every thunderstorm contains lightning. Therefore, every thunderstorm is potentially dangerous"/"Lightning is always looking for the easiest path from cloud-to-ground.... On a wide open beach — with no trees, buildings, or structures around — a person can often be the most effective conductor around."

Advice from a lifeguards and a weatherman, quoted in "Man Dies After Being Struck By Lightning While Trying To Get Kids Off Beach During Thunderstorm/Patrick Dispoto, 59, died after being struck by lightning in Seaside Park, N.J., on Sunday, June 23" (People).

"Vance isn’t good looking enough for Trump. He looks like a forgotten Civil War brigadier."

Said Bret Stephens, in "Which V.P. Pick Will Help Trump Win? Four Columnists Rate the Field" (NYT).

There's also this, from Michelle Goldberg: "[J.D. Vance is] a completely amoral sycophant without an independent political base, which I think is what Trump is probably looking for."

I guess it will be Vance, then, don't you think? 

Since Trump, upon election, will be a lame duck, I think his prime concern should be who will be best able to carry Trumpism forward into the 2028 election and beyond. In that light, isn't Vance the right pick?

Do you realize that J.D. Vance is only 39?

"Jamaal Bowman was a Democratic Trump. Now he’s gone. It’s an encouraging sign that there is a critical mass on the left who can say: Stop."

That's the headline at WaPo... for a column by Dana Milbank.

This is the story of two New York demagogues. Both men have a history of bigotry, bullying, law breaking, promoting bogus conspiracy theories, engaging in obscene public rants and playing the martyr.

One, embraced by the Republican Party, became president and may well become president again. The other, kept at arm’s length by the Democratic Party, was dumped by Democratic voters in a congressional primary Tuesday night.

Obscene? Milbank notes that Trump has been saying "bullshit," "shitty," "scum," and "son of a bitch," whereas Bowman just had a rally where he said "We are going to show fucking AIPAC the power of the motherfucking South Bronx! … We’re going to show them who the fuck we are!"

ADDED: I would think the biggest problem with "We are going to show fucking AIPAC the power of the motherfucking South Bronx" is that Bowman's district is the north Bronx (along with the southern half of Westchester County).

"For decades, Democrats in New York and across the country have succeeded when they hold together a coalition of Black, Latino and Jewish voters, young people and..."

"... the ideologically liberal of all stripes. The race between ['Squad' member Jamaal] Bowman and [George] Latimer showed how badly that coalition has cracked — by race, class and age — and just how much work President Biden will need to do ahead of November.... Mr. Bowman, who is Black, openly campaigned as the candidate of the working class, progressives and people of color. He called Mr. Latimer, who is white, a candidate for the wealthy suburban class. And he alienated many Jewish voters with harsh criticism of Israel and comments like one suggesting 'the Jews' in his district had intentionally chosen to live apart from other people. Mr. Latimer, in turn, portrayed the incumbent as a sideshow, preoccupied with making his name and playing an 'ethnic game.' He repeatedly made racially coded comments that fed Mr. Bowman’s case, including by suggesting that the congressman did not care about voters 'who are not Black or brown.'"

I'm reading "5 Takeaways From Jamaal Bowman’s Loss/The congressman, who lost to George Latimer, was the first 'squad' member to fall, in a painful defeat for the Democratic left" (NYT)(free access link, so you can see the other 4 takeaways, one of which is about that "haunt[ing]" fire alarm).

The phrase that caught my attention is "how much work President Biden will need to do ahead of November." Biden is supposed to bring these diverse groups together after so many decades of using them as separate blocs and expecting them to vote the same way in the end? Biden can barely do a minimal job of appearing to be a candidate for reelection. How could he perform this magical task in the last 4 months?

June 25, 2024

At the Milkweed Café...


... you can talk all night.


"For two hours, she talked about the civil rights movement and faith. And finally, she mentioned her old flame Bob Dylan."

"The singer-songwriter first proposed to Staples after a kiss at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival; she hid from him during a show at the Apollo decades later, fearing he’d ask again. They’ve remained friends, even taking daily strolls during a 2016 tour together. She’d heard rumors he would soon retire, finally wrapping his fabled Never Ending Tour. Staples knew he would hate it. 'Oh, Bobby: He gotta keep on singing,' Staples said. 'I could handle it more than him. I will call him and say, "Don’t retire, Bobby. You don’t know what you’re doing."'... Soon after Dylan’s proposal, Staples instead married a Chicago mortician; it was a quarrelsome relationship that ended when she changed their apartment locks. 'I married an undertaker, and that was the worst. They don’t have no feelings,' she said, deadpan...."

From "Mavis Staples Is an American Institution. She’s Not Done Singing Yet. After more than seven decades onstage, the gospel and soul great decided last year that it was time to retire. Then she realized she still had work to do" (NYT)(free access link).

"To anyone watching closely, it’s been obvious that Obama has been thinking about where he fits in today’s political mêlée and working on his public tone."

"When he joined Biden and Clinton in New York, the trio sat for a podcast interview in which Obama brought an I-can’t-believe-this-stuff-really-needs-to-be-said intonation to his explanations of the complications of the presidency and global affairs. Onstage at Radio City, after catching up with Biden on Air Force One, he took on the role of chief cheerleader.... Obama has felt most comfortable sticking to familiar themes, and though he has met with social-media influencers, he is also likely to appear in plenty of tried-and-true ads and behind lecterns on swing-state campuses.... ... Obama now comes across as having concluded that no radical rethink is necessary for his own conception of political progress or mass movements.... Obama wanted the donors to remember that 'despite having been out of office for a while, I am still the hopey-changey guy.'"

Writes Gabriel Debenedetti, in "What Obama Is Whispering to Biden/The presidents’ plan to save their legacy from Trump" (New York Magazine).

I enjoyed the profusion of diacritical marks on "mêlée." I might have done the accent aigu. But the circumflex! That is downright ornate. I approve.

Here's the Wikipedia article "Melee":
A melee... French: mêlée... or pell-mell is disorganized hand-to-hand combat in battles fought at abnormally close range with little central control once it starts.

Here's a painting from 1855 that depicts a melee that took place in 1632 (killing the King of Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus): 

But of course there's an extended use. To quote the OED "a disagreement or contention; a confused or heated debate among many participants; a throng." I was going to say, don't confuse "melee" with "medley," but the OED goes on to with that extended use and says "A confusion, jumble; a medley, a mixture." That's rather tame. It's hard to think of the King of Sweden going into that 1632 melee, but easy to picture our hopey-changey guy inserting himself into the melee that is the election of 2024.

"On Tuesday, Judge Juan Merchan loosened the gag order’s conditions, allowing Trump to publicly comment..."

"... on the witnesses that testified in the trial as well as members of the jury.... Under the new ruling, Trump will be able to speak about the trial’s key witnesses, including his former attorney Michael Cohen and adult-film star Stormy Daniels.... Trump will not be allowed to identify individual jurors or disclose any information about them...."

It's good to remove this chill on Trump's speech, especially with the debate coming up.

"I know the excruciating pressure of walking onto that stage and that it is nearly impossible to focus on substance when Mr. Trump is involved...."

"It is a waste of time to try to refute Mr. Trump’s arguments like in a normal debate. It’s nearly impossible... to identify what his arguments even are. He starts with nonsense and then digresses into blather. This has gotten only worse in the years since we debated.... Mr. Trump may rant and rave in part because he wants to avoid giving straight answers about his unpopular positions.... He interrupts and bullies... because he wants to appear dominant and throw his opponent off balance.... In 90-minute mock debates on an identical stage, I practiced keeping my cool in the face of hard questions and outright lies about my record and character.... Unfortunately, Mr. Biden starts from a disadvantage because there’s no way he can spend as much time preparing as I did eight years ago.... Mr. Biden is one of the most empathetic leaders we’ve ever had. Listen to how sincerely he talks.... Mr. Trump can’t do that because he cares only about himself.... ... Mr. Biden is a wise and decent man...."

Writes Hillary Clinton, in "Opinion | Hillary Clinton: I’ve Debated Trump and Biden. Here’s What I’m Watching For" (NYT).

It's actually not hard to understand Trump. He does switch in different topics, and that could throw his opponent off balance, but it's not hard for the home audience to follow. His rally crowds get him, easily. If you hate him, it may indeed be "nearly impossible to focus on substance," and then you won't understand him. That's a plus for him as a debater. He gets to communicate fluently with the voters, at least the ones who aren't dead-set against him, and flummox his opponent, who, apparently, is supposed to dump endless time into practicing not losing his cool. Meanwhile, is Trump even practicing at all? I don't think he is. He may be brushing up on the facts and the policies, but his debate style is instinctive, and his opponents don't even know if he's going to do the acting-presidential routine or unleash some chaotic force-of-nature attack.

"No music, no streaming, no snacking, no sleep."

"'Raw-dogging' has become the buzziest travel trend of the summer, seeing stealth plane passengers forgo the modern comforts of flying to stare at either the in-flight map or nothing at all during lengthy trips."

This gets my "meditation" tag.

Fungus of the Day.


Ben Shapiro is disgusted by what may or may not be humor.

 "I don't know whether that's parody or whether that's real," says Ben after watching a TikTok. "Either way, it's the end of our civilization, because some of what this person is saying is absolutely true. Do you think that Gen Z is qualified to defend the country in any serious way — mentally, physically, emotionally? I don't either."

Here's Ben, watching the TikTok:

"Among causes of deaths, birth defects showed a 23% increase, compared to a decrease of about 3% in the rest of the U.S."

"The Texas law blocks abortions after the detection of cardiac activity, usually five or six weeks into pregnancy, well before tests are done to detect fetal abnormalities."

From "Infant mortality rate rose 8% in wake of Texas abortion ban, study shows" (AP).

When I first saw that headline, I thought people who didn't want their babies were murdering them, but it seems to be about babies with "defects" that are called "birth defects" when the babies — who might have been aborted for "fetal abnormalities" — are born.

The article quotes Suzanne Bell, a fertility researcher: "I think these findings make clear the potentially devastating consequences that abortion bans can have." It's not clear to me what the "devastating consequences" are. Isn't it devastating to lose a baby that you want, whether it is lost before birth or shortly after? Bell must mean that it is devastating to be forced to continue with pregnancy and childbirth when you know your child is doomed, even though that is what some women do.

"We tell the Ukrainians, 'You've got to come to the table, and if you don't come to the table, support from the United States will dry up.'"

"And you tell Putin, 'He's got to come to the table and if you don't come to the table, then we'll give Ukrainians everything they need to kill you in the field.'"

Said retired Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg, one of Trump's national security advisers, quoted in "Exclusive: Trump handed plan to halt US military aid to Kyiv unless it talks peace with Moscow" (Reuters)("The core elements of the plan were outlined in a publicly available research paper published by the America First Policy Institute, a Trump-friendly think tank....").

"Regardless of the views that people have about Julian Assange and his activities, the case has dragged on for too long..."

"... there is nothing to be gained by his continued incarceration and we want him brought home to Australia."

Said Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese, quoted in "Julian Assange leaves UK after striking deal with US justice department/It is anticipated the WikiLeaks founder will plead guilty to violating US espionage law at a hearing in Saipan and will be allowed to return to Australia" (The Guardian).
Under the deal, which must be approved by a judge, Assange is likely to be credited for the five years he has already served and face no new jail time....

"Passing AI images off as real ones for the sake of commercial or political gain should be prosecuted as fraud."

"The severity of the penalties should match the level of risk that disseminating these images poses to our society; i.e., they should be extreme."

That is the top-rated comment — by a lot — at "A.I. Is Getting Better Fast. Can You Tell What’s Real Now?" (NYT)(free access link)(take the test/I got 7 out of 10).

How terribly punitive and repressive, and yet, isn't it what you've come to expect from the segment of America that reads the New York Times?

Notice the aggression mixed with passivity. The comment-writer doesn't want to face the challenge of becoming more perceptive and skeptical dealing with the onslaught of A.I. images. They want the government to do the dirty work and do it good and hard.

The comment gets a response from someone who at least says the words "First Amendment": "the first amendment protects even speech that is a lie. If these images should be prosecuted as fraud, so should Donald Trump's outright lies." There's already selective prosecution of Donald Trump — and civil suits costing him hundreds of millions — and this commenter wants even more of it. And I suspect that the first commenter envisioned their political enemies getting the worst of those "extreme" penalties that "match the level of risk."

June 24, 2024

Sunrise — 5:13, 5:21.



"Cycling when it's raining and cold doesn't always make you want to cycle, so I said to myself why not put a roof on the bike and, as we thought about it, we arrived at this concept."

Says the inventor of the Karbike, quoted in "Meet the Karbike: not just an e-bike, but not quite a car/And the French see a role for it in the mobility landscape" (autoblog). 

Does this belong in the bike lane? It's what you want in the bike lane if you're driving a car and in the car lane if you're riding a bike.

I like the video because the music is so inappropriate.

The panic shows.

"CNN abruptly takes Trump campaign spokeswoman off the air mid-interview as network is set to host first presidential debate" (NY Post)(video at link).
CNN abruptly cut Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt from the air Monday morning.... Anchor Kasie Hunt pulled the plug just minutes after the interview got underway after asking Leavitt what former President Donald Trump’s strategy was for when he takes to the stage in Atlanta, Ga. on Thursday.... 
The spokeswoman... noted the debate stage would likely be a “hostile environment” for her boss – and accused CNN’s debate moderators, co-hosts Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, of biased coverage of him in the past....
In overreacting to the mention of CNN bias, CNN's Hunt showed bias. Now, we're all looking at this clip, and I doubt if much of anyone was watching whatever little CNN show that was. I had to look it up: "CNN This Morning with Kasie Hunt." But maybe that helps CNN. I believe the show has about 50,000 viewers, and there are sure to be Trump haters who love this plug-pull.

"Supreme Court Will Hear Challenge to Tennessee Law Banning Transition Care for Minors."

The NYT reports.

The Biden administration had asked the justices to take up the case, United States v. Skrmetti, arguing that the measure outlaws treatment for gender dysphoria in youths and “frames that prohibition in explicitly sex-based terms.”

In the government’s petition to the court, Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar wrote that the law bans transgender medical care but that it “leaves the same treatments entirely unrestricted if they are prescribed for any other purpose.”...

"As I applied the nightly serum, I remembered the description, by philosopher Clare Chambers in her book, Intact: A Defence of the Unmodified Body, of 'shametenance'..."

"... all the things we do (like applying 'natural makeup') that contribute to the idea that our unmodified bodies are shameful, that even our ageing eyelids must be fixed.... And then one night I had a terrible dream that my eyelashes had grown too long. They were like a dark black fringe, blinding me, and I woke in a sweat. Shortly after this, I started to read about experts warning of potential side-effects linked to eyelash growth serums, including 'a permanent change in eye colour,' dark circles under the eyes and 'a sunken effect.' At this point my lashes had grown longer, definitely longer, but also spidery and fine...."

From "All of a flutter: how eyelashes became beauty’s biggest business/The eyelash business is worth $1.66bn – and is predicted to grow from there. Why are we so obsessed with our lashes? Eva Wiseman reports on their history and significance" (The Guardian).

That article continues with various other eyelash treatments, so I go looking for more on Clare Chambers and "shametenance." I find this from last year: "A Defense of the Unmodified Body: Clare Chambers Interview/We spoke to the acclaimed Cambridge philosopher Clare Chambers about her new book, Intact, which examines and critiques the urge to alter or ‘perfect’ our bodies." Excerpt:

"Fat Beach Day... is being held to coincide with Pride month at Jacob Riis Beach in New York, a location deeply ensconced in the city’s activism space..."

I'm reading "New York’s Fat Beach Day gives plus-size people a space to be themselves/Jacob Riis Beach hosts the day of body positivity and fun, in the city at the heart of the fat acceptance movement" (The Guardian).

I didn't know that fat acceptance was part of what Pride month is about or that New York had something it wanted to call its "activism space." 
... New York has, for decades, been at the heart of the fat acceptance movement. In the 1960s, about 500 protesters held a “fat-in” in Central Park, burning diet books and photographs of the supermodel Twiggy, to publicly encourage body positivity and liberation.... 
Jacob Riis Beach is named after Jacob Riis, the "Danish-American social reformer, 'muckraking' journalist, and social documentary photographer" (Wikipedia). There is some criticism of Riis, you know. This doesn't have to do with fatness. The people in Riis's photographs were skinny — poor people living in tenements.

"I go up a canyon, down a canyon to the next waterfall and sit down by the waterfall and drink water out of my boot."

Said Lukas McClish, 34, quoted in "Calif. hiker missing in Santa Cruz mountains for 10 days drank a gallon of water out of boot daily to survive" (NY Post).

We're told he "didn’t even put on a shirt when he began his hike on June 11 that was supposed to last only three hours before he quickly couldn’t find his way and was reported missing six days later when he didn’t show up for a Father’s Day dinner."

Does this story make sense? Why a gallon of water? Why was he trekking up and down canyons? 

Fungus of the Day.


I think this is Trametes versicolor, AKA turkey tail.

"Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, last week dropped most of the 46 cases against pro-Palestinian demonstrators charged..."

"... in the April 30 siege of Hamilton Hall at Columbia University because prosecutors had little proof that the cases would stand up at trial. There was limited video footage of what took place inside the campus building.... The protesters wore masks and covered security cameras, preventing prosecutors from identifying those who had barricaded the doors and smashed chairs, desks and windows during the 17-hour occupation.... For similar reasons, prosecutors also dismissed charges against nine of the 22 students and staff members at City College who were arrested inside a campus building and charged with burglary during a protest that took place on the same night as the arrests at Hamilton Hall."

The NYT reports.

"Representative Jerrold Nadler, also a Democrat and the longest-serving Jewish member of the House of Representatives, said he had 'the uttermost faith in D.A. Bragg.'"

AND: What deep emotions stirred within Nadler that caused him to... utter... the strange word "uttermost"? My instinct was to regard it as not a word at all, but a whiffed attempt at "utmost." But I looked it up, and it's a word. The OED has it used by Hobbes ("From the uttermost parts of the Earth") and Milton ("To the uttermost convex Of this great Round") and Shelley ("From the corners uttermost Of the bounds of English coast") and Wordsworth ("A voice of uttermost joy") and Ruskin ("To speak with uttermost truth of expression") and Carlyle ("His accounts lie all ready, correct in black-on-white to the uttermost farthing"). Yes, I can answer my question "What deep emotions...?" The answer: the urge to bullshit.

"More than 1,300 people died making the Islamic pilgrimage of hajj in Saudi Arabia this month..."

"... the vast majority of whom the Saudi government said did not have permits.... While pilgrims with permits are transported around the holy city of Mecca in air-conditioned buses and rest in air-conditioned tents, unregistered ones are often exposed to the elements... [walking miles] as temperatures surpassed 120 degrees.... Entry to Mecca was barred weeks before hajj for visitors who did not have permits. Yet many pilgrims were able to evade the restrictions, arriving in Mecca early and hiding out, or paying smugglers to ferry them into the city...."

The NYT reports.

Two of the dead were Americans, a couple from Maryland, who spent $23,000 on the trip but did not have the permits. The article ends with a quote from their daughter, the classic statement: "They died doing exactly what they wanted to do."

June 23, 2024

Sunrise — 5:06, 5:18, 5:32, 5:43.





"Freedom is everything. Freedom is everything. The first freedom, I guess, is your health."

"Then freedom to think, to express yourself. Financial freedom. If you are true to yourself, you are free.... I’m true to myself. I mean, sometimes I feel insecure. Sometimes I feel like a fucking loser, and I say, 'I’m a loser!' But only losers don’t feel like losers."

Said Diane von Furstenberg, quoted in the New Yorker interview, "Diane von Furstenberg Will See You Now/The fashion icon is still starring in the story of her life, dispensing wisdom on our age of prudishness, the 'three types of women,' and why 'only losers don’t feel like losers.'"

The 3 types of women are — she's a fashion designer — "women who like to show their waist, women who like to be loose, and women who like to be very tight, like a sausage."

"Elon, just because someone has a form (which anyone can find online) doesn’t mean you become a registered voter merely by filling it out."

Obviously, the question is how are those checks working out?

"So if your parents don’t want you, I’ll take you."

That little video was taken at this event: "Trump goes to Tony & Nick’s for a cheesesteak, completing a Philly trilogy/This was Trump's third cheesesteak stop in Philly at three different shops. That may be a record for a presumptive presidential nominee" (Philadelphia Inquirer)("it was unclear whether Trump ordered his steak 'wit' or 'witout'").

I am one of the deciders, but I took this WaPo test anyway.

Kind of surprising, isn't that?

Here, take the test yourself, at "Do swing-state voters share your priorities? Answer these 8 questions to find out" (free access link).

"Nostalgia for the Trump-era geopolitical landscape seems entirely reasonable: Before his defeat there was no Russian invasion of Ukraine, no brutal struggle in the Holy Land..."

"... and a weaker alignment of anti-American powers rather than the increasing consolidation by our rivals in Moscow and Beijing and Tehran and even Pyongyang. The Biden administration would obviously deny responsibility for these deteriorations.... But I... think that liberal investment in the idea of Biden as the great defender of the liberal international order against isolationism and reaction has made it hard for Democrats to reckon with how much more stability the American-led order seemed to enjoy under the crudely transactional machtpolitik of Trump. That contrast means that if there is a positive case for Biden’s foreign policy, it can’t just be made with rote warnings about how Trump will unravel NATO and let our enemies run roughshod — not when those enemies seem so much more aggressive under Biden than before."

Writes Ross Douthat, in "The Biden and Trump Weaknesses That Don’t Get Enough Attention" (NYT).

"Biden doesn’t need a long list of derisive assaults. Just a few. I bet Trump would take the bait."

"In the first debate of the 2020 campaign, Biden took a slap at Trump when the former reality TV host wouldn’t stop interrupting: 'Would you shut up, man? This is so unpresidential.' He also referred to Trump as a 'clown' and a 'racist.' Biden was able to be sharp in his parries with Trump. Belittling him could yield the best payback."

Writes David Corn, in "Here’s How Biden Could Rattle Trump in Their First Debate" (Mother Jones).

There's always this idea of getting under the other guy's skin. Is Trump really someone you can "bait" and "rattle"? 

Here's my post from September 30, 2020, just after the first debate, "Biden tried to aggravate Trump by calling him 'man' over and over."

"The FBI crime statistics Biden is pushing are fake. They’re fake just like everything else in this administration."

Said Donald Trump, quoted in "Trump’s sledgehammer message to Philadelphia is light on facts, heavy on fear/The former president used his first rally in the city of brotherly love to tie violent crime with illegal immigration, despite the evidence against this."

Why does Trump say the FBI is getting it wrong? I found this from last April in the Washington Examiner: "Bad data from the FBI mislead about crime."