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August 08, 2022

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Two episodes into the Netflix adaptation of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman comic series, and so far it has been a fantastic transition from page to screen. Important because his (and Pratchett's) Good Omens adaptation was fantastic, but the adaptation of his American Gods novel a few years back was uneven and seemed to miss a lot of what I loved about the novel.

I started reading The Sandman in 1991 and it had a profound influence on me. It was the first comic book that I could point to and say "this is quality literature." It was also an early part of my wife's and my courtship. I loaned all of my graphic novels to her even before we had started dating, and we spent a lot of time together discussing it in email.

Hoping this quality keeps up. It's a fantastic story full of wonder and heartbreak, intertextual and full of thought provoking metanarrative tendencies.


Who vants to talk about vat? is an excellent starting point for an open thread.

I've never read a graphic novel; I bought Maus when it was first published, but then gave it away almost immediately to a visiting cousin whose mother was a holocaust survivor. In fact, I pretty much never read anything about the holocaust, because I'm scared that certain "images" would live in my head - this has actually happened when I have lunged too late for the radio and heard graphic things I can never forget. I managed Gitta Sereny's book about Speer, because due to Speer's actual role it contained almost no truly horrifying descriptions, but I never dared to read her book about Stangl, Into that Darkness despite my extreme admiration for her, because I knew I would not be able to stand it.

I liked the sound of Persepolis, but somehow never got round to reading it, and The Sandman seemed too big an enterprise by the time I actually heard about it. So I am going to come to The Sandman in innocence. But I am nervous, in case I don't like it. I hope its distillation is not too complicated for someone who doesn't know the series (which I have purposely not done any reading about). I did enjoy Good Omens, so that is at least encouraging.

Have you never then read Primo Levi, GFTNC ?
A formative experience for me.

Did not dare, Nigel.

The FBI have raided Mar-a-Lago!

More importantly, the Senate passed a climate change bill.
Severely compromised in some ways, thanks to Manchin/Sinema, but far better than nothing.

Yes, that is more important in the long run. But I reacted in the moment to what seemed fairly dramatic news. I only hope he hadn't already destroyed what they were looking for.

Further on Primo Levi, Nigel, I do realise that this is a significant loss for me. I have read interviews with him, and realise that testimony from such a writer is priceless, and necessary. I just couldn't risk it. And, while I visited Israel many times during my parents' retirement there, I never went to Yad Vashem either. I was stronger in my youth - I can no longer (and have not been able to for some years) risk the indelible imprint of certain things on my mind. I am not proud of this. I think it is a weakness, or fault. But there it is.

The FBI have raided Mar-a-Lago!

I am contrite. I thought you were having us on. But it appears that you merely get more timely news than we do.

Considering what kind of case you have to make to even get a search warrant these days (for a rich old white guy, not a poor colored guy), I'd say things for Trump are going sideways at an increasing rate. In fact, I'd venture to predict that he makes his announcement about 2024 before the end of the week. In the (misguided) belief that this will somehow protect him from criminal charges.

I've read a lot of rough reading about war and interpersonal violence. I feel as if it's a sort of personal duty to bear witness and to provide a window into it for those that I teach.

The Sandman does have its moments. He is the King of Dreams after all, and that includes nightmares and the things that continue to haunt us in our waking hours. But the story really does do an excellent job of balancing that with beauty and wonder. It will break your heart, but it never leaves you broken. It is ultimately quite humane in a way that could not be achieved without the darkness that runs through it.

- I can no longer (and have not been able to for some years) risk the indelible imprint of certain things on my mind. I am not proud of this. I think it is a weakness, or fault. But there it is.

*I* think it is pretty impressive, both that you know yourself well enough to know this about yourself. And that you have the courage to refuse to go and damage yourself. When, I'm sure, there is significant social pressure on you to go.

No, no, I wasn't worried about that aspect of the Sandman! Only that it would be hard to follow for us virgins.

I know what you mean about having a duty, in my case obviously not as a teacher but as a human being, to bear witness to what humans are capable of, and for the victims. But I can no longer do my duty.

I took a class on forgiveness in the Peace Studies program at UMaine 20+ years ago. The first book we read was Simon Wiesenthal's The Sunflower. I also read Primo Levi's The Periodic Table on my own.

But the book involving the Holocaust that made immeasurably the most impact on me was Sophie's Choice. My own kids were little at the time, and that juxtaposition was the single thing that made me understand that the Holocaust wasn't some kind of story from the mists of the past, it was a thing that had happened in everyday life to ordinary people just like me and my own kids.

The experience of reading that book changed my understanding of life profoundly.

I have neither avoided nor sought out other books about the Holocaust. What I can't imagine is visiting one of the camps. I barely got through Harpers Ferry and Ellis Island in one piece....

I agree with nous that I think it's important for me to bear witness when I can. But also think it's important to give ourselves the grace not to try to do what we can't. From Marge Piercy's Woman on the Edge of Time: "Person must not do what person cannot do."

Plus, life goes on from one day to the next, and hatever we can or want to do for other people or the world, we are more capable the more in one piece we are.

***GftNC's 8:34 has appeared while I've been writing this. Again, I don't think you should beat yourself up like that. It is not your duty to harm yourself when you are as sure as you can be that no good will come of it to balance the harm. We all do what we can.

I've read Primo Levi, because one must. But otherwise I avoid holocaust literature: I don't want to be entertained by it and I think I know enough of the facts.

My father's parents came from the Pale of Settlement a hundred and twenty years ago. I have no living relatives there. That is the holocaust.

After his conviction, Franz Stangl spent six months in prison in 1971, where he was interviewed by Sereny, before he died. His deputy, Gustav Wagner was never imprisoned, and nor was Bishop Alois Hudal, who helped them escape to Brazil after the war. That is not justice.

Thank you, wj. It's not social pressure, it's self-imposed. I have a high standard for right action, and where I cannot meet it myself it is uncomfortable to say the least. But as I say, there it is.

Onward and upward: contemplating the prospect of incriminating documents in the broken-into safe at Mar-a-Lago will be a fine distraction!

I think the show is doing an admirable job of building an accessible world. If it follows the course laid out by the comic it will unfurl its long narrative arc a bit at a time while holding us with shorter, more intimate story arcs. Think this first season is covering two of the smaller arcs.

I read Maus in ‘91 or ‘92 as well, loaned to me as part of a different, earlier courtship.

Persepolis is also excellent, and the animated film adaptation is on par with the graphic novel if you want the story without as demanding a time commitment.

Aiy, for some reason Pro Bono's comment made me remember that in my much earlier life I read The White Hotel. I have for the most part blocked out the memory of it as much as I can for reasons that GftNC has already articulated.

Thank you Janie, and my rational mind agrees with you.

Stangl died of a heart attack less than 24 hours after his last interview with Sereny, in which he had finally admitted guilt. And Speer finally admitted to her that he had known what was happening, which would have condemned him to death at Nuremberg. She was a remarkable interviewer and writer, her books on Mary Bell the child murderer were fascinating and illuminating.

I think when you’re younger, you have more psychic headroom for dark things. Mostly because, at least in most cases, you haven’t lived them, or at least haven’t fully absorbed and understood what their consequences can be. They are, relatively speaking, academic.

Nobody is obliged to expose themselves to darkness. It’s not good to hide from it, but I doubt that’s the case for GFTNC.

I read Timothy Snyder’s “Bloodlands” and “Black Earth” a year or so ago. That’ll hold me for a while.

The FBI have raided Mar-a-Lago!

The good news is that it shows that the Justice Department is willing to investigate Trump, and isn't treating Trump as effectively above the law just because he is a former President.

The difficulty is that the Justice Department isn't talking about the search, so essentially all of our information about it comes from Donald Trump. This is the type of story the right loves. There's very little solid information about the raid, leaving lots of space to embellish the story with made up facts. At the same time, there is an undeniable fact at the center of the story--the FBI did search Trump's residence--so that the story cannot be dismissed as a complete fabrication.

Alan Dershowitz, for example, went on Fox News and Newsmax saying that the search might not be justified, depending on the facts used to justify the search. Other right wing media reported on these appearances with headlines like, “Alan Dershowitz rips FBI raid on Trump, raises legal questions about how it was conducted.” Of course the judge who issued the search warrant knows the facts used to justify the warrant, and Dershowitz doesn't, but that doesn't stop the right wing media from turning baseless speculation into a cause for outrage.

Trump put out a press release about the search, presumably because he believed that the search would help him politically. And with much of the right wing media at his beck and call, he is probably right about that, at least in terms of helping him win the Republican primary if he runs again.

*I* think it is pretty impressive, both that you know yourself well enough to know this about yourself. And that you have the courage to refuse to go and damage yourself. When, I'm sure, there is significant social pressure on you to go.

Agreed.
If I gave the impression of adding to such pressure, I apologise.

Trump put out a press release about the search, presumably because he believed that the search would help him politically.

But his base really cares a lot about protecting classified information. Don't remember how upset they were about Hillary Clinton's email server?

No apology necessary, Nigel, I didn't take it that way.

The difficulty is that the Justice Department isn't talking about the search, so essentially all of our information about it comes from Donald Trump.

It's a feature of the system. Police simply don't make statements mid-investigation, except to the extend necessary to try to get witnesses, etc., to come forward. Mostly, that is to protect the potentially innocent targets of the investigation. There can, after all, be a lot of initial suspects who need to be investigated and cleared along the way.

And Grand Jury investigations, which this was part of, are even less public, until the indictments get handed down.

Trump, who seems to have a short enough attention span that he focuses mostly on the next news cycle, can milk this secrecy. But an attempt like this to "frame the story" isn't a long term steategy. At least, not if there is any substance to the investigation. Which, from how frantically Trump has been reacting, there seems to be. (Yes, I know nobody here thought otherwise. But Trump's reaction suggests that he thinks there might be enough to convince a jury, which is a whole different level of proof.)

The DOJ and FBI wouldn't have entered into this fraught of a situation if they didn't have him dead to rights. Everyone knew it was going to be a political sh*t show and not something take lightly in the slightest.

If we have to wait until the right can't make a shit show about something we do, we might as well hand the keys over to them right now. People on BJ have been saying that Clickbait could release the warrant if he wanted to, so we'd have some actual factual information, and gee, apparently he doesn't want to.

I wonder why!

And it's not like Garland has been running the kind of DoJ-as-theater operation that Trump embraced. If he had been, something like this would have happened ling since.

Marina Hyde on the raid:

“These are dark times for our Nation,” began an overnight statement by the former president, talking like a Star Wars opening crawl. Trump went on to say his property was “under siege”, which feels a little histrionic. Surely this was just a harmless law enforcement rally that mildly got out of hand, though not in a way that saw five people end up dead, a gibbet erected on the croquet lawn and small-state golfers barricading themselves into executive restrooms in genuine and rational fear of their lives?

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/aug/09/fbi-raid-mar-a-lago-donald-trump-law-2024

Another excellent point in the Marina Hyde piece:

“Democrats broke into the home of the 45th President,” was the way he characterised the actions of an FBI whose lifelong Republican director he personally chose for the job.

whose lifelong Republican director he personally chose for the job.

But. But. So many of the people he appointed (from cabinet members to judges to his VP) turned out to be disloyal!

Hmmm. Could that say something about his competence, in selecting staff, for example...?

"Could that say something about his competence, in selecting staff, for example...?"

Yeah, every now and then a Trump appointee will turn out to be kinda-honest.

Broken clock, etc.
Plus "afraid of consequences" also, too.

Also worth reading, on the possible connection between the raid and the January 6th hearings:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/aug/09/fbi-donald-trumps-florida-home-doj-republicans-january-6-hearings

After talking about the general toothlessness of the laws about handling of Presidential documents, it goes on to say this:

The DOJ is a risk-averse body by nature, and the attorney general, Merrick Garland, has been especially timid and squeamish even by the standards of his office. He didn’t want to pursue what could look like a politically motivated prosecution of a political opponent; he didn’t want to annoy the sizeable minority of the US that sees Trump as a beloved, almost messianic figure. It long looked as if the department would not have the stomach for a real investigation of Trump – that they would allow his crimes to go unanswered for fear of appearing too political. But the hearings surfaced new evidence, and brought new pressure to bear on the department – that of an outraged populace.

Even though a chunk of the country adores Trump, most Americans think he’s a corrupt crook. Nearly 60% said he should be prosecuted for the events of 6 January, according to a recent poll. Reports from the Justice Department’s own inquiry indicate that the investigation recently turned to Trump’s own role in the scheme to overturn the election by sending fake electors to Congress. It’s possible that, to Garland, the worry about what it would look like if he tried to hold Trump accountable has finally been eclipsed by the worry about what it would look like if he didn’t.

Learned a new word to-day from the Martina Hyde piece.
Be honest, who of you was acquainted with the term 'etiolated'? At first glance I assumed that it meant drunk but then there would have been an h after the first t, I presume.

"If they can raid an ex-President, think what could they do to you!"

Well, yeah. If nobody is above the law, and you've been breaking 5he law and (so far) getting away with it because you are so rich and influential, I can see why you'd be both outraged and worried. But don't expect sympathy here.

Hartmut, to change the subject completely (if briefly), I wanted to ask you something. In a recent thread I referred jokingly to The Glass Bead Game, which I read very many years ago in my hippy youth. That prompted me to read it again, although I wasn't sure how the now-me would get on with it. I'm enjoying it, and about halfway through, but I checked today and saw it was first published in 1943. How well known is it in Germany, and what roughly speaking would you say is Herman Hesse's place in the canon? I was going to do a bit of research later, and still will do, but the presence of a native speaker and member of the culture means I can't resist picking your brain...

He didn’t want to pursue what could look like a politically motivated prosecution of a political opponent; he didn’t want to annoy the sizeable minority of the US that sees Trump as a beloved, almost messianic figure. It long looked as if the department would not have the stomach for a real investigation of Trump – that they would allow his crimes to go unanswered for fear of appearing too political.

I would love to see some evidence that the real Garland ever said these things (rather than the one created to feed the self-image of pundits who believe they're smarter than everyone else, and could do everyone's job better than everyone else), and also an analysis that takes into account the care with which such an investigation must be taken.

I prefer to go with this Garland, in one of my most favorite one-minute snips of video of all time. (Which we've seen here, I think, but which I enjoy watching again every day or two. :-) )

Great clip of Garland, Janie, thanks for the reminder.

The Republicans would claim that poor old Trump was the victim of a politically motivated prosecution if he was caught shooting someone to death on First Ave in NYC in front of one hundred witnesses.

By the way, Hartmut, I did know what etiolated means! I have even been known to use it, for example when (perhaps unfairly? you be the judge) describing the appearance of the unlamented Stephen Miller.

If we have to wait until the right can't make a shit show about something we do, we might as well hand the keys over to them right now.

This.

Trump's supporters are going to respond to any investigation or prosecution of Trump by screaming and crying and stamping their feet and threatening the rest of us with armed violence. Some of them are going to go beyond threats of armed violence.

So be it.

Etiolated…
Yes, I’m afraid I’ve used it before, too. From memory, in describing Jacob Rees Mogg.

I learnt the word "etiolated" in a biology class when I was about 14.

So be it.

Let justice be done, though the heavens fall.

If you'd asked me what "etiolated" means I would have said "weaken," which seems close enough. I guess that's not too bad, though I wouldn't have remembered the botany meaning. Unlike the Brits, though, I don't think I've ever used it out loud.

You've landed amongst word nerds, Hartmut. Underestimate us at your peril! ;-)

One can go a "Jack the Ripper Tour" of the sites of the Whitechapel murders around 1890.
"Really fun, would recommend it!" says a Tripadvisor review.

I am appalled.

I fear that there may be an element of this in some holocaust tourism, and some holocaust literature.


Trump's supporters are going to respond to any investigation or prosecution of Trump by screaming and crying and stamping their feet and threatening the rest of us with armed violence. Some of them are going to go beyond threats of armed violence.

They appear ready to do so even if neither of those happen. For example, if he merely loses the next election. So there's no reason to hold back on this account.

GftNC, sorry can't help you much there. I know that some of Hesse's texts used to be required reading at school* and I believe Das Glasperlenspiel is somewhere on the family bookshelves. But I can't remember to have actually read anything of him ever. We had a short piece from Unterm Rad (Beneath the wheel) as a dictation test once in school.
I know several book titles of his work but that's about all. But I am quite a Philistine concerning 20th century German literature and in general more inclined toward(s) obscure authors and works. Same with literature from antiquity btw. A bit of a problem for a schoolteacher of Latin.

*that's usually the death knell of any German author in Germany. It almost guarantees that people will never ever touch anything of that author again volontarily after finishing school.

By way of distraction, the New Yorker has got in a fight with its archivist, whom it seems to have treated rather badly.

Ill advised on their part.

https://twitter.com/erinoverbey/status/1556988744129019905
For nearly twenty-five years, David Remnick & the
@NewYorker have wielded a kind of ultimate power in the literary sphere. As editor-in-chief, he has the ability to make or break any reporter or writer’s career, and, with any review, to make or break any book’s success…

Pro Bono, a predilection for the macabre is not that uncommon. I had a Latin professor at university who loved to chose such texts for seminars; in particular, if they were really over the top.
In that context it is a predilection that I share.
E.g. I clearly prefer the Flavian epics and have a bit of an aversion to Vergil.

Black humor is one thing* but the Holocaust is of course something completely different, and to visit Auschwitz for the thrill of it is sick.

*I admit to have written numerous macabre song parodies myself.

Thanks anyway, Hartmut - it was very possibly a mainly counter-cultural burst of popularity, with Siddhartha of course, and then Steppenwolf after which the band named themselves.

If we have to wait until the right can't make a shit show about something we do, we might as well hand the keys over to them right now.

Sure, but that doesn't mean the people in charge of such things aren't extremely wary of the political implications. That says to me that they have such a strong case that they have no choice but to pursue it. I, too, might prefer that they weren't so wary, but I'm especially encouraged by the raid in light of that excessive wariness.

hsh -- agreed. I didn't mean to undercut that angle on it.

I'm especially encouraged by the raid in light of that excessive wariness.

Yup, me too. And on that excessive wariness, it was very understandable indeed, and does not reflect badly, IMO, on Garland or anybody else involved.

Me, three. Given how reluctant they have been, it seems likely that they were reasonably sure they had a slam dunk here.

But my superstitious nature says: very few things really turn out to be slam dunks. And although Trump is, I would say, intellectually challenged, he has a tremendous craftiness, and ability to slither out of things. Helped, of course, by his fanboys (and girls) in the media. Fingers majorly crossed, however.

I'm hoping they executed the warrant because of something irrefutably bad. OTOH, it also seems possible that there was a conversation like:

Agent: The Archivists are complaining about the missing stuff again.
Garland: What have we done since the last bunch of stuff was turned over?
Agent: Repeatedly talked to the lawyers, who keep coming up with excuses.
Garland: What's the book say we should do next?
Agent: Get a search warrant and go get our stuff.
Garland: Follow the book.

Against some superrich guy (Bill Gates, Elon Musk, etc.), or most of Trump's cronies, sure. Just folow the book.

But considering the (entirely predictable) sh*tstorm this caused, I think "something irrefutably bad" is the smart money bet in this case. And more likely than not, something not just bad but explosively bad -- which National Archive stuff would only be if it was a matter of national security.. But unless Trump is dumb enough to publish the warrant, we're stuck waiting for the indictment to find out what.

Hmmm, FWIW, this account in the WaPo seems to support Michael Cain's second theory:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/09/trump-fbi-search-mar-a-lago/

In the months before the FBI’s dramatic move to execute a search warrant at former president Donald Trump’s Florida home — and open his safe to look for items — federal authorities grew increasingly concerned that Trump or his lawyers and aides had not, in fact, returned all the documents and other material that were government property, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Officials became suspicious that when Trump gave back items to the National Archives about seven months ago, either the former president or people close to him held on to key records — despite a Justice Department investigation into the handling of 15 boxes of material sent to the former president’s private club and residence in the waning days of his administration.

Over months of discussions on the subject, some officials also came to suspect Trump’s representatives were not truthful at times, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

On Tuesday, a lawyer for Trump said the agents who brought the court-approved warrant to Mar-a-Lago a day earlier took about 12 more boxes after conducting their search.

This interview by Chotnier, via LGM, is another take on the search warrant.

https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/what-the-fbis-raid-of-mar-a-lago-could-mean-for-trump

Good piece, lj. I was particularly interested in the difference between trying to get documents by subpoena, as opposed to search warrant, following this statement: You use a search warrant, and not a subpoena, when you don’t believe that the person is actually going to comply.

Then, a few sentences later:

When you say he wouldn’t comply, do you mean that he wouldn’t recognize the relevant legal authority? He would destroy documents? Both?

It could be both. But one way would simply be to lie and say that you produced everything. Another would be to assert the Fifth Amendment’s “act of production” privilege. That might be the most benign. It’s a part of the Fifth Amendment that says you don’t have to produce documents in your possession if the act of producing them would be incriminating. So, for instance, there is a lot of speculation that this is about whether the former President has classified documents in his possession that he should not have. If he produced those pursuant to a subpoena, that would be incriminating himself, because it would show that he had them and knew where they were. The search warrant avoids all that. The F.B.I. just takes the documents, not asking the recipient to do anything.

I had no idea about that application of the fifth amendment, but it makes sense. How interesting.

For example, if he merely loses the next election.

Or, for that matter, the last one.

I found this bit interesting in the piece lj linked:

Based on what you are saying, I assume that the Justice Department would need to convince a judge that a subpoena would not work. Is that accurate?

That is not accurate. The decision about whether to use a subpoena or to use a search warrant is a discretionary one made by the executive. A judge doesn’t weigh in on that. A judge doesn’t say, “I am not going to issue a search warrant because you could do this by subpoena.” That is not something that a court would weigh in on. But what the court would weigh in on is the following: in order to issue a search warrant—unlike a subpoena, where you don’t need any factual predication—there has to be a determination by a judge that there is probable cause of a crime, and that the evidence of that crime will be in the location that you seek to search.

But separate from that, I found the focus on Jan. 6 oddly unimaginative. I realize that people online can speculate about whatever they want, but Adam Silverman isn't just any old BJ commenter. From a comment on his nightly Ukraine thread:

...this is the DOJ official who gets involved if you’re worried someone was giving, trading, and/or selling classified information. If this is the case we’re most likely looking at a Middle Eastern, specifically an MBS, problem. But if Trump was selling this info or someone close to him like Jared was doing it on Trump’s behalf, I could see MBS, Bibi, Putin, MBZ, even Xi and Kim all being in play as potential parties to that kind of activity.

Clickbait had an entire four-year term of commit crimes in....

to commit crimes in....

Clickbait had an entire four-year term of commit crimes in....

But he's also someone who ends up believing his own bullsh*t. So he was expecting to have 4 more years (or more?) to keep stealing and selling stuff. But then he lost. Between Election Day and Jan 6, he was still focused on how to snatch victory from the stomach (way past the jaws) of defeat. And then, there was limited time left to stockpile more stuff to sell.

Plus, at least for the moment, he's no longer got access to yet more stuff to steal. So he's gonna horde what he has in hand. That's why it's still at his place. (Or was, until the warrant appeared unexpectedly.) Waiting to see if he can get buyers into a bidding war, perhaps? But it may have come back to bite him. Deo volente

That's what I meant, wj, so I don't get where the "but" comes in. I was trying to say that there's a lot more that could be in those boxes besides just Jan 6 stuff, and I found it surprising that the New Yorker piece didn't seem to go beyond that.

Sorry, Janie. Not reading as clearly as I might.

Totally agree. The missing secret documents were (apparently) the justification for the raid. But if, while searching for those, they come across evidence involving other crimes...? Hey, sometimes you get lucky. And as long as you had a valid search warrant, that other stuff is admissible, too.

After sleeping on the search warrant question, I've decided I'll just go with Hanlon's razor: "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." Incompetent help at the White House threw something very sensitive into a box with other stuff and shipped it to Florida. Nuclear codes? List of deep moles in Moscow or Beijing? Somebody at Mar-A-Lago stumbled on it, put it in the safe, and notified the FBI. The judge agreed on the urgency to properly secure the material right now and issued the search warrant so the FBI could grab the stuff.

Michael Cain -- I've heard that adage, but I didn't know it had a name. Wikipedia says, "Known in several other forms, it is a philosophical razor that suggests a way of eliminating unlikely explanations for human behavior."

I can't imagine anything less unlikely than that Clickbait acted out of malice (or ill intent), but I also don't see why that should eliminate stupidity. If ever there was a human being compounded of equal parts malice and stupidity, in colossal quantities, it's Clickbait. (And yes, I know there are ways in which he is the opposite of stupid.)

tl;dnr: Why not both?

Somebody at Mar-A-Lago stumbled on it, put it in the safe, and notified the FBI.

If Michael Cain is right (and I had to look up Hanlon's razor), the identity of the "somebody" mentioned in this sentence would be very interesting.

The understandable (amongst us, anyway) wish for something sufficiently terrible and incriminating that it would silence the MAGAts and the RWNJs entirely on this, seems to me like pie in the sky. But that's my pessimmism talking. As a reasonably senior US diplomat once said to me, the secret to happiness is low expectations.

I must really need coffee. I had to read "I can't imagine anything less unlikely than..." a few times to be sure I was getting it, even though it was easily guessed from the context.

[Somehow I see that formulation as evidence of your math background, Janie. ;^)]

The understandable (amongst us, anyway) wish for something sufficiently terrible and incriminating that it would silence the MAGAts and the RWNJs entirely on this, seems to me like pie in the sky.

My highest hope has been that enough people would stop listening to the MAGAts and RWNJs that the MAGAt/RWNJ narrative power would be significantly diminished. Nothing will silence them entirely. The best possible outcome is that they go back to the status of the crazy uncle whose rantings everyone ignores at Thanksgiving.

Nothing will silence them entirely. The best possible outcome is that they go back to the status of the crazy uncle whose rantings everyone ignores at Thanksgiving.

Totally agree with this. Something clear enough to silence them (much less convince them) cannot be our measuring stick. But I still (pollyanna-ishly?) think there are quite a few people who aren't cultists who *will* get off the fence if something sufficiently clear is presented to them.

*****

[Somehow I see that formulation as evidence of your math background, Janie. ;^)]

When I was taking linguistics classes, semantics was essentially a class in formal logic. I had a lot of fun with it, not least because it was a lot like programming!

And yes, math belongs in there too. Only high school English teachers think there's never a valid double negative. ;-) But they're also the ones who think you should never split an infinitive or end a sentence with a preposition, so what do they know?

...the identity of the "somebody" mentioned in this sentence would be very interesting.

Since I'm just guessing... Some young junior lawyer, who got stuck in Florida while the big boys all went off to Bedminster for the summer and NYC for today's deposition, decided "I'm not going to lose my law license over this."

they go back to the status of the crazy uncle whose rantings everyone ignores at Thanksgiving.

FYLTGE.

On the subject of invalid double negatives, I can't remember where I read the following (perhaps here?), but of the various versions I find, let's go with the MIT one, in Janie's honour:

An MIT linguistics professor was lecturing his class the other day. “In English,” he said, “a double negative forms a positive. However, in some languages, such as Russian, a double negative remains a negative. But there isn’t a single language, not one, in which a double positive can express a negative.”

A voice from the back of the room piped up, “Yeah, right.”

Fun story, GftNC. :-)

It reminds me of something similar, I think from Pinker's The Language Instinct, the book that inspired me to take linguistics classes in the first place (in my mid-50s)

Pinker, always a know-it-all, but often very entertaining with it about language, took on the complainers who say that "I could care less" makes no sense.

IIRC it was something like a "Yeah, right" analysis -- that the sarcasm with which the phrase was spoken completed the meaning: "I suppose I *could* care less, except that it's not possible to care less than I do." It's a long time since I read the book, and that's a paraphrase, but hopefully clear enough to make the point.


The point being: tone and context matter, not just the words.

(And now I'm imagining saying "Yeah, right" in a tone that conveys agreement ... )

they're also the ones who think you should never split an infinitive or end a sentence with a preposition, so what do they know?

You mean, it's not OK to use a proposition to end a sentence with??? Who knew. (Always my favorite way to address a grammarian run amok.)

Well, thats what happens when ou try to force one language into the straitjacket og another language's grammar.

What's an example of a double positive, anyhow? I'm not sure what that would be, in order to be the equivalent of a double negative. And I'm thinking math/logic again.... Although lj might have a perspective from linguistics.

I do totally expect some examples from this crowd!

(And I'm tempted to go off thinking about multiplying various combinations of positive and negative numbers, or even delving into imaginary numbers, but hey, I'm babysitting. The 9-month-old isn't quite ready for this yet. :-)

(Okay: multiply two positives and you get a positive, multiply two negatives and you get a negative positive [corrected later]. Only if you mix one of each do you get a negative. Quite parallel, and makes the professor in the anecdote look blinkered. ??)

hot take industry has moved with incredible speed from “is wimpy, hand-wringing DOJ helping Trump’s 2024 comeback?” to “is heavy-handed, bullying DOJ helping Trump’s 2024 comeback?”

From here.

This encapsulates the reason for my resistance to spending any time reading contemporary punditry.

JanieM, small slip there: multiplying two negatives nets a positive.

Plus a pedant would say that a sentence by definition can't end with a preposition for then it would be a postposition (or the second half of a circumposition). ;-)

Malice is a possibility, incompetence equally possible.

But my money is on “the law doesn’t apply to me”.

Hartmut, thanks, yes, of course multiplying two negatives yields a positive. Frustrating to be writing too fast to nail down my central point!

"A pedant would say".... That would be a good name for a blog. Maybe even this blog!

Pinker, always a know-it-all, but often very entertaining with it about language, took on the complainers who say that "I could care less" makes no sense.

By the way, this raises something I have been conscious of for ages, about which I am 98% sure I'm right, but other Brits feel free to chime in.

I think that the following substitutions have occurred in recent years, from what used to be normal English usage to American usage (which I have assumed was assimilated via media - TV, movies etc):

"I couldn't care less" to "I could care less"
"From the word go" to "From the get-go"
"Common or garden" to "garden variety".

There may be others, but these are the ones I notice all the time. I haven't seen or heard anybody else talking about this!

What russell said. (1:30)

A Bavarian (or Swiss) will use a triple negative so a pedantic Prussian cannot interpret/mistake a double negative as/for a positive.

Per GftNC, I obviously can't comment on the changes she lists, but you can be sure that it's working both ways. One of my colleagues, back when I had a job, had an 8-year-old son who spent a lot of time watching a British YouTuber called Stampy Longnose, who IIRC did videos about Minecraft. My friend's kid's speech was littered with British idioms and slang phrases as a result.

The first phrase transferring this way that I remember noticing was "At the end of the day." There was a memorable (to me) Sports Illustrated article in which one of their best writers started an article by observing that the British had a phrase "At the end of the day" that meant the same as our "Bottom line" -- and "Lord knows," he said, "we need a replacement for that."

(Paraphrasing throughout. I could probably find that article online but not right now. This was surely 30-40 years ago.)

"The understandable (amongst us, anyway) wish for something sufficiently terrible and incriminating that it would silence the MAGAs and the RWNJs entirely on this, seems to me like pie in the sky."


It seems to me that the terrible thing has already happened. The MAGAs attacked Congress.

Republicans who think of themselves as better than the MAGA base have repeatedly underestimated the ability of MAGAs to justify absolutely anything. WHen the news broke about Trump's pussygrabbing, Republican leaders thought that he'd cooked his goose, but the MAGAs didn't care. When Trump supporters attacked Congress, for a few minutes Congressional Republicans thought that he'd gone too far. Then they realized that no, Trump worshipers are still worshipping, so they quickly changed their rhetoric to either supporting the attack or downplaying it.

There is no low too low for Trump supporters to go. THere is no low too low for the majority of elected Republicans to go.

There will be violence at polling places this fall. The only way Democrats are going to be able to win elections is if we post people to film the polling places, have lawyers on hand, get the vote out at overwhelming levels, and prepare to sue, sue, sue, sue. And be prepared to be shot by some MAGA asshole. Small town rural Democrats will either be prevented from voting or election offices run by MAGAs will toss their votes.

I still wonder if a significant percentage of people who say "I could care less" are aware of the literal meaning and are saying it with sarcastic intent versus simply messing up "I couldn't care less" or mindlessly repeating the sarcastic version unaware of the sarcasm.

With "like I could care less" or "as if I could care less" you can be reasonably sure of the sarcasm.

Sometime around when my kids were in junior high, "by accident" became "on accident".

It's definitely being a really, really bad week for Trump. Tuesday, a federal appeals court panel ruled that House Democrats are entitled to review Donald Trump’s tax returns for 2015 to 2020. It rejected all four of the legal arguments by the former president's lawyers:

  1. The committee has “identified a legitimate legislative purpose that it requires information to accomplish”
  2. Regarding the separation of powers, “this case has required much discussion of the intrusion by Congress into the Executive Branch and the personal life of [Trump] and the burden that such intrusions impose,” the decision says. While that burden “is concrete,” it is “tenuous at best,” and is “insufficient to require us to enjoin the Chairman’s Request for the returns and return information.”
  3. Regarding Trump’s claim that the law that allows the committee to review tax returns is unconstitutional, the ruling says, “This statute can be properly applied in numerous circumstances, including the one before the court.”
  4. And finally, the court rejected the assertion that the Treasury Department was violating Trump’s constitutional rights by acting with an improper motive
If getting three out of three is a trifecta, what's the term for four out of four?

More trouble. Trump, specifically his business practices, have been under investigation in New York. Today, Trump said he will take the Fifth when questioned. But here's the thing, if you take the 5th in a criminal investigation or trial, that refusal to testify cannot be used against you. And the judge will explicitly instruct the jury not to draw any conclusions from it.

But this is a civil case. And there, the law is different. The jury is allowed to infer that, if you declined to answer a question, that you have some guilty reason for doing so. As Judge Engoron put it, Trump (and his children) “will have the right to refuse to answer any questions that they claim might incriminate them, and that refusal may not be commented on or used against them in a criminal prosecution. However, there is no unfairness in allowing the jurors in a civil case to know these refusals and to draw their own conclusions.”

Or, as the Supreme Court put it in Baxter v. Palmigiano (1976): “the Fifth Amendment does not forbid adverse inferences against parties to civil actions when they refuse to testify in response to probative evidence offered against them.” (Of course, Trump's political hacks on the Supreme Court could reverse that, too....)

It's definitely being a really, really bad week for Trump.

Not bad enough. I read an analysis of that appeals court ruling, and the conclusion was that it would still be some years before those tax returns would be handed over, if at all.

wonkie: of course you're right, that the MAGAts attacking congress was an incredible, unprecedentedly terrible thing. But I'm sure you knew what I meant in the context of the Mar-a-Lago raid: that we here hoped that the raid turned up proof of something so clearly criminal and iniquitous that even the MAGAts and RWNJs would be rendered (even if only temporarily) speechless and excuseless. But again, my actual expectation is that nothing so unarguable is likely to be found. Unarguable enough to get through to those MAGAts and RWNJs, that is.

What with all the petards and hoistings!

https://www.yahoo.com/news/trump-made-felony-mishandle-classified-172104317.html

Tucked into a bill Trump signed into law in January 2018 was a provision increasing the punishment for knowingly removing classified materials with the intent to retain them at an “unauthorized location.”

Previously, someone found guilty of this crime could face up to one year in prison.

(...)

Now, a person convicted of violating this law can face up to five years in prison ― making it a felony-level offense to mishandle classified documents under 18 U.S.C. 1924.

Sometime around when my kids were in junior high, "by accident" became "on accident".

That was a little kid thing for me when I was a little kid - something that got eliminated over time through repetitive parental correction. It's the evil twin of "on purpose."

Related to "standing on line" vs "standing in line"? (Which I think is partly a regional usage difference.)

Or graduating high school (ugh) vs graduating from high school?

Or ...

When my son was teaching English in China, we spent quite a bit of time trying to find a pattern to explain when to use "the" and when not. Every pattern we hypothesized had too many exceptions to really be reliable, and that was without even looking at American vs British usage. (He was in hospital vs He was in the hospital.)

More later, gotta feed the kid.

I think that the following substitutions have occurred in recent years, from what used to be normal English usage to American usage...

"Fill in a form" seems to have become "fill out a form" for almost everyone younger than me.

Tucked into a bill Trump signed into law in January 2018 was a provision increasing the punishment for knowingly removing classified materials with the intent to retain them at an “unauthorized location.”

This is what happens when you can't be bothered to read the stuff you are signing.

The "valley girl" use of the word "like" has become so embedded in conversational English that well-educated word smiths who talk and write for a living use it. Sort of like the boomer use of the phrase "you know."

"Could I have the bill, please" to "Can I get the check, please". (I don't think this one has made very substantial inroads. YET.)

Standing on line - not here yet. We say "queuing".

I don't stand on line either, I stand *in* line. ;-)

Another: at the weekend vs on the weekend.

I don't think "the year dot" has made it over here at all.... And I don't know why it's called "dot," either. Can any of you Brits explain?

Standing on line is a metro-NYC thing. I'm very aware of it because I live outside the metro-NYC area but very close to it and hear it when I venture in to metro-NYC or when metro-NYC natives venture out to my native region. Also, too, I went to college in the outer ring of metro-NYC, so there was a lot of mixing between natives and non-natives with the attendant "you talk funny" ...um, talk.

Standing in line, occasionally used here. On line: never! "On accident" - never heard of it. Hope I never have to again!

The year dot: beats me...

"Fill in a form" seems to have become "fill out a form" for almost everyone younger than me.

Maybe just me, but I fill out a form and fill in the individual lines/boxes on the form. As far back as I can remember that's how I've done it.

Me, too, Michael.

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