Greeting at the beginning of the “work” week: Monday, August 28 2023. In one week I’ll be in Israel! (Posting will be light for three weeks after Friday, but I do my best.) It’s National Cherry Turnover Day, second only to the strawberry turnover as a tasty species in this genus of pastries.
It’s also National Bow Tie Day, International Read Comics in Public Day, National Thoughtful Day, Red Wine Day (I have mine for tonight), and the Christian feast day of Augustine the Hippo. (Yes, I know the right name.) I had to read tons of Augustine when I was writing Faith Versus Fact, and I have to laugh when he’s signled out as a great Church Father who did not take the Bible literally. “A great thinker” about theology is like a great thinker about the Loch Ness Monster. And yes, Augustine did take the Bible literally, allowing a metaphorical dimension, too. But he was bonkers as well, writing at great length about the types of angels that existed and their nature. He was obsessed with angels!
Here’s Augustine the Hippo:
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the August 28 Wikipedia page.
*Shooting of the day: It’s in Chicago again: three people were found wounded in a car yesterday morning in the Little Village area of Chicago’s West Side. All the victims will survive, but the shooter hasn’t yet been found. It’s the Second Amendment, folks: the shooter was part of a well regulated militia!
*FINALLY Russia has confirmed that Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin died in the plane crash last week.
The Russian authorities have officially confirmed the death of the Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, with investigators saying on Sunday that genetic testing showed that the victims of a plane crash last week matched all the names on the jet’s manifest.
The announcement put an end to several days of speculation over the fate of the mercenary chief, who was presumed to have died in the plane crash on Wednesday, just two months after he launched a failed mutiny against Russia’s military leadership. U.S. and Western officials believe the crash was the result of an explosion on board and several have said they think that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia may have had Mr. Prigozhin killed in retaliation for his mutiny — suggestions the Kremlin on Friday dismissed as an “absolute lie.”
Svetlana Petrenko, a spokeswoman for Russia’s investigative committee, said in a statement on Sunday that “the identities of all 10 victims have been established” and that “they correspond to the list stated in the flight manifest.”
. . .Tearful mourners gathered in Moscow over the weekend to pay muted respect to the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, and nine other people whom the Russian authorities said were killed in a plane crash last week.
Hundreds of people have placed flowers, photographs, candles and flags — including some bearing the private military group’s skull design — at a small sidewalk memorial near Red Square in Moscow.
Many wept openly, expressing shock over the death of a man they said they respected, and sadness at the loss of life. Almost all expressed their support for the invasion of Ukraine.
Pity they can’t be mourning Prigozhin for standing up to Putin and starting to instigate a mutiny. But of course they wouldn’t publicly criticize the invasion of Ukraine to a Western reporter.
*The AP documents how Trump continues to lie about the 2020 election. Here are a few choice highlights:
With Donald Trump facing felony charges over his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, the former president is flooding the airwaves and his social media platform with distortions, misinformation and unfounded conspiracy theories about his defeat.
It’s part of a multiyear effort to undermine public confidence in the American electoral process as he seeks to chart a return to the White House in 2024. There is evidence that his lies are resonating: New polling from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that 57% of Republicans believe Democrat Joe Biden was not legitimately elected as president.
Biden’s victory over Trump in 2020 was not particularly close. He won the Electoral College with 306 votes to Trump’s 232, and the popular vote by more than 7 million ballots.
. . . Trump was repeatedly advised by members of his own administration that there was no evidence of widespread fraud.
Nine days after the 2020 election, the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a statement saying, “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history.” The statement was co-written by the groups representing the top elections officials in every state.
. . . The Trump campaign and its backers pursued numerous legal challenges to the election in court and alleged a variety of voter fraud and misconduct. The cases were heard and roundly rejected by dozens of courts at both state and federal levels, including by judges whom Trump appointed.
. . . An exhaustive AP investigation in 2021 found fewer than 475 instances of confirmed voter fraud across six battleground states — nowhere near the magnitude required to sway the outcome of the presidential election.
The review of ballots and records from more than 300 local elections offices found that almost every instance of voter fraud was committed by individuals acting alone and not the result of a massive, coordinated conspiracy to rig the election. The cases involved both registered Democrats and Republicans, and the culprits were almost always caught before the fraudulent ballot was counted.
. . . Many of the claims Trump and his team advanced about a stolen election dealt with the equipment voters used to cast their ballots.
At various times, Trump and his legal team falsely alleged that voting machines were built in Venezuela at the direction of President Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013; that machines were designed to delete or flip votes cast for Trump; and that the U.S. Army had seized a computer server in Germany that held secrets to U.S. voting irregularities.
None of those claims was ever substantiated or corroborated. CISA’s joint statement released after the election said, “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised.”
It goes on, but you’re familiar with the lies. As I’m not a psychiatrist or therapist, I violate no professional dictum when I say that the man is an arrant sociopath.
*Speaking of the Trumpster, Mark Meadows’ request to move his Georgia racketeering trial from Georgia state court to federal court (there are 18 defendants in total, including The Donald, and many of these may file similar motions), could provide an instructive preview of the prosecutors’ evidence against Trump. From CNN:
Why is Meadows doing this?
US law allows defendants in state civil suits or criminal cases to seek to move those proceedings to federal court if those defendants face charges based on conduct they carried out “under color” of the federal government.
While such proceedings are not uncommon in civil lawsuits against current and former federal officials, they are extremely rare in criminal cases, legal experts told CNN, meaning Jones will be navigating in uncertain legal territory.
“This is just that rare case where there is just not a lot of law,” Vladeck said.
Meadows is arguing that under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, the federal court should dismiss the charges against him, because the conduct underlying the charges was conducted as part of his duties as a close White House adviser to Trump.
Back to the juicy details:
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis will lay out the first details of her sprawling anti-racketeering case against former President Donald Trump, his White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and 17 other co-defendants at a federal court hearing on Monday morning.
This will be the first time that substantive arguments will be made in court about the four criminal cases brought against Trump this year.
The subject of the hearing, set to begin at 10 a.m., is Meadows’ motion to move his case to federal court and possibly have it thrown out, but it’s much more than that – it could end up acting as a mini-trial that determines the future of Fulton County’s case against the former president.
Willis is expected to preview the case that she is planning to bring against the 19 co-defendants, getting on the public record some of her evidence and legal arguments for why Trump and his allies broke the law when pressuring Georgia election officials to meddle with the 2020 results.
. . .Beyond Meadows’ participation on the Raffensperger call, Willis has also highlighted as alleged acts in the racketeering conspiracy his surprise visit to an Atlanta election audit and a request Meadows and Trump are said to have made to a White House official to compile a memo on how to disrupt the January 6, 2021, election certification vote in Congress.
“In order to prevail, Meadows has to convince the court that when he was banging on the audit door he wasn’t representing the private interests of Donald Trump,” said Lee Kovarsky, a University of Texas law professor and expert in the removal statute.
Willis, in her response to Meadows’ filings, is leaning on a federal law known as the Hatch Act, which prohibits government officials from using their federal office to engage in political activity, including campaign-oriented conduct. She argues Meadows’ involvement in the pressure campaign on Georgia election officials is clearly conduct he was not allowed to engage in as a federal officer, and therefore he is not entitled to the federal immunity defense.
The Hatch Act framing is a “nice way of illustrating that he was acting outside the scope of his official duties,” Kovarsky said, adding that Willis will not have to prove that Meadows violated the federal statute to be successful in the argument.
Willis’ filings in the dispute also appear to be a shot across the bow at Trump and any attempt he could make with similar claims.
Several key witnesses may take the stand at Meadows’ hearing, and these could tell us some of the evidence that could be used against Tr*mp.
*Obsessed with mortality as I am, I’m a sucker for stories like this one in the WaPo: “I am dying at age 49. Here’s why I have no regrets.” Actually, she does have regrets, but also gratitude for the good things that happened to her (“She” is Amy Ettinger, who has stage 4 4 uterine leiomyosarcoma, an aggressive cancer that, doctors says, gives her just a few months to live.)
The good stuff she mentions is this:
- I learned that lasting love is about finding someone who will show up for you [she wed a good man and they’ve never been apart for a day, even after 25 years of marriage]
- I pursued my dream career with passion [she was a writer and published a guide to America’s best ice cream, a worthy endeavor]
- I have never had a bucket list; instead I said ‘yes’ to life [she took a lot of trips on the spur of the moment]
- I found people in my life who can accept me as I am [although she’s an introvert, she has some very close friends]
- I live where I want even though the numbers never add up [she lives in hyper-expensive but beautiful Santa Cruz, California.
I am dying around people who love me and are bringing me meals when I need them. These are people who are willing to show up for me no matter what. And I know they will show up for my husband and daughter, even after I am gone.
The end of my life is coming much too soon, and my diagnosis can at times feel too difficult to bear. But I’ve learned that life is all about a series of moments, and I plan to spend as much remaining time as I can savoring each one, surrounded by the beauty of nature and my family and friends. Thankfully, this is the way I’ve always tried to live my life.
*And more clickbait (at least for me): a NYT op-ed called “We asked 16 writers to tell us about the immoral, indulgent things they do, and they confessed.” Oh dear, I had to read on. Here are three answers:
Chick-fil-A has historically been a very anti-gay company. It has donated to charities with anti-L.G.B.T.Q. stances, and its chairman, Dan Cathy, was once quoted saying he believes in the “biblical definition of the family unit.” Yet, traitorous and masochistic though it may be, I, a gay man, regularly consume its homophobic chicken.
What can I say? I know it’s wrong, but McDonald’s simply can’t compete, Burger King and Jack in the Box don’t compare, and while Popeyes and Wendy’s might come close, they’re not the same. And none of them offer what I find most appealing about Chick-fil-A anyway: the Southern charm of its employees.
It reminds me of home. And while that doesn’t make me any less guilty for pulling up to the drive-thru, I won’t apologize for the pleasure I feel driving away, crispy sandwich in hand.
I don’t think the company is still anti-gay, and I have to say that I partake of one of their delicious sandwiches once in a while.
This guy STEALS!
Whenever I’m at the airport, I like to do a little shopping at the Free Store. The Free Store is any establishment that leaves its permanently price-gouged wares unsecured on shelves unattended by underpaid and overharried employees. I stroll in, select my items, then suddenly “receive a phone call” that “my flight is almost done boarding.” I’ve known people who get a rush from the act of stealing. Not me. What I love is having and using things I didn’t pay for.
I sleep with my friends, and I befriend the people I sleep with. As a result, my social life mostly consists of a sort of merry traveling band of fellows with whom I have happily porous and shifting relationships. This is what we all used to do when we were young and then grew out of when we moved into the serious part of life. Except I just didn’t.
I know this sounds like hell to most people — the lack of boundaries and the mess and the logistics — and it certainly can be. I’ve been hurt and I have hurt people. It’s icky and embarrassing and kind of a pain in the ass.
When it works, though, it feels like a vindication that the worth men and women can hold for one another is beyond sexual and romantic and also that it can continuously change, like everything else. When it doesn’t, it’s still pretty hot.
Oh, and I have to add Paul Bloom:
Saint Augustine, in his “Confessions,” describes going into an orchard with his friends to steal some pears and writes: “I had no motive for wickedness except wickedness itself. It was foul, and I loved it.”
As a psychologist who has spent my career studying transgression, I’m particularly attuned to my own Augustinian impulses. My most regular one is hate-reading. I can spend hours on end consuming the words of people whose views I find repugnant and unhinged, becoming inflamed in both anger and self-righteousness.
You can, of course, learn things from awful people. But there is also a simple evil pleasure in indulging in their wrongness.
Indeed, and there are certain websites that I can’t resist hate-reading.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is getting older and a bit chunky:
A: It’s been a long time since you jumped up on this shelf.Hili: Unfortunately, it has begun to be difficult.
Ja: Dawno nie wskakiwałaś na tę półkę.Hili: Niestety, to zaczyna być trudne.
From Barry. I think I’ve posted this one before, but I love the bit about theology:
From David, a Hilary Price cartoon:
From Masih, more Iranian women defying the hijab dictates of the theocracy big time. They could get into serious trouble for this.
Iranian National Muay-Thai team’s women defied mandatory hijab at Asian Championship 2023. Authorities immediately threatened suspension, but this is a clear message from Iranian women to the Islamic regime’s clerics: we won’t back down. #WomanLifeFreedom pic.twitter.com/FskTjLyvt4
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) August 27, 2023
From Malcolm, a cat discovers in the mirror that it has EARS!
Cat discovered its ears in the mirror.. 😂 pic.twitter.com/GlZXuCuTFg
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden) August 11, 2023
Here’s a groaner from Barry:
Came as a boa on board as Noah constrictor pic.twitter.com/cvn65GdXRe
— Harry Margulies (@Askwhyisit) August 27, 2023
And from Simon:
Alright, who made this?! 😂🤣 pic.twitter.com/zBefzSU4l1
— ᗰᗩƳᖇᗩ ℙ𝕙𝕠𝕥𝕠𝕘𝕣𝕒𝕡𝕙𝕪 (@LePapillonBlu2) August 26, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial, a survivor still alive—and it’s her birthday!
27 August 1930 | A Hungarian Jewish woman, Sophie Vermes, was born in Mezocsat.
In 1944 she was deported to #Auschwitz where her mother was murdered. Sophie survived the war and now she turned 93.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) August 28, 2023
Tweets from Dr. Cobb, who’s beavering away on his biography of Crick:
Also: Oppenheimer, a postcard of a chipmunk, the second man in space, Captain Kane ‘late of the Indian Army’ and a specially chartered train from Paris.
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) August 26, 2023
Matthew says, “This is worth 10 mins of your time, with a cracking reveal that made me laugh out loud.” It’s a (free) New Yorker piece:
When a TikToker made the filmmaker @hugh_clegg’s video go viral without crediting him, Clegg started searching for the person behind the anonymous account. Watch his pursuit here. https://t.co/Eis4DB1M9K
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) August 26, 2023
Sound up to learn some biology (satellite flies lay live larvae on the bee’s prey, and the larvae consume the hard-won food):
— Steve "Whistling Joe" Everett (@whistling_joe) July 19, 2023