Friday, March 12, 2021

"As the Biden administration struggles to care for soaring numbers migrant families, teens and children streaming across the Mexico border, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement sent an urgent email to senior staff Thursday night asking for volunteers..."

"... to quickly deploy to U.S. border stations and tent sites where holding cells are crammed beyond capacity....  The number of these teens and children held in detention cells along the border surpassed 3,500 this week, a record, and the minors have been arriving at a rate that far exceeds the government’s ability to place them in shelters run by the Department of Health and Human Services or release them to vetted sponsors, often relatives living in the United States. With shelters run by HHS short on bed space, thousands of minors are stuck in rudimentary Border Patrol stations awaiting transfer.... More than 130 minors have been waiting 10 days in the custody of CBP, whose steel-and-concrete detention cells are designed as short-term holding cells for adults...."

From "ICE asks officers to deploy to border ‘as soon as this weekend’ to cope with surge" (WaPo). 

 That headline must have been different before, because the highest-rated comments are: "WaPo, please re-write this headline. ICE is asking internally for assistance. ICE is not calling for Trumpian militant volunteers to rush to the border to rough up immigrants." AND: "ICE should be careful when calling for 'volunteers.' They'll get a bunch of armed white guys with fat guts, no training and an itch to shoot someone who can't shoot back." 

Yes, now I see the cached headline. It was: "ICE asks for volunteers to deploy to border ‘as soon as this weekend’ to cope with surge."

The word "cages" does not appear in this new article, but a couple days ago WaPo published "At border, record number of migrant youths wait in adult detention cells for longer than legally allowed":

The Border Patrol warehouse with chain-link holding pens that were decried as “cages” in 2018 has been closed for renovations, but the conditions in the stations are not much better. Young people are waiting in cramped, austere holding cells with concrete floors and benches. Lights remain on 24 hours a day, agents say, and there are few places to play.

Are they in cages now? Were they in cages then? I don't know, but in 2018 the word "cages" was used and the same facilities are currently closed for renovations — perhaps to make them less cage-y — so there's no shift from using the word for exactly the same place. Right now, the "young people" are stuck in "cramped, austere holding cells," but would these be "cages" if only Trump were President or is there some cell/cage distinction that has to do with chain-link fencing?

I'm not even going to take the trouble to look for the center between these manifestly silly extremes.

These are the top 2 headlines at Real Clear Politics right now:

"The crowd is his element, as the air is that of birds and water of fishes. His passion and his profession are to become one flesh with the crowd."

"For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense joy to set up house in the heart of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite. To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world—impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define. The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito. The lover of life makes the whole world his family, just like the lover of the fair sex who builds up his family from all the beautiful women that he has ever found, or that are or are not—to be found; or the lover of pictures who lives in a magical society of dreams painted on canvas. Thus the lover of universal life enters into the crowd as though it were an immense reservoir of electrical energy. Or we might liken him to a mirror as vast as the crowd itself; or to a kaleidoscope gifted with consciousness, responding to each one of its movements and reproducing the multiplicity of life and the flickering grace of all the elements of life." 

Wrote Charles Baudelaire, in 1863, quoted in the Wikipedia entry "Flâneur."

"Eddie Izzard doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about. In December, it was reported that the standup comic/actor/campaigner/endurance runner had adopted the pronouns 'she' and 'her'..."

"... and wanted to be 'based in girl mode' from now on.... Actually, Izzard says, she had not intended to be so definitive about it. She had always talked about being in boy mode most of the time and girl mode part of the time, and she was still hoping to keep her options open. For her first half century, boy mode had dominated, and now it was time for girl mode to take centre stage, but on occasions she would still like the freedom to be a he. She soon discovered that wasn’t an option, though.... At the moment, Izzard is self-identifying as a trans woman. Does she think she will ever physically transition? 'I might do. I feel that boy mode has had a good innings in this one life that we get. It would be great to get up in the morning and think I look like a woman so I’m going to throw on a tracksuit and have breakfast. It is getting better and better. I do feel I can express myself in a more feminine way, which may be the age thing.' Would she like boobs? 'Yeah! I’ve had boob envy since my teens. Just when teenage girls of my age were going "I want boobs," I was thinking yeah me too. But I couldn’t say it. They talk about penis envy, and I believe some women suffer penis envy. I cannot for the life of me get my head around this. But yes, I’ve always had breasts envy.'... I ask if she is taking hormone pills. She smiles and, for once, declines to answer. 'I’m very happy to transition and I feel I have been transitioning,' she says. 'But I do feel I’ve told everybody everything in my life, so I’m going to keep a certain amount of privacy.'"

From "Eddie Izzard: 'I'm just trying to create a space for myself'/The actor and comic on making her female pronouns permanent, shouting down abuse, enduring a marathon a day – and running for Labour" (The Guardian).

"The New York prosecutor leading the most significant criminal probe against Donald Trump and his business announced Friday he is not running for reelection..."

CNN reports this morning.

Vance's departure adds intrigue to an ongoing probe into Trump and the Trump Organization, which has spanned two years....

Adds intrigue... or subtracts intrigue! 

Investigators are now in the process of combing through millions of pages of tax returns, work papers and communications related to the returns, as well as financial statements and engagement agreements from January 2011 to August 2019.

So long, suckers!

Meanwhile, The New Yorker just came out with "Can Cyrus Vance, Jr., Nail Trump?/Insiders say that the Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation has dramatically intensified since the former President left office. 'It’s like night and day,' says one. According to another, 'They mean business.'" 

Even before the Trump case crossed his desk, Vance had largely decided not to run for reëlection. He and his wife, Peggy McDonnell, felt that he had done much of what he set out to do.... ...Vance is sixty-six, and the pressure of managing one of the highest-profile prosecutorial offices in the country has been wearying.... He told me that, although his larger-than-life predecessor, Robert Morgenthau, held the office for thirty-five years—retiring at age ninety—he himself was ready to give the next generation a shot.... He had decided to keep his intentions quiet until after the Supreme Court ruled on Trump’s tax records, partly because he feared that some of the more outspokenly anti-Trump candidates for his job might alienate the conservative Justices. His decision to leave midcourse, however, exposes the case to the political fray of an election. Some candidates have already made inflammatory statements denouncing Trump, and such rhetoric could complicate a prosecution.
What a mess!

"Do you believe in the human heart?... Do you think there is such a thing? Something that makes each of us special and individual?"

"And if we just suppose that there is. Then don’t you think, in order to truly learn Josie, you’d have to learn not just her mannerisms but what’s deeply inside her? Wouldn’t you have to learn her heart?... And that could be difficult, no? Something beyond even your wonderful capabilities. Because an impersonation wouldn’t do, however skillful. You’d have to learn her heart, and learn it fully, or you’ll never become Josie in any sense that matters."/"The heart you speak of... It might indeed be the hardest part of Josie to learn. It might be like a house with many rooms. Even so, a devoted AF, given time, could walk through each of those rooms, studying them carefully in turn, until they became like her own home."/"But then suppose you stepped into one of those rooms... and discovered another room within it. And inside that room, another room still. Rooms within rooms within rooms. Isn’t that how it might be, trying to learn Josie’s heart? No matter how long you wandered through those rooms, wouldn’t there always be others you’d not yet entered?"/"Of course, a human heart is bound to be complex. But it must be limited.... there’ll be an end to what there is to learn...."

From Kazuo Ishiguro, "Klara and the Sun."

I just finished reading this. Maybe you have too. Let's talk about it. I quoted what was for me the most memorable passage. The first speaker is the father of a girl (Josie), and the second speaker, the "I," is her AF — "artificial friend" (a robot). 

SPOILER ALERT: The question under discussion in that passage is whether the AF will be able to learn Josie to the point where she could replace Josie and be loved as actually Josie by Josie's mother if Josie dies.

"The artist Mike Winkelmann, also known as Beeple, has just sold an NFT at a record-breaking $69.3 million, the third-highest price achieved by a living artist."

"The sale, at Christie’s, for the purely digital work was the strongest indication yet that NFTs, or 'nonfungible tokens,' have taken the art market by storm, making the leap from specialist websites to premier auction houses. Beeple, a newcomer to the fine-art world who first heard about NFTs five months ago, is the most high-profile artist to profit off the huge boom in sales of these much hyped but poorly understood commodities. If you’ve heard about them and want to know what the fuss is about, here’s a primer... An NFT is an asset verified using blockchain technology, in which a network of computers records transactions and gives buyers proof of authenticity and ownership... ...NFTs make digital artworks unique, and therefore sellable."

From "What Are NFTs, Anyway? One Just Sold for $69 Million/'Nonfungible tokens' and blockchain technology are taking the mainstream art world by storm, fetching huge prices. We explain, or try to" (NYT).

This post is the stark opposite of the previous post.