a couple weeks ago
Yes, I am easily amused.
this afternoon.
click to embiggen
Australian Cattle Dogs
(and mixes thereof)
take the job of keeping watch seriously.

Potential dangers are everywhere, after all.
Senator Roger Wicker (R‑Mississippi) and Mark Zuckerberg,
from today's Senate hearing:

There have been reports that Facebook can track a user's Internet browsing activity even after that user has logged off of the Facebook platform. Can you confirm whether or not this is true?
Senator, I want to make sure I get this accurate, so it would probably be better to have my team follow up afterwards—
You don't know?
I know that people use cookies on the Internet and that you can probably correlate activity between sessions. We do that for a number of reasons including security and including measuring ads to make sure that the ad experiences are the most effective which of course people can opt out of. But I want to make sure that I'm precise in my answer, so let me follow up.

A less weaselly response would have been, "Yes, Senator. Any web page that includes one of our like buttons invokes Facebook code that tracks users via cookies."

The best line of the hearing came from Senator John N. Kennedy (R‑Louisiana): [MP3 audio, 12 seconds].
It's looking like the Stormy Daniels affair is going to get interesting. Tr‑mp and his lawyer Michael Cohen have committed unforced errors that I think they will end up regretting. From a column in today's NY Times by former US attorney Harry Litman:
The hush agreement identified Mr. Trump as a party and required him to do a number of things. But since he insists he didn't know about the agreement, there's no way he could have entered into it. Moreover, Mr. Trump's avowed cluelessness implies that Mr. Cohen induced Ms. Daniels to sign the agreement through fraud — a lie about Mr. Trump's performance of reciprocal obligations. Both of these circumstances invalidate the hush agreement's very formation under basic contract law principles.
Stormy Daniels worked in pornography. This bothers some people immensely, as if porn were inherently illegitimate.

Several friends of mine did some porn acting and had good experiences with it. One was also a singer and had worked in opera. He told me his porn employers treated him far more fairly and straightforwardly than opera companies had.

From a German porn company's FAQ for prospective actors (my translation):
Will I be touched or will there be a test fuck?

You should show your dick in its full glory in casting photos but no one will touch you or "help" you in the process. We are a serious outfit and don't use our castings to find private dates. Thus there is no test fuck during casting and you don't have to sleep with the producer to get the job.
The Weinstein Company did not work that way.
A conservative columnist (Kevin Williamson) was recently hired by The Atlantic only to be fired right away over his history on abortion (he's said he'd like to see women who get abortions hanged). This turn of events has spurred a fair amount of commentary on the state of polarization in media and on the politics of abortion. Among those weighing in is Ross Douthat at the NY Times. From his column yesterday:
But everyday liberalism is sufficiently muddled between semi-Christian ideas and a utilitarian materialism that mostly the system is defended by euphemism and evasion, and by a failure to imagine oneself as all of us once were: tiny and dependent and hidden, and yet still essentially ourselves.
essentially ourselves: what each of us regards as ourself was once a zygote. I get that Mr. Douthat sees it that way but the point is contentious and has an interesting history.

Augustine of Hippo held that early-stage fetuses were insufficiently formed to have a soul and had no sentience. Thomas Aquinas concurred and this view prevailed among Catholic theologians for many centuries. Early-stage abortion was deemed a sin but on a par with contraception; only later-stage abortions were tantamount to homicide.

The Catholic church started to change its tune in the 18th and 19th centuries and concluded in 1869 that it was morally safer to assume that ensoulment occurs at the time of fertilization. This has been official Catholic doctrine ever since.

I don't know how Catholics handle identical twins. When a zygote splits post-ensoulment, does one twin keep the original soul and the other get a soul de novo, or what.

I'm fond of quoting the opening sentence in Bertrand Russell's essay Do We Survive Death?
Before we can profitably discuss whether we shall continue to exist after death, it is well to be clear as to the sense in which a man is the same person as he was yesterday.
and I think it applies to discussions of life before birth as well.
click to embiggen
Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
It's springtime.
A solitary soul, he was not easy to approach. But his friendships were built on rock. He lived the simple life of a scholar, a busy, secluded, almost monotonous life that only occasionally became interspersed with rather quixotic fighting against stupidity, chauvinism, and dilettantism in his field of scholarship. He did not understand the little amenities of sociability or the innocent half-lies of daily life and rejected them with a childlike, brusque, perturbed amazement. His character was hard and clear, like a glowing crystal radiating its inner heat without getting warm and soft on the surface. His words were few and to the point; his interests, intense and critical. His judgment was uncompromising in the rejection of all moral, mental, or artistic dishonesty.
Ottó Gombosi on Béla Bartók, who would be 137 today
click for another (larger) pic of the same animals
climbing partners.
Diane Feinstein:
"I look forward to speaking again with Gina Haspel about the role she would play and how she would run the CIA. It's no secret I've had concerns in the past with her connection to the CIA torture program and have spent time with her discussing this. To the best of my knowledge, she has been a good deputy director and I look forward to the opportunity to speak with her again."
This sounds like it will go as well as Feinstein's trust in Michael Mukasey ten years ago.

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