Monday, April 15, 2024

Twelve years ago at the blog -- "Comics are weird" (with apologies to Bob Chipman)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Weekend pop culture blogging -- comic strip edition

The birth of a medium invariably consists overwhelmingly of crap (think Sturgeon's Law raised to the next level), but new media also has a way of producing the occasional work on stunning originality.

An obvious example here is the work of Winsor McCay (arguably the first acknowledged genius of both comics and animation, though fans of Herriman and Feininger might dispute the comics part), but even McCay's astoundingly innovative work can't match the originality of the Upside-Downs by Gustave Verbeek.

Verbeek's weekly strip told a twelve panel story in a six panel space. He did this by... Oh, hell, you really need to see this for yourself.

How's that to start your weekend?

For more Verbeek weirdness check here.


Friday, April 12, 2024

Viewing Recommendation


I don't want to extend the analogy to the outcome...

... or try to draw too many inferences from the similarities, but there are some notable parallels between this election and 1964. In the years that followed the election there was (perhaps still is) a tendency to get all warm and fuzzy about Goldwater. It's easy to forget what a dangerous extremist the man was. This LBJ ad does a good job reminding us just how crazy and frightening the candidate looked at the time, and (without leaning too heavily on the analogy) does have some moments that sound familiar such as the "is he serious" section that starts a little after 1:35.

Before watching, I recommend reading Marshall's "Big Normie Energy."

Confessions of a Republican (LBJ 1964 Presidential campaign commercial)

I finally got around to looking up the details of this ad.

In 1964, Bogert starred in the "Confessions of a Republican" ad for Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1964 U.S. presidential election. Bogert was a lifelong Republican, which was a requirement for the casting. He appeared on Don Lemon's CNN news show on March 17, 2016, and also on Rachel Maddow Show on May 2, 2016, to comment on the relevance of the ad to the 2016 election.

In July 2016, during the convention that nominated Donald Trump as the Republican presidential candidate, Bogert appeared in a reprise of the ad. "He scares me," Bogert said in the ad, echoing his comments about Goldwater 52 years before.

A bit more background here. One surprising revelation is that the team behind the ad cut a line that  Bogert said did not represent his views. 


Thursday, April 11, 2024

Six years ago at the blog -- old tech April (stentor edition, 1907)

It's a shame "stentor" didn't catch on

One of the conclusions I've come to after digging though the history of 19th and 20th century technology is that when there's a real demand for specific functionality, it will express itself as soon as (and sometimes even before) the technology is viable.

Today's example: the news broadcast.

From Scientific American 1907/06/22




Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Arizona -- this was not what I was planning on writing when I got up this morning

I had a fun repost of some cool turn-of-the-century tech ready to go then this happened...

... so we're back in quotes and anecdotes, trying to get a feel for what smart people like Josh Marshall are saying and collecting material for the actual posts I'm planning on writing when the smoke clears. 

Marshall posted twice on this story today, first with a general overview.

The court decision out of Arizona reminds us there are lots of unknowns still to reveal themselves over the course of this election. This is a pretty big one. The state court ruled that Dobbs means the near complete ban on abortion under an 1864 law must be enforced in the state. If I’m understanding the ruling, it is for the moment stayed. So it doesn’t go into effect today. But it likely will pretty soon. Arizona abortion rights advocates say they already have sufficient signatures to get an abortion ballot initiative on the ballot for November. That’s not confirmed yet. But these groups have a lot of experience knowing the number of excess signatures required to be certain you’re going to get on the ballot. So it’s a safe assumption that that ballot initiative will be on the ballot. It’s just not certain.

 At the risk of pointing out the obvious, that's two large, strongly pro-choice, red or reddish states with horribly oppressive anti-abortion laws that will almost certainly have ballot initiatives addressing those laws come November. No one knows how big or small the impact of this will be, but we can say it has the potential to be huge.

Arizona Republicans are in what Marshall called "full panic mode."

 Whatever happens in Arizona in November we got a preview of the difficulty Republican candidates will have in states where high stakes ballot initiatives literally put abortion on the ballot. Shortly after Arizona’s high court ruled that the state must go back to the 1864 abortion law which forbids virtually every abortion, Kari Lake, probable GOP senate nominee (and governor over the water) released a remarkable statement. She first denounced the 1864 law, which she said she supported as recently as last fall. She said she opposed today’s ruling. She then demanded Gov. Katie Hobbs and the Republican state legislature “come up with an immediate common sense solution that Arizonans can support.” She then said that the decision will be up to voters in the ballot initiative that will be on the November ballot, that is, the initiative she actually opposes.

Lake's efforts to wriggle out of this quandary are great impeded by the fact that people have recorded what Lake has been saying for the past couple of years.  

Kari Lake in 2022: I don’t believe in abortion. The older 1864 abortion ban is going to go into effect. Life begins at conception. I don’t think abortion pills should be legal



The people who supported her because of those statements are not happy.


 And Lake is not an isolated case.

Former governor, but in office when things went down.

 Again at the risk of stating the obvious, the timing of this cuts off Trump's "moderate" spin of at the knees.

The Democrats are wasting no time going on the attack.


  And we close with a shameless ear worm. You have been warned.



Tuesday, April 9, 2024

A few points and a lot of tweets about abortion

Despite predictions in the immediate aftermath of Dobbs that abortion would not be that big a deal compared to issues like inflation,  it has only grown in importance. Republicans are scared and Democrats are smelling blood because there is no position for GOP politicians in any but the safest districts that satisfies the base without being toxic in a general election, at least not given the own the libs ratcheting action that keeps the party's candidates from back away from unpopular stands.

There is, ,the possibility of telling the base one thing and the rest of us something else, an approach that requires the press to meet the lies halfway. Fortunately for Trump, we have just such a press.

From Kate Riga:

It’s a clear effort to triangulate on an issue that has cost Republicans dearly since the Dobbs ruling. And more importantly to Trump, this is the first election he’ll be running in since then. It’s a politically transparent attempt to lure back the voters, many of them women, who have defected due to abortion extremism. 

It’s also, obviously, baloney. 

Nowhere in the video does Trump say that his devotion to state autonomy is so great that he won’t sign a federal ban, should he win the White House and his party, Congress.

He doesn’t promise not to appoint a Food and Drug Administration commissioner who would revoke the authorization of abortion drug mifepristone, something anti-abortion activists are trying to do in federal court currently (the Supreme Court is poised to hand down a decision on reimposing restrictions on the drug). He doesn’t take the 19th century Comstock Act off the table, something his Department of Justice could use without any new legislation to keep mifepristone and its (currently) less regulated partner, misoprostol, from being mailed. 

He’s making a bet that feigned moderation will be enough to see him through the election, when he will then be free to impose whichever restrictions his anti-abortion supporters demand. 

Part of that bet depends on the credulity of mainstream media outlets to buy his new framing, despite his frequent crowing about overturning Roe, and his very recent willingness to embrace national gestational bans (he supported a 16 week one, like, a month and a half ago, per a report from the New York Times). But betting on the goldfish-like memories of the big outlets is always a safe one.

NYT: Trump Says Abortion Restrictions Should Be Left to the States

Washington Post: Trump says abortion should be left to states, does not endorse national limit

And Kate's boss.

Though in defense of at least part of that organization.

There are still some call-a-spade-a-spade journalists out there. More importantly for this election, there are deep-pocketed Democrats who can't wait to go on the attack starting with this devastating ad.

A friend of mine also saw this ad discussed on PBS News Hour.


Trump has given the Biden/Harris campaign plenty to work with.

Trump's supporters are also providing ammo for the Democrats.

I remain amazed that Fox, to their credit (other than their polling operation, when's the last time you heard me say that?) has kept Tarlov on the air.

One of the most interesting parts of the story has been the reaction from the militant anti-abortion wing.

And the counter-reaction.

And the inevitable pockets of capitulation. (Again from Kate Riga.)

“We are deeply disappointed in President Trump’s position,” Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement, adding that “leave it to the states” cedes the debate to Democrats.

But, but, but: “With lives on the line, SBA Pro-Life America and the pro-life grassroots will work tirelessly to defeat President Biden and extreme congressional Democrats.”

No skin off Trump’s back then! 

“We clearly have some work to do to educate President Trump in the many ways that abortion has been made federal. But with the mutual goals of supporting families and welcoming young children, I can work with this,” Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins tweeted. 

It is easy to read too much into this anger from the right, but it is perhaps just as easy to read too little. None of these people are going to vote for Biden, but some of them may not make quite the same effort to show up for Trump either with their checkbooks or at the polls. 

And finally, there's the question of how Trump will deal with the cold shoulder from some of his previously most adoring followers. I realize that I'm not supposed to use psychological terms to describe public figures, but how can we describe Trump as anything other than a narcissist? He craves love and attention and he desperately wants to spike the ball in Biden and the Democrats' faces by bragging about Dobbs. Does he have the self-control to resist going off script over the next seven months and tell a cheering crowd that he will personally end abortion in the United States?

Monday, April 8, 2024

If I had a slightly cynical attitude toward Elon Musk, I might be a bit suspicious of a couple of things here

 First of all, there's the timing of this.


The surprise Robo Taxi announcement certainly came at a fortuitous moment for Musk. Before the news broke, Tesla was having a really bad, awful, totally nogood year ...




... followed by a really bad, awful, totally nogood day thanks to the release of a Reuters story about the company ever so quietly canceling its plans for a low-cost EV. This was on top of tons of bad news about the companies inventory and other problems, not to mention the cybertruck managing to edge out the Ford Edsel as the ultimate cautionary tale of why not to overhype a new automobile. 

 At 4:49 in the afternoon, less than an hour after the stock dropped another 3.63%...


 And one minute later...


Longtime readers will be familiar with Musk's history of announcing incredible breakthroughs, often just as one of his companies is about to go over a cliff.

From May 25, 2022

About seven or eight years ago, Musk's promises started becoming unmoored not just from what his engineers were working on, but from what was even possible. As best I can tell, this started with the hyperloop.

[And before the rumbling starts again, though you have heard about hundreds of millions of dollars going into hyperloop companies, absolutely none of that money is going into Elon Musk s air cushion idea. Every proposal and protype you've seen has been for maglev. Companies like Virgin scrapped his concept but kept the name.]*

Part of the reason for these increasingly delusional boasts may just have been Musk getting high on his own supply.** Take someone with messianic tendencies, give them a full-bore cult of personality, and have even the most respectable journalists refer to him as a real life Tony Stark. You know it's going to go to a guy's head.

But these fantastic claims also served his financial interest. The huge run up in the stock of Tesla came after the narrative had shifted to over-the-top fantasy.

Maintaining his current fortune requires Musk to keep these fantasies vivid in the minds of fans and investors. People have to believe that the Tesla model after next will be a flying exoskeleton that can blow shit up.

To be blunt, the industry is nowhere near the level of self-driving functionality and Tesla in nowhere near being the leader in this field. Assuming we do not witness the company leapfrog the competition and unveil a major breakthrough in level 4 autonomy, what are we likely to see on August 8th?

1. Nothing. Elon Musk will announce that the big reveal has been pushed back to make the product even more spectacular.

2. An Optimus Style non demonstration where Elon will haul out a barely functional prototype years behind the competition in terms of sophistication and will spend the rest of the time talking about how incredible the next iteration will eventually be.

3. Low level fake. A painstakingly choreographed drive-through of carefully mapped course with selective editing to cover the remaining glitches. (see Optimus.)

4. High level fake. Everything in the low level fake plus a Mechanical Turk actually at the controls. Check out the right side of this video which was released to great fanfare.


Musk later added a note that the robot was actually operating autonomously but of course, he wasn't trying to mislead anyone. 

* In the two years since this post, those hundreds of millions have been long been burned through with the biggest and best financed Hyperloop One/Virgin Hyperloop finally shuttering its airlock last year. 

** And we now know getting high on a lot of other things as well.