March 6, 2021

At the Waning Crescent Café...

IMG_2769 ... you can talk all night.

"Biden stimulus showers money on Americans, sharply cutting poverty in defining move of presidency."

 WaPo headline.

NYT headline: "To Juice the Economy, Biden Bets on the Poor/Mr. Biden’s bottom-up $1.9 trillion aid package is a sharp reversal from the tax cut bill that was President Donald J. Trump’s first big legislative victory."




"Lawyers for former President DONALD TRUMP sent out cease-and-desist letters Friday to the three largest fundraising entities for the Republican Party... for using his name and likeness..."

"... on fundraising emails and merchandise... ...Trump was furious that his name has been bandied about by organizations that help Republicans who voted to impeach him... Trump, who made his fortune in licensing, has always been sensitive to how his name has been used to fundraise and support members, even while in office. ... [P]rivately GOP campaign types say it’s impossible not to use Trump’s name... [and] he should be more generous...."

Politico reports.

Kyrsten Sinema cutely dramatized her "no" to the $15 minimum wage and some people are really mad about it.

I'm reading "Sinema Slammed For Exaggerated Thumbs-Down On $15 Minimum Wage" (HuffPo). Here's how it looked:

We watched that about 20 times. It's hard to know why she did it like that. At first, we thought maybe she was emulating John McCain, whose dramatic down vote on the GOP health care repeal was done with a distinct hand gesture. 

But look at that — here. It's not much like what Sinema did, which was a whole body movement, bouncing down and back up as she did a sassy thumb's down. McCain held his hand out to get attention — because he was voting after the point in the roll call where his name had appeared — and when he got the attention, he briskly pointed his whole hand downward. 

McCain took the position that the left loved, and Sinema was on the side the left hates. I can't remember the worst things the right said about McCain and his dramatic moment, but the left is spewing hostility at Sinema. I'll just highlight this from Lawyers, Guns & Money

I get that Joe Manchin is just a narcissistic conservative asshole having the time of his life. But what the living fuck is this shit?... Of course, she’s claiming that criticism of this grotesque display is sexist...

ADDED: I think the right attitude for voting down the minimum wage is more somber. It should express something more like: I'm sorry, I want hard-working people to make more money too, but this is the wrong way to try to make that happen. The gesture Sinema gave feels more like: Ha! So there! That's not appropriate to the occasion. It makes her seem as though she doesn't even understand what she's doing.

"We all need to think to keep things straight, but we mostly think by talking."

"We need to talk about the past, so we can distinguish the trivial, overblown concerns that otherwise plague our thoughts from the experiences that are truly important. We need to talk about the nature of the present and our plans for the future, so we know where we are, where we are going, and why we are going there. We must submit the strategies and tactics we formulate to the judgments of others, to ensure their efficiency and resilience. We need to listen to ourselves as we talk, as well, so that we may organize our otherwise inchoate bodily reactions, motivations, and emotions into something articulate and organized, and dispense with those concerns that are exaggerated and irrational.... An individual does not have to be that well put together if he or she can remain at least minimally acceptable in behavior to others.... We outsource the problem of sanity.... If you begin to deviate from the straight and narrow path—if you begin to act improperly—people will react to your errors before they become too great, and cajole, laugh, tap, and criticize you back into place. They will raise an eyebrow, or smile (or not), or pay attention (or not). If other people can tolerate having you around, in other words, they will constantly remind you not to misbehave, and just as constantly call on you to be at your best. All that is left for you to do is watch, listen, and respond appropriately to the cues.... [You need] to appreciate your immersion in the world of other people—friends, family members, and foes alike—despite the anxiety and frustration that social interactions so often produce."

From Jordan Peterson's new book, "Beyond Order/12 More Rules for Life" (p. 3). 

Do you "outsource the problem of sanity"? When other people "raise an eyebrow, or smile (or not), or pay attention (or not)," when they "cajole, laugh, tap, and criticize you back into place," it isn't always only to cue you that you've erred. It is also to control you and to fool you into thinking that there are limits that just don't exist. 

And why did he say "the problem of sanity"? He could have said — We outsource the process of understanding whether we are sane or We outsource the problem of detecting our own insanity. Isn't that what he meant? It would be funny to think that sanity is a problem

ADDED: I looked up the "sanity" quotes at Goodreads, and I did this because I expected to find what I found — the kind of sanity-skeptical attitude that's been popular in America for as long as I can remember.

2 of the top 6 are from Edgar Allan Poe:

“I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.” 


“Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence– whether much that is glorious– whether all that is profound– does not spring from disease of thought– from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.” 

There's also Mark Twain: “Sanity and happiness are an impossible combination.”

Tim Burton: “One person's craziness is another person's reality.” "

J.K. Rowling: “Don't worry. You're just as sane as I am.” 

And George Santayana: “Sanity is a madness put to good uses.”

ALSO: Reading more deeply into the quotes, I find exactly the line I expected to see (attributed to Akira Kurosawa): "In a mad world, only the mad are sane."

"Alienated Young Man Creates Some Sad Music."

That's the headline from January 1968 in The New York Times for a review of "Songs of Leonard Cohen," Leonard Cohen's first album. The headline is hilariously dismissive. 

The reviewer was Donal Henahan (1921-2012), whose obituary (in the NYT) says he was a WWII fighter pilot, and he began his NYT reviewing in September 14, 1967 with this:

“The American subculture of buttons and beards, poster art and pot, sandals and oddly shaped spectacles met the rather more ancient culture of India last evening at Philharmonic Hall. The occasion was the first of six concerts there this season by Ravi Shankar, the sitar virtuoso, whose instrument traces back about 700 years and whose chosen art form, the raga, is said to be 2,000 years old.”

Oddly shaped spectacles.... Here's the whole Ravi Shankar piece as it appeared on page 53 of the NYT that day. There's not much more to the article, but, my God, what you see on that page!

Why aren't people talking about the new Jordan Peterson book? It came out 4 days ago, and I'm only just noticing it now.

Here's the book: "Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life." 

I only noticed it just now because I was having an in-person conversation that caused me to need to check the exact reason why Toni Morrison called Bill Clinton "the first black President" and I landed on "It Was No Compliment to Call Bill Clinton 'The First Black President.'

That was in The Atlantic. I hadn't stopped by The Atlantic in a long time, but while I was there, I noticed "What Happened to Jordan Peterson?/Adored guru and reviled provocateur, he dropped out of sight. Now the irresistible ordeal of modern cultural celebrity has brought him back." 

Reading that, I was surprised to see that Peterson was "back" in the sense that he'd published a new book. The publication date was March 2d. You'd think I'd have tripped across that information by now. 

I've put the book in my Kindle, and I'll get back to you about it.

For now, let's read a little of this Atlantic piece, which is — you can't tell from the headline — a book review. It's by Helen Lewis:

March 5, 2021

“As the Insurrection Narrative Crumbles, Democrats Cling to it More Desperately Than Ever.”

 A new piece from Glenn Greenwald.

ADDED: I wrote this post on my iPad and let it sit for nearly 12 hours before noticing I'd written "Greenwood" for "Greenwald." I'm really sorry! I was done blogging for the day but wanted to get this last thing up, and I have a harder time seeing on the iPad, and then there's the autocorrection. In any event, "wald" means "woods," so it almost seems like a translation, like calling me "Oldhouse." Again, I'm sorry! I thought it was a good article, and I appreciate what Glenn has been doing lately, which is insisting on honesty from the press. Excerpt:
The key point to emphasize here is that threats and dangers are not binary: [it's not that] they either exist or they are fully illusory. They reside on a spectrum. To insist that they be discussed rationally, soberly and truthfully is not to deny the existence of the threat itself. One can demand a rational and fact-based understanding of the magnitude of the threat revealed by the January 6 riot without denying that there is any danger at all.

Note the word "riot." It was a riot — not a coup or an insurrection.

Perhaps the most significant blow to the maximalist insurrection/coup narrative took place inside the Senate on Thursday. Ever since January 6, those who were not referring to the riot as a “coup attempt” — as though the hundreds of protesters intended to overthrow the most powerful and militarized government in history — were required to refer to it instead as an “armed insurrection.” This formulation was crucial not only for maximizing fear levels about the Democrats’ adversaries but also, as I’ve documented previously, because declaring an “armed insurrection” empowers the state with virtually unlimited powers to act against the citizenry. Over and over, leading Democrats and their media allies repeated this phrase like some hypnotic mantra...

This is something people do around here.


There's a name for it, I think, but I've forgotten what it is — if I ever knew.

A NYC woman wonders where that cold wind in her apartment is coming from... the bathroom... the mirror...

 A TikTok mystery — Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

WARNING: Somewhere in the dialogue — I think it's in Part 2 — they talk about the movie "Parasite" and reveal something that is a significant spoiler.

"Before discovering the world of ethical non-monogamy, known to some as 'the Lifestyle,' I was in a long-term, loving, monogamous relationship that my body begged me to end..."

"... before it progressed to an engagement. At the time, I didn’t fully understand what was missing from that relationship, but I did know that my partner loved me despite my weird wildness, while I yearned to be with someone who loved me because of it. To further confuse matters, I didn’t even know exactly what my 'weird wildness' entailed, partly because I had spent so much time in relationships that were not conducive to personal and sexual growth."

From "A Unicorn’s Tale: Three-Way Sex With Couples Has Made Me a Better Person/Intimacy between two people is like ping-pong, but with three people, it’s like volleying a ball with no net, and no blueprint. That openness has changed my life" by Caroline Rose Giuliani (Vanity Fair). 

I wonder if she's getting published despite her being Rudolph Giuliani's daughter or because she is Rudolph Giuliani's daughter. 

AND: Lateral thought that hit me just after I published this post: The people who love Trump love him because of his weird wildness, not despite it. 

ALSO: She might not use the term "weird wildness" if she remembered this:

The attack on Neanderthals has real victims...

They walk among us... and don't say dragging their knuckles.

"Early on, some likened the public health crisis to a blizzard, imagining that people would stay home, cozy up with their romantic partners and make babies."

"These playful visions have given way to a more sobering reality: The pandemic’s serious disruption of people’s lives is likely to cause 'missing births' — potentially a lot of them. Add these missing births to the country’s decade-long downward trend in annual births and we can expect consequential changes to our economy and society in the years to come.... Millions of parents are dealing with the stress of combining their work responsibilities with the need to supervise and teach their children who no longer attend school five days a week. This raises the 'cost' of rearing children and can be expected to lead to fewer siblings being conceived this year. Moreover, restrictions on social activities also mean some relationships that would have started in 2020 (and might have led to babies someday) never took root. We have no precedent to estimate changes in birthrates from these disruptions, but they will undoubtedly also contribute to a large reduction in overall births.... Some women and couples will have fewer children than they hoped, and some kids will grow up without the younger sibling they would have had otherwise. This could contribute to what some have referred to as America’s loneliness epidemic.... But the real societal challenge of a Covid baby bust will be a smaller work force.... In the absence of effective policies to meaningfully increase births, the most reliable and immediate way to shore up the U.S. population is through immigration, which brings its own political and social challenges...."

From "We Expect 300,000 Fewer Births Than Usual This Year/Signs are pointing to a sizable pandemic baby bust in the United States, with implications that will be with us for years to come" by economics professors Melissa S. Kearney and Phillip B. Levine (NYT).

It was 50 years ago today: the first public performance of "Stairway to Heaven."

From "Stairway to Heaven: the story of a song and its legacy/Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven continues to prop up best-ever lists. But what made it great? Jimmy Page and some of the song’s admirers explain its magic" (The Guardian): 

John Paul Jones has said the song’s first performance, at Ulster Hall in Belfast in March 1971, won no plaudits from the crowd – “They were all bored to tears waiting to hear something they knew” – though bootlegs of the show have it ending to perfectly respectful and sustained applause....

[Later], Stairway usually featured in the middle of Zeppelin’s live set (at that Belfast show, it was played sixth, between Dazed and Confused and another new song, Going to California), then, Page says, “it got to the point where, because of the affection for it from the audience, it was gonna be better to put it at the end, so there was anticipation for it. And what were you gonna follow it with? So you’d finish the set with it then come back on and do the encores.”

Zeppelin legend holds that to maximise the song’s impact, the band’s manager, Peter Grant, told Plant not to speak after Stairway, to maximise the moment of profundity. Page has an idea for what would happen if he were playing the song in this era: “Now you should just open with it.” He laughs at his own audacity. “That’d be something, wouldn’t it?”

What is FAIR?

Because I follow the Twitter feed of the erstwhile NYT columnist Bari Weiss, I noticed that there's a new group that calls itself FAIR — The Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism. Here's their video:


That's on such a high level of abstraction that it hard to understand what's really going on there. The assumption is that you'll recognize at least some of the names/faces and trust their authority. They seem to be banding together as a correction to the excesses of social-justice activists. But what exactly? Are we to trust them as experts, with details to come later?

I found their website, here, and the front page has that video embedded next to the words "What is FAIR?" So I'm stuck in a loop. "What is FAIR?" is the question I had after watching the video. So I watched it again. As far as I can tell, based on the words spoken, it is a forthright demand for the old-fashioned color-blindness approach to racial justice: There is "one race, the human race."

Given the famous names who've joined together — Steven Pinker, John McWhorter, Glenn Loury, Bari Weiss, etc. — I would expect news coverage of this organization, which seems to have been announced yesterday. But when I did a Google News search, only one thing came up, a NY Post item titled "Booksellers were unprepared for Dr. Seuss ban as sales skyrocket." 

That's not an article about FAIR, just a reference to it at the end of an article about the Seuss crisis:

A Web site has sprung up called BannedSeuss run by the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism that says: “Erasing books is insanity. Stand up for our common humanity.”

Here's the BannedSeuss website.  Ah! It has the full text and pictures of "And To Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street" (a book, that, I think, is cancelled because of the line "A Chinese man who eats with sticks" and the picture of a man whose eyes are represented by short angled lines when everyone else in the book has eyes represented by dots). 

Back to the NY Post: