February 25, 2021

"It's maddening to watch the liberals who insisted for months that we should 'follow the science' reject the overwhelming scientific evidence that schools can reopen safely."

"Conservatives have argued for years that liberals don't actually care about science and only pretend to when it's convenient for the advancement of their political agenda. It appears that they had a point." 

A commenter named Jadon writes, at "School Closures Have Failed America’s Children As many as three million children have gotten no education for nearly a year" by Nicholas Kristof (NYT).

February 24, 2021

At the Sunrise Café...


 ... you can talk about whatever you want.

It's a grind.

"His inappropriate gestures became more frequent. He gave roses to female staffers on Valentine’s Day and arranged to have one delivered to me..."

"... the only one on my floor. A signed photograph of the Governor appeared in my closed-door office while I was out. These were not-so-subtle reminders of the Governor exploiting the power dynamic with the women around him. In 2018, I was promoted to Deputy Secretary for Economic Development and Special Advisor to the Governor. I initially turned the job down — not because I didn’t want the responsibility or work but because I didn’t want to be near him. I finally accepted the position at the Governor’s insistence with one requirement — I would keep my old agency office and remain on a separate floor from him and his inner circle. The Governor’s pervasive harassment extended beyond just me. He made unflattering comments about the weight of female colleagues. He ridiculed them about their romantic relationships and significant others. He said the reasons that men get women were 'money and power.' I tried to excuse his behavior. I told myself 'it’s only words.' But that changed after a one-on-one briefing with the Governor to update him on economic and infrastructure projects. We were in his New York City office on Third Avenue. As I got up to leave and walk toward an open door, he stepped in front of me and kissed me on the lips. I was in shock, but I kept walking. I left past the desk of Stephanie Benton. I was scared she had seen the kiss. The idea that someone might think I held my high-ranking position because of the Governor’s 'crush' on me was more demeaning than the kiss itself...."

From "My story of working with Governor Cuomo" by Lindsey Boylan (Medium).

There's also, "The Andrew Cuomo Show Has Lost the Plot/Is bullying fellow Democrats part of the New York governor’s brand, or just a print storyline that didn’t make it to the screen?" by Alex Pareene (The New Republic).

"A female passenger in an evening gown ran from the car, climbed the stone parapet along the Tidal Basin and... leaped headfirst into the frigid, inky water. Her splashdown would ripple into one of the capital’s most infamous sex scandals."

From "Fanne Foxe, ‘Argentine Firecracker’ at center of D.C. sex scandal, dies at 84" (WaPo). 

Standing near the car — drunk and bleeding — was her paramour, 65-year-old Wilbur Mills, the gravelly voiced chairman of the tax-writing U.S. House Ways and Means Committee and a man esteemed as a pillar of Bible Belt rectitude and respectability. The Arkansas Democrat, an ascetic grind who shepherded Medicare and other influential legislation through Congress, was also widely regarded as the most powerful man in government after the president. “I never vote against God, motherhood or Wilbur Mills,” a Democratic colleague once told a reporter.

But on that October morning, Ms. Battistella’s eyes were bruised. Mills’s Coke-bottle glasses were smashed, and his nose was badly scratched. He reeked of alcohol. And his 16-year hold on the federal purse strings was suddenly imperiled....

ADDED: "Ms. Battistella" = Annabel Battistella AKA Fanne Foxe. 

The hat is back...


... and a new head too. A tiny head... but a head nonetheless: 


Yesterday, the head and hat were gone. Two days ago, the full-sized head was there, with the hat, and the overall effect was much more sprightly and exuberant, with the cane flung upward as if dancing like Fred Astaire. Today, with the warmer weather, the snow is sagging, and the snowman, bent over, seems to be using the cane like an old man who needs a cane.

"Gallup's latest update on lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender identification finds 5.6% of U.S. adults identifying as LGBT."

"The current estimate is up from 4.5% in Gallup's previous update based on 2017 data." 

When I was in college, 50 years ago, the student group devoted to gay rights was called "The 10 Percent Society." The name was based on the broadly held belief that 10% of the population is gay. That wasn't even counting bisexual or transgender. Just gay and lesbian. Not too many people were open about it back then, but we were told to think that gay people were all around — 1 in 10 people. 

So I think 5.6% is a surprisingly low number. And most of it — 3.1% — are identifying as bisexual. Only 1.4% are gay men, and only 0.7% are lesbian. 

The LGBT percentage goes up within each generation. Baby Boomers are 2.0% LGBT and Gen Z is 15.9%. But, again, that includes people who are saying they identify as bisexual. 72% of those LGBT-identifying Gen Zers say bisexual. And women are far more likely than men to identify as bisexual.

About that neckace.

I went out running this morning to catch the dawn... 


... and as I was running, I was thinking about the post I'd just put up at 6:23. (The photograph was taken at 6:45.) 

The post talked about a WaPo columnist who had pasted together a ramshackle argument that rested absurdly heavily on a couple things Trump's nominee for ambassador to Germany had said about how women look — that Hillary Clinton was "starting to look like Madeleine Albright" and that Rachel Maddow ought to "take a breath and put on a necklace." 

I was thinking while running about how it's important to be able to talk about the way people look. Life is — in great part — visual, and we're going to think about looks, we live within looking, and looks are not entirely superficial, they speak of depths, and even what is superficial is crucial to the feeling of being alive. We're not morally obligated to blind ourselves. We want to see and to talk about what we see. 

But what did it mean to say that Rachel Maddow ought to "take a breath and put on a necklace"? The man who said it was Richard Grenell, who is himself gay and therefore at least presumptively nonhomophobic. But the old tweet is deleted, so I can't search for the context. I only see it used against him. Example:

According to the pro-LGBTQ Washington Blade, Grenell’s history of insulting women on sexist and homophobic grounds is long and toxic. He has written that Rachel Maddow, an MSNBC lesbian news anchor, “needs to take a breath and put on a necklace.”

Did he mean women should all adopt a feminine fashion style? I don't know. I'd object to that, even though I think we should be able to talk about how people look. But you ought to let them choose how they want to present themselves, so don't criticize them for failing to do something they're not trying to do. If a woman is going for a boyish look, talk about whether it's a nicely done boyish look. You're a jerk to talk about how it's not feminine. 

If that's what Grenell meant by "put on a necklace." Maybe it had something to do with Maddow's high school yearbook photo....

The masks/condoms analogy might cut the other way.

"Did people stop saying 'fragility' in the past year? I feel like I used to see it on almost a daily basis..."

"... but I can’t remember seeing it for a while now. (And I deliberately say 'see' it instead of 'hear' it because I’ve only ever seen it written, never heard it out loud.) Could it be that the word started to seem out of touch because we’ve been realizing how fragile we all are?" 

Writes my son John on Facebook, and I think he's suggesting something about our heightened awareness of death and illness during the pandemic. 

I responded over there:

Based on my search for "white fragility" in the NYT, with the results ordered newest first, I'd say it was very common up through October. Since October, there's only one appearance, in a little thing in December about what books New Yorkers read in the past year: "As nationwide discussions erupted over the summer around race and racism, demand for books on the subjects surged across the country, a trend reflected in the city’s libraries. Titles like 'White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism' by Robin DiAngelo were among the most popular in some boroughs." What changed after October? To ask the question is to make the answer obvious.

Before that December item, there were articles containing the term "white fragility" on October 29, October 22, October 6, September 27, September 17, September 6, September 1, August 31, August 11... You get the picture. 

But "fragility" was a vogue word before last year's obsession with Robin DiAngelo's book. Even if the election — the answer I thought was obvious — explains the disappearance of "white fragility," we might also be seeing a disappearance of interest in "fragility" as used in the book "Antifragile" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. If so, I'm inclined to guess that the over-prominence of DiAngelo's concept tired us all out. 

And that's the irony of being fragile about fragility that John was musing about.

Prime civility bullshit headline from WaPo's Karen Tumulty: "The people concerned about Neera Tanden’s incivility sure didn’t seem to mind the Trump era’s."

I've been writing under the tag "civility bullshit" for years. It represents my longstanding opinion that calls for civility are always bullshit. Certainly in the area of politics, calls for civility always come out when the incivility is hurting your people. When somebody is deploying incivility effectively for your side, you hold your tongue and enjoy the damage. 

But let's consider the Neera Tanden problem. Her incivility is in the past. People on her side enjoyed the damage she inflicted at the time and I don't think any of her people tried to pull her back with calls for civility. It's just that now she's Biden's nominee to head the Office of Management and the Budget, and the old incivility makes her seem like too much of a political hack to be trusted in that position.

Nobody bellyaches about incivility when it's working as a weapon for their side, and the charge of incivility is another political weapon, whipped out when the other side is landing incivility punches on you. 

Here's the Karen Tumulty piece: 

With the defection of Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, [Tanden's] nomination looks to be sunk in the evenly divided Senate if she cannot win the support of at least one Republican.... [Manchin's] stated reason, the “toxic and detrimental impact” of Tanden’s “overtly partisan statements,” is hard to take at face value.

February 23, 2021

At the Headless Snowman Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

6:50 a.m.


"In our own ways, Bruce and I have been on parallel journeys trying to understand this country that’s given us both so much. Trying to chronicle the stories of its people. Looking for a way to connect our own individual searches for meaning and truth and community with the larger story of America."

Said Barack Obama, quoted in "Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen Join Many Men Before Them, Launch a Podcast" (NY Magazine).  

... journeys... stories... a way to connect our own individual searches for meaning and truth and community with the larger story of America... 

I don't know. That must appeal to some people but it sounds perfectly silly to me. 

 I love the photograph, which I'll copy because it's Spotify's picture (by Rob DeMartin) and they seem to be trying to promote the podcast, so I'm only helping them:

The 2 men and their environment are so ideal... and yet... where are the masks? Did they really do the podcast there on abutting sides of that delicate table? Does Bruce really use wheelie chairs on those loose, blanket-like rugs? That's not going to work. Did they just happen to cross their arms and legs in the same way? More importantly, do this guys have a good podcast-y way to talk back and forth? 

ADDED: I am actually going to attempt to listen to this. I'll let you know how it turns out.

UPDATE: My effort ended 14 minutes and 27 seconds in. I found it of no interest whatsoever.

"I don’t want to see my children’s, children’s children have to say 'Oh please like me, please respect me, please know that I am important, please value me.' What is that?"

Said Stevie Wonder, explaining why he is moving — permanently — to Ghana (CNN).

"At the 66-acre site, groups of beige trailers encircle a giant white dining tent, a soccer field and a basketball court."

"There is a bright blue hospital tent with white bunk beds inside. A legal services trailer has the Spanish word 'Bienvenidos,' or welcome, on a banner on its roof. There are trailers for classrooms, a barber shop, a hair salon. The facility has its own ambulances and firetrucks, as well as its own water supply.... he most colorful trailer is at the entryway, where flowers, butterflies and handmade posters still hang on its walls...." 

From "First migrant facility for children opens under Biden" (WaPo). 

I wonder how those sentences would have been written if this "facility" had opened under Trump. 

I'll just list some words in the order that they would be most likely to be deleted/replaced if Trump were President when this place opened: butterflies, encircle, bienvenidos, flowers, handmade, colorful, welcome, bright, salon, basketball, soccer,  blue, beige, firetrucks, facility, classrooms, barber shop, white, banner....   

My favorite of those words is "encircle." They're talking about beige trailers. C'mon, beige trailers, let's form a big happy circle around the giant white dining tent!

IN THE COMMENTS: Bob Boyd accepts the challenge to rewrite the passage as it would have been written if Trump were President:

Crowded into less than 70 acres, dusty trailers huddle around a military style mess tent, a few basketball hoops and what we were told is a soccer field. There is an ominous, blue medical tent crammed with narrow, sterile bunk beds of the type one associates with mental wards of the last century. A legal services trailer with a banner on its roof reads 'Bienvenidos,' or welcome, an irony that could hardly be lost on those kept here away from family, friends and the promise of America. In a half-hearted gesture towards the basic needs of its young inmates, trailers never designed for the job have been pressed into service as makeshift classrooms, a barber shop and a hair salon. A grim-looking ambulance and firetrucks stand ready in recognition of the inevitable. The camp's water trickles reluctantly from hurriedly drilled, shallow wells. Standing out in this largely beige world, one trailer near the entryway has been ham-handedly decorated with cheap posters featuring butterflies and flowers, their once bright colors fading rapidly under the glaring sun.