August 6, 2020

At the Boardwalk Café...


... you can pace around all night.

And thanks for using the Althouse Portal when you shop at Amazon.

"Facebook removed hundreds of accounts on Thursday from a foreign troll farm posing as African-Americans in support of Donald Trump and QAnon supporters."

"It also removed thousands of fake accounts linked to conservative media outlet The Epoch Times that pushed pro-Trump conspiracy theories about coronavirus and protests in the U.S. Facebook took down the accounts as part of its enforcement against coordinated inauthentic behavior, which is the use of fake accounts to inflate the reach of content or products on social media. The foreign pro-Trump troll farm was based in Romania and pushed content on Instagram under names like 'BlackPeopleVoteForTrump' and on Facebook under 'We Love Our President.'"

NBC News reports.

"He took objection to the word 'Styrofoam.' He said, 'This is so uncharacteristic of your work, to put something as time-dated as the word "Styrofoam" into it.'"

So said Robert Hunter, talking about Jerry Garcia's only problem with "Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo," quoted in "Jerry Garcia’s 50 Greatest Songs" (Rolling Stone).

"Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo" is one of those titles that calls to mind no actual song, but once I start playing it, I know what it is:

#33 by the way. My favorite Jerry Garcia song is ranked at #46, so I'm not really into the numbers. For the record "Uncle John's Band" is #1. The other "uncle" song — "Me and My Uncle" — is not even on the list. [ADDED: It shouldn't be. It was written by John Phillips.]

I like that Jerry cared about the timelessness of the words.

"I know that I am dealing with some form of low-grade depression. Not just because of the quarantine, but because of the racial strife..."

"... and just seeing this administration, watching the hypocrisy of it, day in and day out, is dispiriting.... I have to say, that waking up to the news, waking up to how this administration has or has not responded, waking up to, yet another, story of a Black man or a Black person somehow being dehumanised, or hurt or killed, or, falsely accused of something, it is exhausting. And, and it, it has led to a weight, that I haven’t felt in my life, in, in a while.... Barack’s in his office, making calls, working on his book. I’m in my room, the girls are on their computers. But right around five o’clock, everybody comes out of their nooks, and, we like, do an activity, like, puzzles have become big, just just sitting and doing these thousand piece puzzles.... So Barack has taught the girls [the card game] spades, so now there’s this vicious competition.... It’s almost like they needed the world to stop a little bit. You know they didn’t realise that they were, that the world they were on, and the way they were living it, was so treadmill-like. So fast and furious. Um, because it was all they ever knew.... [The pandemic is an opportunity to] decide how you want to show up in the new world. Because it will be a new world."

Said Michelle Obama, in her podcast, quoted at The Guardian.

I wonder if Michelle Obama suffers from the medical condition, depression. I hear "some form of low-grade depression" to mean that she feels low or sad based on the current conditions, not that she has clinical depression. But perhaps she does, and I would hope that people who suffer from depression feel supported by her words.

As for the Obamas, under lockdown, doing puzzles at the end of the day — I imagine that millions of people, reading about that, feel uplift just to picture the beloved family around a table in the evening  laughing and talking over a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. I am not kidding when I say that typing out that sentence brought tears to my eyes. What is more wholesome than a married couple with their adult children working on a complicated puzzle together? Such a beautiful life, and yet they still think of the troubles of the world and carry that weight along with them.

What puzzles do you imagine them doing? Maybe Van Gogh's "Starry Night" or Edward Gorey's "Cat Fancy" or this William Morris tapestry. That's what the Obamas in my evening fantasy are doing, and if someone made a puzzle out of an intricately detailed painting of the Obamas doing a puzzle, I would do that puzzle and so would millions of Americans. It might cure low-grade depression.

And here are the rules for the card game spades. Key rule: "The spade suit is always trump."

ADDED: "There's a tramp sittin' on my doorstep/Tryin' to waste his time/With his methylated sandwich/He's a walking clothesline/And here comes the bishop's daughter/On the other side/She looks a trifle jealous/She's been an outcast all her life/Me, I'm waiting so patiently/Lying on the floor/I'm just trying to do my jig-saw puzzle/Before it rains anymore...."

The government wants you to "stop talking to people and get back to staring at your phone."

John observes, looking at this:

Bird + girls + sunrise.


Unobstructed view:


Can you tell whether it's elevating and not racist to compare Black Lives Matter artists to cavemen?

I'm trying to read "New York’s Sidewalk Prophets Are Heirs of the Lascaux Cave Artisans/What street art adorning boarded-up storefronts tells us about our shared political realities and the ways our stories are connected. A critic’s tour deciphers the signs and symbols" in the New York Times.

Maybe to answer my question you need to know more about the racial identification of the writer, whose name is Seph Rodney. I'm just going to give you a sample of the prose:
What became apparent to me is that in the intervening millenniums between those cave paintings and the killing of George Floyd, the messages we share, like the sociopolitical circumstance that impel them, have become more complex. Now street artists take account of the qualified legal immunity protecting police officers, the Black Lives Matter movement and the ramifications of a dysfunctional democracy, among other realities, using a well-developed visual language of cultural memes that illustrate the ideological battles among regional, racial and cultural factions. When we see the image of thin, green-skinned, bipedal beings with teardrop-shaped black apertures for eyes, we typically read “alien.” But when I see the image of such a creature holding a sign that reads “I can’t breathe,” I grok an urgent message: Even aliens visiting from light years away understand the plight of Black people in the United States because this situation is so obviously dire.
IN THE COMMENTS: Jamie said:
I stopped processing his prose before he said "grok," but woke back up when I got there. I hate when people who aren't Heinlein use "grok" to connote their deep understanding... Those people almost invariably missed the point of Stranger In a Strange Land.
The OED has an entry for "grok" — U.S. slang, "arbitrary formation" by Robert A. Heinlein, from 1961. It is defined as "To understand intuitively or by empathy; to establish rapport with" or " To empathize or communicate sympathetically (with); also, to experience enjoyment." The 2 quotes from the book that are in the OED are: "Smith had been aware of the doctors but had grokked that their intentions were benign" and "Now that he knew himself to be self he was free to grok ever closer to his brothers." The OED also gives these quotes:
1968 Playboy June 80 He met her at an acid-rock ball and she grokked him, this ultracool miss loaded with experience and bereft of emotion.

Governor Cuomo begs rich people who've relocated to their out-of-the-city houses: "You gotta come back."

He wants them back in New York City but he knows what they're thinking: "If I stay there, I pay a lower income tax, because they don’t pay the New York City surcharge." That quote is from Cuomo, who doesn't find it hard to read minds, not when it comes to rich people and tax avoidance.
Some of the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods lost as many as 40 percent of their residents between March and May, thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak. And new levies — a billionaires’ tax, an ultra-millionaires’ tax, etc. are among several ideas Dems are eyeing to plug Albany’s $30 billion two-year budget hole — will only push the rich to flee permanently. Taking their tax money with them. It’s no coincidence, after all, that New York, where “1 percent of the population pays 50 percent of the taxes,” as Cuomo notes, has been steadily losing residents....

Is Kanye West colluding with the Trump campaign?

What is CNN saying:
[T]here are a handful of Trump-orbiting GOP operatives pushing West's helter-skelter, supposedly independent campaign for president. According to CNN, one such operative with ties to the Trump campaign, Lane Ruhland, has filed paperwork to get West on the ballot in Wisconsin.... West cannot win the election. He's missed too many deadlines to get on the ballot in too many states. But he could be a spoiler for President Donald Trump's reelection by siphoning off key portions of the Black vote in select states like Wisconsin and Ohio, with filing deadlines this week. The artist who once declared that former President George W. Bush "doesn't care about Black people" (and who former President Barack Obama once called "a jackass") appears to be being played by conservative operatives....
Oh! If a conservative made that inference — that West is an ignorant pawn — there would be accusations of racism. Give the man the respect of presuming — when you need to make a presumption — that he understands how things work.
Remember: West briefly went full MAGA, praising Trump for the economy and their shared "dragon energy" -- an evolution that paralleled his embrace of evangelical Christianity, which inspired his last album. A messianic streak also fits the impulse to run for president, but there isn't anything holy about this run....
Yes, that's why it makes more sense to assume that he's purposely helping Trump! How is he being played? Another way to look at it is that he accepts that he may help Trump because he doesn't believe the Democrats deserve the black vote, which they take for granted. That corresponds to what he's said about his run. That's not "being played." Being played! That's so insulting!
This is not an insurgent independent campaign -- this is dirty tricks from the slice of the white-bread conservative establishment that had posters of the infamous late Republican operative Lee Atwater on their walls growing up. West may feel that he's on a mission from God rather than the recesses of GOP operatives. This conservative-backed attempt to draw away voters from the left always seems to lure in enough "useful idiots" to make it worthwhile.
Who are you calling idiots?! Is CNN saying that unless black people vote for the Democrats, they're idiots?

If the question is where was Biden — literally — when this photo was taken, then the knee answers the question.

He does look odd sitting on the floor like that. But it's a picture. It was posed. Whoever posed him probably thought he looked more youthful and vigorous sitting on the floor. They had a chair for him. Who'd have the ex-Vice President over to watch a football game and not provide him with a chair? It's an absurd photograph, and you can see why it was chosen to express the idea that Biden is diminished and hiding his diminishment.

His champions spring to his defense on the literal conditions under which the photograph was taken, but that only makes me think more about the real question: Is Biden up for the job? The answer to that isn't as easy as pointing out the mayor's knee, but it is as easy as Biden sitting down in the presence not of an Iowa town's mayor but in the presence of a reasonably neutral tough professional interviewer and taking questions for 90 minutes — something as challenging as what Trump has been doing repeatedly.

ADDED: Here's the Trump ad that uses the photograph:

August 5, 2020

At the Wednesday Night Café...


... you can write about whatever you want.

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Life, disrupted.

The confidante.

Did you know that's called a "confidante"?

I ran across that bit of furniture arcana after reading the headline "Biden confidants see VP choices narrowing to Harris and Rice" (at AXIOS). Maybe you're fascinated by the endless discussion of Biden's VP choice — it is interesting that it's between Harris and Rice, but didn't you already know that? — but I got distracted by the spelling "confidants." Is it "confidant" or "confidante"? Seems like the "e" belongs... or is that just something you add when the person is female?

"Confidant" is correct. The OED says it originated after 1700, although the noun "confident" — with the same meaning and an accent on the first syllable — had already been in use for a century. The "-ant" ending — as opposed to the "-ent" — comes from French. And it's because of French that you get the separate female form, adding an "e." It's what they do in France.

The female version — "confidante" — has a second meaning: "A name given by the English designer George Hepplewhite (d. 1786) to a species of settee.... 'an upholstered settee with somewhat triangular seats beyond the arms at each end.'" That strange item you see pictured above. It can also refer to "Two chairs coupled on an s-plan" or "three chairs, joined like the spokes of a wheel."

It's hard to come up with new ideas in seating! Once you invent the chair and the sofa and maybe the lounge and the stool, there really isn't much left that anyone is really going to want.

"Look. Come on, man. I know you're trying to goad me, but I mean, I'm so forward looking to have an opportunity to sit with the President or stand with the President and debate."

Joe Biden doesn't need a tell-an-elephant-from-a-lion test! Just watch him, listen to him and judge.

Now, he did say "I'm so forward looking to have an opportunity" instead of "I'm so looking forward to having an opportunity," but it's speech, man. Talking is what it is. Trump makes his own mistakes.

ADDED: "Yo, Semites" is hilarious, but think more deeply about it. It means that Trump has very little interest in our national parks. I'd like someone to ask him if he has ever, on his own, outside of any political or business reason, traveled through the great landscapes of America. Has he ever hiked in Zion or the Badlands or Glacier? Has he seen the sunrise in Bryce Canyon? Which parks has he visited it? Did he ever go to one just to see it? Has he ever taken a road trip across America? Can he even drive? What's the farthest he, personally, has driven a car? I can only picture him driving a golf cart! Distance: 18 holes.

"The faculty letter gives the impression that many Princeton professors believe their institution is rife with anti-Black racism and that the university must risk abandoning long-standing core values..."

"... to be anti-racist. But most signatories who responded to my queries hold neither of those beliefs.... Outside observers should be sophisticated enough to understand that universities are socially and politically complex communities where faculty members don’t always say what they mean, especially when asked to sign on to a group letter with hundreds of their colleagues in a moment of national crisis. 'Much as I’m averse to aspects of any letters signed by more than one person—chiefly that they represent a form of mostly benign and well-intentioned thuggery—I’m convinced we live in a moment where we have to be seen as being part of a solution to what is clearly a problem,' [humanities professor and poet Paul] Muldoon told me... in his thoughtful email. 'That means that, as in the case of the Princeton letter, some ideas may need to be overstated to be stated at all.' ... I am concerned that some faculty members are unwilling to publicly criticize a demand that they scoff at privately. Can they really be counted on to protect academic freedom in a faculty vote? And I wish more faculty members would say whatever they actually think with clarity and precision, rather than indulging in hyperbole that does more to muddy and polarize than to clarify."

Writes Conor Friedersdorf in "The Princeton Faculty’s Anti-Free-Speech Demands/Some of the signers of a controversial open letter don’t stand behind its most alarming demand" (The Atlantic).

Sunrise — looking east and west.

It was one of those mornings when the eastern view is distinctive:



But the clouds in the west are sumptuous and so there is a glorious western sunrise: