December 31, 2019

It’s New Year’s Eve.

Once again, we’ve made it to the end of a decade... and another year... as well as another day. We live in days, of course, but once in a while we force ourselves to think of the year-long unit and almost never, tonight being one of the exceptions, do we think of the decade-long unit. So here we are. It’s been a very distinct 10-year unit for me — a great 10 years. And here’s to the next 10 years.

Have you got any resolutions? I made some resolutions back in September, because I think of the year as starting in September. The academic year always gave me a crisp sense of beginning. I had a general resolution that was something like: Do something new every day. Every day! I think that can be done, if you take a fine-grained look at what is new. I did do 3 new things beginning in September, and I’ve kept them up and intend to keep going into 2020. I wanted to see the sunrise and photograph it. I combined that with learning to run, which I’d never been able to do before. And I wanted to figure out a way to eat that would make me lose some weight, and in fact, I’ve lost 15 pounds!

I would like to add more new things. Maybe a new writing project. I’m thinking of moving about more in where I write. I bought one of these backpacks today to take my laptop around town and see if I can’t do something new in a new environment.

New, new, new. What’s new with you?

A new coat of snow.


This morning at 7:35 — 5 minutes after the "actual sunrise" time.

A 20-year-old man has ripped Picasso's "Bust of a Woman."

"Man charged over damage to £20m Picasso at Tate Modern/Bust of a Woman was reportedly ripped while gallery was open to public on Saturday" (The Guardian).

Attacking artwork is a strange crime. Here's an article from last October in ArtNews, "What Makes Someone Attack a Work of Art? Here Are 9 of the Most Audacious Acts of Art Vandalism—and What Inspired Them." The reasons vary. There's objection to the work of art, that it's something that shouldn't be regarded as art (e.g, the simple modern Barnett Newman painting that seemed, to its attacker, like something a child could do) or opposition to the perceived message in the art (e.g., a suffragette chopping a meat-cleaver into the ass of a Velázquez nude). There's using the art to leverage another message (for example, treating a sculpture with a big flat surface as a sort of billboard for anti-Semitic graffiti). There is sheer lunacy (such as slashing Rembrandt's "Night Watch" "for the Lord").

Not laughable at all.

I'm reading "Cancel Culture Claims Another Scalp" by John Hinderaker (at Power Line), which is about the Bret Stephens column on the "genius" of Jews. I blogged about the column, here, before the Twitter outrage cranked up.  I said:
So, according to Stephens, there are the people who can build things and do things in the real world. They can perform feats of engineering or devise military strategy. But those things are "prosaic," and — in Stephens blunt view — not what Jews do with their "prodigious intellect." Jews — in Stephens view — stand apart from these practical things and "question the premise and rethink the concept," they "ask why (or why not?)," they see absurdities and "maintain[] a critical distance." It may be good to value different kinds of intelligence and to roughly opine that there are the people who do things in the real world and people who stand back and observe and critique everything, but it's a big problem to put a group — even your own group — in the second category.
I was focusing on the danger to Jews that was inherent in the praise Stephens was attempting to offer. The outrage on Twitter (and elsewhere) was more about the use of IQ data from a paper co-authored by the anthropologist Henry Harpending. Hinderaker is critical of that outrage:
[L]iberals promptly swung into action, in many cases weirdly accusing Stephens of perpetuating an anti-Semitic stereotype.
Hinderaker quotes "Bret Stephens under fire for NY Times column on Jewish intelligence" (Jewish Telegraphic Agency):
But the Southern Poverty Law Center said that Harpending was an anthropologist who possessed a white nationalist ideology and promoted eugenics, which was studied and practiced by the Nazis.
Hinderaker comments:
I would’t take the SPLC’s word for anything, and there is something laughable about a supposed pro-Nazi who publishes an article finding that Jews have high IQ scores. 
Wow! I do not find that laughable at all. Whatever may or may not be true about Harpending, it is not inconsistent with anti-Semitism to believe that Jews are especially intelligent! Bigotry takes many forms, and the stereotypes about some groups include the notion that they have lower intelligence, but other stereotypes — for other groups — have the idea that they are more intelligent. That can be a basis for admiration, but it can be — and has been — a source of fear and the desire to disempower the people who you might imagine are deviously arranging the world to hurt you.

"Protesters broke into the heavily guarded compound of the United States Embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday and lit fires inside..."

"... to express their anger over American airstrikes that killed 24 members of an Iranian-backed militia over the weekend. Chanting 'Death to America!' thousands of protesters and militia members demonstrated outside the embassy compound, throwing rocks, shattering surveillance cameras, covering the walls with graffiti and demanding that the United States withdraw its forces from Iraq."

From "Iraq Protesters Break Into U.S. Embassy Compound in Baghdad/President Trump blamed Iran after demonstrators breached the compound’s outer wall and lit fires. Tensions are high after American airstrikes killed 24 members of an Iraqi militia backed by Iran" (NYT).

Trump's response:

"The 20th-century German philosopher (and victim of the Nazis) Walter Benjamin warned how fascism engages an 'aestheticization of politics'..."

"... where spectacle and transcendence provide a type of ecstasy for its adherents. Watch clips of fevered crowds, from today or the past, chanting against 'enemies of the people'; they are malignant scenes, but ones that in no small part mimic religious revivals. Critics of democracy often claim that it offers no similar sense of transcendence. The 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche castigated democracy as a system of 'quarantine mechanisms' for human desires, and as 'such they are … very boring.' If the individual unit of democracy is the citizen, authoritarian societies thrill to the Übermensch, the superman promising that 'I alone can fix it.' Yet I would argue that all of the hallmarks of authoritarianism — the rallies and crowds, the marching and military parades, the shouting demagogue promising his followers that they are superior — are wind and hot air. What fascism offers isn’t elevation but cheap transcendence, a counterfeit of meaning rather than the real thing. [Walt] Whitman understood that democracy wasn’t 'very boring' but rather a political system that could deliver on the promises that authoritarianism only pretended it would. For the poet, democracy wasn’t just a way of passing laws or a manner of organizing a government; democracy was a method of transcendence in its own right."

From "Why We Will Need Walt Whitman in 2020/With our democracy in crisis, the poet and prophet of the American ideal should be our guide" by Ed Simon (in the NYT).

What's so bad about boring? Some things — important things — you want to be boring (for example: the operation of your internal organs). I'd prefer a boring government. I don't like people getting all emotional about politics. Rather than pumping up the pro-democracy propaganda and rhetoric, why don't we give respect to boredom. Let politics be boring so our own individual life engages our interest.

I have a tag "I'm for Boring." I started that tag here (in 2014). Reacting to a WaPo columnist who fretted about low turnout in elections, I said:
Boring!... I mean hooray for boredom in politics.

Do you remember the New Year's Tick?

It was December 31, 2008, when I wrote, "I'm quite serious about replacing the depressing Father Time/Baby New Year with the New Year's Tick." I was inspired by a BBC headline, "New Year to arrive a tick later" (about a "leap second" that had to be added to the atomic clock). I said:
I think I'll try to draw a picture of the New Year's Tick. Or see if I can get people to send pictures of the New Year's Tick. And I'm going to push for the adoption of the New Year's Tick as the new New Year's mascot, replacing that stupid — and frankly depressing — Old Man and Baby mascot. Or the Ball. What the hell kind of symbol is a Ball?
It's just by chance that I got reminded of the New Year's Tick on the day of New Year's Eve. I was reading a Jennifer Rubin column in The Washington Post, "Resolutions for the media and politicians." One of her resolutions is:
Presidential candidates should promise to cut out their rhetorical ticks. Former vice president Joe Biden needs to stop saying “I’m serious” and “No joke.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) must not start sentences with “So … ” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) cannot say “billionaires” more than 10 times in a debate or speech.
Rhetorical ticks! I love the idea of ticks giving speeches! I'm tantalized by the prospect of using my favorite tag "insect politics" once again, but I've been down that road before across that grassy meadow before. A tick is not an insect!

The spelling should be "tic," but I'm thinking there's something perhaps a little politically incorrect about the figurative use of a word that denotes "severe facial neuralgia with twitching of the facial muscles" (OED).  I like this example in the OED:
1960 20th Cent. Apr. 361 This is an irritating tic of the British Left, this substitution of moral gestures for practical policies.
"Tic" is spelled like that because the medical condition is "tic douloureux" — French for "painful twitching." There is also a condition in horses, "The vice or morbid habit in horses called crib-biting or cribbing," and that has been spelled "tick" since the 18th century. Etymologically, it too comes from the French "tic," so it's easy to argue that "promise to cut out their rhetorical ticks" is just fine and nicely in English and un-French. The horse's crib-biting also has been used figuratively, and the meaning is the same as the figurative "tic": It means "whim."

I'm going to say that Rubin's "tick" is le mot juste if what you're picturing when you picture Elizabeth Warren saying "so" and Bernie Sanders saying "billionaire" looks something like this:

WaPo readers demand full-strength propaganda.

The WaPo columnist, Catherine Rampell offers "four suggested New Year’s resolutions for the media" is: "Remember that just because the president did (or proposed) it doesn’t mean it’s bad; inversely, just because one of the president’s perceived opponents did (or proposed) it doesn’t mean it’s good."

The comments over there trash her for that, and not because it's so mild. You might think it's safely and blandly obvious Journalism 101. But commenters are demanding an actively anti-Trump point of view. Here's the highest-rated comment:
Catherine, the most important resolution should be for the media to stop this "both-sides-ism". The republicons are clearly lying, cheating and doing everything possible to stay in power. The Democrats are truly trying to govern for the betterment of the people.
Another highly rated comment:
The first three [resolutions] were good, but then I got to #4, which is simply unnecessary, at least as stated. And "whataboutism," "false equivalence," and " bothsiderism" are still very common in both the Post and NY Times....
Notice that Rampell did not even say that journalists should strive for balance and give equal weigh to both sides. She just said journalists shouldn't assume that everything from Trump is bad and everything from his opponents is good. That is, she wasn't pushing "bothsiderism," only opposing onesiderism.

The commenters speak as if anything less that onesiderism is bothsiderism! They've given up on independence and objectivity and want full-strength propaganda.

December 30, 2019

At the Unfrozen Café...


... be fluent.

A fantastic montage of the wildest moments of 2019.

1 minute after sunrise...


Photo taken at 7:31.

"The extreme isolation and hardness of the landscape is what drew me here, too. I took the trip with my partner Noah."

"Both of our marriages had recently ended, and in our 40s, we were suddenly rootless, dislocated in a way neither of us had expected. It was as though we’d sat on the shoreline, watching a glacier crumble into the ocean. We’d found each other, but our relationship was still new and untested. Perhaps we’d been drawn to the Arctic to see if anything permanent in the world still existed.... We booked a room at Funken Lodge.... We’d made New Year’s Eve dinner reservations at Huset... The main course showcased local reindeer two ways... accompanied by strands of salty kelp harvested from the island’s shoreline and microgreens provided by the island’s sole greenhouse, a pink geodesic dome visible from the main road.... A few minutes before midnight, Noah and I pulled our coats and boots on and half-stumbled, half-skated to the edge of the parking lot between the restaurant and the high wall of the glacier. Some of the kitchen staff lit off fireworks...."

From "Greeting the New Year in Earth’s Northernmost Settlement/In Svalbard, above the Arctic Circle, you can’t be born and you can’t be buried, but you can find renewal in the dark of winter/The northern-most greenhouse dome in the world provides microgreens to a local restaurant" by Kelly McMasters (in the NYT).

Later, the author and her companion Noah enjoy a sauna and — this is how the article ends — "My sweat felt like all the stars in the sky were wrapped around my body in a blanket, little spears of heat and ice, and when I turned to Noah his skin was bathed in silver, as if his body was part of the aurora itself."

Here's the top-rated comment: "As someone who has unbridled passion and respect for the Arctic, I am truly disappointed in the lack of respect and depth you seem to have of your Svalbard experience. Having been to to Svalbard and the Arctic in many countries around the globe, you fail to capture or even seriously understand the incredible value, beauty, uniqueness and importance this precious place has on our earth. I am not a scientist, simply a traveler who seeks to grow and learn about myself and this world with respect. The Arctic should not be the next hot bucket list destination that one can say 'yeah I have been aka aren’t I cool?' NYT, you can and should do better."

Oh! But all the stars and spears of sweat and Noah's silver body and the reindeer two ways!

"There’s a clear irony here, given how much thought I’ve put into what things — art, interiors, people — should look like, that I’ve come to a place..."

"... in which I no longer know what my own life should look like. I literally do not know what to do with myself and what I should believe in anymore, and this does, in fact, seem kind of frivolous, given the very urgent concerns of the society we live in.... (I chose a career in the dying industry that is print journalism and it’s too late to choose a new one). I’m unable to save money for retirement and I get very anxious when I think about the future. Worse, I’ve lost my sense of meaning to myself. I feel like the culture has moved on without me.... I don’t own a home and no one needs me; I am nobody’s mother and now I am nobody’s child, as my parents are no longer living. My friends and peers have gone on to have families, to marry and stop working.... On good days, I can take a yoga class and still feel like life’s potential is still just around the corner if I’m just open to it; on bad ones, I feel such futility, like I’ve squandered my own youth and beauty in the hall of mirrors that is our consumerist society. Am I simply being solipsistic here? Or is this what getting older is about, acknowledging one’s comedown to the brutal reality of life?"

From an anonymous letter written by a 40-year-old woman to the "culture therapist" at the NYT Style Magazine.

The NYT writer who answers this letter says: "[Y]our way of seeing thing... seems not wholly true or right or your own, and is in dire need of a refresh. It feels reductive and merciless, informed too much by the very aspects of our culture that have become deadening to you. I wonder if what you’re craving is a less placid form of beauty, one that’s in keeping with the richer and more complex person you have become — art that is more than a flawlessly lit and composed image and that demands more of you than a well-trained set of eyes."

That is, the problem is not so much that she's centered her life on beauty but that she needs to upgrade her concept of beauty.

Some of Politico's "The Worst Political Predictions of 2019" is really good, with genuine predictions that are genuinely ridiculous in hindsight.

Like "By the end of 2019, the president of the United States will be Nancy Pelosi."

But that's #17 on a list of 17, and the quality of the list declines from there and is totally botched at #1, which just has to be Trump, but apparently they couldn't find a bad enough Trump prediction to feature at #1 and they just brought up something he did that's not a prediction and — as presidential misdeeds go — isn't even that bad: Sharpiegate:
In advance of the storm making landfall, Trump tweeted that “In addition to Florida - South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated.” There were never any reputable weather maps that had Alabama in the direct path of the storm, and the National Weather Service in Birmingham quickly issued a statement correcting the president. Rather than admit a mistake, Trump produced a map of the hurricane’s path—and apparently used a marker to draw over the expert forecast and change the path of Dorian’s projected fallout area to include Alabama. The hurricane never did hit the state.

If he's so weak, why don't the Democrats look like formidable opponents?

I'm trying to read "The Presidential Nominating Process Is Absurd/We have an unnecessarily weak presidential field, especially the incumbent" by David Leonhardt (in the NYT). To me, the headline looks fluffed up with various distractions, and a more honest statement would be "We have a puzzlingly weak field of Democratic candidates" or "We have an alarmingly weak field of Democratic candidates."

If Trump is the weakest candidate of all, the Democrats wouldn't look so weak. They'd be just fine. That "especially the incumbent" feels incoherent, and it seems to be offered as a sop to depressed and scared NYT readers. And then, let's talk about how there's something bad about the "process." It's absurd!

But I will read this thing for you. The focus is the process:

"I find no rock songs. Not a single one in this list"/"Literally none of this is rock"/"Literally 0 rock songs"...

Twitter is literally so upset with Billboard's "Top Rock Songs of the Decade."

The coldness.

"Legal experts say Roberts hopes to follow the example set by his late mentor Chief Justice William Rehnquist at then-President Clinton's 1999 trial."

"Rehnquist, for whom Roberts clerked in the 1980s, once mused that during Clinton’s proceeding he 'did nothing in particular, and did it very well,' lifting a line from Gilbert and Sullivan. Eric Claeys, a law professor at George Mason University and former Rehnquist clerk, said Rehnquist’s approach was framed by the 1986 rules. The rules say the presiding officer 'may rule' on all questions of evidence, like instances where the relevance and significance of a document or witness testimony is unclear. However, a single senator can appeal the ruling, triggering a Senate vote, where some say Roberts would break a 50-50 tie, though that is disputed. The presiding officer also has the option to stay mum on an evidentiary question and send it directly to the Senate for an up-or-down vote. Rehnquist generally avoided this option during Clinton’s 1999 impeachment trial, Claeys said. Instead, Rehnquist applied the relevant precedents, then left it up to senators to decide whether to reverse his decision. 'I don’t think that Chief Justice Roberts will play a bigger role in President Trump’s impeachment trial than Chief Justice Rehnquist did in President Clinton’s,' Claeys said. 'I expect Roberts will follow the same strategy.' However, some legal experts believe today’s more intensely partisan atmosphere may force Roberts to depart from the course charted by his predecessor...."

From "Trump impeachment trial drags Roberts into spotlight" by John Kruzel (in The Hill).

The Gilbert and Sullivan song is "When Britain really ruled the waves" (from "Iolanthe"):
When Wellington thrashed Bonaparte,
As every child can tell,
The House of Peers, throughout the war,
Did nothing in particular,
And did it very well:
Yet Britain set the world ablaze
In good King George’s glorious days!

"When I first came to Washington, I was surprised at how few Democrats had taken their argument for the merit of paid leave to their colleagues across the aisle."

"So it really was starting from the beginning and talking about this policy and framing it in different terms.... We proposed the first ever bipartisan, bicameral plan.... [T]he president has made very clear he thinks that this is critical policy. And now we are working with members on both sides of the aisle to see who has the right policy to move forward and to be able to garner the votes to pass this into law....  I think the option that has been put out there by the Democrats without even opining on the policy of it, it has sat there since 2012, has never been scored, has never received the endorsement of a president, including President Obama, and has never received bipartisan support from colleagues in the Senate. So the way I look at it is that the debate had grown stale...."

Said Ivanka Trump on "Face the Nation."

The interviewer, Margaret Brennan, tries to bring a little edge.

First, she brings up the fact that Ivanka, in her own private business, did not initially have a paid family leave policy in place. Ivanka's answer is that the first pregnant person in her company was the fourth person hired, indeed, she was pregnant at the time of hiring, and they put a policy in place at the point.

Second, Brennan introduces the topic of family separation and immigration, which she is kindly enough to observe that Ivanka was "vocal" in opposing and called "a low point." Brennan asks if Ivanka is still "engaged" on the subject of family separation. Ivanka answers and quickly turns the subject to human trafficking:

December 29, 2019

At the Deep Blue Café...


... keep the conversation going.

The photo was taken at 7:27. Actual sunrise time was 7:29

"President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia called President Trump on Sunday to thank him for a tip from American intelligence agencies that helped prevent a terrorist attack in Russia..."

"... the Kremlin said in a statement.... [T]he Federal Security Service, the main successor agency to the K.G.B., told Russian media it had detained two suspects preparing an attack on a crowded location in the northern city of St. Petersburg on New Year’s Eve....  Some of the terrorist groups tracked by the United States have also targeted Russia for years, among them the Islamic State. In 2015, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for blowing up a Russian airliner over Egypt, killing all 224 people aboard.... In 2011, the Federal Security Service warned the F.B.I. that an immigrant from Russia living in Boston, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, had associated with Islamist militants. The F.B.I. investigated the tip but closed the case after finding no proof. Two years later, Mr. Tsarnaev and his brother Dzhokhar detonated homemade bombs at the Boston Marathon."

The NYT reports.

"So why has the news that a synagogue in the Netherlands stopped posting the time of services upset me above all?"

"Because it is vivid proof that anti-Semitism is driving Jews underground in the West. For some time now, many kippah-wearing Jews have adopted the habit of wearing baseball caps when visiting Europe. Young people think twice before wearing Israeli-flag T-shirts when they wander the streets of Paris. Or before carrying a backpack with the name of their Jewish youth group prominently displayed.... During a trip to Berlin, a friend gave me directions to an out-of-the-way synagogue. After some intricate explanations, he added that if I got lost, I should look for police on the street with submachine guns. 'That,' he noted, 'would be the entrance to the synagogue.' But I should also keep watch for men in baseball caps and follow them. 'They will lead you to the synagogue.... When Jews feel it is safer for them to go 'underground' as Jews, something is terribly wrong—wrong for them and, even more so, wrong for the society in which they live."

Writes Deborah Lipstadt, who teaches Holocaust history at Emory University, in "Jews Are Going Underground/A month of terrible anti-Semitic attacks culminated with a stabbing yesterday of multiple people at a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York" (The Atlantic).

"Democratic candidate presidential and former vice president Joe Biden... is right in saying that he would refuse to comply with a Senate subpoena absent a court order."

"In making that statement, however, Biden has now taken the legs out from under the second article of impeachment voted on by the House against President Trump. That article accuses the president of 'obstruction of Congress' for doing essentially what Biden said he would do, namely demanding a court order before he would comply with what he believes to be partisan subpoenas issued by one chamber of Congress.... If Biden is not obstructing the Senate by his refusal to comply with a Senate subpoena, how could Trump be guilty of obstructing Congress by refusing to comply with the House subpoenas absent court orders? The shoe is now on the other foot and causing blisters for Democrats. It could also be uncomfortable for Republicans, who may have to acknowledge that Biden has a point."

Writes Alan Dershowitz (at The Hill).

"Rotting penis not pictured."

That's at Gizmodo, where I knew that wasn't a picture of a rotting penis and where they are wrong that I "might like" something about Yoda.

CORRECTION: That says I "may also like" that thing about Yoda. As if I liked the rotting penis! I am sick of these insinuations from Gizmodo. It thinks it knows me, but it does not know me.

Decaying city.

Dan Scavino is the Assistant to the President and Director of Social Media at the White House.

"In the long arc of human history, 2019 has been the best year ever."

"The bad things that you fret about are true. But it’s also true that since modern humans emerged about 200,000 years ago, 2019 was probably the year in which children were least likely to die, adults were least likely to be illiterate and people were least likely to suffer excruciating and disfiguring diseases. Every single day in recent years, another 325,000 people got their first access to electricity. Each day, more than 200,000 got piped water for the first time. And some 650,000 went online for the first time, every single day. Perhaps the greatest calamity for anyone is to lose a child. That used to be common: Historically, almost half of all humans died in childhood. As recently as 1950, 27 percent of all children still died by age 15. Now that figure has dropped to about 4 percent."

From "This Has Been the Best Year Ever/For humanity over all, life just keeps getting better" by Nicholas Kristof (in the NYT).

I trust he's right about all facts he's setting out, and great! Of course. But let me carp about "The bad things that you fret about are true." He doesn't know what I — and the other "you"s who read him — fret about. I was just fretting the other day about the possibility that our consciousness is an illusion that coalesces anew each time we wake up after a night's sleep.

I took 3 photos today and 3 photos yesterday and they're kind of similar.

When things are basically the same, look twice, and what you see are the differences. Biggest difference: the color... even though it's all very blue.

"An intruder with a large knife burst into the home of a Hasidic rabbi in a New York suburb on Saturday night, stabbing and wounding five people..."

"... just as they were gathering to light candles for Hanukkah, officials and a witness said. It was a terrifying scene... at the home of the rabbi, Chaim Rottenberg, in Monsey, which is in an area with a large population of ultra-Orthodox Jews... 'I was praying for my life,' [said Aron Kohn, 65] '“He started attacking people right away as soon as he came in the door. We didn’t have time to react at all. We saw him pull a knife out of a case... It was about the size of a broomstick.' Mr. Kohn said that after the attacker fled, he tried to enter a synagogue next door, Congregation Netzach Yisroel, which is led by Rabbi Rottenberg. But people inside the synagogue apparently heard screams from the rabbi’s home and, fearful, locked the door so the attacker could not get in, Mr. Kohn said.... Orthodox Jews in Monsey were already rattled by recent assaults against Jews that took place in the last week in Brooklyn, as well as a deadly anti-Semitic shooting at a kosher market in Jersey City this month..."

From "Monsey Hanukkah Stabbing: 5 Wounded at Rabbi’s Home in N.Y. Suburb/The governor called the violence an “act of domestic terrorism” after a suspect was arrested in Harlem" (NYT).

A suspect has been arrested in Harlem, which is 30 miles from Monsey.

AND: Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, The NY Post reports:
Suspects arrested in last week’s spree of eight anti-Semitic attacks are being quickly released right back into the neighborhoods they terrorized thanks to “bail reform” legislation — which doesn’t even take effect until Jan. 1....

The accused assailant, Tiffany Harris, was hauled in handcuffs before a Brooklyn judge on 21 menacing, harassment and attempted assault charges.

“Yes, I was there,” Harris later admitted to cops, according to the criminal complaint against her. “Yes, I slapped them. I cursed them out. I said ‘F-U, Jews.”

Ivanka laughed at Jane Fonda's plan to use sex as a weapon.

I'm reading "The Star Power of Jane Fonda’s Climate-Change Arrests" (The New Yorker):
After the 2016 election, Fonda was initially optimistic that Trump could be flattered into taking on the cause of battling climate change. She wanted to invite several “voluptuous” female activists (including the environmentally minded actress Pamela Anderson) to brief Trump on the dangers of relying on fossil fuels. Fonda spoke by phone to Jared Kushner, who told her to speak to Ivanka Trump, who laughed at the idea and said she’d follow up. Fonda never got to meet with Trump.
So it's okay to treat women as sex objects if it's a means to an end? This belongs in the same category as "I'd be happy to give him a blowjob just to thank him for keeping abortion legal" ("I" = Time correspondent Nina Burleigh, "him" = Bill Clinton).

What word is missing from this PJ Media headline?

"Parents Shocked at Drag Queen 'Pre-Show' Ahead of 'Star Wars' at Alamo Cinemas."

How good is your bullshit detector?

I went there from Instapundit. PJ Media is not a place I go on my own, and here's a great example of why I find it so off-putting.

"It’s misleading to ask when clowns turned bad, for they were never really good... You can no more separate a good clown from a bad clown than a clown from his shadow."

From "Having a laugh: is this the end for clowning?" in The Guardian.
[W]hen the students discuss what inspires them about clowning, many use terms that I’ve heard from other clowns in recent weeks: innocence, freedom, vulnerability. Nicola believes clowning offers something deeper than other forms of comedy. “Standup is about your ideas and how clever you are,” she says. “And this is about who you are as a human being.”...

"New York Times columnist accused of eugenics over piece on Jewish intelligence/Bret Stephens faces backlash after suggesting that Ashkenazi Jews are smarter than other people."

Yikes, the heat on Bret Stephens has zoomed up since I blogged about his genius-of-Jews column at 5 a.m. yesterday morning.

The Guardian says:
The rightwing New York Times columnist Bret Stephens...
Eh. I don't think the right wing deserves responsibility for whatever it is Bret Stephens is.
... has sparked furious controversy online for a column praising Ashkenazi Jews for their scientific accomplishments, which critics say amounts to embracing eugenics.

In a column titled The Secrets of Jewish Genius and using a picture of Albert Einstein, Stephens stepped in the eugenics minefield by claiming that Ashkenazi Jews are more intelligent than other people and think differently.... [There were] furious accusations that Stephens was using the same genetics arguments that informed Nazism and white supremacist thinking.
The Guardian is simply collecting tweets. An editorial director at Vice says, "It’s hard to read this column as expressing anything other than a belief in the genetic and cultural inferiority of non-Ashkenazi Jews"; a NYT contributor says, "I don’t think eugenicists should be op-ed columnists"; a "journalist" says, "A Jew endorsing the idea that certain races are inherently superior to other, lesser races, what could possibly go wrong?"; a writer called it "eugenics propaganda" and urged subscribers to cancel.

This is what you get on Twitter: hot takes. There, Stephens is a eugenicist. I do see this mild-mannered correction:

"The record in recent decades for the highest level of ice to melt in Antarctica in one day was reached on Christmas Eve..."

"... data suggests. Around 15 percent of the continent's surface melted on Monday, according to the Global Forecast System (GFS) by the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). The data comes from the Modèle Atmosphérique Régional (MAR), a model used for meteorological and climatic research. Xavier Fettweis, a climatologist at the University of Liège in Belgium, who tweeted the data on Friday... said this is the highest melt extent in Antarctica in the modern era, since 1979.... stressed the data is from a model, and not an in situ observation. The melting could be driven by a number of factors, and experts will need to wait two to three melting seasons to confirm what is going on.... 'We have observed a crash of the Antarctica polar vortex just before this melting season... A weaker polar vortex allows warm air masses to reach easier the ice sheet (which is usually protected by its polar vortex as it was the case the previous summer). The fact that the sea ice extent is very low also enhances the possibility of warm air masses to reach the ice sheet.' Asked whether climate change is to blame, he said: 'As for most of the anomalies observed on these last months over the Earth (e.g. in Australia), the signal coming from global warming can not be ignored here.'"

Newsweek reports.

At the bottom of the article: "This article has been updated with comment from Xavier Fettweis." That makes me guess that the article originally leaned much harder into alarmism about global warming. It looks as though Newsweek picked up on a Fettweis tweet and ran with it. Here's the tweet, which doesn't talk about global warming:

"Guys, we have an unspoken social contract going here: I pretend that I don't know your beauty recommendations are coming from 22-year-old rich kids and..."

"... you help me maintain my suspension of belief by not explicitly mentioning that your beauty recommendations are coming from 22-year-old rich kids. We live in a society!"

A comment on "The Best Thing I Bought This Decade Was Bobbi Brown Lipstick" by Chloe Anello (at NY Magazine).

December 28, 2019

At the Invisible Sunrise Café...


... you can talk all night.

"Plenty of women do the work of sex work without trading sex for money or capital. The work of sexual entertaining..."

"... as well as the many emotional labors of sex work. Every woman is expected or pressured in heterosexuality to do the labor that sex workers do, but not every woman is a sex worker. I think sex workers are strangely more equipped, though, to ponder the problem of romance, because we sell sex and love as our job, and have this strange distance and closeness with the theater of gender relations... Sex can be a vehicle for self-expression and it can be a theater; sex doesn’t have to be serious, and sex can be anything...."

From a New York Magazine interview with Rachel Rabbit White — "the writer, activist, and sex worker."

"Today I saw a thing and it said a lot of men…a lot of white men were committing suicide, and I almost thought, ‘Yeah, great,’ Then I thought about it little more and I thought maybe I shouldn't say that out in public."

News Center Maine provides some facts:
The Maine Democratic Party reacted to the video release with a statement, saying that [Richard Fochtmann, former State Senate candidate – and at the time - the Chairman of the Leeds Democratic Committee] was there as a private citizen and in no way represents the party....

Fochtmann said he regrets the joke. “It really wasn't funny, and I'm sorry that I did say that,” he said. “I just happen to be a passionate, outspoken person, and sometimes I just engage my mouth before I engage my brain.” He also said that after he finished speaking, a woman stepped up to the microphone and told him she was offended by his comments. He says that he later took the microphone again and apologized.

"In a rare show of bipartisan unity, Republicans and Democrats are planning to try to force President Trump to take a more active stand on human rights in China..."

"... preparing veto-proof legislation that would punish top Chinese officials for detaining more than one million Muslims in internment camps. The effort comes amid growing congressional frustration with Mr. Trump’s unwillingness to challenge China over human rights abuses, despite vivid news reports this year outlining atrocities, or to confront such issues globally.... 'There’s been a sense by some that the administration hasn’t prioritized human rights in its broader foreign policy,' said Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida. 'I don’t think that’s necessarily accurate — but that sense has grown. There’s been a sense that Congress needs to step up.'... Although Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have criticized China on the persecution of Muslims, Mr. Trump has said nothing. In July, Jewher Ilham, the daughter of Ilham Tohti, a Uighur professor whom China sentenced to life in prison in 2014, joined other victims of religious persecution to meet with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office. When she tried to explain the camps to Mr. Trump, he appeared ignorant of the situation and simply said, 'That’s tough stuff.'... 'I’m a big fan of the president on many fronts, but on this, someone has to stand up,' Senator Rand Paul [said]."

From "Congress Wants to Force Trump’s Hand on Human Rights in China and Beyond/Lawmakers aim to pass veto-proof legislation in 2020 that would punish China over its treatment of ethnic Uighur Muslims" (NYT).

"The Islamic State’s project to establish a proto-state and expand its domain across a broad swath of Iraq and Syria attracted tens of thousands of foreign fighters from at least 80 countries..."

"Some security experts say it is crucial for countries to repatriate and prosecute their nationals if the jihadist movement is to be prevented from rising again. They add that due process also requires this. But the difficulties are many. Some governments don’t even know how many of their nationals are being held, who they are or how deeply they were involved in Islamic State atrocities. Many countries lack the laws to prosecute alleged fighters, and even if the laws are on the books, it is often unclear whether evidence from the battlefield would hold up in court. If they are convicted, they could radicalize others in custody and then be released after sentences as short as three years, leaving already overburdened police to keep unrepentant militants from turning to violence again. Western European countries, in particular, have been resistant to bringing the prisoners home, citing obstacles ranging from national security to domestic politics...."

From "After the Caliphate: Disarmed but not defused/The defeat of the ISIS caliphate left this Moroccan militant and about 2,000 other suspected foreign fighters detained in northeastern Syria. Will they pose a greater threat there or back in their home countries?" (WaPo).

"One can apply a prodigious intellect in the service of prosaic things — formulating a war plan, for instance, or constructing a ship.... Jewish genius operates differently."

"It is prone to question the premise and rethink the concept; to ask why (or why not?) as often as how; to see the absurd in the mundane and the sublime in the absurd. Ashkenazi Jews might have a marginal advantage over their gentile peers when it comes to thinking better. Where their advantage more often lies is in thinking different. Where do these habits of mind come from? There is a religious tradition that, unlike some others, asks the believer not only to observe and obey but also to discuss and disagree. There is the never-quite-comfortable status of Jews in places where they are the minority — intimately familiar with the customs of the country while maintaining a critical distance from them. There is a moral belief, 'incarnate in the Jewish people' according to Einstein, that 'the life of the individual only has value [insofar] as it aids in making the life of every living thing nobler and more beautiful.' And there is the understanding, born of repeated exile, that everything that seems solid and valuable is ultimately perishable, while everything that is intangible — knowledge most of all — is potentially everlasting."

From "The Secrets of Jewish Genius/It’s not about having higher I.Q.s." by Bret Stephens (NYT).

To answer the question is Stephens Jewish, here's Wikipedia: "Bret Stephens was born in New York City, the son of Xenia and Charles J. Stephens, a former vice president of General Products, a chemical company in Mexico. Both his parents were secular Jews. His paternal grandfather, Louis Ehrlich, was born in Kishenev (today Chișinău, Moldova) in 1901; he fled with his family to New York after a pogrom."

At Wikipedia, Stephens has 1 item under the heading "Controversy":

"Some 800 girls were said to have sought the part. When Ms. Lyon was cast, Mr. Nabokov, employing the word he used in the novel, called her 'the perfect nymphet'..."

"Ms. Lyon accumulated more than two dozen film and television credits from 1959 to 1980, but she was known primarily for one: Mr. Kubrick’s 1962 film of the Nabokov novel ['Lolita'], which was adapted for the screen by Mr. Nabokov himself.... The novel was scandalous when it was first published in English in 1955; the film, made when the restrictive Motion Picture Production Code still governed Hollywood, was less so — in part, some critics thought, because Ms. Lyon, whose character was aged slightly for the movie, seemed too mature. 'She looks to be a good 17 years old, possessed of a striking figure and a devilishly haughty teenage air,' Bosley Crowther said in his review in The Times. 'The distinction is fine, we will grant you, but she is definitely not a "nymphet."'"

From "Sue Lyon, Star of ‘Lolita,’ Is Dead at 73/She was 14 when she was cast in the title role of Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film of the Nabokov novel. It remained her best-known credit" (NYT).

December 27, 2019

At the Sunset Café...


... you can talk all night.

"In the more printable Imus lexicon, Dick Cheney was 'a war criminal,' Hillary Rodham Clinton was 'Satan,' Oprah Winfrey 'a fat phony,' Newt Gingrich 'a man who would eat roadkill'..."

"Ted Kennedy 'a fat slob,' Steve Forbes 'a meanspirited creep,' Dan Rather 'a loony,' Rush Limbaugh 'a drug-addled gas bag.' Many listeners detected the toxins of Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Mort Sahl or Groucho Marx.... He was sued for defamation, denounced, ridiculed, shunned, hated and feared... After years on the edge of acceptable standards, however, Mr. Imus evidently went too far on April 4, 2007, when, in his trademark drawl, he referred to the Rutgers University women’s basketball team, which had reached the N.C.A.A. finals and was composed mainly of African-Americans, as 'rough girls' and 'nappy-headed hos.'... In 1996, at the correspondents’ dinner in Washington, he insulted President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, who were there, and later referred to it as 'The Speech From Hell.'"

From "Don Imus, Radio Host Who Pushed Boundaries, Dies at 79/On the air, he was an irascible, confrontational growler who led pranks and parodies that could be tasteless, obscene and sometimes racist, sexist or homophobic" (NYT).

Goodbye to Imus!

Here's that "Speech from Hell":

ADDED: "The toxins of Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Mort Sahl or Groucho Marx"?! Those guys were all geniuses. We were blessed to have them in our midst. How did the word "toxins" get in there?

"The circuitous quick trip, known as a mileage run, is not uncommon this time of year among a subset of frequent travelers looking to attain a certain level of airline status for the coming year...."

"Some frequent travelers have... expressed discomfort about adding long, arguably unnecessary flights in an era where concerns over carbon emissions have sparked a 'flight shame' movement.... [The CEO of a 'mileage run itinerary crafter' company] says carbon emissions aren’t really a consideration for his mileage run clients, who typically view the travel as a necessity. Their point of view, he said, is, 'I have a job, it requires me to travel, and I don’t want to sit in a middle seat all year so I need to get this done.'"

From "Mileage runs are last-minute dashes for airline status. But are they worth it?/In an era of lackluster loyalty programs and concerns over carbon emissions, even onetime fans question the merit" (WaPo).

From the comments over there: "Why someone would waste time, money and pollute the atmosphere, for ever-dwindling benefits of questionable value, escapes me. That the airlines treat everyday customers so horribly speaks volumes to the actual value one receives with this so-called status, or even the price of admission. The airline industry looks for ways to treat customers worse each and every year. Flying is a miserable, low-value experience and service for me. I avoid it whenever possible."

December 27th sunrise...


... as somber as sunrises get, I think. The dot in the middle is not the sun, but the state capitol building. There was little to see this morning... the only different thing was a black mouse-sized creature running across the trail. I didn't get close enough to really see.

The photograph was taken 2 minutes before the actual sunrise time.

"I guess Justin T doesn’t much like my making him pay up on NATO or Trade!"

ADDED: Speaking of Trump and movies... I wondered why Jon Voight is trending on Twitter today. It's this:

AND: That Voight clip was from a few days ago, but Voight is boosted today by this Trump tweet, which just says Voight is "fantastic" in a new TV role and in a bunch of old movies.

UPDATE: Apparently, the edit to "Home Alone 2" was made years ago, before Trump became President. So: false alarm.

The puzzling anger of Elizabeth Warren's brother.

I'm reading "Elizabeth Warren’s Brother Reportedly ‘Furious’ She Claims Their Father Was a Janitor" (Mediaite). I'm picturing him getting red in the face. His name is David Herring, so that would make him a red herring.
A red herring is something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important question. It may be either a logical fallacy or a literary device that leads readers or audiences toward a false conclusion. A red herring may be used intentionally, as in mystery fiction or as part of rhetorical strategies (e.g., in politics), or may be used in argumentation inadvertently.  The term was popularized in 1807 by English polemicist William Cobbett, who told a story of having used a kipper (a strong-smelling smoked fish) to divert hounds from chasing a hare.
But let's chew over this fish that Mediate serves up today.

"[T]he winning Democrat will need to make Trump’s presidency seem insignificant rather than monumental — an unsightly pimple on our long republican experiment..."

"... not a fatal cancer within it. Mike Bloomberg has the financial wherewithal to make Trump’s wealth seem nearly trivial. Joe Biden has the life experience to make Trump’s attacks seem petty. Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar have the rhetorical skills to turn Trump’s taunts against him. As with most bullies, the key to beating Trump is to treat him as the nonentity he fundamentally is. Wouldn’t it be something if his political opponents and obsessed media critics resolved, for 2020, to talk about him a little less and past him a lot more? When your goal is to wash your hands of something bad, you don’t need a sword. Soap will do."

From "What Will It Take to Beat Donald Trump?/It’s not what the progressive left is talking about" by Bret Stephens (NYT).

1. Isn't this how they tried to defeat Trump the last time around? Diminish him. Insist that everything about him is small — hands, penis, brain, worldview. Donald Trump can't possibly be President! Isn't that less likely to work when Trump actually is President?

2. Biden can run by standing in place, embodying "life experience"?! He's "experienced" to the point of old age, and we're wondering if he currently has what it takes.

3. Who cares if Bloomberg is richer than Trump? I don't think Trump won because people simply admired him for his wealth. Bloomberg might be able to use his wealth to run ads that work to some extent, but those ads are likely to minimize the significance of his stature as a very rich man, not vaunt his wealth in comparison to Trump's — my pile of money is bigger than yours. If size matters, Bloomberg is the one who will look small compared to Trump when we see them on the debate stage together.

4. I find it very hard to believe that anyone could — in real time, on a debate stage — best Trump in a game of trading taunts, and it just seems silly to posit that Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar could do it because they have "rhetorical skills."

5. Talking about a human being as filth or disease... I thought we weren't doing that anymore. I thought you could get canceled for that. But Donald Trump can take it. He can take everything dished out against him. That's why these ideas about how to beat him feel like absolutely nothing.

"The predominantly white and male guardianship of the literary and intellectual high ground tended to view the essential American story as a solo confrontation with the wilderness..."

"... not a love triangle or intimate domestic saga. Nineteenth-century men of letters 'saw the matter of American experience as inherently male,' the literary critic Nina Baym wrote in her 1981 essay 'Melodramas of Beset Manhood.' It was a complete negation of women’s points of view, not just an artistic dismissal. That doesn’t mean American women’s fiction wasn’t popular — like 'Little Women,' Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 'Uncle Tom’s Cabin' could barely keep up with demand after its 1852 publication. But that widespread appeal was used to slight the genre out of hand and further relegate it to the status of mere entertainment. As Ms. Baym noted, Nathaniel Hawthorne, for one, complained in 1855 about the 'damned mob of scribbling women' whose inexplicably popular work he feared would hurt his own book sales. There’s some truth in the notion that women strove to write works that would sell — Ms. Alcott herself said she wrote 'Little Women' 'at record speed for money' while men toiled away on epics like 'Moby-Dick' that would fail to generate much income.... It may be that on its surface, 'Little Women' doesn’t seem as fresh and progressive, comparatively. Maybe men feel it’s too familiar — the book has been turned into a movie no fewer than seven times, including a little-seen version released just last year. But in an era when sequels and remakes clog the film landscape (many of them male-centered), it’s hardly an exception...."

From "Men Are Dismissing ‘Little Women.’ What a Surprise/The rejection of the latest screen adaptation of the beloved novel echoes a long-held sentiment toward women-centered narratives" by Kristy Eldredge (in the NYT). Eldredge is responding to a tweet by Janet Maslin, which read: "The 'Little Women' problem with men is very real. I don’t say that lightly and am very alarmed/In the past day have been told by 3 male friends who usually trust me that they either refuse to see it or probably won’t have time."

1. The media churn up this notion that you're supposed to see films. But, really, there doesn't need to be a reason not to see a film. There needs to be a reason to see a film. And films are aimed at particular sorts of people. It's absurd to criticize anyone, ever, for "rejection" of a film. Reject them all! The presumption is no. Then select only what feels right for you, what's worth your time and attention.

2. Almost no one needs to select another remake of "Little Women" as what they will allow to occupy their own precious mind for 2 hours. It doesn't matter that it's well made and the acting is good or whatever. Select it if it serves you. You don't owe Hollywood anything. Hollywood makes its offer to you, and you will be saying no to almost anything.

3. There's no reason for anyone to feel a gender-based obligation to see this or that. If something doesn't appeal to you, go somewhere else. The movie was made with intense conniving to appeal based on gender. "Little Women" gets the women that go to the movie in response to that appeal. Rather than say men ought to strive against their feeling of gender-based exclusion, I'd say women ought to strive against the pull of gender-based inclusion.

4. Louisa May Alcott herself had a distaste for what she was doing writing that book specifically for females! She wrote in her journal (quoted at "Girls adored ‘Little Women.’ Louisa May Alcott did not." (WaPo): "Mr. N wants a girls’ story, and I begin ‘Little Women.’ … I plod away, though I don’t enjoy this sort of thing. Never liked girls or knew many, except my sisters; but our queer plays and experiences may prove interesting, though I doubt it."

5. I wrote "females" under point #4 because you can see she was writing for girls — not women. It's a young adult novel. "Little Women" are "little" in the sense that they are very young. They're girls. It's horrifying that women are catered to with this story over and over again. Why is any adult interested in this material? Ask that, rather than ask why adult men are not interested.

6. Let people be interested in in the stories they're actually interested in. Don't push them to invent an interest to something that does not call out to them. It's awful to lose touch with what you really feel, who you really are, and to generate a false sense of interest in what you've been enticed to think you ought to like. That's a general problem in life, not specific to movies.

7. Does the question what is "the essential American story" have any serious meaning in the context of what movies people are choosing to go to see? Even if it's true that males dominate the activity of deciding what is "essential" and what is "American" — or what is "the intellectual high ground" — that has little relevance to the question of what's the next movie you're going to see. Let's assume "Moby-Dick" is that thing. I don't see any good film adaptations of "Moby-Dick"! The movies aimed at men don't come from an "intellectual high ground." They're low-culture stuff from comic books! Loads and loads of young-adult material.

8. "Moby-Dick" is not "a solo confrontation with the wilderness."

December 26, 2019

At the Sunrise Café...


... it's long after sunrise, but you can talk through the night, and if you do, there will be another sunrise.

I'm checking out for the night. We just watched a movie on TV, "The Sandpiper." That was some rich dreck.

"So I haven’t posted a tweet in nine months... Over the previous 10 years, I had written 180,000 tweets.... That’s 18,000 a year, 1,500 a month."

"I was putting out an average of 50 tweets a day — while holding down a full-time job editing a magazine, with two firm writing deadlines every week, and raising three children with a wife who works full-time... Over the course of this decade, my follower count rose from near zero to 141,000 people. The tweets helped garner audience for my writing and for articles in Commentary, the magazine I edit.... When I tweeted with my emotions engaged, especially when I responded to something out of anger, I could feel the dopamine rush. The tweet would resolve the emotion and bring me momentary and blessed relief.... I decided to quit Twitter this year after tweeting a joke about neutron-bombing a journalism school.... Nine months later, I still read Twitter.... If I could find a way to participate simply by tweeting out articles and gnomish would-be witticisms, I would. But... [Twitter] ­rewards bad rhetorical behavior, it privileges outrage of any sort over reason of all sorts, and it encourages us to misunderstand each other."

Writes John Podhoretz in "Why I quit Twitter — and you should, too" (NY Post).

First... "garner."

Second, his reason for quitting was not that he was writing 50 tweets a day, but that there was a danger of writing something every once in a while that got him in trouble.

Third, I don't see why I should quit Twitter too just because Podhoretz and others lose their mind and write something they regret every so often. But then, I hardly ever write on Twitter. I can see that it's a game where you try to score by racking up your numbers, and to play you have to play hard. Trying and trying 50 times a day on a website that doesn't pay you anything seems like a bad use of energy, and writing something crazy or nasty to grab for attention is a lowly business. In any case, I have my blog, and I've always done it in a way that fits my personal moods and interests and gives me a flow of intrinsic reward — whether other people link to me or get excited about me or not.

Fourth, it's interesting that he doesn't mention Trump. Trump seems to attract the most prescriptions for quitting Twitter. (I can't keep track of Podhoretz's position on Trump. I see that last April, he went from anti- to anti-anti- and I'm too bored to do any more research on the ultra-dull topic.) [CORRECTION: There are 2 Podhoretzes, and that article from last April is from the other Podhoretz.]

St. Stephen... "stoned to death... the patron saint of deacons, horses, coffin makers & masons."

"I refuse to participate in post-racial America. I refuse to say because we elected Obama that suddenly that means everything is ok, white people have changed."

"White people have not changed. Two-thirds of all white guys voted for Trump. That means anytime you see three white guys walking at you, down the street towards you, two of them voted for Trump. You need to move over to the other sidewalk because these are not good people that are walking toward you. You should be afraid of them."

From "Michael Moore: ‘White guys who voted for Trump ‘are not good people. You should be afraid of them’" (Red State).

"I remember seeing Mark David Chapman, Lennon’s assassin, sitting on the railing outside the porte-cochère that distinguished the Dakota as a gracious reminder of horse-and-carriage days...."

"As we settled down to watch the 11 o’clock news, a succession of loud detonations brought us to our feet. We ran to my studio window on 72nd and saw a black limousine in the driveway by the Dakota’s porte-cochère. Its lights were on, and a figure was lying by the open rear door. We identified John at a glance by his cowboy boots and round glasses, which reflected the bright lights of the entrance. He lay face up, slightly crumpled, with his feet pointing toward the street. The tremendous crashing that startled us had been the sound of the four or five gunshots reverberating within the passage.... There was a camera on the desk in my studio, and I instinctively grabbed it. For the record, it was a Nikkormat EL fitted with a telephoto lens, loaded with high-speed black-and-white film that I often used to snap photos out of the window and around town. The night was clear and the scene was lit up. With the camera cocked and my finger on the shutter release, I focused on John’s face, the face of a dying man. Then I said to myself, 'This isn’t my work. Whoever is there deserves a final moment of privacy.'"

From "The Photograph Not Taken: The Night John Lennon Died" by Robert Morgan (Princeton Alumni Weekly, December 2, 2015).

I'm reading that today because of a new item in the NYT: "The Hidden Perk That New York’s Mega-Rich Now Demand/The porte cochère, a covered entry, all but disappeared decades ago. High-end buildings catering to car owners are bringing it back." That ran in the Christmas Day paper edition with the headline, "A Revived Relic Hides the Wealthy From Prying Eyes." There's no mention of Lennon or even the Dakota.
The modern porte cochère is all about invisibility, or at least providing cover from prying eyes on city streets. Celebrities, V.I.P.s and ultra-high-net-worth types, especially those who are not regulars in the gossip columns, do not want to be seen coming and going. The porte cochère is their shield from photographers, professionals and fans or mere passers-by with cellphones held high.
Okay. The feeling of protection, sold to the rich, most of whom have forgotten or never knew "porte-cochère" in the context of the murder of John Lennon. To me, "porte-cochère" connotes a hiding place for a fiend lying in wait.

The NYT article is long, and it's one of the many articles that run counter to the usual leftish politics that otherwise permeate the newspaper. In the NYT, real estate drifts along in a dreamworld of envy and aspiration. What new thing can be ached for? Here it is, kids: a porte-cochère! It's the latest most retrograde amenity for your ugly urban palace. Now, scoot in there and read the NYT, which will tell you about the awful, filthy rich real estate mogul who cheated his way into the presidency.

Sunrise Althouse.


ADDED: The lighting there is adjusted to pull me out of the shadow. You can see the color of the sunrise as it really appeared in the iPhone screen I'm holding. Here's the picture I was taking:


AND: Here's Meade's photograph, adjusted to show the sunrise and leave me in the shadow:


"Joseph Goebbels didn’t die. He just got a job at Hallmark."

ADDED: The linked article at Salon is "Hallmark movies are fascist propaganda/Forget 'Triumph of the Will' — the most insidious authoritarian propaganda comes in the form of schmaltz" by Amanda Marcotte. Isn't this like what Jonah Goldberg did — from the right — in his book "Liberal Fascism"? Goldberg wrote:
For generations our primary vision of a dystopian future has been that of Orwell’s 1984. This was a fundamentally “masculine” nightmare of fascist brutality. But with the demise of the Soviet Union and the vanishing memory of the great twentieth-century fascist and communist dictatorships, the nightmare vision of 1984 is slowly fading away. In its place, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is emerging as the more prophetic book. As we unravel the human genome and master the ability to make people happy with televised entertainment and psychoactive drugs, politics is increasingly a vehicle for delivering prepackaged joy. America’s political system used to be about the pursuit of happiness. Now more and more of us want to stop chasing it and have it delivered....

The history of totalitarianism is the history of the quest to transcend the human condition and create a society where our deepest meaning and destiny are realized simply by virtue of the fact that we live in it. It cannot be done, and even if, as often in the case of liberal fascism, the effort is very careful to be humane and decent, it will still result in a kind of benign tyranny where some people get to impose their ideas of goodness and happiness on those who may not share them...
Make people happy with televised entertainment... sounds like the Hallmark channel. So let's read the Amanda Marcotte thing, published jollily on Christmas at Salon:
When most of us think about fascistically propagandistic movies, we think of the grotesque grandeur of Leni Riefenstahl's films celebrating the Third Reich... even in Nazi Germany, the majority of movies approved by the Nazi minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, were escapist and feather-light, with a Hallmark movie-style emphasis on the importance of "normality."

There's plenty of reason that empty-headed kitsch fits neatly in the authoritarian worldview. It's storytelling that imitates the gestures of emotion without actually engaging with real feeling... Hallmark movies, with their emphasis on returning home and the pleasures of the small, domestic life, also send a not-at-all subtle signal of disdain for cosmopolitanism and curiosity about the larger world, which is exactly the sort of attitude that helps breed the kind of defensive white nationalism that we see growing in strength in the Donald Trump era.
Both Marcotte and Goldberg are afraid of oppressive government and think cheap televised entertainment is softening the people up to accept it.

"Prison must agree with him...That's the least creepy he has looked in years."

The highest-rated comment on "EXCLUSIVE: Phil Spector is pictured sporting a goatee, bald head and hearing aids in his latest mugshot revealed a day before his 80th birthday after spending ten years behind bars and wearing a selection of wigs during his trial" (Daily Mail).

At the link, there are lots of photographs of Spector, including the different weird wigs he wore during his trial. A woman had died, it was a murder trial, so it was not an ideal occasion for lightweight mockery of wigstyles. I remember getting a call from someone at a TV or radio network. Blogging was a big deal, and I was a conspicuous blogger and law professor, and I would get calls from media and need to try to figure out what they thought they could get from me. I'm no expert on criminal law, but it became apparent that they wanted to fill out time with talk about Spector's hair. They were filling in their airtime and Spector was coming in with different wigs. Weren't they funny? But funny in the context of a murdered woman? Did they want to talk about that, how he was perhaps trying to make people think he was lovable or inept and whether he's deviously playing us? I asked, but I didn't get a straight answer... or an invitation to do on-air commentary. It was pretty obvious that what they wanted was to fill out time on the subject of hair: Wasn't it really weird and silly? Are you a source of multiple words that could more or less say that over and over for the amusement of our audience? If I'd spluttered out a lot of synonyms for "curly" and "big" and "weird" very quickly, I'd have gotten the part, and I could be regretting how dismally I leveraged my transitory blog-fame back in the '00s.

ADDED: I think the reason they called me was that I had blogged about Phil Spector. The post, from September 2007, was titled, "The news is a freak show":
We've got O.J. back in the news. Pushing him out of the headlines is upstart Taser-boy Andrew Meyer. Phil Spector is rearing his ugly head again as jurors cannot make up their minds about whether he's a murderer. Pictures of those 3 characters dominate the front page of The Drudge Report right now, with one more right in the middle: Hillary. This is what we are paying attention to now. Oh, we shouldn't be so hard on ourselves. The presidential candidates have been in the news too long. Are we really supposed to stop everything and study the provisions of Hillary's health care plan? Would we be more virtuous if we did?
But when they called me, it wasn't because they wanted my metacommentary on their commentary. They wanted me to be part of their freak show. Luckily, I couldn't do freak-show style on command, or my only defense would have been virtue.

So what was the Christmas present from Kim Jong-Un? Was it, as Trump guessed, a beautiful vase?

I saw the news 2 days ago:
President Trump did not seem concerned Tuesday when asked about the threat of a "Christmas present" from North Korea if the U.S. doesn't roll back economic sanctions on the country by the end of the year.

"Maybe it's a nice present," Trump told reporters at an event at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. "Maybe it's a present where he sends me a beautiful vase, as opposed to a missile test."
Christmas has come and gone, so what was it? A beautiful vase?
"We'll find out what the surprise is, and we'll deal with it very successfully. Let's see what happens. Everybody's got surprises for me — but let's see what happens," Trump said. "I handle them as they come along."
In other Trump-and-Christmas news: "Psychiatry expert says Trump’s rambling Merry Christmas rant includes three signs of serious mental impairment."

Here's the rant in question:

Do you see the signs? Let me help you. The signs are:
– slurred speech
– semantic paraphasia (inserting wrong word)
– phonemic paraphasia (combining words to form a likely nonsense word)
The purported "phonemic paraphasia" is right at the beginning. He says "And let me begin by wishing you a beautiful" and switches, in the middle of "beautiful" to "look, do you remember this?" If you just clip out the "beautiful" to "look" segment, it sounds like silly nonsense — abyooteefyoowoodlook....

... but it's rank dishonesty to view that as the kind of mental deficiency where a person is saying nonwords as if they were words.

I did enjoy looking up the word "paraphasia" in Wikipedia, because I learned:
The term was apparently introduced in 1877 by the German-English physician Julius Althaus in his book on Diseases of the Nervous System, in a sentence reading, "In some cases there is a perfect chorea or delirium of words, which may be called paraphasia".
I'm always happy to encounter another Althouse/Althaus.

December 25, 2019

Christmas sunrise.



"Wife Guy/Find him on: Instagram/With: A grid full of pictures of his wife."

"At some point, men realized that outwardly showing love to their wives is subversive and that they could score points by doing it. A wife guy is always posting online about how much he supports his wife even if others don’t. He thinks his wife is beautiful even though she doesn’t have the body of a supermodel. He doesn’t deserve credit for doing the bare minimum, but if you offer, he’ll gladly take it."

From "The Characters Who Dominated the Internet in 2019" by Brian Feldman (in NY Magazine). A nice set of characters... with excellent illustrations of each.

There's an internal link to "A Brief Guide to Wife Guys" (a NY Magazine article from last May). Excerpt:
In case you’re not familiar with the concept, Wife Guys are the men who make themselves famous for things their wives did, or qualities their wives have or had. “The wife is legitimizing for a male web celebrity, and particularly advantageous for a guy in the nerd-o-sphere, in the way a mid-century businessman benefited from the aura of stable matrimony.... In crasser terms, the Online Wife is a measure of the husband’s influence.”...
Over there, you'll find, among other characters, the harrowing phenomenon known as Cliff Wife Guy:

"I usually suggest Duke Ellington’s arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s 'Nutcracker Suite,' my favorite piece of holiday music..."

Writes the NYT columnist David Leonhardt in email that I could unsubscribe from, but this is clearly excellent enough to stay my hand for the nonce:

"The Sober October crew got together late last night for a recap, and to just have a really fucking fun time. We laughed until we cried and a few of us got naked."

"There were Cuban cigars, booze and over 3 hours of talking shit," writes Joe Rogan at Facebook. Here's the fantastic photo of the not too pretty male nudity.

Here's the whole show — 3 hours and 20 minutes of Christmas Eve talking about the sobriety challenges they undertook last October:

I've only just started listening, so I don't know what all is in there, but I do look forward to having the warmth of the male chattiness around me on my little household routines that pair well with podcasts.

"Through Mr. Obama, I have been hipped to the Congolese singer Jupiter Bokondji... His prose, always electric, assumes an extra whiff of fire when applied to music."

"'American history wells up when Aretha sings,' Mr. Obama wrote to The New Yorker in response to an email query about the artist in 2016.... 'That’s why, when she sits down at a piano and sings ‘A Natural Woman,’ she can move me to tears,' he said... United States presidents tend not to be celebrated for their groovy record collections. The current officeholder’s favorite Beach Boy is most likely Mike Love, which alone should qualify him for yet another impeachable offense. If this is a bewildering time to be an American, so, too, is it a disconcerting time to be a fan of rock and pop, among the country’s maddest and most characteristic concoctions. Barack Obama, music critic, has become an unlikely balm, his beautifully detailed lists acting as strange flickers of continuity and survival."

From "In Praise of Barack Obama, Music Critic/The former president’s annual year-end playlist never fails to delight" by Jim Ruttenberg in the NYT.

"Balm" is aromatic ointment. Is it strange to say that a person is balm? Perhaps it's wrong, more wrong than calling him a nonhuman animal. He's a gooey substance, to be spread on the skin, for comfort. So weird! But "balm" has long been used figuratively. It can be anything softly soothing. No one, even his fans, would call Donald Trump "balm."

Did you know that in Jamaica, "balm" is "A faith-healing ceremony typically involving drumming, dancing, and ritual feasting; a herbal bath or other treatment administered during this" (OED)? There is a sense that Obama had healing powers, and yet where was all the healing? Why did Obama lead to Trump? It's a strange mystery!

The link on "is most likely Mike Love" goes to "Mike Love to Trump: ‘You Tried Your Best to Help Whitney Houston’/You’ve always been a big supporter of some of the best music that America has ever made,' Beach Boys singer told president" (Rolling Stone, October 2018). Love was at the White House for Trump's signing of the Music Modernization Act, which aimed to protect the rights of artists in digital media.

I love the idea that loving Love is "another impeachable offense." It underscores Trump's characterization of impeachment as "Impeachment Lite." Everybody's doing it, defining impeachment downward. It seems peachier than ever. And now, we're adding Love.

I note that Ruttenberg did not say Trump's favorite musical act is The Beach Boys. He only said that Trump's favorite Beach Boy is probably Mike Love. If you pay attention at all to Trump's rallies, you would conclude that Trump's favorite music act is The Rolling Stones. Not only does he always end with "You Can't Always Get What You Want,"* the pre-speech song list of perhaps 22 songs may have 3 Rolling Stones songs — "Time Is on My Side," "Let’s Spend the Night Together," and "Sympathy for the Devil" — while having no repetitions from other artists, with exactly one exception, Elton John.

Hey, it's Christmas, so I feel I should say something Christmas-y... and that got me wondering whether it's true — as my instinct tells me — that The Rolling Stones have a never done a Christmas song. According to Showbiz Cheatsheet, I am right about that, but they did do this “Cosmic Christmas” in "a hidden coda" on "Their Satanic Majesties Request":

And their song "Winter" has this line: "And I wish I been out in California/When the lights on all the Christmas trees went out/But I been burning my bell, book and candle/And the restoration plays have all gone around."

And Mick Jagger, sans other Stones, recorded “Lonely Without You (This Christmas)." And before you say, But Keith Richards wouldn't do something like that, he recorded "Run Rudolph Run" in 1979.

Now, go slather yourself in balm and get some strange flickers of a merry Christmas!


* You know what I think about that. I wrote last year:
To me, this message, played at the end of a political rally, feels like a critique of all politics. Yes, I've stood here and promised the sky, but you must realize you might not get it, and what you do get may even be preferable. You're feeling your wants, and I'm stoking your wants, but I might have something else in mind, something that I think is good enough for you or actually better than what you want. And you really shouldn't be taking those drugs and drinking that wine or even drinking that soda. What kind of a thinking adult are you anyway, preferring "cherry red" soda? Grow up. You've had your fun at my rousing rally. Now, straighten up and try to see what you're getting as all you really need.

Merry Christmas!

I hope you get what you want.

December 24, 2019

At the Christmas Eve Café...


... you can talk all night.

The photo was taken at sunrise this morning — a negative-space sunrise, perhaps apt for Christmas Eve.

The Big Oak...

The Big Oak

... is not that tall, but it has amazing horizontality. It got that way by growing up without crowding from other trees. Nowadays, people make a point of removing any trees that would crowd it. It won the horizontality game on its own long ago, but we the people of today like what it did and want to preserve it for our gratification.

"Trump attacks on wind turbines, low-flow toilets and LED lightbulbs set up key campaign clash with Democrats."

The Washington Post notices.
“I’ve seen the most beautiful fields, farms, fields — most gorgeous things you’ve ever seen, and then you have these ugly things going up,” he said of the wind turbines. “And you know what they don’t tell you about windmills? After 10 years, they look like hell.”

The broad nostalgia encapsulated in Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan has become increasingly specific as he has zeroed in on consumer issues such as energy-efficient appliances, carbon-reducing fuel standards and plastic straw bans. Often operating from his own feelings rather than scientific evidence, the president has castigated Democrats’ environmental agenda as unworkable and counterproductive...

Trump has said he wants to campaign heavily against the liberal Green New Deal proposal, pledging to “rip that sucker” just two months before the election....

“I know windmills very much,” Trump said in his Saturday speech. “I’ve studied it better than anybody I know.... You know we have a world, right? So the world is tiny compared to the universe...”
There's a lot of laughing at Trump for saying things like that, but I think WaPo and other Democrats know that he's talking about the real-life experience of ordinary people who can't always be thinking about the climate of the distant future. You know they have a world — right? — a world now that they have to live in, with dishwashers and toilets and lightbulbs and straws.