February 2, 2019

At the Saturday Night Café...

... keep the conversation going.

Now, Gov. Northam denies that was him in the photograph but confesses that he did blackface on another occasion.

The strange story of Ralph Northam continues, and he won't resign.

From the NYT report:
"It was definitely not me,” Mr. Northam, a Democrat, told reporters at a news conference in the governor’s mansion. “I can tell by looking at it.”

Pressed on why he initially apologized, Mr. Northam said he had wanted to “take credit for recognizing that this was a horrific photo that was on my page with my name on it.”
Yes, but you said it was "a photograph of me." How can you get that wrong? Did it look like something you might have done?
The governor called the images, which first surfaced Friday afternoon, “offensive, racist and despicable.” But he said that “I cannot in good conscience choose the path that would be easier for me to duck the responsibility to reconcile.”
For reasons I develop in my earlier post today, I'm inclined to approve of his not resigning. But this is weirder than it was before, and now we have not only decades-old behavior to judge but current behavior. It's not very reliable of him to say one thing and then another. Is he lying or simply confused and given to speaking without thinking? And then there's this new blackface incident:
[He revealed that he] had darkened his face with shoe polish for a Michael Jackson costume in a dance contest in Texas in 1984, when he was a young Army officer....
And there's the fact that as an undergraduate student he had the nickname "Coonman." And then there was his mixed-up or downright evil statement about very late-term abortions. To me, it looks like it was the abortion material that made him a target and led someone to decide to rid the Democratic Party of him by dropping the old photograph. I'd like to know the background on that, but it's not in the NYT article.

ADDED: This is the highest-rated comment at the Times:
I am a black man, but I am not offended by the photo, though it is obviously in poor taste.

It looks like a joke to me, since Klansmen and black men don't generally have a beer together. Probably because they called him "coons man" in College.

It seems that my Party (Democrats) can't seem to avoid falling into one identity pothole after another, and the circular firing squad is in full force again.

If this keeps up, I will be staying home in November of 2020. Or, I might try to find Al Franken, to console him on his earlier electronic lynching. 

"Comedian Bill Maher was accused of racism after making a fried chicken joke to a Black Republican during an interview on Friday’s HBO show of 'Real Time with Bill Maher.'"

Fox News reports, showing this tweet:

Did Bill Maher lob "a clearly racist joke"?
pollcode.com free polls

Writing about Gov. Northam this morning, I went looking for the old Ted Danson blackface routine (the one Whoopi Goldberg dared him to do)...

... and I found this parody by Howard Stern. How can Stern survive when that's on YouTube?

Man, he commits to the mocking racism with over-the-top racism. Interesting to see Sherman Hemsley (AKA George Jefferson) in the role of Whoopi Goldberg.

And what about Joni Mitchell? And Tom Hanks? And Sarah Silverman?

I couldn't find video of the old Ted Danson effort, but here's an article with a still photo.

ADDED: Further research suggests that there was never any videotape of Danson's performance — a Friar's Club roast of Whoopi Goldberg.  Roger Ebert was there and he wrote:
A blocklong dais featured more than 100 celebrities who sat stoneface through the monologue, including such prominent African Americans as New York Mayor David Dinkins, performers Halle Berry, Vanessa Williams, Anita Baker, RuPaul and Mr. T, and boxers Michael Spinks and Sugar Ray Leonard. A closed-circuit camera showed them looking embarrassed and uncomfortable....

Friar's roasts, which are never taped for telecast, are traditionally raucous and obscene. But the specter of a white man in blackface repeatedly using the [n-word] and other strongly coded words seemed to cross a line that was sensed by most of the people in the room. The event demonstrated that the painful history of black-white relations in America is still too sensitive to be joked about crudely. Goldberg, whose real name is Caren Johnson, has used her entire career to try to break down racial stereotyping, and in encouraging Danson's approach she may have thought it would play as satire. But, as stand-up comics say when their material isn't working, he was dying up there....

Goldberg, seated next to Danson, laughed and smiled at the material. Speaking last, she defended her friend: "Let's get these words all out in the open. It took a whole lot of courage to come out in blackface in front of 3,000 people. I don't care if you didn't like it. I did."...

Black model Beverly Johnson also defended Danson's performance: "If you can't see the humor at a place where there's supposed to be over-the-line jokes, then there's something really wrong."
AND: Here's the Wikipedia list of celebrities who've done blackface. Would those who want to exile Gov. Northam agree that all of these people should be shunned retrospectively (even the dead ones)? Fred Armisen, Fred Astaire, Dan Aykroyd, Jack Benny, Fanny Brice, George Burns, Johnny Carson, Joan Crawford, Billy Crystal, Robert Downey Jr., Judy Garland, Alec Guinness, Rex Harrison, Jimmy Kimmel, Dean Martin, The Marx Brothers, The Lone Ranger, Carroll O'Connor, Frank Sinatra, Red Skelton, Grace Slick, The Three Stooges, Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley Temple, John Wayne, Gene Wilder.

Soon, you'll attain the stability you strive for/In the only way that it's granted/In a place among the fossils of our time...

Life is change/How it differs from the rocks....

The Washington Post publishes an op-ed coauthored by Hillary Clinton and John Kasich, so it's sure to change the subject...

... from late-term (post-birth?!!!) abortions and Democratic governors in blackface (or a Klansman outfit) to... wait for it... what do you think?... what subject is waiting, just waiting to grab us?... what could unite these giants of the 2 parties... what is it?...

Should we try to understand Governor Northam or demand that he Al Franken himself?

Is the Democratic Party the party of no forgiveness? Does it need its own guy to kill himself because they want to be able to kill other people? Unquestionably, if a picture like this...

... had shown up from President Trump's old yearbook, Democrats would yell that he must resign. How can they retain their credibility to ruin Republicans if they don't destroy their own? I see Kamala Harris jumped right in to lead the pack. Harris is to Northam what Gillibrand was to Franken. Instant death. No pausing to reflect on human frailty. No empathy for the the imperfect judgment of young people. No contextualizing, even so soon after people misread what they saw in the photograph of the Covington Catholic boy and the Native American elder.

What was the context? Is asking for the context extending white privilege and contributing to the ravages of racism? I want to read Northham's own statement. Does that make me complicit in historical evil? The Democratic frontrunner for President, Kamala Harris, didn't sound interested in context, understanding, or empathy. She performed snap judgment. Northam must resign.

But let's read. Let's see what Northam gives us to think about.
Earlier today, a website published a photograph of me from my 1984 medical school yearbook in a costume that is clearly racist and offensive.
So we know that is him in the photograph... but which one is he? And why isn't he telling us?! Maybe if I could figure out which costume is worse, I'd know why he isn't telling. The KKK character is the evil one, but the other one is blackface, and everyone knows that a white person must never, ever put on blackface. I mean, Ted Danson didn't know in 1993 (and Whoopi Goldberg dared him to do it (he said)) but young Ralph Northam was supposed to know in 1983.

What was the occasion? A costume party of some sort? Is there anything to be said about the apparent camaraderie between the Klansman and the black man? Some vision of the peaceable kingdom: "The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together..."

But a white man put on blackface and another white man put on a KKK outfit and that's all the there is: Northam's statement, adding nothing but a confession that he was inside one of those costumes, implicitly says, there is no context to consider. To contextualize would be to minimize guilt, when he wants to take on full guilt... except for the little detail of costume was his. (Is he waiting to hear which costume is worse? Which one does he want to be, given that he has to be one?)

The statement continues:
I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo...
You mean as a Klansman or as a black man? I'd like to know, even as I'm unsure which is worse.
... and for the hurt that decision caused then and now. This behavior is not in keeping with who I am today...
But who were you then? What did the costume mean? Were you actually a racist at the time? I'd like to know what he remembers thinking and what other people said. Maybe he isn't talking about it because there was some garish racial foolery or even bigotry, but I suspect he's keeping it short because he's been advised that any attempt to explain will be taken as a failure to take racism seriously. You'll be making it worse.
... and the values I have fought for throughout my career in the military, in medicine, and in public service. But I want to be clear, I understand how this decision shakes Virginians’ faith in that commitment. I recognize that it will take time and serious effort to heal the damage this conduct has caused. I am ready to do that important work. The first step is to offer my sincerest apology and to state my absolute commitment to living up to the expectations Virginians set for me when they elected me to be their Governor.
The elements of an apology are thus firmly in place. Must he also resign? This isn't the Senate. He can't be expelled by a bunch of Senators like Al Franken. But Al Franken ousted himself when the Senators banded together against him. Will Northam take himself out? If he does, what will it mean?

Let's look to Kamala Harris as a source of meaning. Her tweet:
Leaders are called to a higher standard, and the stain of racism should have no place in the halls of government. The Governor of Virginia should step aside so the public can heal and move forward together.
Northam did something 30 years ago. How is his presence in the "halls of government" the presence of the "stain of racism"? This is grandiose and severe language. And yet it purports to give priority to healing and moving forward. If we really cared about healing and moving forward, wouldn't we believe that a man may have moved forward over the course of 30 years and not insist that he is stained forever?

If we are stained forever by what is in the past, then there is no healing, no moving forward — ever, no matter what. So how could Northam's resignation help us do what cannot be done? And, most absurdly, how are we moving forward "together" if the main thing that must be done is to leave one of us behind? There is no "together," no "healing," no "moving forward," just relentless stain, rejection, and punishment.

I'm concentrating on Kamala Harris, because she seems to be the Democratic Party frontrunner for President and because her call for Northam's resignation is the first one I've heard, but others have followed the same path of no forgiveness. The candidates for President look desperate not to be left behind. They see which way things seem to be going and they rush to get there too. Julian Castro, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Sherrod Brown,  John Hickenlooper,  Eric Swalwell (who?), Terry McAuliffe. I see why they have to do it, to preserve the Democratic Party brand, and yet I think it's an awful brand — relentless, unforgiving, without context, without careful consideration.

And (most ironically) it makes it harder to say that racism is pervasive and runs throughout humanity. We're stuck in a shallow ritual of identifying scapegoats and imagining that we could emerge from that ritual stainless and whole.

February 1, 2019

At the Blue Eye Café...

... talk about whatever you want.

And please take note of the Althouse Portal to Amazon that is always there in the sidebar. Something I just bought and used with minimal pain is Turbotax.

"[T]he hallmark of fanatical centrism is the determination to see America’s left and right as equally extreme, no matter what they actually propose."

"Thus, throughout the Obama years, centrists called for political leaders who would address their debt concerns with an approach that combined spending cuts with revenue increases, offer a market-based health care plan and invest in infrastructure, somehow never managing to acknowledge that there was one major figure proposing exactly that — President Barack Obama. And now, with Democrats taking a turn that is more progressive but hardly radical, centrist rhetoric has become downright hysterical. Medicare and Medicaid already cover more than a third of U.S. residents and pay more bills than private insurance. But Medicare for all, says Schultz, is 'not American.' Elizabeth Warren has proposed taxes on the wealthy that are squarely in the tradition of Teddy Roosevelt; Bloomberg says that they would turn us into Venezuela. Where does the fanaticism of the centrists come from? Much of the explanation, I think, is sheer vanity. Both pundits and plutocrats like to imagine themselves as superior beings, standing above the political fray. They want to think of themselves as standing tall against extremism right and left. Yet the reality of American politics is asymmetric polarization: extremism on the right is a powerful political force, while extremism on the left isn’t. What’s a would-be courageous centrist to do? The answer, all too often, is to retreat into a fantasy world, almost as hermetic as the right-wing, Fox News bubble. In this fantasy world, social democrats like Harris or Warren are portrayed as the second coming of Hugo Chávez, so that taking what is actually a conservative position can be represented as a brave defense of moderation."

Writes Paul Krugman in "Attack of the Fanatical Centrists/Of obsessions, vanity and delusions of superiority" (NYT).

"Warren has been in touch with Cherokee Nation leadership, apologizing for furthering confusion over issues of tribal sovereignty and citizenship and for any harm her announcement caused...."

The Intercept reports (without imput from the Warren campaign).
“Senator Warren has reached out to us and has apologized to the tribe,” Cherokee Nation’s executive director of communications Julie Hubbard told The Intercept. “We are encouraged by this dialogue and understanding that being a Cherokee Nation tribal citizen is rooted in centuries of culture and laws not through DNA tests. We are encouraged by her action and hope that the slurs and mockery of tribal citizens and Indian history and heritage will now come to an end.”
I found that via the NYT, "Elizabeth Warren Apologizes to Cherokee Nation for DNA Test."
The apology is a break from Ms. Warren’s previous public stance, where she refused to admit fault. Advisers close to Ms. Warren said she has privately expressed concern that she may have damaged her relationships to Native American groups and her own standing with activists, particularly those who are racial minorities...

On Wednesday, Chuck Hoskin Jr, the secretary of state of the Cherokee Nation, published an opinion column in the Tulsa World titled, “Elizabeth Warren can be a friend, but she isn’t a Cherokee citizen.” In the column, Mr. Hoskin said Ms. Warren’s test, which her office said showed strong evidence that Ms. Warren has Native American pedigree “6-10 generations ago,” did not take into account that, for most Native Americans, culture and kinship is what creates tribal membership — not blood.

What a terribly bad week it's been for Gov. Northam.

Today, there's this:

And earlier this week, a lot of people heard him saying he'd accept infanticide, though I myself gave him a charitable reading and never took it that way.

As for the blackface and Klansman photo, what's the charitable reading? He's not responsible for his yearbook page? Remember last September how seriously Democrats took Bret Kavanaugh's yearbook page?

Foxconn update.

Why is Sherrod Brown giving us the yellow bird?

It gets your attention and you're likely to laugh and say "what?!"...

... but it's actually very easy to figure it out. My google image search (above) produced an image for "Canary Cast," and clicking, I saw that's the name of Brown's podcast.  That image shows a yellow bird — obviously a canary — in a cage, so even though I want to veer into a joke like "I Know Why the Caged Bird Runs for President," I immediately see that it's the idea of a canary in a coal mine. Brown must see himself as someone who is aware of problems early on, though the canary in a coal mine doesn't really notice and think about problems; its early warning comes in the form of dropping dead, so it doesn't really seem like a good metaphor. But it's Sherrod Brown's metaphor, and he got your attention. From the podcast website:
Brown’s podcast is named Canarycast, a nod to the canary pin Brown wears on his lapel instead of the official Senate pin. An Ohio steelworker gave Brown the pin. He wears it as a reminder of the progress the country has made since the days when the only thing coal miners had to protect them was a canary – and all the work still left to do to ensure American workers are valued.
And... put a bird on it:

ADDED: After writing this post, I read "Sherrod Brown Gives America the Bird/Breaking down Sherrod Brown's canary" (The Bulwark), and it too embeds the "put a bird on it" Portlandia clip. Also:
Sherrod Brown’s logo somehow ignores... all commonly held principles of visual cohesion. He’s attempting to combine a (stale) wordmark with a (vague and enigmatic, but in a bad way) pictorial. The effort toward a logo system is apparent, but it’s the design equivalent of eating the whole wheel of cheese. I’m not even mad. It’s amazing....

The canary is not my favorite thing in the world. It’s weak. It’s lifeless. It guarantees that Trump will nickname Brown “Tweety Bird.” Let me amend that: I hate the canary.

But at least it’s an idea. And if you have a visual idea that means something to the product—even if it’s a bad visual idea—then you can use it to anchor a brand.

"The more you learn about Kamala Harris, the more formidable she appears."

David Brooks is in love again.*
She is an amazing amalgam of different elements...
As opposed to amalgams of the same element. Why mess up your alliteration with a redundancy? And why not an amazing amalgam of elegant elements? Keep the alliteration at least.
... highly educated elite meritocrat, Oakland street fighter, crusading, rough-elbow prosecutor, canny machine pol and telegenic rhetorical brawler. She is also probably the toughest and most hard-nosed progressive on the scene right now....

She went to a prestigious school.... before going to law school, zooming up the political ladder and marrying a partner at a prestigious law firm. She is famously comfortable in rooms of the very wealthy.

But in deciding to work as a prosecutor — rather than going to a law firm — Harris was immersing herself in the gritty world the rest of the achievatrons were rising away from....
The rest of the achievatrons... like I guess the "partner at a prestigious law firm" she acquired as one of the achievements Brooks admires.
Harris was a beneficiary of the machine of the California political giant Willie Brown, who she briefly dated... but Harris made it clear at one forum that there is no way she’s going to bend if Brown or his allies try to influence her....

To beat Trump, I suspect Democrats will want unity. They won’t want somebody who essentially runs against the Democratic establishment (Bernie Sanders); they’ll want somebody who embodies it (Harris). They’ll want somebody who seems able to pulverize Trump in a debate (Harris)....
Harris’s fearless, cut-the-crap rhetorical style will probably serve her well in this pugilistic political moment.

Can anyone provide me with a good video clip demonstrating "Harris’s fearless, cut-the-crap rhetorical style," something that looks like it could "pulverize Trump in a debate"? I've never noticed anything like that. I hear a flat, bland style of speech. I mean, that's okay with me. I'm not looking for excitement. But if you're going to lavishly praise her rhetorical style and predict the pulverization of Trump, you need some evidence.

ADDED: I googled "fiery speech from kamala harris" and got this "Nobody is above the law" business, but it's Harris reading in a flat, nasal voice and frequently looking down and stumbling. Show me something where she's thinking on the spot and saying words that come straight from her head that show a "fearless, cut-the-crap rhetorical style" that could "pulverize Trump in a debate."


* I'm saying "again" because of the way Brooks gushed over Barack Obama in 2006. He famously said, "I remember distinctly an image of--we were sitting on his couches, and I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant.... and I’m thinking, a) he’s going to be president and b) he’ll be a very good president." Notice that's a spoken quote. Brooks didn't write that in a column. The column he wrote at the time was "Run, Barack, Run." Here's how Brooks wrote about Obama:
[Barack Obama] notes that it’s time to move beyond the political style of the baby boom generation. This is a style... that is highly moralistic and personal, dividing people between who is good and who is bad.

Obama himself has a mentality formed by globalization, not the S.D.S. With his multiethnic family and his globe-spanning childhood, there is a little piece of everything in Obama. He is perpetually engaged in an internal discussion between different pieces of his hybrid self — Kenya with Harvard, Kansas with the South Side of Chicago — and he takes that conversation outward into the world....

He distrusts righteous anger and zeal. He does not demonize his opponents and tells audiences that he does not think George Bush is a bad man.

He has a compulsive tendency to see both sides of any issue.... During our talk... he kept returning to his mode, which is conversation, deliberation and reconciliation....

"Booker is running. I’ve watched him for 20 years. Here’s what I’ve learned."

Writes Tom Moran at NJ.com (as Booker announces his run this morning).
He’s a rich target in crazy times like this, because he’s not a normal guy. He’s a vegan and a Rhodes Scholar, and he never touches alcohol or tobacco. He meditates daily, and Tweets quotes from Jewish scholars and Buddhist priests. He once supported vouchers for private schools, and he attends prayer meetings with a Republican senator who thinks climate change is a hoax....

But put that aside. The core criticism of Booker is that he is a showboat with a silver tongue, a man whose real talent is promoting himself, not getting stuff done. That last part -- about not getting stuff done -- is wildly unfair....

In Newark, Booker beat the corrupt old guard and became the first mayor in 45 years to leave office without being indicted. He cut the city’s workforce by 25 percent, a record of austerity unmatched in the state. He doubled the supply of affordable housing. He drove down crime sharply, at least until a cut in state aid forced police layoffs. He was a key figure in expanding charter schools that now educate one-third of city students, and are rated as among the best in the country by outside experts....

Booker was a leading negotiator of the most important bipartisan effort since President Trump was elected, the criminal justice reform signed in December....

"So let’s give Schultz credit for bringing the country together, even if only in its bipartisan detestation of him."

Writes Frank Rich in "Howard Schultz May Be Even More Disingenuous Than Donald Trump" (NY Magazine).

Consider how similar that is to what Meade said to the Starbucks barista the other day: "I just want to say that I support your boss, Howard Schultz. Because I hate the Democrats, and I hate the Republicans, so go Howard."

Similar, but different, of course. Rich assumes everybody is a Democrat or a Republican and therefore wary of someone who threatens the 2-party game. Meade voiced opposition to both parties. There may be "bipartisan detestation" of Schultz, but "bipartisan" doesn't mean everyone, only everyone in one of the 2-parties, and a lot of us are on the outside and therefore not in a state of detestation but Schultz-curious.

Rich writes:
Sometimes I wonder if there is such a thing as “centrism” in our politics anymore beyond its use as a branding strategy for pundits and out-of-work politicians hustling to be hired as talking heads. ... Schultz’s potential third-party presidential candidacy is a ludicrous exercise in plutocratic ego that is of benefit to no one except Trump.
I did a little (obviously unscientific) poll yesterday on the blog. My question, "What is Schultz doing?"

I'm not saying these results are accurate, but look how strong the result is. 75% of you think Schultz is sincere and not ludicrous or egomaniacal.

The genius comedian Ricky Gervais is taking chances on Twitter.

Interestingly, he retweeted Titania McGrath.

An explanation:

ADDED: I used a screenshot for the Titania McGrath quote so you could see that Ricky Gervais retweeted it. But I can see in the comments that some of you don't get who she is. So here's a link to her Twitter feed.

"Rare half-male, half-female cardinal spotted in Pennsylvania."

"Gynandromorphy like that in this cardinal occurs when a female egg cell develops with two nuclei—one with a Z and one with a W—and it’s 'double fertilized' by two Z-carrying sperm. The chimeric individual then develops with half of its body as a male ZZ and the other half as a female ZW. If you were to examine a cell from the bright red male side, it would have cells with ZZ chromosomes. If you looked at a cell from the left, it would have cells with ZW chromosomes. This phenomenon happens in birds, many insects, and crustaceans.... Part of what makes this particular cardinal so exciting... is that it may be able to reproduce. 'Most gynandromorph individuals are infertile, but this one may actually be fertile as the left side is female, and only the left ovary in birds in functional.'... [T]he cardinal is always in the company of a male. 'We’re happy it’s not lonely'...."

(National Geographic.)

January 31, 2019

At Pinky's Café....

... you can talk all you like.

And, by the way, have you noticed I've taken down all the ads? But I'm still offering the Althouse Portal to Amazon, which is always over there in the sidebar. Thanks for using it!

"A defiant President Trump declared on Thursday that he has all but given up on negotiations with Congress over his border wall and will proceed without lawmakers..."

"... even as he dismissed any suggestions of wrongdoing in the investigations that have ensnared his associates. In an interview in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump called the talks 'a waste of time' and indicated he will most likely take action on his own when they officially end in two weeks.... Addressing a wide range of subjects, Mr. Trump brushed off the investigations that have consumed so much of his presidency, saying that his lawyers have been reassured by the outgoing deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, that the president himself was not a target. Mr. Trump said he never spoke with Roger J. Stone Jr., his longtime associate who was indicted last week, about WikiLeaks and the stolen Democratic emails it posted during the 2016 election, nor did he direct anyone to do so.... he interview was arranged after Mr. Trump reached out to A.G. Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times, and invited him for an off-the-record dinner. Mr. Sulzberger declined, saying he would prefer an on-the-record interview that included two of his reporters. The president agreed."

Writes the New York Times.

"The Crack Emcee, once San Francisco's blackest man, with an original collection of (actual) 'Rock' songs - exclusively about females..."

"... and all recorded throughout the San Francisco Bay Area over a 20-year period, as he served time with SF's The Beatnigs (Alternative Tentacles) Consolidated (Nettwerk) Broun Fellinis (Moonshine) and Little White Radio (Crack House). Shouts out to Detonator Kemrexx, Toph One, Chris Cotton, Nosia, Ann Althouse, Daren and Doug, for the undying inspiration. All songs written and produced by The Crack Emcee, except 'She’s A Woman' by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. 'Britney Houston' was compiled from excellent-to-extremely sketchy source material, and was mixed to make the divergence 'work'. Cover photo 'Shelia' by The Crack Emcee. Enjoy."

Listen to Crack Emcee's "Britney Houston (Bay Area Black Rock Girl Songs: 1995 - 2015)" by at SoundCloud, here.

"Colleen McCann is a former fashion stylist who now offers a full array of shamanic services — crystals, sage-burning, energy-channeling..."

"... for a client base of music executives, admen, fashionistas, Wall Street titans and staffers for the lifestyle empire known as Goop (she’s its in-house shaman and crystals expert). One of her specific market niches: scrubbing bad energies from their wardrobes. It all started one night a decade ago, she says, when she was trying to get a 2 a.m. sandwich at a New York bodega. She was struck by a clairvoyant vision — a voice, really, that warned her of a fight that was about to occur over the price of the bananas. What followed was a long string of coincidences, strange encounters and psychic consultations, somehow culminating in her enrollment in shaman school."

From "The wellness revolution has reached its shamans-for-hire stage" (WaPo).

And doesn't it always go like that? It starts with a sandwich... and then visions of bananas....

"With everything looking so 1970s, I want to offer 'Malaise!' as an idea for a political slogan. Any candidate is free to use that idea. No need to give me credit."

That's something I just wrote on Facebook, at a post by my son John about the Fast Company article, "The women running for president are breaking the rules of branding/The most diverse field of presidential candidates ever is also pushing the color of campaign branding like never before."

From the article:
Elizabeth Warren sets off the fairly traditional dark blue and red in her palette with an unexpected mint green to freshen things up. The overall impression gives off a fitting academic activist vibe.

Kamala Harris’s branding features a blueish purple, a desaturated red, and a joyful, buttery yellow. The choice of yellow is an homage to Shirley Chisholm’s historic candidacy launched 47 years to the day before her own candidacy. Harris is half Jamaican and half Indian, and the palette of her branding comes across as an authentic celebration of both her identity and America’s multiracial and multicultural society.
Mint green? Joyful, buttery yellow?? That made me laugh. These colors are not fresh-looking at all. They look like they came from the 70s.

"I was surprised by how much interest there’s been from centrist politicians, who are desperate for a coherent narrative to defend centrist liberalism, cosmopolitanism, open society..."

"... from the threats both by populists and by the hard left. I think there is a hunger for a coherent worldview that isn’t just the status quo, the un-Trumpism. We can do better than that. We ought to use reason and science to enhance human well-being.... We can set up institutions that result in greater rationality than any of us is capable of individually, like peer review, like free speech, like a free press, like empirical testing — norms and institutions that make us collectively more rational than any of us is individually.... One answer is to make people aware of [irrationality], because I think most people are not. Then once one has that understanding, to try to depoliticize issues as much as possible. I do try to disassociate empirical issues from political baggage."

Said Steven Pinker, quoted in the NYT last November in "Steven Pinker Thinks the Future Is Looking Bright/The Harvard psychologist says he is no starry-eyed optimist. It’s just that the data don’t lie." The "interest" he's talking about is in his book "Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress."

I found that this morning because I was searching the NYT for the phrase "hard left" after encountering a reference to the "hard right" in a NYT article about Ginni Thomas ("President Trump met last week with a delegation of hard-right activists led by Ginni Thomas") and seeing a barrage of comments objecting to the term. It raises the question whether the NYT will say "hard left" at the same degree of deviation from the center that causes it to say "hard right." I haven't systematically counted, but I think "hard right" is much more common, and "hard left" is most likely to come up in references to other countries (notably Venezuela) or in quotes, but I did find some examples of "hard left" in news articles, such as "Rally by White Nationalists Was Over Almost Before It Began" (from last August):
The alt-right movement, never very well unified, has been particularly rived by infighting and schisms in the last year. Members have been outed by both online activists and mainstream media outlets, causing some to lose their jobs. The left’s ability to turn out counterprotesters has also been a factor, from the hard-left activists threatening violence against far-right street protesters, to center-left citizens who have been vocal, and explicit, in expressing their disgust and scorn.
And "There Is a Revolution on the Left. Democrats Are Bracing." (from last July):
Some national Democrats remain skeptical that voters are focused on specific policy demands of the kind Mr. El-Sayed and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez have championed. Former Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland, a left-of-center Democrat who ran for president in 2016, suggested the party wants “new leaders and fresh ideas” more than hard-left ideology.
Isn't the hard left more of a problem for Democrats than the hard right is a problem for Republicans? If so, I would expect the NYT to help the Democrats stay in the zone of electable leftish moderation.

And I love the Steven Pinker stuff. But he's not a political candidate (indeed that quote came after he rejected the idea of his running for office). I'd like a candidate for President who would talk like that. Howard?

"But while my feminist sensibilities make me wary of suggesting that Ginni Thomas should not be completely free to embrace her causes and live her life..."

"... there’s something troublesome about the unbounded nature of her public advocacy, at least for those of us who still care about the Supreme Court.... As a Supreme Court spouse, Ginni Thomas has always been different. In November 1991, weeks after her husband’s apocalyptic confirmation hearing, she gave an interview to People magazine, appearing on the cover in her husband’s embrace with the headline, 'How We Survived.' The disappearing act of other Supreme Court spouses is not for Ms. Thomas. Justice Stephen Breyer’s wife, Joanna, a psychotherapist who works with children with cancer, stayed in Cambridge, Mass., to continue her career while her husband commuted from Washington on weekends. Martin Ginsburg gave up law practice when his wife first became a judge, embarking on a new career as a law professor....  [Ginni Thomas has] broken no rules except the rules of good taste. What she’s violated are longstanding norms of behavior. And in an age when nearly every norm is being shredded, that makes her the perfect Supreme Court spouse for our time."

That's Linda Greenhouse in "Family Ties at the Supreme Court/Do the political activities of Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife cross a line?" (NYT).

What did Ginni Thomas do exactly? Greenhouse links to "Trump Meets With Hard-Right Group Led by Ginni Thomas" by Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni (NYT). Excerpt:
President Trump met last week with a delegation of hard-right activists led by Ginni Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, listening quietly as members of the group denounced transgender people and women serving in the military, according to three people with direct knowledge of the events....

It is unusual for the spouse of a sitting Supreme Court justice to have such a meeting with a president, and some close to Mr. Trump said it was inappropriate for Ms. Thomas to have asked to meet with the head of a different branch of government....
I'm skeptical about whether these "members of the group" actually "denounced transgender people and women serving in the military." It seems much more likely that they denounced some policies relating to these groups, not the human beings themselves. One could think transgenders shouldn't be in the military and women shouldn't be in combat without being hostile to these individuals. Indeed, one could hate heterosexual men and believe they absolutely do belong in the frontlines of military duty.

"Guys as rich as Shultz have better things to do with their time than hawk books for money."

"The book is to support the run, not vice versa. Remember when everybody was saying that Trump was just running to jump start some kind of news network?"

Writes tim in vermont in the comments to the first post of the day (about the value of a Howard Schultz candidacy).

Do you think tim makes more sense than Scott Adams, in his podcast yesterday, expressing certainty that Schultz will not run — and is therefore only hawking his book — because it would destroy the Starbucks brand:

Tim's observation reminds me of what I said about MacKenzie Bezos a couple weeks ago when we got the the news of her bust-up with the richest man in the word Jeff Bezos. The NYT wrote that "publishing executives, who declined to be quoted on the record, spoke gleefully, at least, of the blockbuster potential if Ms. Bezos decides to write a memoir." My reaction was:
What does MacKenzie Bezos care about the "blockbuster potential" for anything? She is on track to receive half of the $137 billion fortune she and her husband amassed. She will be the richest woman in the world. The challenge for her is — I would think — to maintain a motivation to do serious, valuable work.
MacKenzie Bezos has been — as far as we can see — a serious novelist. She has absolutely no reason to hanker after what would be big bucks for an ordinary writer. She's far too rich.

Now, Howard Schultz is different, though he too is rich enough not to care about making money from his book. His net worth is something like $3 billion. That's piddling compared to MacKenzie Bezos, but it's three times the net worth of J.K. Rowling (to name a person whose money came from writing books). But quite aside from making money, Howard Schultz might want attention and respect for his political opinions and economic preferences. That explains writing the book in the first place. Having written it, he wants people to care, and we're probably not going to care just because he's the Starbucks guy. So presenting himself as a potential President is a good way to claim the spotlight.

As for the force of the need to protect the Starbucks brand, Schultz is already demonstrating that it's not that strong. But maybe Adams is right and it is strong enough to keep him from running for President.

What is Howard Schultz doing?
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"Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran a story on how three conservatives nominated to the rogue Ninth Circuit..."

"... but whose nominations lapsed with the last Congress, had been left off the list of nominees resubmitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Many of us cried foul. According to the story, the White House was trying to reach some kind of a bargain with Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, allegedly to grease the skids for the inevitable replacement of Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. There are several reasons to not engage in negotiations with either Feinstein or Harris. Harris is running for president. She is incapable, even under ideal circumstances of dealing in good faith.... Feinstein, likewise, is not trustworthy and after her performance during the Kavanaugh auto-da-fé any Republican who deals with her should be shunned.... The White House is now announcing that two of the tree nominess [sic], Daniel Collins, Kenneth Lee, have been renominated to the Ninth Circuit while Patrick Bumatay is being nominated to a district judge position. This is just bullsh**. We have the votes to crush Democrat opposition. The fact they don’t like a guy…and Feinstein and Harris were terrified of Bumatay because he’s young, Filipino, conservative and gay, making him almost bulletproof to their attacks—is reason itself to push his nomination through."

From "The Trump White House Does A Partial Cave To Feinstein And Harris On Ninth Circuit Nominees" at Red State.

Here's the White House announcement of the new nominees.

Here's the WSJ editorial (behind the paywall).

Here's Rush Limbaugh yesterday (before the new White House announcement, reacting to the WSJ):

"The former Starbucks CEO said Sunday he might run for President as an independent in 2020, and Democrats have since been shrieking like teenagers at a horror movie."

"They seem to fear a policy debate, which is exactly why a Schultz candidacy could be good for the country, including Democrats," say the Editors of the Wall Street Journal (unfortunately, behind a pay wall).
The Democratic pundit class, which means nearly every pundit, rushed to say Mr. Schultz should stick to grande cappucinos and leave politics to the professionals who . . . lost to Mr. Trump.

They're trying to bully Mr. Schultz out of running, but along the way they're making the case for why he should. Take economics, where Ms. Warren, Sen. Kamala Harris and other Democrats wants Americans to shut up and jump on their bullet train to Bernie Sanders' utopia. On policy Mr. Schultz is closer to a John F. Kennedy or Bill Clinton Democrat....

Democrats might benefit from reacquainting themselves with the private economy and wealth creation, which is damaged by punitive taxation. Mr. Schultz could point this out in debates....
Well, but wait. Schultz is talking about running as an independent. If he wanted to participate in debates, shouldn't he run as a Democrat?
Democrats should want to have this kind of debate in their primaries lest they anoint a nominee whose ideas turn out to be too radical to defeat even Mr. Trump, or to govern successfully if they beat him. But Democratic elites don't seem to want to hear anything that would interfere with socialism by acclamation.
As long as Schultz operates in a separate lane, heading for an independent run and avoiding those difficult primaries, the Democrats have a persuasive argument that they fear him as a spoiler who gets Trump elected. I imagine the Democrats themselves know that they are veering too far left, but what's stopping more moderate Democrats — like Schultz — from participating in the Democratic primaries?

Maybe there's a good answer to that question. And I realize that the "debate" in the larger sense can mean the entire public discourse and not just those old-time events with the lecterns and the moderators. But the WSJ wrote "debates" — "Mr. Schultz could point this out in debates" — and that seems to refer to those formal prime-time TV extravaganzas.

Trump killed in debates. He performed creative destruction on the Republican Party. But he was the more extreme person, faced with a set of moderates. If Schultz attempted to use a Trump strategy with the Democrats, he would be the moderate person faced with a set of more extreme candidates. From that position, he couldn't use Trumpish flamboyance, even if he had it in him, which he doesn't. If he stood on the stage with the lefty Democrats, I think he'd fade into nothingness, like... who? Do we even remember the most moderate participants in the early debates of the last presidential election season? I didn't. I had to look it up. Martin O'Malley... Lincoln Chaffee...

How can the moderate shake everything up? I mean, it would be my favorite thing to do — radical centrism. It's where my impulses — my paradoxically nonimpulsive impulses — take me. But I'm thoroughly used to getting no candidate that appeals to me and people like me don't shriek like teenagers at a horror movie. We just slump down in our seats and wonder when is this awful mess going to be over.

January 30, 2019

At the Coldest Night Café...

... take care!

What's a Starbucks barista to do if a customer wants to talk about Howard Schultz?

It was only yesterday:
And today I'm seeing, "Here’s What Starbucks Is Telling Employees To Say About Howard Schultz/The coffee chain’s weekly memo discusses how to defuse the situation should someone share 'aggressive political opinions'" (HuffPo). Someone? Like Meade?
If a customer attempts to investigate, or share aggressive political opinions, attempt to diffuse the situation by sharing:

We respect everyone’s opinion. Our goal is simply to create a warm and welcoming space where we can all gather, as a community, over great coffee.

Panic mode.

I would have thought that with President Trump threatening to declare an emergency and use executive power to build his wall that people would be careful about using the word "emergency," but I just ran into this headline in The New York Times:

The BuzzFeed Layoffs as Democratic Emergency

Digital media has always been a turbulent business, but last week’s layoffs suggest a reason for panic. 
Farhad Manjoo
Opinion Columnist

Winter fun, dog version.

Fake news.

"His book is in love with the toothsomeness of language... 'Hyphenated vulgarities,' such as blow-job, 'are comically dainty'..."

"... Dreyer says. Novels can 'shimmy.' Parentheses have elbows. The author’s delight in his tool kit is palpable, as when he enthuses about ending a sentence shaped like a question with a period rather than a question mark. ('It makes a statement, doesn’t it.') Defending the semicolon, Dreyer quotes at length the opening of 'The Haunting of Hill House,' by Shirley Jackson, breathlessly celebrating the passage’s 'tightly woven, almost claustrophobic ideas . . . a paragraph that grabs you by the hand.' He takes a tinkerer’s joy in breaking apart syntax and putting it back together. Restrictive clauses are like Legos to him. 'There’s something bracingly attractive,' he declares, 'about a sentence that brims with parallelism.' It is as if he has thrown open a window on a starry night in winter and stuck his face outside...."

From "The Hedonic Appeal of 'Dreyer’s English'" by Katy Waldman (in The New Yorker). and here's “Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style" by Benjamin Dreyer.

"The familiar public narratives about black women don’t fit Kamala Harris. She’s not a jezebel, a mammy or an Omarosa."

"She’s also the first viable woman running for president who has had an entire adult dating life. Elizabeth Warren got married (the first time) at 19, Michele Bachmann at 22, Carly Fiorina 23, Hillary 28 and even 2020 candidate Kristen Gillibrand got married at 35. Harris, who married her husband at the age of 49 was living her best life into her 30s and 40s. So yes, we were bound to hear about Willie Brown and yes, at some point, it will come out that she dated talk show host Montel Williams too. She was an attractive high profile single black woman in California, what else was she supposed to be doing when she wasn’t prosecuting people?"

From "Sen. Kamala Harris Is a 54-Year-Old Black Woman, and Yes, She Dated Willie Brown. So What?" by Jason Johnson at The Root. With this video:

I like that phrase "living her best life." Here are "10 Tips on How to Live Your Best Life" from the editors at the Deepak Chopra website. ("Set Intentions... Visualize... Meditate... Journal... Travel... Invest in Your Health... Practice Daily Self-Love...") And here's the Cardi B song, "Best Life," which begins "I'm livin' my best life, yeah, yeah."

Anyway, Johnson seems annoyed to have to address the sex life of Kamala Harris: "I have to write about her dating past because her ex-bae, 84-year-old former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown decided to have a Quincy Jones moment and spill tea on their relationship."

"Sign on the wall at Smirky's Café: 'Please Don't Punch The Rats.'"

Writes Bob Boyd in last night's "Smirky's Café" — the one with the smirking rat...

This is for you, Bob Boyd:

The Howard Schultz meme: He's dumb.

But isn't everyone an idiot when you really look? You're calling someone stupid, and you're writing "Mike Brzezinski."

MORE: More crushing ignorance from HS:

I went for a walk, and I survived. I wasn't even particularly cold. Let's back off on the weather drama, okay?

Really, the main thing I noticed was that the fabric of my parka took on a different texture, like crackable plastic. But it didn't crack, and I didn't break. Really, it's fine. It's nice. It's brisk. It's fun!

"Viewers cannot determine the intention of an artist’s work. Art also exposes society’s blind spots. Blackface is only a glimpse of a larger issue."

"The larger issue is the lack of representation of marginalized people and their voices in Phoenix.... At the downtown Phoenix restaurant, my concern that the photograph of men in blackface was a threat to me and my face and voice were ignored. A business’ photograph of men with blackened faces culturally says to me, 'Whites Only.' It says people like me are not welcome. The operators of that downtown restaurant can choose to take the photograph down, leave it up or create a title card with an intention statement. No matter their decision, I think the photograph should be taken down — sacrificing one image for the greater good."

Writes Rashaad Thomas — "a husband, father, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, poet and essayist" — in "Phoenix restaurant says this is a photo of coal miners. But I see offensive blackface."

Here's the photo that troubled Thomas so much that he doubled down even after he learned he was mistaken in not understanding that these are human beings whose faces were darkened not by their own deliberate imitation of black people but by terribly hard physical labor:

Thomas is saying the picture made him feel so bad that he wants the restaurant to proactively spare him from his own misperception. He's not taking this opportunity to reflect on his own good fortune — he is able to be a poet and an essayist — in comparison to the grinding work of coal miners. And I can see that he's getting mocked for calling attention to what is, after all, his mistake.

But if it were my restaurant, I wouldn't put up a photograph that was subject to this misperception. I like to think that if I were considering decorating my restaurant wall with this photograph, I would at least notice that some people might think this is white men in blackface and I would pick something else. Certainly, if I'd put it up and a customer confronted me with this misperception I would feel compassionate and very eager to let him know not just what the picture really was but also that I never meant for anyone to imagine that it was blackface. And, really, I would hold myself to a higher standard. Quite aside from blackface, I would ask myself whether my comfortable establishment should trade on the aura of poor coalminers. It's "poverty porn."

From the Wikipedia article, "Poverty porn":
Poverty porn... has been defined as "any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed, which exploits the poor's condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support for a given cause." It is also a term of criticism applied to films which objectify people in poverty for the sake of entertaining a privileged audience.... Poverty porn is used in media through visually miserable images, in order to trigger some sort of emotion amongst its audience....
Now, of course, I see that the men are smiling and enjoying the alcohol and camaraderie. That's what makes it seem like a good idea for a restaurant photograph. It says, no matter how hard your day, and especially if you've had a very hard day, it's great to spend some time hanging out over drinks.

But messages can be misheard. You could be standing on the street one day, smiling, and find out half the world reads your face as an asshole racist smirk.

MSM's ham-handed protectiveness toward Kamala Harris: "The unique harm we cause when we dissect a powerful woman’s love life."

Oh, it's just exquisite, the harm we inflict on the delicate female candidate! It's unique! It hurts their tender feelings, so shush now, and allow this fine woman to become President, where we can continue to feel responsible for protecting her.

Yeah, that makes sense. Sorry. I want a President who will protect us. So your protectiveness toward Kamala Harris completely backfires.

I'm reading Monica Hesse in WaPo. The quote in the post title is the headline for her column. She's fielding the news that former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown has confirmed that years ago he dated Kamala Harris and he appointed her to 2 commissions, which — as Brown put it — "may have influenced her career." At the time, Brown was 60 years old and 30 years older than Harris. He was the speaker of the state assembly, and she was an assistant district attorney.

Why aren't we supposed to talk about that? There are at least some questions. In the #MeToo era, we have to wonder about whether the man sought sexual favors. In the case of Harvey Weinstein, we've heard from women who say he pressured them to give sex in exchange for career advancement, and that implies that there were women who said yes and received the advancement that was denied to the women who said no. That is a system of discrimination that matters a lot, even if we're disinclined to condemn the women who went along with it. But it's one thing to refrain from condemning them and quite something else to say these are the women we want to trust with the heaviest responsibilities.

If Kamala Harris is fit to represent the United States in confrontations with the greatest thugs in the world — Putin, et al. — she doesn't need kid-gloves treatment, and saying she does and impugning us for not getting in line makes me much more suspicious of this old love/"love" affair than I would have been if MSM weren't bending over backwards to protect her.

A little of Hesse's verbiage:
Plenty of us have... spent an awful lot of time discussing Bill Clinton’s willie and Anthony Weiner’s wiener: it’s not that we don’t talk about the sexual predilections of male candidates. But we do talk about them in a different way. We talk about men abusing power. We talk about women not even deserving power. The distinction matters, because the conversation isn’t really about sex, it’s about legitimacy. It’s about who we think has earned the right to be successful, and what criteria we’ll invent, and who we’ll apply it to.

“Maybe we should stop accusing women of ‘sleeping their way’ to the top,” Erin Gloria Ryan wrote in the Daily Beast in 2017. “Maybe because men have been the ones sleeping women to the middle and bottom.”
It takes two to "sleep." Both the man and the woman are trying to get something, and whether the woman gets as much as she wants — whether she gets to "the top" or only "the middle" — is no more interesting than whether the man got really great sex out of the arrangement or not. If, later on, we the people are judging a candidate, we look at what that candidate has done — whether it's the one that wanted to get sex or the one who traded sex for something else — and we judge them on the individual details. Why would sex be off limits just because women are more likely to be the ones in a position to give sex in exchange for something else, and the men tend to be the ones who want the sex so much they dole out non-sex favors to get it? Yes, it's different for men than for women, but so what? We the voters are the ones in the down position, stuck needing to vote for one of these fallible human beings. Don't tell me what not to talk about!
Does it help your career, to date someone powerful? I’d assume so. Does it also help to play golf with someone powerful, or smoke cigars with someone powerful, or belong to Skull and Bones? I’d assume that, too. But for decades we’ve accepted those relationships — many of which benefited only men — as standard procedure for how executives and politicians get ahead.
No, actually we haven't accepted it. Feminists have been denouncing the "old boy network" for as long as I've been listening to feminists, which is about half a century. The "standard procedure" has been under attack and deserves to be under attack.

We're supposed to throw feminism out the window now in order to help the fragile flower Kamala Harris? Ridiculous!

"The 72-year-old retired optometrist claims that [Gwyneth] Paltrow, 46, was 'skiing out of control' when she hit him from behind, 'knocking him down hard, knocking him out'..."

"Instead of staying to help, 'Paltrow got up, turned and skied away, leaving Sanderson stunned, lying in the snow, seriously injured,' the lawsuit said, describing the incident as a 'hit-and-run ski crash.'...  [According to the plaintiff, Terry Sanderson, there were] large signs as 'big as two refrigerators' that told skiers to slow down...  he decreased his speed appropriately and was 'just enjoying the day.' 'Then, I heard this hysterical scream like you never hear on a ski run,' he said. 'Never have I heard it in my life . . . like King Kong came out of the jungle or something.'"

Paltrow is white, so Sanderson can get away with saying "like King Kong came out of the jungle."

The story appears in WaPo, with the headline "'My brain felt like I’d been injected with novocaine’: Gwyneth Paltrow sued for alleged skiing 'hit-and-run.'"

The headline made me think the quote came from Paltrow. I thought that injected-with-novocaine feeling was Paltrow's reaction to getting accused of doing something wrong. But it's Sanderson: "My ribs were really sore, and my brain felt like I’d been injected with novocaine... It was just numb, nothing was making sense."

You're looking to buy a new home, you begin with high hopes, you're clicking through photos on Zillow...

... and you get to this:

What you think is...
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Good morning from the deep freeze.

January 29, 2019

At Smirky's Café...

... you can talk all night.

I just got email from Roger Stone with the subject line "about my arrest...".

It reads:

I pleaded NOT GUILTY today. I intend to fight until the bitter end to expose the corruption of the Special Counsel and the Democrats.

I'm sure that you have heard about the FBI's pre-dawn raid on my Florida home and subsequent arrest. Backed by 29 FBI agents in full tactical gear and televised by CNN, Robert Mueller has sought to label me as guilty before innocent.
From the start of this "investigation," I have been completely cooperative with Congress and chose to offer my voluntary testimony about the 2016 presidential campaign. Had the Office of the Special Counsel requested that I turn myself in, I would have gladly done so.

"'Rutabaga' comes from rotabagge, the plant’s Swedish name, meaning 'baggy root.'"

"This is, perhaps, the reason that it’s sometimes called a Swedish turnip or simply a swede. Dense and sweetly earthy, a spheroid that can grow to the size of a human head, with a mottled, brown-and-white surface and a buttery, yellow interior, the rutabaga looks like an overgrown turnip—which it is, sort of, at least on its mother’s side. A reproductive quirk of the Brassica genus allows for uncommonly easy hybridization (see the evidence in your local grocery store: kalettes, the frilly little greens that were 2014’s sexy new vegetable, are a cross between kale and Brussels sprouts). Somewhere, in the misty meadows of Central Europe, a turnip got frisky with a cabbage, and the rutabaga was born. This genetic history was confirmed only recently, in 1935, by the Korean-Japanese agricultural scientist Woo Jang-choon. But, three hundred years before, Bauhin, with his eye for botanical detail, saw to name the plant napobrassica, the turnip-cabbage."

From "What Rutabaga Does Better Than Anything Else" (The New Yorker).

I might buy a rutabaga and attempt to make the recipe for Rutabaga Noodles Cacio e Pepe. But if I do, playing in my head the entire time I'm making it will be the yodeling section of "Call Any Vegetable."

"They left the park chatting about Trump. Seema liked that Luis had to bend down at least half a foot just to talk to her."

"It wasn’t only that he was tall, it was that his height made him a bit clumsy, and that was sweet. They continued to talk about Trump on autopilot, the way people were doing that summer. All of a sudden, Seema wanted to say something real. 'When things are tough with my family,' she said, 'I like to watch Trump, because he just takes my mind off stuff. No matter what happens personally, there’s this much greater disaster taking place.' 'Very well put,' Luis said. 'I do a lot of private-slash-public toggling of my own. So, how do you handle shame?' 'Sorry?' 'Is there a Hindu mechanism for dealing with shame, or is it just internalized like Julianna’s Confucianism?'"

I'm reading "Lake Success" by Gary Shteyngart (the author of that "This American Life" segment about the stabbing of the ending-spoiler in the Antarctic that I liked so much).

How to tell if you're a bleeding heart...

You get this text message — as I just did, when the temperature is 0°...

... and you think that doesn't sound as though he's warmly dressed enough.


"Let me be very clear: I'm not going to vote for a wall under any circumstances... And I do support border security, and if we want to talk about that, let's do that."

Said Kamala Harris, disparaging the wall as a "medieval vanity project."
"Let’s upgrade the technology, let’s look at the fact that the folks who are working on border security on the ground know that they need upgraded infrastructure around things like drones, and they need cameras... So yes, I’m all for increased border security where we need it. I’m not for a wall."
What if the experts came up with a plan for an "upgraded infrastructure" that included, in some places, something that is a wall, perhaps something clearly high-tech and that wasn't at all medieval? I'm picturing something that is genuinely well-engineered to work and doesn't seem to be about just expressing the idea of controlling the border. Is Harris saying in advance that she would not vote for that? Because that's what "under any circumstances" would mean.

I haven't been a believer in the wall, but I would look at a specific plan, designed by experts, and try to make an informed decision. Why is Harris flaunting her uninformed prejudgment? I know the answer. She's doing political expression (even as she — rightly! — implies all the "Build the wall" talk is political expression and not serious policy). Show me that you would do serious policy and that you are not a political hack. My standards are low: I want a competent, earnest President. Despite my low standards, I never get what I want.


ADDED: Harris's idea of "upgraded infrastructure" is "around things like drones, and they need cameras." It sounds at though the idea is to look at illegal immigration, not to do anything about it. Is that really what "the folks" "on the ground" are saying, and can you explain to me how they "know" this is what they need? Do they also say this is all they need? And you can't know what is needed apart from having a goal, so is it even established that these "folks" Harris has heard from want to stop illegal immigration? What expertise do these "folks" have? I'm wary of folk remedies.

IN THE COMMENTS: Meade said:
"I'm wary of folk remedies."

The Folk Art of the Deal