November 9, 2019

Sunrise, this morning.


"Doing something once may engender an inflated sense that one has now seen 'it,' leaving people naïve to the missed nuances remaining to enjoy."

Said Ed O’Brien, professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, quoted in "The Unexpected Joy of Repeat Experiences/Novelty is overrated" by Leah Fessler (NYT).

I was interested to see this because just a few days ago — inspired by something I read about repetition as mesmerismI wrote:
I love repetition. Sometimes I puzzle over why I'm so happy to live another day composed of the same elements, so I'm interested in the suggestion that repetition itself is mesmerizing. I've had some success introducing new elements — notably breaking up the morning writing with a venture outdoors at sunrise.
O'Brien did a study that tested the conventional belief that we experience a diminishment of pleasure when we repeat the same thing. Actually, it's not really the same thing, because of what you miss the first time around:

"Maria Perego, an Italian puppeteer and the creator of Topo Gigio, the lovable mouse who became famous to American audiences..."

"... as a frequent guest on 'The Ed Sullivan Show' in the 1960s and early ’70s and was known worldwide, died on Thursday in Milan. She was 95.... Topo Gigio was a sort of cross between a puppet and a marionette; three puppeteers, hidden in a black background, moved various body parts with rods.... Ms. Perego and two other puppeteers were on hand to impart the movements, and a fourth provided Topo Gigio’s voice — but... Mr. Sullivan had not realized that someone would also have to serve as the puppet’s straight man. Mr. Sullivan, who was famously wooden on camera, stepped into that task for the initial appearance, figuring he would arrange for a professional comic to take over for later ones if the bit caught on. 'It was evident from the very first appearance, however, that the chemistry between Sullivan and Topo Gigio worked extremely well... The exchanges between Sullivan and the mouselike puppet revealed another side of the host, a warm and humanizing element.'... The appearances often ended with the mouse saying, in a thick Italian accent, 'Eddie, kiss me good night.' 'The line became famous... and it was not unusual for passers-by to call out, "Eddie, keees-a-me goood night" as Sullivan walked the streets of New York.'"

From the NYT obituary.

"I thought this was Putin."

This cluster of headlines on the front page of the NYT seems to be saying a lot about the meaning of Michael Bloomberg in relation to Pete Buttigieg.

Screen shot from a little while ago:

Bloomberg threatening to get into the 2020 presidential race is something new, and that justifies the big, serious picture along with 2 articles, one about his potential candidacy and another looking back on how he did as New York mayor. It's that other article that catches my eye, right under the somber, flattering photograph of New York City's former mayor, the one about the little city's mayor, Pete Buttigieg: "Why Pete Buttigieg Annoys His Democratic Rivals."

Pete Buttigieg is annoying! I'll have to read the article to see what this annoyingness is all about, but the headline, standing alone, makes him seem like a little twerp. A pest. The next thing I think of is maybe what you want is someone who annoys his antagonists. That has clearly worked for Trump. He's dreadfully annoying to the people who want him out of there. But he's in there, and he looks like he's going to stay. You might want to fight annoyingness with annoyingness. Read that headline again: Why Pete Buttigieg Annoys His Democratic Rivals. He's annoying to his rivals.

That's a good thing, I'd say, if I wanted to push Mayor Pete as the one to go up against Trump. You want your candidate to be the one who IS annoying, not the one who gets annoyed. Remember when Trump was able to annoy Hillary Clinton just by slowly moving around on the stage in the background while it was her turn to talk? She proceeded to lose the election and to write a book in which she expressed regret that she hadn't lost her cool, cast herself as a victim, and snapped, "Back up you creep, get away from me!"

She wished she'd been even more annoyed. I'm suggesting you might want to fight annoyingness with annoyingness. But is Buttigieg really so annoying? As I run through the other Democratic candidates in my head, they all seem pretty annoying. To lean into annoyingness is to throw off the civility bullshit, to forgo the argument that X should replace Trump because X displays a cool, rational, respectful demeanor all the time. X is "presidential," like no-drama Obama.

When I look at that NYT front-page arrangement, I see Michael Bloomberg offered up as that X — the un-annoying, civil, serious candidate they've been waiting for.

But why pick on Buttigieg as the one to knock out of his way. Because Buttigieg is occupying the "mayor" niche? Because Buttigieg, like Bloomberg, is 5'8" and we might mix them up if we encountered them in a dark hallway?

Okay, I'll read the article now. Do I really care what's in the article? Not much! Okay, here's the thing. It's mostly about how the other candidates think he doesn't deserve the money and the attention he's getting because he doesn't have enough experience to justify running for President. To lack experience is not to be annoying. He's not annoying. They're annoyed.
More than a dozen participants in the Democratic campaign — including rival candidates and campaign aides — spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss their views about Mr. Buttigieg candidly. They conveyed an annoyance at the McKinsey consultant certitude with which Mr. Buttigieg analyzes and makes pronouncements about the primary....
There's no link on "McKinsey consultant certitude" — no link and no explanation, like it's a well-known term. I'm reading the Wikipedia page on McKinsey & Company and not getting very much about its reputation for certitude. That wasn't a helpful reference! Very insider-y. Presumably, the NYT knows it so well they assume we all get exactly what "McKinsey consultant" adds to "certitude." Me, I'm just hearing "certitude." Is Buttigieg doing too much certitude? Maybe he's making things simple and straightforward, like Trump. That might be what's best in political speech.

But the certitude in question is about one specific thing that Buttigieg said — that it's "getting to be a two-way" race between him and Elizabeth Warren. Of course, that's annoying! It was meant to be, and well-played. He's getting us all to visualize the primary race as a choice between him and Warren, and once we jump forward to that, the great majority of us will heartily embrace Buttigieg.

He's right. They are hacks. And it was blackface.

"Warren Plays to Empty Hall."

That's the Drudge headline. It links to a tweet with 2 photos and the description, "ORANGEBURG — Elizabeth Warren takes the stage at an Environmental Justice forum in South Carolina before a sparse audience. Tom Steyer spoke before her; numerous rivals skipped it."

You can criticize Warren for not drawing a crowd, but everyone who skipped it also faces criticism. It was an Environmental Justice forum.

Trump, yesterday: “I caught the swamp... Nobody else could have done that but me.”

The clip begins with Trump addressing the question of his "behavior" and blaming the press for it:

"You've really shaped my behavior... A lot of my behavior was shaped by the fake news." He praises himself for accomplishing all he has "with all of that going on behind me" and conveys (once again) the compliment from Rush Limbaugh: There's not another man alive who could have done that. Then we get the quote in the headline (at 8:25).

November 8, 2019

"Trump is using you...he is commanding you to dance and sing for him, for his own aggrandizement."

"How much does anyone—on either side of this yawning national divide—care about the evidence if they know in advance how they plan to interpret it?"

Susan B. Glasser asks in The New Yorker in "Is Trump Already Winning on Impeachment?"
And, of course, the sense of constant crisis is overwhelming. How can Americans bother to keep track of who said what to whom about Ukraine when there will soon be another scandal, another cast of characters, another alarming development to monitor?...

Nonetheless, there is an actual investigation, with actual testimony. There are facts and even, in this post-truth age, truths....
The ellipsis I just put there represents my answer to the the 2 questions posed above. I'm not following the details of the impeachment inquiry.

ADDED: I'm not following the details, but it's not because I "know in advance how [I] plan to interpret" the evidence. I'm not following this because I believe the people who are shaping it and presenting and hyperventilating about it decided in advance the interpretation they wanted to manipulate people into having. I'm not going to sit around getting spoon fed this stuff on a daily basis, week after week.

"'Trust me': It’s a tired cliché, a throwaway line, but when you first encounter it in 'A Warning,' the new book by 'Anonymous,' who is identified here only as 'a senior Trump administration official,' it lands with a startling thud."

"Any revealing details have been explicitly and deliberately withheld to protect this person’s identity. Who is this 'me' that we’re supposed to trust? It’s a question that the anonymous author — who wrote an Op-Ed for The Times last year about resisting the president’s 'more misguided impulses' — might have anticipated, given how much of the book is devoted to the necessity of 'character'...  [E]verything in the text of 'A Warning' suggests a dyed-in-the-wool establishment Republican. There’s the typical talk about American exceptionalism and national security. There’s the eternal complaint that President Barack Obama was 'out of touch with mainstream America.' There’s a wistful elegy for 'our budget-balancing daydreams.' Yes, Anonymous is happy about the conservative judicial appointments, the deregulation, the tax cuts; what rankles is the 'unbecoming' behavior, the 'unseemly antics.' A big tell comes early on, when Anonymous reveals what “the last straw” was.... [T]he truly unforgivable act was when Senator John McCain died last year and Mr. Trump tried to hoist the flag on the White House above half-staff: 'President Trump, in unprecedented fashion, was determined to use his office to limit the nation’s recognition of John McCain’s legacy.'

Writes Jennifer Szalai "Book Review: In ‘A Warning,’ Anonymous Author Makes Case Against Re-election/The same official who wrote an Opinion essay in 2018 argues in a new book that the president’s contract shouldn’t be renewed" (NYT).

I was going to say that it sounds like this book won't be too interesting to anybody, but I looked on Amazon and see that it's the #1 bestselling book!

"Beautiful things are being destroyed all the time."


I'm interested in the language question — "camp" — but it's also a good time to mention the possible newcomers to the Democratic primary race — not just Michael Bloomberg but Eric Holder. Newsweek has this:
Eugene Robinson claimed on social media last night that the Obama-era attorney general had spoken with strategists about running in the already crowded Democratic 2020 primary field.... The analyst's claim was also repeated on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show yesterday evening, following several reports that former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is also considering pitching himself against frontrunners Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders....

[Rachel Maddow] said: "If Eric Holder is in the mix, and Mike Bloomberg looks like he might be in the mix, well jeez, just when you thought it's all over, it's never over."
What's the latest anyone ever entered the race and went on to become the nominee? Have we ever seen anything like this huge collection of candidates in one party where no one seems to have decent support? (Biden has been in the lead for a long time, but he seems to represent the idea I'm here waiting for a standard-model Democrat who reminds me of the old days when Obama was President.)

On the language question, a "camp" is "A body of troops encamping and moving together; an army on a campaign." I'd say you have a camp when you are organized to do battle. You've got a metaphorical army. And it's got to be on the move to be called a "camp." If it's a camp, you've got a campaign. Ergo, he's running. Or people are using the wrong word.

"U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman of the District of Columbia said Trump’s rhetoric 'violates all recognized democratic norms'..."

"... during a speech at the annual Judge Thomas A. Flannery Lecture in Washington on Wednesday. 'We are in unchartered territory,' said Friedman, 75, an appointee of President Bill Clinton. 'We are witnessing a chief executive who criticizes virtually every judicial decision that doesn’t go his way and denigrates judges who rule against him, sometimes in very personal terms. He seems to view the courts and the justice system as obstacles to be attacked and undermined, not as a coequal branch to be respected even when he disagrees with its decisions.'"

WaPo reports.

How do you get to be a federal judge and think the expression is "unchartered territory"? That's a written speech too (presumably). Did he visualize some entity that issues charters authorizing people to speak about the courts in a particular way? You don't need a license to speak in the United States, and to require one would, ironically, violate our norms. The expression is "uncharted territory," which would simply mean that Trump is venturing into a new area of speech that we haven't previously explored and therefore have not mapped. An uncharted territory is risky...

... but it could be great. The United States began as an uncharted territory....

... and I'm glad we're here and we have maps now and we are free enough that we don't need authorities to charter us.

Now, I agree with the idea that Trump's speech about law is unconventional, but what determines that he has violated all recognized democratic norms? It's often said that the judiciary is the least democratic part of the government, that it's countermajoritarian. So what are the norms of democracy that say a President should not criticize the courts?! You might just as well call this purported norm a norm of anti-democracy.

Anyway... the weasel word is "recognized." It takes all the oomph out of "all." Trump's speech about judges violates "all recognized democratic norms." Who are the recognizers? The judges? Judges certainly have a role talking about democratic norms, which are often part of the determination of the scope of the judicial role: Judges refrain from doing what is left to the processes of democracy. But part of democracy is speech about government — which includes the judges — and that speech is not limited to flattering and deferring to them. It does not violate the norms of democracy to criticize and attack judges.

Everything wrong?

I don't know if that's doing everything wrong, but Harris just seems decidedly ordinary. She seemed like anybody — any of millions and millions of Americans — who watch video and make comments of the most banal sort like "I can't even." She seems tired and bored. Low energy. She doesn't even seem to be coming up with her own one-liners. There's no spark or personality. No reason for running for the presidency. All I can see is the bland minimalism of not being Trump.

ADDED: The Harris campaign has chosen to feature the line "Watching Trump, I realize I should’ve taken more psychology classes." That's a direct confession of a terrible deficit: I don't understand why people behave the way they do. How can she be the one who speaks for America with foreign leaders? Will she be sitting down with Putin and Kim Jong-Un thinking she missed a course in school and therefore has no grasp of what might be going on in their head?

The Politico headline "Who Will Betray Trump?" is not an inadvertent likening of Trump to Jesus.

Just look at the illustration over there.

Beyond the illustration — which is fascinating — the article — subtitled "Donald Trump knows there are potential traitors in his midst/His presidency could depend on keeping them at bay" — might be dull. Sample:
Venting privately about the president has become a hallowed pastime in Republican-controlled Washington, a sort of ritualistic release for those lawmakers tasked with routinely defending the indefensible....

But as summer turned to fall... [Republican Congressman Francis Rooney] was talking not in a manner that was abstract or academic, but concrete and ominous. Initially in one-on-one conversations, and then in larger group settings, Rooney cautioned his colleagues that there could be no turning a blind eye to the fact pattern emerging from Trump’s relationship with Ukraine....
Okay, so don't turn a blind eye. I don't think looking right at the Ukraine phone call is terribly "ominous."
The question, Rooney told his friends, was not whether there was clear evidence of wrongdoing, but whether the president himself was culpable—and if so, whether congressional Republicans were going to cover for him.
What? "Wrongdoing" and "culpability" are the same thing. Is the Politico essayist trying to say that Rooney doesn't care about using evidence? How else would you determine whether the President is "culpable? Sniffing the political wind?

"[T]he authoritarian rot that produced the current president* is present in the Republican Party at all levels.... And, if you need further proof, take a jaunt with us up to Wisconsin..."

"... where the voters had the audacity to vote in Tony Evers, a Democrat, and turn out Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage that particular midwest subsidiary. Democratic success in elections, unless it is achieved by overwhelming margins, is in the eyes of Republicans prima facie illegitimate. It started with Bill Clinton and it’s gotten worse ever since...."

From "The Authoritarian Rot That Produced This President* Is Present in the Republican Party at All Levels/Need proof? Look at Kentucky and Wisconsin" by Charles P. Pierce (in Esquire).

The asterisk doesn't have a footnote to go with it. Maybe Pierce established in some earlier column that when he refers to "the current president" there's some reservation, but it would be weird if the idea is that he doesn't regard Trump as actually the President, since in this column, he's taking the position that Democrats who win an election (without an overwhelming majority) are not considered legitimate by Republicans.

What's the "authoritarian rot" that's so obvious in Wisconsin, according to Pierce? It's just one story about how the state senate voted not to confirm the governor's choice for the state agriculture secretary, Brad Pfaff. The GOP senators said Pfaff's manure storage rules would hurt farmers. The governor (a Democrat) accused the GOP senators of — in the words of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — "punishing Pfaff for sticking up for farmers and publicly criticizing Republicans who control the Legislature for holding back suicide prevention funds."

That all sounds very obscure but how is it "authoritarian," let alone "authoritarian rot"? The governor's choice for agriculture secretary required senate confirmation. That's a check on executive power. Where's the authoritarian rot Pierce is talking about?

Evers, the state's chief executive doesn't seem to be authoritarian. He's disappointed to lose Pfaff and can only complain about how badly the other party's legislators treated him. The resort of public complaining reminds me of Trump. Evers worried about his other appointments and whether these people would get negative votes from the senate if they spoke: "If I was a total cynic I'd say, 'Keep your damn mouth shut,' but I'm not. I want them to be forthcoming. I want them to be professional. That's why we hired them. To think that they're going to have to keep their mouth shut for the next, who knows — four years — in order to get approved by this Senate, this is just absolute bullshit."

It's funny to use "bullshit" when the controversy is (arguably) over manure storage rules. And Pierce didn't resist making an overt shit joke:
[The Republican senators said] Pfaff had put in place new manure storage rules that would hurt the state’s farmers. (This ignores the fact that the largest manure storage unit in Wisconsin is the building in which they work in Madison, but we digress.)

"I have made no provision for my wife Paulina Porizkova... as we are in the process of divorcing. Even if I should die before our divorce is final... Paulina is not entitled to any elective share... because she has abandoned me."

Said Ric Ocasek in his will, reported at Page Six.
Porizkova was the one who found her estranged rocker husband’s body in September, while bringing him coffee as he recovered from a recent surgery in his Gramercy Park townhouse. The pair, who had two sons together, called it quits in May 2018 after 28 years of marriage....

Ocasek, in his will, appears to have also stiffed two of his six sons — though not the children he had with Porizkova.

November 7, 2019

The surreal sunrise.


"[W]omen and girls are being forced to meet athletic standards that are based on how men and boys develop. If you try to make a girl fit a boy’s development timeline..."

"... her body is at risk of breaking down. That is what happened to Cain. After months of dieting and frustration, Cain found herself choosing between training with the best team in the world, or potentially developing osteoporosis or even infertility. She lost her period for three years and broke five bones. She went from being a once-in-a-generation Olympic hopeful to having suicidal thoughts.... We fetishize the rising athletes, but we don’t protect them. And if they fail to pull off what we expect them to, we abandon them."

From "I Was the Fastest Girl in America, Until I Joined Nike/Mary Cain’s male coaches were convinced she had to get 'thinner, and thinner, and thinner.' Then her body started breaking down" (NYT).

Things I noticed on Tik Tok today. Tell us the order you like these and think about what that says about you.

Trump Jr. on "The View": "We've all done things that we regret. Joy, you have worn blackface. Whoopi, you said... Roman Polanski… it wasn’t 'rape-rape,' when he raped a child."

Yikes. He came ready to spring:

Did Joy Behar ever wear blackface?!! Yes!


He had a lot of nerve going on that show, and they were all set to bully him. I almost feel like buying the book he was flogging — "Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us" — even though I assume I already know everything in it. All these subtitles that begin with "How"... I already know how the left blah blah blah. But I did not know how to instantly fight off a pouncing double team of Whoopi and Joy. That was quite something. They totally deserved it. And I would have never have noticed that Joy Behar had a blackface incident lurking in her past. So rich!

"The mayor of a small town in Bolivia has been attacked by opposition protesters who dragged her through the streets barefoot, covered her in red paint and forcibly cut her hair...."

"The protesters accused Mayor [Patricia] Arce of having bussed in supporters of the president to try and break a blockade they had set up and blamed her for the reported deaths [of two opposition protesters]... Amid shouts of 'murderess, murderess' masked men dragged her through the streets barefoot to the bridge. There, they made her kneel down, cut her hair and doused her in red paint. They also forced her to sign a resignation letter."

BBC reports.

"I haven't and won't read it, but Scott Adams's new book seems to be a manual for how to argue with people who don't share your opinions, a skill his fans definitely need."

"I bet it also provides coping mechanisms for those who have been shunned for supporting the President."

Ha ha, I love reading 1-star reviews for books I'm reading, which in this case is "Loserthink: How Untrained Brains Are Ruining America."

I was just listening to the audiobook, wanted to do a post about one thing I heard, needed to get an Amazon link, and just could not resist clicking into the 1-star material.

Anyway... here's the quote from the book that I wanted to share:
I often observe people who desperately want to win political arguments but can’t escape from their own ego jails. People want to be 100 percent right while painting their debate opponent as 100 percent wrong. Sometimes that leads to absurd positions that defy both reason and facts. The need to be right (driven by ego) crowds out the opportunity to be persuasive, which is the whole point of debate. Choosing ego over effectiveness is classic loserthink.
Adams has an idiosyncratic way of talking about "ego":
The productive way to think of your ego is to consider it a tool, as opposed to a reflection of who you are on some core level. If you think your ego is a tool, you can choose to dial it up when needed and dial it down when it would be an obstacle.
Notice how the subject is not what ego actually is or anything deep or real at all. It's just: On the assumption that you want to be successful, here's how think about ego. Cogitating about who you are on some core level is for losers. The question is what works.

I'm looking at all this from a cool distance. I don't desperately want to win political arguments myself. I don't like argument, I don't like politics, and I never feel at all desperate when talking about politics, and I feel no temptation to characterize myself as 100% right and others as 100% wrong. If anything, I have work up from a natural inclination to say that everyone is sort of right and sort of wrong and that at heart we don't even disagree at all. That's not loserthink in Scott's book, but I'm pretty sure it's also not winnerthink.

The word "winnerthink" doesn't appear in the book. In fact, the word "winner" only appears twice. Scott's last book was about winning. From that book, "Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don't Matter":
Brand yourself as a winner. If people expect you to win, they will be biased toward making it happen.
Oddly enough, these Scott Adams quotes are making me think of literature's biggest loser, Hamlet: "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

"I'm not going to be the idiot that I'm telling you not to be."

Overheard at Meadhouse.

"Recently I heard a woman say her department is full of freaks, they don’t like her, and she doesn’t have a life, but that sounded more like a whine than an epiphany."

"I’m no sociologist so I don’t know if this era is less interesting. You’d think people would be as tormented by sex, self-fulfillment, and relationships (and babies) as ever, but I’m not hearing it on any movie lines I’ve been on lately. Maybe I should ask the NSA."

Said Stan Mack in a 2013 interview on the blog Jeremiah's Vanishing New York. Stan Mack drew the fantastic cartoon "Stan Mack's Real Life Funnies" that ran in The Village Voice from 1974 to 1995. The words in the cartoons were all things Mack claims to have heard people say around New York City. I, myself, had long loved the absurdity of the partial conversations you'd overhear as you walked around or half-minded your own business in a restaurant or shop. Here's an example showing part of one week's Stan Mack cartoon:

If you like that, you can order a collection of the funnies — remember when we called the comics "the funnies"? — here (at Amazon).

In the quote that begins in the post title, Mack is comparing the words he used to overhear with the words he overhears today, which, unlike then, include a lot of talking into cell phones. In fact, the reason I was looking up Stan Mack this morning is because I read (on Facebook) this post by Annie Gottlieb:
Really, the things you hear on the street. People on their cellphones seem to assume they’re in a soundproof phone booth, and people just conversing seem to have been made unselfconscious or oblivious by phone culture to being either intrusively loud, or private and overheard. You hear some funny things.

(a woman on her cellphone, crossing the street, indignantly: ) “I don’t want ANY bacteria.” (Apparently no one has yet broken the news about the microbiome.)

(Young man to his girlfriend, walking along holding hands, conversationally) “You know how some people jerk off just to jerk off?” (as opposed to?)

(today) “Hydroglyphics”
ADDED: Did people become less self-conscious because of cellphones? It's very hard to compare what you're hearing now with what you heard back then. Stan Mack is kind of an authority on the subject, and the difference he cites is in the interestingness. If what people are saying these days is less interesting, it could be that people are more private, less prone to revealing themselves when they can be overheard. But it could be that the eavesdropper has changed, and not just because we've all gotten older. We're different because we're listening to phone talkers, not to people who are with other people and talking in the flesh. People talking into a phone irritate us a lot more, so we're more judgmental. We think they're intruding on us. When we listen to people who are together in real life — as in "Real Life Funnies" — we feel that we are intruding on them. Our transgression makes things inherently more interesting.

What say we respond?

I saw that John Kennedy was trending on Twitter, and it's a little early in November for the annual meditation on the long-ago assassination.

But it's not that John Kennedy. Took me a few minutes to absorb that there's nothing about the John Kennedy whose death mindscaped our generation. I was wondering why I'm seeing a Trump rally. But it was this guy, this John Kennedy:

"I had to read this twice to make sure it wasn’t parody. Firstly, the stereotypical, monolithic take on black people as fried chicken loving...."

"... spice obsessed, fast food nuts is highly offensive. Fried foods, particularly chicken, became part of black culture due to food scarcity in slavery/Jim Crow times. To celebrate a multi-billion dollar corporations exploitation of poor and black people is absurd. Secondly, fried foods are unhealthy. Fried foods will damage your health. It’s a well known fact! Promoting this cultural ownership of fried chicken (especially factory farmed chicken) ignores a massive public health crisis that disproportionately affects black people. Thirdly, not all black people love fried chicken. Not all black people like spicy food. Part of the reason why 30% of fried chicken is consumed by black people is due to poverty and aggressive targeting of poor communities by fast food companies. It’s obscene that an author would produce such an uncritical analysis in favor of promoting a chicken sandwich from a corporate chain, let alone the underlying implication that black people all eat the same food, or that white people are clueless when it comes to food spiciness. Finally, it’s mediocre chicken in a cheap bun. How about an article for healthy, home made fried chicken sandwiches? How about an article about how good like chicken wings was once forced up slaves because whites refused to eat it? Or just not stereotyping people based on race? Please?"

That's the most-liked comment on a New York Times article with a title that made me go straight to the comments to find something like what that commeter said. Article title: "Popeyes Sandwich Strikes a Chord for African-Americans."

Really, what are the rules? I presume the NYT would hold back from publishing "Watermelon Strikes a Chord for African-Americans."

That NYT article about the Popeyes sandwich begins by linking to various social media things, and I get the feeling that the NYT these days is always on the alert for what people are clicking on in social media, but the third link goes to a Twitter post with a few responses and then: "Show additional replies, including those that may contain offensive content." There's a "show" button. I click, but nothing come up. I don't know whether that means Twitter is censoring or people aren't that racist.

Here's the 4th paragraph of the NYT article:
One Twitter user, @RocBoy_Mel, wrote Sunday that he did not know whose “grandma” made the sandwiches, “but I finally got my hands on one today and I was very impressed.”
I clicked through to @RocBoy_Mel, and I see someone telling him he's quoted in the NYT, with a link to the article, and his response is "That’s pretty cool thank you." A few hours later, somebody says "The article was a fucking insult to the Black community." And @RocBoy_Mel responds:

Now, I must admit that so far, I have only read the first 4 paragraph in the NYT article. So I have not checked the truth of the commenter's characterization of the article as "an uncritical analysis in favor of promoting a chicken sandwich from a corporate chain."

I glance ahead and get the feeling the NYT got comfortable because it criticizes a big corporation, and — of course! — the article is probably written by a black person. Checking... yes. John Eligon. That bio, at the Times, shows that he writes on race issues for the NYT.

Back to the article:
Popeyes has aggressively marketed itself to African-Americans, and many of its restaurants are in black communities....

In a Facebook post in August, Nadiyah Ali, a nurse from Katy, Texas, compared the sandwich to a rival’s: Chick-fil-A’s version, she wrote, tasted as if it were made “by a white woman named Sarah who grew up around black people.” The Popeyes sandwich, she added, tasted “like it was cooked by an older black lady named Lucille.”...
Again, social media. The NYT wants to ride on top of social media energy, and it's always liked quoting people in articles. I can see the temptation to use material like that, especially with the anti-Chick-fil-A angle.
[Omar Tate, the founder of "a pop-up dinner series... that uses food to explore black identity"] said... [w]hen he thinks of authenticity, he thinks of the techniques of someone like Edna Lewis, a pioneering black chef, who fried meats in lard and seasoned the fryer with smoked pork.

“That’s authentic. That’s what soul food is to me,” he said. “It’s one of those black magic things that can’t be reproduced.”...
Frying meat in lard isn't really magic, but there are some decidedly non-magic reasons why a commercial chain restaurant can't fry meat in lard.
Popeyes’ inroads with black Americans may be as much about marketing as anything else. The company has made appeals to African-Americans in its advertising, stoking criticism that it is pandering. When the chain introduced a fictitious black woman named Annie the Chicken Queen in its commercials about a decade ago, some people criticized it as racist....
Marketing is part of running a big business, and it can be done well. There are risks to marketing to black people. They can call you racist. And there are risks to writing about marketing to black people. They can call you racist.

Am I calling the NYT racist? I don't know! I could just say I enjoyed reading the article. But I'm a white person. Maybe if I enjoyed reading the article, it would be racist. I can see the NYT put a lot of effort into coddling and cosseting me as I enjoyed the racism, if it was racism, and if I enjoyed it.

November 6, 2019

Sleep well.


"Tucson voters overwhelmingly opted against the 'sanctuary city' initiative, which would have limited the circumstances in which police officers could ask about immigration status."

The Arizona Star Daily reports.
Partial results for Proposition 205, also known as The Tucson Families Free and Together Initiative, showed 58,820 voters, or 71.4%, voted “no” on the proposal compared to just 23,562, or 29%, who voted “yes.”...

The vote ends months of contentious debate over whether Tucson, which is located just 65 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border, would buck a state law that prevents sanctuary cities and become Arizona’s only city to formally limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.

"After witnessing his mother and brothers being shot dead, Dawna's son Devin hid his 6 other siblings in the bushes and covered them with branches to keep them safe while he went for help."

"When he took too long to return, his 9 year old sister left the remaining five to try again. Devin arrived in LaMora at 5:30 pm, 6 hours after the ambush, giving the first news anyone had heard of his and Christina's families. Devin's uncles armed themselves with guns and returned to try and find the hidden children, knowing many of them were injured. They didn't get far before realizing they would be risking death, since there had been continual shooting for hours, all over the mountains near LaMora. The group of men waited a while for reinforcements, and around 7:30, found the hidden children.... Mckenzie, the 9 year old who'd gone for help, was missing. Soldiers who'd by then arrived, and the men of LaMora and nearby towns searched for two hours in the dark until they found her around 9:30.... We lost 9 today. Right now we are waiting, for the morning, for answers, for justice."

From a Facebook post by Kendra Lee Miller, a relative of Devin Blake Langford's, linked at "Teen hid 6 siblings, walked 6 hours for help after his mom and 8 others were killed in Mexico attack" (Fox6 News).

"Over the summer, I had a series of phone calls with 'Fight Club' enthusiasts: the type of superfans with 'Fight Club' tattoos and pets named after 'Fight Club' characters...."

"[T]heir focus was overwhelmingly on the movie’s first act: on the nameless protagonist’s sense of ennui and adriftness; his mistaken assumption that endless work hours or the purchases that they enabled him to make will bring him meaning; his intertwined currents of emptiness and longing. One man described how 'Fight Club' helped him toward the realization that he didn’t have to work all the time, and didn’t have to worry so much about what other people thought about his life choices. Another talked about how the movie helped motivate him to specialize in existentialism when he pursued a master’s degree in psychology—and, eventually, to write and self-publish a novel about a bitter office worker who... goes into therapy. At first, the office worker hates therapy, but eventually his sessions help him work his way to a new level of honesty.... To my mind, stories like these—stories of men driven to take some ownership of their fate, but without seeking out opportunities to inflict pain on others—are more interesting and vital than anything in 'Fight Club.' But how many people would want to watch these stories?"

Writes Peter C. Baker in "The Men Who Still Love 'Fight Club'" (The New Yorker)(on the occasion of the 20-year anniversary of the release of the movie "Fight Club").

I love the movie "Fight Club," by the way, and even after 20 years I don't like seeing the spoiler that's at the link (and not at this post). It's something I had an extremely powerful reaction to when I first saw the movie (intense, all-over bodily chills) and experienced in almost the same way when I re-watched the film. But Baker is very contemptuous of this movie, and I have to share this paragraph:
Of course, “Fight Club”... has its share of female fans. But it’s also a symbol for certain insistent myopias of masculinity. The story has just one female character of any significance: Marla Singer (portrayed in the film by Helena Bonham Carter). The nameless narrator pines for Marla, though we never see him getting to know her well; Tyler uses her for acrobatic sex followed by emotional neglect. What does it mean for a man to tell his girlfriend that this, of every movie in the world, is his favorite, or the one with the most to say about gender today? [The on-line dating advice columnist Dr. NerdLove says that — a]mong women who get in touch with [him], “It’s kind of, like, Yeah, if his favorite author is Bret Easton Ellis, his favorite movie is ‘Fight Club,’ and he wants to talk about Bitcoin or Jordan Peterson—these are all warning signs.”
Warning signs of what? That he longs for a meaningful relationship with a woman and sees emptiness in endlessly working in a soul-sucking job and buying things from the IKEA catalogue?

"The Republican embrace of 'Real America' talk has hardened from political rhetoric into ideological principle."

Writes Adam Serwer in the Atlantic, putting a phrase in quotes without having quoted any Republican who has used it. I think the term is Serwer's — coined to describe a type of GOP rhetoric he is (supposedly) hearing. The quote marks are confusing! The article is confusing too unless you just accept that what he says he's hearing is really what Republicans are saying. Serwer presents this as the "hardened... political rhetoric" of the GOP:
Those who are not Real Americans cannot legitimately wield power or criticize those who do, and therefore no effort to deprive those who are not Real Americans of power can be illegitimate. Nationalism, by definition, draws lines around who belongs and who does not; the core of Trumpist nationalism is the claim that the minority of voters who support the president are the only ones empowered to shape the direction of the country, and the only ones who can confer legitimacy on the U.S. government. The president’s supporters have begun arguing not only that the constitutional process of impeachment is illegitimate, but that Trump losing reelection would be a “coup.”
I think you could reverse engineer that into a statement of the thought processes that prevail on the anti-Trump Serwer's side:

The anti-Trumpers have a hardened political rhetoric in which they engage in "Elite America"* talk. In this view, those who are not Elite Americans cannot legitimately wield power or criticize those who do, and therefore no effort to deprive those who are not Elite Americans of power can be illegitimate. Elitism, by definition, draws lines around who belongs and who does not; the core of anti-Trumpist elitism is the claim that those who lost in the Electoral College system are nevertheless empowered to shape the direction of the country, and the only ones who can confer legitimacy on the U.S. government. The president’s antagonists regard the Electoral College system as illegitimate and they feel justified in carrying out a coup.


* I'm putting "Elite Americans" in quotes not because it's what the Elite Americans call themselves, but to imitate Serwer.

I didn't notice that Playboy changed its motto from "Entertainment for Men" to "Entertainment for All."

That happened over a year ago, I'm reading "As Men Are Canceled, So Too Their Magazine Subscriptions/The boys’ club of glossy publishing confronts an identity crisis" by Alex Williams (NYT).
It’s an open question whether the men who now turn to Pornhub and its ilk for the kind of “entertainment” that Playboy built an empire on even noticed....
Did the women (and others) who frowned on the magazine notice?
The magazine’s new leadership team consists of a gay man (the executive editor Shane Singh) and two women (the creative director Erica Loewy and Anna Wilson, who is in charge of photography and multimedia), all millennials. Recent feature articles include profiles of Andrea Drummer, a female African-American chef who runs a cannabis-centric restaurant in Los Angeles, and King Princess, a genderqueer pop singer who is as a symbol of self-acceptance to young L.G.B.T.Q. fans....
This reminds me of the sort of protest where there's a takeover of a space and an attempt to repurpose the space for the protesters' cause. I can't think of a good example of that tactic working, but I do remember protests in Ann Arbor, circa 1970, where a part of campus called Regents Plaza was renamed "People's Plaza."

And of course, I remember the Wisconsin protests of 2011, where protesters who were very unhappy about the GOP sweep of both houses of the legislature and the governorship filled up the state capitol and had the chant "Whose house?/Our house!"

So the erstwhile protesters have taken over Playboy. It wasn't just an attempt. It was successful. But now what? If the protested-against oppressors cede the space, does the space matter anymore? I suppose it matters that the institution is shut down, but when you talk about continuing it, according to the ideology that motivated you to oust the old guard, you've got to make the institution function in some way that is appealing to somebody other than you, the people who took over the place.

"But what if the WB is a vehement Ukraine hawk, with strong ties to Joe Biden and Democrats?"

Writes Mickey Kaus, explaining why the identity of whistleblower is important even though we have the transcript:
The point wouldn’t be that the whole thing then smells like a long-hatched anti-Trump conspiracy (though it does)....

The point is that seemingly everyone in the WB’s network of outrage, from the person who told the WB about the call to Col. Vindman (the National Security Council Ukraine expert who’s testified before Rep. Schiff’s impeachment panel) to Ambassador William Taylor (who’d written a text calling it “crazy” to hold-up aid to Ukraine “for help in a political campaign”) to the aide in Schiff’s office consulted by the WB may be sincerely, passionately inflating the importance of Trump's sin--and deflating Biden's-- because to them aiding Ukraine is wildly important and Joe Biden is a compatriot, mentor or hero.

Voters and the senators— who will have to determine whether Trump's tactics were a "high crime”— may have a less fraught perspective and discount the offense accordingly. That would be harder to do if the prime accusers weren't all vehement anti-Russia Ukrainiacs....

This isn't like a drug deal where an undercover informant can drop a dime and then disappear while the perp is tried. We know the drug deal was a drug deal. We don't know what kind of a deal this was. What was Trump's intent? Was he interested in actual corruption, or was that a fake concern? How did the Ukrainians interpret it -- as a serious threat to the aid or just a classic Trump feint to be abandoned relatively quickly if resisted? What was the meaning of the demand for a press conference — was the idea to lock Zelensky into the investigation or to give Trump some cheap oppo optics? Did any of the pro-Ukraine Trump administration conspirators express any doubts about their outrage?

"The female cyclist who flipped off President Trump’s motorcade last year unseated the Republican incumbent in a local election in Northern Virginia on Tuesday."

"Juli Briskman, 51, ran against Suzanne M. Volpe, a Republican who represents the Algonkian District on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors" (Fox News).

November 5, 2019

"'Just nonsense': Kamala Harris calls narrative that black voters are homophobic a trope/Her comments come after Rep. Jim Clyburn said Pete Buttigieg's sexuality could hurt his popularity."

Politico reports.

The headline puts "just nonsense" in quotes and not "trope," but "trope" is also Harris's word.

"Trope" is kind of a vogue word, isn't it? Google says yes:

Clyburn, the House Majority Whip (third-highest-ranking Democrat in the House), is black and 79 years old, so one would think he knows what he's talking about on this issue, though it may be indelicate to say:
On Sunday, South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn told CNN that there was “no question” Buttigieg’s sexuality could hurt his popularity among older black voters, calling it a “generational” issue.

"I know of a lot of people my age that feel that way," Clyburn said. "I'm not going to sit here and tell you otherwise. I think everybody knows that's an issue."
Harris is taking the position that a candidate probably should take — denying the stereotyping generalization. Here's video. I think she could say this with more weight and assurance. There's something so jittery about her presentation. She knew what to say, so why say it like this, like it's making her very nervous?

"The state generates cozy tropes — cheese, Friday fish fries and Old Fashioneds (with brandy, not whiskey), Wisconsin Nice, and, yes, tailgating at Lambeau Field."

"But, as with many places, stereotypes crumble on closer inspection. The state is rural and urban, dairy farmer and union, and almost equally split between Democrats and Republicans. It elected progressive Tammy Baldwin, the first senator to identify as gay, and avid Trumper Ron Johnson.... During the campaign, millions of dollars are projected to flood into Wisconsin from the parties, PACs, get-out-the-vote efforts, donors in deep-blue states, big money, dark money, $5 checks. 'No one is going to ignore Wisconsin,' [Democratic state chairman Ben] Wikler says. 'You have to come here to win the presidency. As goes Wisconsin, so goes the nation.'... Many local political operatives declare their region the key to victory. 'The battle for Wisconsin won’t be won simply in Madison and Milwaukee, Waukesha, Green Bay, Racine and Eau Claire,' says Baldwin, before listing most of the state’s eight congressional districts."

From "All eyes are on Wisconsin, the state that’s gearing up to define the presidential election" (WaPo).

Baldwin is probably right, but I'll bet that the Democratic nominee, once selected, will only appear in Madison and Milwaukee.

"ABC News anchor Amy Robach was caught on camera slamming her own network for allegedly sitting on the Jeffrey Epstein story three years ago...."

"Robach says she’d spoken to Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who alleges Epstein used her as a sex slave and trafficked her to his powerful friends, including Britain’s Prince Andrew. 'I’ve had this interview with Virginia Roberts .. we would not put it on the air,' Robach says on camera. 'First of all, I was told "Who’s Jeffrey Epstein?"... Then the palace found out that we had her whole allegations about Prince Andrew and threatened us a million different ways.' She went on to say the network was afraid that running the story would prevent interviews with Kate Middleton and and Prince William. 'It was unbelievable what we had. [Bill] Clinton—we had everything. I tried for three years to get it on to no avail and now it’s all coming out and it’s like these new revelations.'"

The Daily Beast reports on the newly released video you can watch below. Amy Robach is the journalist who got Hunter Biden to cry (in that long interview last month).

Fake news, baseball category.

"There are so many people — among the intelligentsia, especially — who are absolutely immune to facts.”"

Trump's spiritual adviser, Paula White.

"Trump calls for 'war' against Mexican drug cartel 'monsters' after Americans murdered."

Fox News reports.

The Trump tweets quoted at the link read:
A wonderful family and friends from Utah got caught between two vicious drug cartels, who were shooting at each other, with the result being many great American people killed, including young children, and some missing. If Mexico needs or requests help in cleaning out these monsters, the United States stands ready, willing & able to get involved and do the job quickly and effectively. The great new President of Mexico has made this a big issue, but the cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army! This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth. We merely await a call from your great new president!
The quotes around "war" in the Fox News headline are not scare quotes. They are quote quotes. Trump said "WAR" and he means literally war. I say that because: 1. He put the word in all caps, 2. The phrase "you sometimes need an army to defeat an army," and 3. "wipe them off the face of the earth."

ADDED: The NYT has a long article about the massacre, "At Least 9 Members of Mormon Family in Mexico Are Killed in Ambush."
Members of the LeBarón family, dual Mexican and American citizens who have lived in a fundamentalist Mormon community in the border region for decades, were traveling in three separate vehicles when the gunmen attacked, several family members said. They described a terrifying scene in which one child was gunned down while running away, while others were trapped inside a burning car.
The cousin of the women is quoted: “When you know there are babies tied in a car seat that are burning because of some twisted evil that’s in this world... it’s just hard to cope with that.... We need the Mexican people to say at some point, we’ve had enough... We need accountability; we don’t have that on any level."

The NYT links to this video at Facebook, which includes this text:

The perils of futurism in the world of Donald Trump.

I ran into this April 1991 New York Magazine article "Star Bores/Too Much Madonna? Too Much Nancy, Teddy, Cher? Or Is There Never Enough?"

This was purely by accident, as I was searching for something that I never found — a common saying from the past that was something like: Americans can't understand any message that won't fit on a T-shirt. Or: Any political philosophy that can't fit on a T-shirt might as well not exist because Americans are not terribly intellectual and have a short attention span.

That question came up in the context of writing a post this morning that contained the quoted sentence: "Intellectual curiosity has been replaced by ostentatious consumption, quality by quantity and political activism by slogans that fit on baseball caps."

In the comments Fernandistein reacted to that quote:
That is a standard and ageless "I'm better than most people" statement, but I wonder if the emitter of those words was intellectually curious enough to know that baseball caps didn't exist until around 1900, and that acronyms were almost non-existent until the 1940s, and that the slogan he refers to is actually more complicated and effective than the slogan of his probable hero.
The link on "probable hero" goes to the "F" section of Wikipedia's list of political slogans, so I'm not positive which "F" slogan is being pointed at, but I believe it is "Forward," and the "probable hero" is Barack Obama.

And samanthasmom said:
Baseball caps are better than campaign buttons. They keep your head warm or cool and shade your eyes from the sun. We've just become more practical with how we wear our slogans.
That got me thinking about the old T-shirt line, which was itself something that would fit on a T-shirt, but I guess it wasn't snappy enough to remember verbatim. And the internet won't help me. I found a huge page of "T-shirt Quotes" at BrainyQuote and they all seem to be somebody saying it's stylish to wear a T-shirt.

"I've always thought of the T-shirt as the Alpha and Omega of the fashion alphabet," said Giorgio Armani, which can't possibly be true, though it might be "true" within the fashion designer mentality, which is ridiculously nonliteral.

But I stumbled into "Star Bores." Who was everyone sick of in 1991? Of course, I did the normal 2019 thing and searched the text for "Trump." I scored:

Remember Faith Popcorn — the futurist? Remember futurists? "Donald Trump had no business in the spotlight." That's great. Especially the "had"... all the way back in 1991.The futurist we barely remember was talking about a man whose stardom seemed to be in the past. She had no inkling that 3 decades later he would be the biggest star in the world. Futurism ain't what it used to be. Or maybe it is, because futurism used to be wrong. I can see that now. Hindsight is 2019... and quite hilarious:

"Those looking for any apologetic notes or reckoning with the damage he has done will be disappointed. He is not aiming for redemption onstage."

"If anything, he’s doubling down on the comedic value of saying the wrong thing. 'That’s the point of this,' he said, motioning to himself onstage. He didn’t repeat the now cliché comedian complaints about generational sensitivities or snowflakes, but the central theme of the night was the cathartic release of transgression. His subjects (Sept. 11, slavery, pedophilia, the Holocaust) made the case. He turned his new reputation in the #MeToo era into a springboard for jokes. 'Wait until they find those pictures of me in blackface,' he said. The audience, which gave him standing ovations, roared. Then he pushed further, saying he has done blackface for years. 'I didn’t do it to be funny,' he added. 'I liked it. Felt good. I do it for bedtime.'"

From "Louis C.K. Doubles Down on the Value of Saying the Wrong Thing/On his first tour since admitting misconduct, the comedian’s theme was the cathartic release of transgression as he delivered bits about his mother’s death and religion" (NYT), by Jason Zinoman, who laughed a lot and also found the show "uncomfortable." The discomfort seemed to be something Louis was "in control of" and also not in control of." Zinoman also credits himself with "a high tolerance for enjoying art from morally suspect places."

Sunrise, 6:39.


The official sunrise time today was 6:38, which looked like this:


"Today... there are some in the business with absolute indifference to the very question of art and an attitude toward the history of cinema that is both dismissive and proprietary — a lethal combination."

"The situation, sadly, is that we now have two separate fields: There’s worldwide audiovisual entertainment, and there’s cinema. They still overlap from time to time, but that’s becoming increasingly rare. And I fear that the financial dominance of one is being used to marginalize and even belittle the existence of the other. For anyone who dreams of making movies or who is just starting out, the situation at this moment is brutal and inhospitable to art. And the act of simply writing those words fills me with terrible sadness."

Writes Martin Scorsese in "Martin Scorsese: I Said Marvel Movies Aren’t Cinema. Let Me Explain/Cinema is an art form that brings you the unexpected. In superhero movies, nothing is at risk, a director says" (NYT).

The top-rated comment over there (by a lot) is:
You don’t have to be an Academy Award winner like Scorsese to understand what’s going on in America these days and it isn’t confined to cinema, either. Intellectual curiosity has been replaced by ostentatious consumption, quality by quantity and political activism by slogans that fit on baseball caps. The barbarians are not at the gates, they’ve overrun us.
That might sound like another knee-jerk blaming of Trump, but that's reversing cause and effect. In the reasoning of that comment, Trump is someone who understood American culture deeply enough to speak to us. Other politicians can stand back, deplore Trump's style, and continue in the old-school form, but reaching people in great numbers is even more important in electoral politics than in the movie business. Scorsese says these movies are not cinema, and Trump antagonists say he is not presidential. You see what happens.

"It may sound macabre to hold a camera up to a dying woman. But Mary Beth said her mother wanted to spread the word..."

"... that there was a legal, relatively pain-free way to end one’s life. 'She thought that more people should take advantage of it,' she said. 'She wanted to show people that it could be peaceful and even joyful... For all my life, she used to say, "People should row their own boats"... At every family reunion she would talk about it — "When I get to the point where I can’t care for myself, then I’m going to hasten my death through fasting... Old Eskimos, they would just go off and die," and she thought that made so much sense.'... She said, "I’m sorry, but I have to do what’s right for me"'... Her last meal, for dinner on Dec. 5, was crab cakes. The next day, she stopped eating — and her daughter started filming.... The film does not skip over difficult parts, including the last day Rosemary is conscious, when her mind starts to wander as her organs shut down, and she slips into a deep sleep. In the audience at Iona, the film elicited mixed reactions...."

From "At 94, she was ready to die by fasting. Her daughter filmed it" (WaPo). The woman did not have a terminal illness, just had a spinal compression fracture (from osteoporosis) which doctors said would heal in 3 months.

Jack White uses the House on the Rock in a music video.

The House on the Rock is a fantastic Wisconsin tourist attraction in Spring Green. Also in Spring Green is Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin, which is the height of elite, revered architecture. The House on the Rock is the bad-taste, pop-culture counterpart.

From Wikipedia:
[T]he inspiration for the house [allegedly arose] in a meeting between Alex Jordan Jr. and Frank Lloyd Wright, at some unspecified time between 1914 and 1923. Jordan Sr. supposedly drove with [his friend Sid] Boyum to Taliesin to show Wright the plans for a building, the Villa Maria in Madison. Jordan worshipped the famous architect and hoped for his approval. Wright looked at the plans and told Jordan: "I wouldn't hire you to design a cheese crate or a chicken coop. You're not capable." Fuming, on the drive back on Highway 23, Jordan pointed to a spire of rock and told Boyum: "I'm going to put up a Japanese house on one of those pinnacle rocks and advertise it."
If you keep reading over there, you'll see this is very unlikely to be true. Wright was 50 and Jordan was 9 when that conversation would have happened. The story is, however, stylistically consistent with the House on the Rock, which is exuberant bullshit.

"To 'Moby Dickheads,' Ahab’s Rolling Sea is a treasure trove. King situates Melville as a person of his time, writing amid a quickening pace of discoveries about the natural world..."

"... but, pre-On the Origin of Species, inclined to couch them as further disclosures of God’s design. Still, Moby-Dick prefigures Darwin 'by de-centering the human.' Less convincing is King’s gloss on the book as a 'proto-environmentalist' text, with Ahab as a stand-in for 'Big Oil.' Annexing Moby-Dick to contemporary pieties serves to make it relatable, but defangs and domesticates a confounding work fully in touch with its dark side, as strange as the oil-engorged Leviathan that inspired it, and, to use Yeats’s words, 'as cold and passionate as the dawn.'"

From "As well as being a mythic tale, Moby-Dick is a superb a guide to oceanography," a review (in the U.K. spectator) of the new book "Ahab’s Rolling Sea: A Natural History of Moby-Dick" by Richard J. King.

"Annexing Moby-Dick to contemporary pieties serves to make it relatable"? To some, but obviously not to others (including that reviewer).

November 4, 2019

So, then, it looks like the Dems will go with Biden...

Here's the highest-rated comment over at the NYT:
This is the most depressing article I’ve read in a while. The idea of a second Trump term is literally terrifying. Who are these people that like him? How can it be? Fox News, owned by a soulless Australian, is destroying this once great country.
Second highest:
I simply cannot fathom this. How is this even possible? Also I live in Michigan and my sense is that Trump is deeply unpopular here. Are these polls using the same techniques that were used to predict a 97% chance of victory for Hillary? Perhaps the polls are wrong? I sincerely hope so because the alternative is unthinkable.

"Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez apologizes for blocking a critic on Twitter and settles a lawsuit charging that she violated the First Amendment."

Business Insider reports.
In a statement obtained by Insider, Ocasio-Cortez said on Monday that she had "reconsidered" her decision to block [former Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov] Hikind from her account. She conceded that Hikind, an outspoken conservative, was exercising his constitutionally-protected right to free speech by criticizing her on Twitter....

The announcement... comes just one day before Ocasio-Cortez was scheduled to testify in federal court in Brooklyn.

"Mr. Hikind has a First Amendment right to express his views and should not be blocked for them," she said. "In retrospect, it was wrong and improper and does not reflect the values I cherish. I sincerely apologize for blocking Mr. Hikind."

The lawmaker, who has 5.7 million Twitter followers, previously defended her decision to block about 20 Twitter users from her personal account because she argued that their online behavior amounted to harassment....
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously in July that President Donald Trump is violating the First Amendment by blocking critics from his Twitter account....
Here's how Twitchy tells the story: "‘I was wrong’: AOC chickens out on the DAY she was to testify in Dov Hikind’s lawsuit against her, unblocks and apologizes to him."

Writ large.

"How would it be possible for a Ukraine investigation into Biden to be good for Trump politically unless it was also the kind of thing that voters in the United States would care about?"

"There were two potential outcomes of the requested Ukraine investigation on Biden. Either they would find nothing, or they would find behavior that voters in the United States need to know. Which of those two outcomes is the impeachable one?"

Scott Adams tweeted this morning — here and here.

"A federal appeals court on Monday rejected President Trump’s effort to block New York prosecutors from accessing his tax records and Trump’s sweeping claims of presidential immunity...."

"The case is one of several legal clashes testing the limits of presidential power that is expected to reach the Supreme Court as soon as this term. The Manhattan District Attorney is investigating hush-money payments made in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election.... At oral argument last month, Trump’s private attorney William S. Consovoy told the court that the subpoena is a politically-motivated 'fishing expedition.' A sitting president, he said, cannot be investigated — or prosecuted — while in office, even for shooting someone on the streets of Manhattan. His assertion of 'temporary presidential immunity' came in response to a question about Trump’s own hypothetical from 2016, when he said as a candidate his political support was so strong that he could 'stand in the middle of Fifth Aveneu and shoot somebody' and not 'lose any voters.'"

WaPo reports.

So... wait for the Supreme Court.

That shooting business is a distraction. Colorful but meaningless.

"In the future, she believes time in blue space will be a mainstream, formalised response..."

"By working to characterise and quantify benefits, BlueHealth’s cross-disciplinary team hopes to establish how 'blue infrastructure' – the coast, rivers, inland lakes – can help tackle major public health challenges such as obesity, physical inactivity and mental health disorders. A 2016 paper... put the monetary value of the health benefit of engaging with the marine environment at £176m. Harnessing the power of blue space could also potentially help to alleviate inequality.... 'To go to the sea is synonymous with letting go... It could be lying on a beach or somebody handing you a cocktail. For somebody else, it could be a wild, empty coast. But there is this really human sense of: "Oh, look, there’s the sea" – and the shoulders drop.'"

From "Blue spaces: why time spent near water is the secret of happiness" by (The Guardian).

I don't know who's getting the £176m worth of health benefit here. Everyone in the world? Everyone in the U.K.? It can't be per person!

But I'm familiar with this idea of putting a monetary value on proximity to the "blue space" of water. The received wisdom in Madison, Wisconsin in the 1980s was that our lakes were the equivalent of $20,000 in salary per year, so that, say, a $35,000 salary was really the same as a $55,000 salary in a place without lakes (or, I suppose, other "blue space").

Here's a screenshot of our lakefulness:

I'm not the first person to write "lakefulness" on the internet, but I am the first to write this slogan: Lakefulness is wakefulness.

And here's that quote from the first page of "Moby-Dick":
Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries—stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region. Should you ever be athirst in the great American desert, try this experiment, if your caravan happen to be supplied with a metaphysical professor. Yes, as everyone knows, meditation and water are wedded forever.
From this morning's sunrise glimpses:


"He saw real problems in society: The country was warehousing very sick people in horror houses pretending to be hospitals..."

"... our diagnostic systems were flawed and psychiatrists in many ways had too much power — and very little substance. He saw how psychiatric labels degraded people and how doctors see patients through the prism of their mental illness. All of this was true. In many ways, it is still true. But the problem is that scientific research needs to be sound. We cannot build progress on a rotten foundation. In disregarding Lando’s data and inventing other facts, Rosenhan missed an opportunity to create something three-dimensional, something a bit messier but more honest. Instead, he helped perpetuate a dangerous half-truth. And today, what we have is a mental-health crisis of epic proportions. Over 100,000 people with serious mental illnesses live on the streets, while we are chronically short of safe housing and hospital beds for the sickest among us...."

From "Stanford professor who changed America with just one study was also a liar" by Susannah Cahalan, who has a new book, "The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness," about Stanford psychology and law professor David Rosenhan. The study had volunteers lying about hearing voices and getting themselves committed to mental hospitals so they could observe the place from the inside. One of the volunteers, Harry Lando, described the hospital as "a benign environment" where "agitated" people would "fairly quickly... tend to calm down." Rosenhan, we're told, dropped Lando's data from the study.

Sunrise, 6:35.


The loveliness peaked 9 minutes after that:


"Richard Nixon's most lasting rhetorical contribution to American politics came at the tail end of a 32-minute speech. Exactly 50 years ago Sunday..."

"... and less than a year into his presidency, Nixon presented his plan for a 'just peace' in what had become a Southeast Asian morass.... 'So tonight, to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans, I ask for your support,' he said. By this he was referring to the white working and middle classes of the nation's heartland, the 'non-shouters' and 'non-demonstrators' he had invoked a year earlier at the Republican National Convention.... Nixon understood that, by 1968, millions of white Americans detested what they saw as growing disrespect for authority and the American way.... ...Nixon neatly conflated the politics of resentment with the feeling of victimhood at the heart of many reactionaries' sense of identity. Society was rapidly changing, and they wanted no part of it. These 'forgotten Americans,' as Nixon called them, valued their all-white neighborhoods and schools, and they appreciated America's defense of the free world. So when Nixon promised 'law and order,' he sent a message that he would stop these changes by silencing activists on college campuses and keeping America's cities from burning.... [T]he 'silent majority' was about race, yes, but it was also about youth. Millions of patriotic Americans despised the young activists they saw on their television sets, viewing them as spoiled and elitist malcontents whose drug-induced protests were destroying the nation from within - while their non-college-going, working-class counterparts fought for the country in Vietnam.... Today it is President Donald Trump who is giving voice to this same white population. Like Nixon before him, Trump uses a celebration of the 'silent majority' - it's 'back,' he declared in 2015..."

From "How Richard Nixon captured white rage - and laid the groundwork for Donald Trump" by Scott Laderman (which I originally encountered at The Eagle, but I see that it's also in The Washington Post, here). Laderman is a history professor and the author of "The 'Silent Majority' Speech: Richard Nixon, the Vietnam War, and the Origins of the New Right." This new book is only 192 pages and costs $31.69 on Kindle — $107.70 as a hardback book. Those are some strange prices!

Anyway... I've had Nixon's "silent majority" speech noted on my calendar — on November 3rd — for a long time, and I really wanted to blog it for you as one of my "50 years ago today" posts. I tried watching the speech yesterday, but I could not make it. It is so awkward and painful:

Now that I know "silent majority" is at the very end, I'll recommend starting here, with "I know it may not be fashionable to speak of patriotism or national destiny these days...":

Please note that Nixon's appeal to the great silent majority in this speech is completely about the Vietnam War. He's trying to summon support for his effort to "win the peace." There's nothing racial or anti-youth in this speech. There's nothing divisive in what he's saying: "Let us be united for peace." Of course, everyone I knew hated him. I was a couple months into my college career at the time, and I assure you we all hooted at the TV screen and regarded him as a horrendous villain, whatever he did.
Two hundred years ago this Nation was weak and poor. But even then, America was the hope of millions in the world. Today we have become the strongest and richest nation in the world. And the wheel of destiny has turned so that any hope the world has for the survival of peace and freedom will be determined by whether the American people have the moral stamina and the courage to meet the challenge of free world leadership.

Let historians not record that when America was the most powerful nation in the world we passed on the other side of the road and allowed the last hopes for peace and freedom of millions of people to be suffocated by the forces of totalitarianism.

And so tonight — to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans — I ask for your support.
ADDED: In saying "to you, the great silent majority," he had to be leaving some people out. Like Hillary with her "basket of deplorables" or Romney with his 47%, Nixon had the idea that some Americans could not be reached. And he set this group to the side as he made his appeal. Just before he got to the part of the speech quoted above, he spoke of a minority, and these were the people exemplified by the protest sign, "Lose in Vietnam, bring the boys home." He said that "a vocal minority" can't "dictate" the policy. But he did address the minority with kind words:
I respect your idealism. I share your concern for peace. I want peace as much as you do.... I want to end [the war] so that the energy and dedication of you, our young people, now too often directed into bitter hatred against those responsible for the war, can be turned to the great challenges of peace, a better life for all Americans, a better life for all people on this earth.

"Well, I’ll tell you what. There have been stories written about a certain individual, a male, and they say he’s the whistleblower."

"If he’s the whistleblower, he has no credibility because he’s a Brennan guy, he’s a Susan Rice guy, he’s an Obama guy. And he hates Trump. And he’s a radical. Now, maybe it’s not him. But if it’s him, you guys ought to release the information."

(Via Washington Examiner, which unlike Trump, names the man.)