May 23, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk until dawn. With moderation, of course. None of the extremism you find elsewhere. We're not moderating with extremism, so we won't moderate out extremism. It's just that whatever you write — moderate or extreme — is going to have to wait until we, in due time, release comments from the holding pen. Then why moderate?, you may ask, but I'll bet you have more interesting things to say.

And think about using the Althouse Portal to do your Amazon shopping. (The link is always at the top of the sidebar.)

The photograph was taken today at 5:26. And here's 5:30:


Driving home, I stopped at another vantage point and got this at 5:49:


The Canada geese are not nice. Look at that twisted neck! He was whipping his head around to give me a dirty look.

Framed without those birds:


"On average, the human body sheds its entire bag of skin — more than a billion cells — every 28 days."

"Since the beginning of self-quarantine, I have shed my husk more than twice, casting off thousands of skin cells each second.... Household dust, a lively field of scientific study, is thought to contain domestic life in microcosm: mainly sloughed-off skin and hair, but also sweater fibers and pet dander, dried-out bugs and tracked-in outdoor dirt.... My dust is me, and the friends I can’t have over. Yours is you, and the life outside your window, and the life of every tenant before you. Gross — but who right now can turn down company?... In quarantine... I dust the baseboards. I dust the dark side of the fan blades. I dust the tops of the light bulbs in my lamps. I dust for a universe I can control. The thing about dusting is it is endless. Even as you dust, you make dust.... I am so, so tired of endlessness: the unrelenting boredom, the cycles of self-pity, the constant systemic breakdown, the eternity of death. I long to think about big, dumb things that have an end: a steak from a restaurant, the nave in a church, a hug from a friend of a friend, the Grand Canyon."

From "You’re Never Alone in a Dusty Apartment" by Jamie Lauren Keiles" (NYT).

That got me reading about dust in Wikipedia, where there is a separate article on "Dust Bunnies." Excerpt:
They are made of hair, lint, dead skin, spider webs, dust and sometimes light rubbish and debris and are held together by static electricity and felt-like entanglement....

Hayao Miyazaki's films My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away feature Susuwatari, or soot sprites, which are a type of dust bunny.
There's a separate article on "Susuwatari"... which look like this:

Is "splurt" really a word — or some messy mixup of "spurt" and "blurt"?

I hadn't used the word "splurt" once in 16 years on this blog until this morning, when it seemed like the precise word I wanted. It was about Biden's "you ain't black" remark: "Biden was just feeling loose and blabby and splurted it out."

A couple commenters reacted: "Thanks for the visual"/"Splurted? Sounds more virus-y than blurted." Yes, it makes you picture big droplets of saliva coming out with the words — a picture that seems to have been drawn by R. Crumb.

Is "splurt" even a word? I looked it up before publishing, because I wondered. Is it a corruption of "spurt" — influenced by "blurt"? The OED has an entry for "splurt" as a transitive verb (as I used it) but marks it as "dialect." It means "To squirt or spirt out (liquid)." The intransitive use — "To sputter or splash" — is not marked as dialect, and it goes back to a1849: "When the fire-canoe of the pale-face first hissed and splurted in the great waters of the mighty Missouri."

"Spurt" is an older word, also spelled "spirt," and it pretty much means "squirt," which the OED defines as: "To eject or spirt out water in a jet or slight stream." An interesting sidelight on "squirt" is that it has a separate meaning "To void thin excrement; to have diarrhœa." Here are some edifying historical examples:
1530 J. Palsgrave Lesclarcissement 731/2 I squyrt, I have a lax, jay le va va.
1598 J. Florio Worlde of Wordes Squaccarare, to squatter, to squirt or lash it out behind after a purgation.
1611 R. Cotgrave Dict. French & Eng. Tongues Foirer, to squirt, to shite thinne as in a laske.
1653 T. Urquhart tr. F. Rabelais 1st Bk. Wks. xxv. 115 For those that are will make them..squirt the length of a Hunters Staffe.
A "laske" is a "Looseness of the bowels." From 1542: "Many honeste persones died of ye hote agues, and of a greate laske." From 1574: "Meate excessively ingurgitate and eaten..engendreth..laskes and vomit."

Just some scholarship. Settle down. Get back to your breakfast. You're wondering about "blurt." The OED says it means "To utter abruptly, and as if by a sudden impulse; to ejaculate impulsively; to burst out with." "Blurt" is the word that is most about talking, as opposed to emitting a liquid.
1656 H. More Enthusiasmus Triumphatus (1712) 35 Blurting out any garish foolery that comes into their mind.
1768 A. Tucker Light of Nature Pursued II. 566 Sometimes people will blurt out things inadvertently, which if judgment had been awake it would have suppressed.
Yes, I probably should have written "blurt." But I don't know. The language spirit moved me. Spirit... spirt... It's always moving... loosely, laxly.

Now, please, eat your breakfast. I am only trying to help.

"Just so we are clear on this, being black is an immutable characteristic — a physical attribute that is entrenched and innate."

"Blackness doesn’t change based on your income, musical tastes, choice of life partner, intellect or level of education. And it doesn’t fade or disappear based on how you vote. And yet we all know there is often an effort to police blackness … to determine who is really black, fully black, authentically black, conveniently black, naturally black, unapologetically black, conservatively black, asymmetrically black or blackity black. It’s a minefield of emotion, oppression, aspiration, judgment, backlash, pain, history and pride. Really complicated stuff. And so why would Joe Biden decide to step into this space like a deputized member of the soul patrol?"

So begins Michele L. Norris in "Joe Biden’s hill just got steeper. That’s a good thing" (WaPo). Norris is the founding director of The Race Card Project. Is Norris black? I looked at thumbnail photograph of her at the top of the article and it was not obvious, but if she's the director of The Race Card Project and she feels free to write "blackity black," I presume she is black.

Beginning a statement with "Just so we are clear on this" doesn't mean that what follows is true. It's not clear to me that "being black is an immutable characteristic — a physical attribute that is entrenched and innate." Whatever happened to the idea that race is socially constructed?

But what I hear Norris saying is that there's already a question of what part of what we call race is inborn and what is a social construct, and why does anyone think it's their calling to get into the details of what's what and what matters? Why does Joe Biden think he should talk about that?
Democratic candidates who have earned the backing and trust of top black party leaders too often tend to coast on their adjacent-to-blackness bona fides.... Biden’s flippant attempt at humor sounds like it was meant to underscore what’s at stake in the upcoming election, and it is indeed hard to overstate the prospect of another four years of Donald Trump’s bungling and callous leadership. But the “Vote Blue No Matter Who” line of thinking can be dangerous and cavalier. Black votes have to be earned both on the whole and through individual and targeted efforts.....
Interesting that Norris used the word "cavalier." Biden himself called his remark "cavalier" when he apologized for it. She also calls it "flippant." Notice the assumption that Biden was just feeling loose and blabby and splurted it out. I wonder. I think it was a joke somebody wrote for him, and he was looking for the place to insert it. That's why it was so awkward. It didn't fit the conversation that Charlamagne Tha God was trying to have, which was about Democrats expecting black people to vote for them without giving much of anything in return. Biden did not want to have that conversation, cut it off with a joke, and said he had to get going because his wife needed to use the phone.

"The Department of Justice today filed a statement of interest in an Illinois federal court in support of a lawsuit filed by Illinois state representative Darren Bailey challenging certain actions of Governor J.B. Pritzker..."

"... in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Statement of Interest is part of Attorney General William P. Barr’s April 27, 2020 initiative directing Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division, and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, Matthew Schneider, to review state and local policies to ensure that civil liberties are protected during the COVID-19 pandemic.... According to the lawsuit, the Governor’s actions are not authorized by state law, as they extend beyond the 30-day time period imposed by the Illinois legislature for the Governor’s exercise of emergency powers granted under the Act.... In its statement of interest, the United States explains that this dispute belongs in Illinois state court... Although the complaint does not raise any federal constitutional claims, the statement explains... states must comply with their own laws in making these sensitive policy choices in a manner responsive to the people and, in doing so, both respect and serve the goals of our broader federal structure, including the guarantee of due process in the U.S. Constitution."

A press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

So... it's an Illinois state law question that belongs in Illinois state court, which is where it is but was and the Department of Justice would like to say that states should follow their own laws and should make policy choices carefully because it's at least conceivable that there could be a federal law issue in there somewhere. Might violate due process in some way, might not "serve the goals of our broader federal structure" — whatever that means.

If you're trying to remember the recent post here about Darren Bailey — it's here, 2 days ago. He was the one Illinois legislator who refused to wear a mask in the legislative chamber and got kicked out.

CORRECTION: As the heading of this post says, the case is in an "an Illinois federal court," so I was wrong to write "it's an Illinois state law question that belongs in Illinois state court, which is where it is."

ADDED: Here's a Chicago Sun Times article explaining that Pritzer filed on Thursday to remove the case to federal court, which he has the right to do under federal law if Bailey has stated a federal cause of action: "The governor made the move on the grounds that Bailey alleged a violation of his federal constitutional rights. [Bailey's lawyer] denied that Bailey had raised such a claim." Another Bailey lawyer says the effort to remove to federal court is “perhaps the most outrageous invocation of federal jurisdiction imaginable" and "an egregious attempt to neuter a state court."

So the DOJ's statement isn't about the hint of federal law in the background. It's about the federalism value letting state courts determine the meaning and application of state law. This isn't just a matter of  letting states function separately in our federal system. It's a matter of getting an authoritative interpretation of state law.

About that notion of using Lysol internally...

With no mention of Trump's recent remark about the use of disinfectant, Buzzfeed explains that "It Used To Be Common For Women To Use Lysol To Clean Their Vagina And Here's Why."

The ads are bizarre:

"He could say the same thing about gay voters, women voters or voters with a pulse. If you vote for Trump, you ain't human."

The third-highest-rated comment at "Biden said black Trump voters ‘ain’t black.’ That’s a double standard/You don’t hear politicians saying that about any other group" a column by David Swerdlick at WaPo.

"You ain't human" is the broader statement, but it's less offensive because it doesn't treat black people as different from every other group.

The "You ain't human" idea is very close to Hillary Clinton's notorious "deplorables" remark.

Winking at Room Rater — with 4 pineapples.

May 22, 2020

At the Friday Night Cafe...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"No one should have to vote for any party based on their race or religion or background."

"I know that the comments have come on like I was taking the African American vote for granted … but nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve never done that, and I’ve earned it every time I’ve run. I was making the point that I have never taken a vote for granted."

Said Joe Biden, apologizing for what he now calls his "cavalier" statement, "If you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, then you ain't black."

I recommend watching the entire 19-minute interview that got Joe Biden in trouble, but I admit that I haven't watched beyond 6:33, because I got tired of listening to Joe Biden yelling, especially the part — I'll focus you right on it — where he says "Dead! Dead! Dead!":

"The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now. For this weekend. If they don’t do it, I will override the governors."

Said Trump, quoted at Axios.

"If you lose your job, you try to find work in a restaurant. If you’re formerly incarcerated..."

"... you can get a job in a restaurant. If you’re undocumented, restaurants will hire you. I don’t know if I like that. There’s a conflation there of a safety net with employment—and with precarious employment, at that. It’s sort of like saying that because we don’t have socialized mental-health care in this country, that prisons and jails are the closest things we have to that, and so if we close down prisons and jails, we’re leaving these folks no option but to be on the street. I’m not equating restaurant work to being in prison, but I think the biggest issue with employment in general—anywhere in the world, but especially in the U.S.—is lack of choice. The existence of precarious jobs is not the same as security. On the face of it, that perspective sounds like an excuse to keep an industry going that’s problematic. It sounds terrible. It’s like somebody saying, 'Stay in this marriage, even though you are suffering terribly. Stay in it for your children.'... The only truly affirmative and sustainable response is a governmental response—one that’s universal, that’s agnostic of industries, at least initially, and that focuses on developing a really robust social safety net, so we don’t have to rely on unfortunate, fake safety nets like poor restaurant jobs."

Said Tunde Wey, an "activist-artist and cook," interviewed in "The Case for Letting the Restaurant Industry Die" by Helen Rosner (The New Yorker).

"A ghost was standing in a public toilet. I suggested that he go up in the sky and be part of the light."

"'I don’t want to do that,' he said./'Why?'/'Because I want to maintain my individuality.' I thought it was interesting that he would rather stand in the public toilet than join the light. Does he really treasure what he perceives as his individuality, or is he just simply afraid of making the move? Tell us what your story is in staying where you are now in life."

From "Acorn" by Yoko Ono, which I just read.

I liked this about the sun: "There are one thousand suns rising every day. We only see one of them because of our fixation on monolithic thinking." And: "All colours are imaginary except yellow. Yellow is the colour of the sun at its height. Other colours are shades of yellow in varying degrees."

At 5:26:52.


The actual sunrise time was 5:27 — rounded off to the nearest minute. I'd say I hit it right on the nose.

But there's no sun in sight. Just solid clouds. It's what I call a Type #1 sunrise.

Michael's Frozen Custard (on Monroe Street) has re-opened — after closing in August 2018...

... when "owner Michael Dix said he could no longer run the business without his husband, Sergio De La O Hernandez. Hernandez had returned to his native Mexico in August 2018 for a visa interview, and was denied a visa to re-enter the United States. Dix married Hernandez, then an undocumented immigrant, in 2015, and Hernandez became an important part of the business.... The couple filed a waiver to excuse the years Hernandez spent in the U.S. without authorization and to show there would be undue hardship for Dix if Hernandez could not return, but that waiver was denied.... [T]he waiver was ultimately granted on appeal... 'I was thinking I was never going to come back because of how the government is doing things,' Hernandez said. 'I’m trying not to cry, but like I told my husband, I always had hope that something was going to happen.'"

The Wisconsin State Journal reports.

Michael's Frozen Custard had been around just about exactly as long as I've lived in Madison — 30+ years. I've never mentioned it by name on this blog, but you have seen photographs of it, like this (from 2010):


It's an important part of Madison, and I'm really happy to see it open again.

"Mr. President, there was a lot of interest about whether you would end up wearing a mask today. Could you just take us through your thought process of why you decided not to wear a mask?"

Trump was asked after his tour of a Ford plant yesterday. From the transcript:
Well, I had one on before. I wore one in this back area, but I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it, but no, where I had it in the back area, I did put a mask on....

Why would you not be wearing it here, sir?

Not necessary here. Everybody’s been tested and I’ve been tested. In fact, I was tested this morning, so it’s not necessary.

But the... executives are wearing them.

Well, that’s their choice. I was given a choice and I had one on in an area where they preferred it. So I put it on and it was very nice. It looked very nice, but they said they’re not necessary here....

What about the example that it would set for other Americans to see you wearing a mask?

Well, I think it sets an example both ways. And as they say, I did have it on. Thank you.... I just liked your question so much. You know what, it was such a nice question.... By the way, here is my mask right here...  and I liked it very much. I actually, honestly, I think I look better in the mask. I really did. I look better in the mask... but I’m making a speech so I won’t have it now, but I did have it on right here. And I think some of you might’ve gotten a shot. Thank you very much.
Got that? He'll give them self-deprecation — "I look better in the mask" — he's not going to let them take the means of Trump-deprecation into their own hands. That's the "pleasure" he knows they want. The most pleasurable thing for the press would be to catch Donald Trump in something like John Kerry's worst photo op:

"I tested positively toward negative... meaning I tested negative... but that's a way of saying it — positively toward the negative...."

A funny locution. Who among us has never found it a little hard to remember that "negative" is good?

Anyway, if you let that Trump video keep going, you'll see his answer to the question what he thinks of that study — from Columbia University disease modelers — that said "If the United States had begun imposing social distancing measures one week earlier than it did in March, about 36,000 fewer people would have died in the coronavirus outbreak" (NYT). He was ready to go with an answer to that one.

"Uncle Bunky... spoke in a gravelly patois of wisecracks, mangled metaphors, and inspired profanity that reflected the Arizona dive bars, Colorado ski slopes, and various dodgy establishments..."

"... where he spent his days and nights. He was a living, breathing 'hang loose' sign, a swaggering hybrid of Zoni desert rat, SoCal hobo, and Telluride ski bum. A prolific purveyor of Bunky-isms such as 'Save it, clown!' (or 'Zeebo' if he was in a mood).... Just days after his beloved cat Kitters passed away, he too succumbed to 'The Great Grawdoo,' leaving behind a vapor trail of memories and a piece of sage advice lingering in his loved ones' ears: 'Do what Bunky say. Not what Bunky do.'... His impish smile and irreverent sense of humor were enough to quell whatever sensibilities he offended. He didn't mean any harm; that was just Bunky being Bunky. When the end drew near, he left us with a final Bunkyism: 'I'm ready for the dirt nap, but you can't leave the party if you can't find the door.' He found the door, but the party will never be the same without him. In lieu of flowers, please pay someone's open bar tab, smoke a bowl, and fearlessly carve out some fresh lines through the trees on the gnarliest side of the mountain."

From a memorial to Randall Jacobs (which is getting shared quite a bit in social media). We're told he died at "age 65, having lived a life that would have sent a lesser man to his grave decades earlier." That's younger than I am, so it's startling to see hold old a person can look at 65:

I suppose we age at different rates, and we have different ideas about how fast to live. He did what he wanted, at least in the eyes — in the words — of whoever it was who wrote that memorial, which, I presume, could have been written a thousand different ways, but was written with a lively, loving heart.

"You might have had a slight accent, but as far as I'm concerned, you said my name correctly, so you should have been entitled to whatever the prize was."

Said Tony Hadley, the Spandau Ballet singer ...

... quoted in "Singapore quizzer finally wins $10k after Tony Hadley's message" (BBC).

Listen to the "quizzer" say "Tony Hadley":

Listen to Spandau Ballet — who peaked in 1983 with "True":

From Wikipedia:
The song “True” has been sampled in many songs.... It has also been covered by The Black Eyed Peas, Fergie, Rui da Silva and Paul Anka and other artists. "True" is featured in the movies Pixels, Sausage Party, Sixteen Candles, Charlie’s Angels, Crazy Stupid Love, Hot Tub Time Machine, Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, 50 First Dates  and The Wedding Singer sung by Steve Buscemi's character...

"It wasn't as good as it should have been."

What I got from 3 minutes of "Morning Joe" today at dawn...

I hate to watch the news on television, but I do like to put MSNBC on the satellite radio in my car and sample what's going on there as I drive the 3 minutes it takes to get home after my sunrise run.

This morning, Morning Joe was speaking as if he were concerned about what Trump could possibly to do to win the election. In his sad troubled mode, Morning Joe said that Trump needed to contrast himself to Biden, but was there any area of contrast that could work? He can't claim to be less "doddering" — because both men are old. And he can't claim to be better on China, because he's praised President Xi.

Morning Joe somberly advised Trump to find something else — not China and not the problem of "doddering." He kept saying "doddering." That cracked me up.

The word "doddering" originally referred to something that happens to oak trees. "Doddering" is derived from "doddered" which the (unlinkable) OED defines as:
A word conventionally used... as an attribute of old oaks (rarely other trees); apparently originally meaning: Having lost the top or branches, esp. through age and decay; hence, remaining as a decayed stump. Johnson explained it as ‘Overgrown with dodder: covered with supercrescent plants’; and this explanation, which was manifestly erroneous, since neither dodder nor any plant like it grows upon trees, has been repeated in the dictionaries, and has influenced literary usage, in which there is often a vague notion of some kind of parasitical accretion accompanying or causing decay.
We're used to the verb "dodder," but I hadn't known of an actual substance called "dodder." It's a parasitic plant that looks like this on a tree:

A joke about Trump's hair seems within reach.

"Retailers that have spent years trying to get customers to linger, in hopes they’ll buy more than they need, are reimagining their stores..."

"... for a grab-and-go future filled with deliberate purchases. Gone, they say, are the days of trying on makeup or playing with toys in the aisles. The focus now is on making shopping faster, easier and safer to accommodate long-term shifts in consumer expectations and habits.... Entryway displays once piled high with apparel have become 'welcome tables' with bottles of hand sanitizer, disposable masks and sticky blue mats that clean shoe soles. Clothes are even folded differently, to encourage hands-off browsing.... The retailer, which now limits the number of people in stores, is using a mobile app to notify customers when it’s their turn to shop. And it has spelled out its new protocols in a 65-page employee handbook, including how to fold jeans and T-shirts to allow shoppers to examine them in detail without touching them.... Employees are encouraged to smile from behind their masks and pay attention to nonverbal cues. 'With masks on, you may feel a bit awkward at first, but don’t let that hold you up!' the employee manual says. 'We don’t want this to feel like a sterile or clinical interaction. Even though you may be 6 feet apart — it’s your job to still create a connection!'"

From "How the pandemic is changing shopping/American Eagle, Sephora and Best Buy are among the retailers reimagining their stores to make shopping faster, easier and safer" (WaPo).

There's always the alternative of shopping on line, so it's hard to see why anyone would shop for clothing in person now (unless it's crucial to try things on). I'm not that interested in wandering around browsing in stores, but obviously, it's an important activity to some people. Are they going to enjoy this new system?

I'm afraid a lot of these stores are going to go out of business. I see that Pier 1 died, but I couldn't understand how it could still be around after all these years. What was all that junk they were selling? Did anyone need anything they had on offer? Was it supposed to be exciting — it was in the 1960s and 70s — that it had lots of miscellaneous things that had been imported? The company's official history says:
Peace, Love and Papasans

Pier 1 Imports started as a single store in San Mateo, California, in 1962. Our first customers were post-World War II baby boomers looking for beanbag chairs, love beads and incense....

Still Fun at 40

Pier 1 Imports celebrated its 40-year history of retailing in 2002. With the mantra “From Hippie to Hip,” we featured year-long special promotions and merchandise to honor the occasion.
It was supposed to be fun. Wander around in there and find who knows what? But that's not life in America anymore. We're only going to be going into stores with sanitized determination and efficiency. It never made sense to go into Pier 1. You never needed love beads and incense. You had to be mysteriously hypnotized into wanting them, and that's what stores were set up to do.

Not anymore.

If I owned a store, I'd be angry to see how long it took this piece of information to get straightened out and publicized: "Virus ‘does not spread easily’ from contaminated surfaces or animals, revised CDC website states" (WaPo). Here's the CDC webpage:
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads....
Good! So maybe people can touch things in stores? I've got to say, I am a toucher of merchandise. If I go into a clothing store and browse, I don't just look, I touch. The feeling of the fabric matters immensely to me, and it is something that you can't get on line.

May 21, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can type what you like at your socially distanced table.


The photos were taken at 5:34 a.m. today. The one on the bottom — with the sun out of view — was taken 13 seconds after the top one. The sun had slipped under the low, thick cloud.

If you find that amusing or interesting, remember me when you shop at Amazon and use the Althouse Portal.


"Some farmers are injecting pregnant sows to cause abortions. Others are forced to euthanize their animals..."

"... often by gassing or shooting them. It’s gotten bad enough that Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, has asked the Trump administration to provide mental health resources to hog farmers. Despite this grisly reality — and the widely reported effects of the factory-farm industry on America’s lands, communities, animals and human health long before this pandemic hit — only around half of Americans say they are trying to reduce their meat consumption. Meat is embedded in our culture and personal histories in ways that matter too much, from the Thanksgiving turkey to the ballpark hot dog. Meat comes with uniquely wonderful smells and tastes, with satisfactions that can almost feel like home itself. And what, if not the feeling of home, is essential? And yet, an increasing number of people sense the inevitability of impending change....  One of the unexpected side effects of these months of sheltering in place is that it’s hard not to think about the things that are essential to who we are.... We cannot protect against pandemics while continuing to eat meat regularly. Much attention has been paid to wet markets, but factory farms, specifically poultry farms, are a more important breeding ground for pandemics. Further, the C.D.C. reports that three out of four new or emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic — the result of our broken relationship with animals.... As in a dream where our homes have rooms unknown to our waking selves, we can sense there is a better way of eating, a life closer to our values."

Writes the acclaimed novelist Jonathan Safran Foer in "The End of Meat Is Here/If you care about the working poor, about racial justice, and about climate change, you have to stop eating animals" (NYT). He also does non-fiction with "Eating Animals" (2009) and "We Are the Weather: Saving the Planet Begins at Breakfast" (2019). From his Wikipedia article:
Foer was a "flamboyant" and sensitive child who, at the age of 8, was injured in a classroom chemical accident that resulted in "something like a nervous breakdown drawn out over about three years," during which "he wanted nothing, except to be outside his own skin."... He has been an occasional vegetarian since the age of 10... In his childhood, teen, and college years, he called himself vegetarian but still often ate meat....
I thought that meat-as-home image was interesting. Meat almost feels like home, but you know those dreams where you find other rooms in your house? In your home that smells of meat, there's another room, and it has no meat in it, you've seen it in your dreams, and you can find it in real life. Or something. It's a bit cornball, and the references to "home" are at the beginning and the end — much farther apart in the actual article that in my snippet above — so it would be easy to miss.

Something else that caught my eye: At one point, he says: "These are not my or anyone’s opinions, despite a tendency to publish this information in opinion sections. And the answers to the most common responses raised by any serious questioning of animal agriculture aren’t opinions." There's something dictatorial in that: This isn't opinion, this is truth. Ironically, that makes him sound more opinionated. It yells: I am a polemicist, an ideologue.

I can appreciate a good polemic, and Foer seems to be striving to be a first-rate polemicist. I suspect that his great success as a novelist makes him think that if he does polemics he'll trounce the other writers. This didn't work on me, though. Who exactly is supposed to be horrified by pigs getting abortions and euthanasia? People who support abortions and euthanasia for human beings? People who accept that pigs are raised for slaughter, want to eat meat, but are morally opposed to abortions and euthanasia for human beings? If it's just people who feel sorry for the farmers who won't make the money they'd planned to make from their hogs because of the pandemic, that has nothing to do with the inevitability of an impending transition to vegetarianism.

AND: Senator Grassley has been advocating for mental health resources for farmers since long before the current pandemic. See "Grassley Signs Onto Bipartisan Ernst Legislation to Provide Mental Health Support to Agricultural Communities" (press release from Grassley, May 24, 2018)("("[O]ur farmers and agricultural workers experience disproportionately high levels of suicide... 'We must do more to ensure those who work tirelessly from sunrise to sundown to feed and fuel our world have access to the mental health resources and supports they need'")).

"You want to send me or anyone else outside the doors today, I understand. Go right ahead. But know this: If you do that, you’re silencing millions of voices of people who have had enough."

Said Rep. Darren Bailey of the Illinois General Assembly, the quoted in "'A callous disregard for life': GOP lawmaker kicked out of Illinois legislative session over refusal to wear mask" (WaPo).

He was the lone holdout on the mask requirement. He seems to be framing mask-wearing as a free-speech issue. He has a point of view and his form of expression is not wearing a mask as he takes his place in the legislature, and he characterizes himself as representing "millions" who are being "silenced" if he cannot "say" what he has to say in the form he prefers.

From the position of his antagonists, he is engaging in an action and the action is dangerous, and that outweighs his interest in saying what he has to say in the form he wants to use. It's a neutral rule that wasn't, presumably, motivated by the desire to suppress a viewpoint, so it's highly unlikely Bailey could win the argument that his free-speech rights are violated, but he isn't claiming to make a legal argument, just to protest in the language of freedom.

And yet, Bailey is suing the governor — J.B. Pritzker (D) — over the lockdown (he "won a temporary restraining order against Pritzker’s stay-at-home order last month, which only applied to him").
On Wednesday, Bailey told The Post that he believed the mask rule... was “not about health” but was instead “just another Democrat bullying tactic.” He said he would wear one if he were concerned for his health, but he isn’t, and doesn’t like being told that he must. “This whole thing that it’s concern for other people? I don’t buy that at all,” he said....
I understand that skepticism. The idea that the mask protects other people works to deprive the individual of the ground to say I will decide for myself how much risk I want to take and what freedom not to cover my face means to me. That doesn't mean the experts aren't right when they say it's for other people. It just means that people decide for themselves what to believe and this is the sort of thing that can make you skeptical. It's so convenient.

Mayor Jaime Rolando Urbina Torres of Tantará, Peru got into a coffin and played dead as the police came to arrest him for violating the law of curfew and social distancing.

"It is not clear exactly where he and his friends were drinking, or why there were open caskets close at hand," The Daily Mail reports.

In happier days:

I don't know what's going on in that picture. Is he giving us the finger? "Siempre contigo" means "always with you." But what is "CLODO"? Wikipedia has an entry for that sequence of letters, but it's got nothing to do with Peru... or corn. It's quite French, but we see that "clodo" is slang for "homeless":
Committee for Liquidation or Subversion of Computers (CLODO) (in French: Comité Liquidant ou Détournant les Ordinateurs; 'clodo' being a slang word for the homeless) was a neo-Luddite French anarchist organization, active during the 1980s, that targeted computer companies. In 1980, after a series of attacks in the Toulouse area, they released a statement to the French media in which they explained their motivations. It read, "We are workers in the field of data processing and consequently well placed to know the current and future dangers of data processing and telecommunications. The computer is the favorite tool of the dominant. It is used to exploit, to put on file, to control, and to repress."...

"There’s an idea in every cup, and you need a lot of ideas to get one good one...."

"People have criticized me for years — family, friends, doctors. I get messages from people saying it’s physically impossible to drink 25 a day.... People are constantly telling me that it isn’t healthy or it’s bad for my stomach or it can kill me.... But my blood pressure is always perfect. I work for myself and I get seven to eight hours of sleep a night, not a problem. I might go to the bathroom a little more than the average person. That’s it.... If I ever do decide to expand beyond 25 cups, my dream is to outdo Balzac’s reputed 50 cups a day, I’ll likely have to be more scientific about things, to prevent overdosing. But so far so good. I’m going to make another cup right now."

Said Charles Anderson, quoted in "A Brief Chat With a Guy Who Drinks 25 Cups of Coffee Per Day" (Grub Street/NY Magazine).

Here's his Twitter feed. Examples:

ADDED: I made a "Balzac" tag for this post and then went back to add it to posts in the archive. I found 2. In one, I'm quoting something in an article about a great writer retiring:
There have always been writers, like Thomas Hardy and Saul Bellow, who kept at it until the very end, but there are many more, like Proust, Dickens and Balzac, who died prematurely, worn out by writing itself.
The other is in my account of Chapter 2 of Bob Dylan's book "Chronicles." I quote Bob:
You can learn a lot from Mr. B. It's funny to have him as a companion. He wears a monk's robe and drinks endless cups of coffee. Too much sleep clogs up his mind. One of his teeth falls out, and he says, "What does this mean?" He questions everything. His clothes catch fire on a candle. He wonders if fire is a good sign. Balzac is hilarious.

I listened to about 3 minutes of CNN this morning as I drove home from my sunrise vantage point...


... and I feel like I can sum up what cable news will be saying over and over today on the topic of ending the coronavirus lockdown in the various states:

Democrats are saying that we're all in this together and this is beyond politics but Republicans are playing politics. Republicans are saying that we're all in this together and this is beyond politics but Democrats are playing politics.

The audio from CNN was imperfect — some home-based line? — and I could hear a man mumbling in the background. At one point, I believe I heard Mr. Mumble say "Jesus Christ."

Oh, she quips. This counts as a quip.

"Pelosi quips that Trump has 'doggy doo on his shoes' in ongoing spat" — Reuters.

Can you imagine if Trump came out with a line at that level of humor and originality? The chance that it would rate as a "quip" in a Reuters headline is just about 0.

“It’s like a child who comes in with mud on their pants,” Pelosi told a news conference when asked about provocative comments Trump has made about MSNBC television host Joe Scarborough, including references to him as “psycho.”
You mean, including the quip that he's "psycho"?
“He comes in with doggy doo on his shoes and everybody who works with him has that on their shoes, too, for a very long time to come,” Pelosi said, referring to canine excrement.
Referring to canine excrement... Maybe it's in their stylebook that all slang must be restated in standard English.

This is the first appearance of the term "doggy doo" on this blog.

I looked in the NYT to see if they'd ever printed "doggy doo" before Nancy Pelosi's recent remark. I saw 3 pop culture things — a movie character must search "doggy doo" for a diamond, another movie is "an orgy of doggy doo," and something called "A Doggy Doo-or-Die Tale." But I was excited to see that it had appeared in a straight news story — "House Passes Short-Term Spending Bill, Setting Up Shutdown Battle in Senate." That's from  January 2018. Let's see how "doggy doo" got into that. Oh! It's Nancy:
Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, made clear that she was unmoved by the inclusion of CHIP funding in the stopgap bill.

“This is like giving you a bowl of doggy doo, put a cherry on top and call it a chocolate sundae,” she said.
It's crap for non-children to use the gross/cutesy term "doo" in their quips. I'm saying "crap" because I think adults, when they're being mean but need a taste-level above "shit," should say "crap." "Doo" or "doo doo" is babyish. "Poop" isn't mean enough.

By the way a "chocolate sundae" is not chocolate ice cream with a cherry on top. It's vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. You can add a cherry, but if you do, you probably want whipped cream too, for the classic look.

And a quip is "Originally: a sharp, sarcastic, or cutting remark, esp. one cleverly or wittily phrased. Later more generally: any clever, witty, or humorous remark; a witticism, an epigram" (OED). It's a word of "uncertain" origin, "Perhaps influenced by words of similar ending (as clip v.2, nip v.1, whip n., etc.) which contain the idea of something sharp or cutting." Ah, yes, the "-ip" words. They are nice. Zippy and trippy. Not like the "-oo" words — "doo," "poo," etc. They're gooey.

May 20, 2020

5:22 a.m.


Good night! Think good thoughts!

Sunrise at 5:22.


Actual sunrise time: 5:28. This is the type of sunrise you need beat by at least 5 minutes to enjoy at its best.

"The Supreme Court blocked Congress from receiving grand-jury materials from Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election."

"The court, in a written order Wednesday, granted an emergency request by the Trump administration to keep the materials secret while it mounts a full high court appeal against their release. The high court’s action increases the chances that the information will remain shielded through the 2020 election.... The Justice Department argued that disclosure of the grand-jury materials would mean its secrecy would be irretrievably lost. For the grand-jury process to work, secrecy must be assured for witnesses to come forward and testify fully, the department said. It also said the committee hadn’t shown that the material was urgently needed 'for a hypothetical second impeachment.'"

The Wall Street Journal reports (without a paywall).

"It's like saying maybe if you inject Clorox into your blood it may cure you. C’mon, man! What is he doing? What in God’s name is he doing?"

"There’s no serious medical person out there saying to use that drug. It’s counterproductive. It’s not going to help, but the president, he decided that’s an answer...."

Biden has decided that hydroxychloroquine is not the answer.

And isn't it better to default to no until the "serious medical people" give something of a recommendation?

Plunging into things that just might work is the approach I associate with the left. Do something, anything! It's not conservatism. Trump's eagerness to try this pushed his opponent into what I see as the conservative approach: Better to do nothing than to act and make things worse.  Or, as I like to say, better than nothing is a high standard.

I mean, I think the best way to be healthy is to leave your body alone to fight illness with its natural mechanisms. Don't add anything — except food... water... air. That's the presumption, and it should be hard to rebut the presumption.

Watching the peregrine falcons...

... at the nesting box at Madison Gas & Electric:

Help me understand the city where I've lived for the last 36 years.

It's just one sentence — from "City Council approves... historic preservation plan" ( — and I'd just like to see it in plain English, if anyone would do me the service of translating it:
After a nearly three-year effort, the council unanimously adopted the first-ever Historic Preservation Plan as a supplement to the city’s Comprehensive Plan, directed staff to implement recommendations, and accepted an Underrepresented Communities Historic Resource Survey Report, the latter seen as a “living document” that will be a starting point for diversifying stories the city is documenting.

How can this work in a restaurant? It sounds like a recommendation of invidious discrimination.

In the NYT: "As restrictions across the country on restaurants and bars ease, the C.D.C. recommends owners give workers at a higher risk of getting sick a job that limits the person’s interaction with customers."

Here's the way it's worded in the CDC document:
Considerations for Restaurants and Bars...

Protections for Employees at Higher Risk for Severe Illness from COVID-19
  • Offer options for employees at higher risk for severe illness (including older adults and people of all ages with certain underlying medical conditions) that limits their exposure risk (e.g., modified job responsibilities such as managing inventory rather than working as a cashier, or managing administrative needs through telework).
  • Consistent with applicable law, develop policies to protect the privacy of persons at higher risk for severe illness in accordance with applicable privacy and confidentiality laws and regulations.
The link on "higher risk for severe illness" goes to another document. There we see the reference to old people — "People 65 years and older" — and fat people — "People with severe obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or higher)." There's no reference to race, but health conditions are named: "chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma... serious heart conditions... immunocompromised... diabetes... chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis... liver disease."

I'm not offering legal advice, but just asking a question: Can restaurant owners, who are struggling to make their business profitable again, withhold jobs from people who fall in the "higher risk" category? Clearly, we're talking about people who are protected by laws against age discrimination and disability discrimination. Less clearly, we're talking about discriminating against black people. And if you do bring back employees who'd previously worked in the front of the restaurant, interacting with customers, how can you shunt them to the back, away from the tips?

ADDED: Why am I talking about race? "Nationally, the new age-adjusted analysis shows, black people are more than 3.5 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than white people, and Latino people are nearly twice as likely to die of the virus as white people, the researchers report" (Yale News).

IN THE COMMENTS: Freeman Hunt said:
"You're fat. Go clean the freezer."

"Thank you for caring about me."

Can Joe Rogan retain his Joe Roganness when he's paid $100 million to put his show inside Spotify?

I don't know! He's got some brilliant kind of magic, and congratulations to him for making something that Spotify wanted to buy for that much money. But it's an ongoing show and it's got to be an immense challenge to keep it fresh and alive. But who knows? It could get better — like the way Howard Stern got better when he took the money and enclosed himself inside Sirius radio.

I love the idea of rating the rooms in these stay-at-home media appearances, but there needs to be some competition in the room-rater genre.

It's can't just be Room Rater as the only room rater all the time.

Here's the Room Rater Twitter feed. I love it, and I have great respect for the creation of a genre on Twitter. But there need to be other participants. It's a matter of taste, and Room Rater has his standards and factors, and now media folk seem to be pandering specifically to Room Rater. Prime example: Donny Deutsch adds a fruit bowl to his otherwise dull background. Room Rater is right to push back, but he's sort of conceding that there's a limitation to the his game. I think there need to be more critics, complicating the standards and questioning the value of, say, books and potted plants and "art."

Here is Room Rater's ideal:

Fine. But I'd like to read the Twitter feed that objects to this ideal. It's too clean, too prissy, too tryhard. It's bourgeois. It's Architectural Digest. It gives us no inroads into the interior of the man called John Heilemann. Who is he?

By the way, "gambet" is a misspelling by today's standards — but I'm seeing "gambit" spelled like that in 18th century quotes. A "gambit" is a series of moves in chess. Metaphorically, it has come to mean "A plan, stratagem, or ploy that is calculated to gain an advantage, esp. at the outset of a contest, negotiation, etc." (OED). So "gambit" was the perfect word to tweak Deutsch about his apparent effort to play Room Rater's game.

ADDED: Here's a good example of where I think Room Rater goes wrong:

"Republicans have seized on the document as potential evidence that the outgoing president had ordered the FBI to spy on the new administration..."

"... as Trump has alleged. And they have raised questions about the 'unusual' nature of Rice memorializing the conversation in an email to herself, suggesting that in warning Comey to proceed 'by the book,' Obama was implying that top law enforcement officials had done the opposite. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Rice said it shows the Obama administration handled the Flynn situation appropriately. The email, most of which was already declassified, describes a Jan. 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting that followed up on an intelligence briefing about Russian interference in the 2016 election. Attendees included then-President Barack Obama; Comey; Sally Yates, who was the acting attorney general; Vice President Joe Biden; and Rice, who was Flynn's predecessor in the job. The email, which memorialized the meeting two weeks after it happened, said Obama wanted to be sure 'every aspect of this issue is handled by the Intelligence and law enforcement communities "by the book."' 'The president stressed that he is not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective,' the email continued. 'He reiterated that our law enforcement team needs to proceed as it normally would by the book.'"

From "Trump administration declassifies full Susan Rice email sent on Inauguration Day/The email describes a Jan. 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting about Michael Flynn and Russian interference in the 2016 election" (Politico).


"[W]e should spend more time considering the real possibility that every problem we face will get much worse than we ever imagined."

"The coronavirus is like a heat-seeking missile designed to frustrate progress in almost every corner of society, from politics to the economy to the environment.... In a book published more than a decade ago, I argued that the internet might lead to a choose-your-own-facts world in which different segments of society believe in different versions of reality. The Trump era, and now the coronavirus, has confirmed this grim prediction. That’s because the pandemic actually has created different political realities. The coronavirus has hit dense, racially diverse Democratic urban strongholds like New York much harder than sparsely populated rural areas, which lean strongly to the G.O.P.... The virus’s economic effects will only create further inequality and division.... The virus-induced recession could further destroy the news industry and dramatically reduce the number of working journalists in the country, our last defense against misinformation.... Let us not squander another crisis. We need to take a long, hard look at all the ways the pandemic can push this little planet of ours to further ruin — and then work like crazy, together, to stave off the coming hell."

From "The Worst Is Yet to Come/The coronavirus and our disastrous national response to it has smashed optimists like me in the head" by Farhad Manjoo (NYT).

I don't think it's "the number of working journalists" in the country that is "our last defense against misinformation." You can have a huge number, but if they're all bad, and they're all participating in misinformation, they're no defense at all.

The last defense against misinformation is your own mind.

"About 10,000 people in Mid-Michigan have been asked to evacuate their homes after multiple dams were breached, causing a major flooding emergency."

"The National Weather Service on Tuesday evening urged anyone near the Tittabawassee River and connected lakes in Midland County to seek higher ground following 'catastrophic dam failures' at the Edenville Dam, about 140 miles north of Detroit, and the Sanford Dam, about seven miles downriver.... Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Midland County late Tuesday night, urging residents to see higher ground as water levels were rapidly rising. Gov. Whitmer said Downtown Midland, a city of 42,000 about 8 miles downstream from the Sanford Dam, faced an especially serious flooding threat. Dow Chemical Co.'s main plant sits on the city’s riverbank."

Click on Detroit reports.

Getting closer.


Photograph taken at 5:38 this morning.

May 19, 2020

At the Sunrise Diner...


... we're open late. You will notice the social distancing: Moderated comments. The old back-and-forth is not happening. You can see that as an opportunity if you are an optimist.

And do consider doing your shopping — if you've got any — through the Althouse portal to Amazon.

The photograph of the relentlessly Type #1 sunrise was done at 5:37. The "actual" sunrise time was 5:29.

As long as the NYT is attacking Ronan Farrow as "too good to be true," Matt Lauer would like to say...

"Why Ronan Farrow Is Indeed Too Good to Be True" (Mediaite). Excerpt:
On October 9, 2019, I was falsely accused of rape. The allegation came from Brooke Nevils, the same woman whose complaint resulted in my termination at NBC. It was made public as part of the promotional rollout for a new book by Ronan Farrow. This accusation was one of the worst and most consequential things to ever happen in my life, it was devastating for my family, and outrageously it was used to sell books. At no time did Brooke Nevils ever use the words “assault” or “rape” in regards to any accusation against me while filing her complaint with NBC in November of 2017.....

I am not suggesting that everything Ronan has written in his book is untrue or based on misinformation, but it is clear that over the course of nearly two years he became a magnet and a willing ear for anyone with negative stories about the network and people who worked for it. Consequently, he cultivated many sources who were also disgruntled or who had been fired by NBC, and therefore had an incentive to come up with explanations for why their careers there didn’t work out....
Much more at the link.

UPDATE: Farrow responds: "All I’ll say on this is that Matt Lauer is just wrong. Catch and Kill was thoroughly reported and fact-checked, including with Matt Lauer himself."

"The new FX documentary 'AKA Jane Roe'... contains a shocking revelation: Roe... played the part of an anti-abortion crusader in exchange for money."

The Daily Beast reports.
[The] 79-minute documentary, featuring many end-of-life reflections from ["Jane Roe," Norma] McCorvey—who grew up queer, poor, and was sexually abused by a family member her mother sent her to live with after leaving reform school—[ she] admits that her later turn to the anti-abortion camp as a born-again Christian was “all an act.”

“This is my deathbed confession,” she chuckles, sitting in a chair in her nursing home room, on oxygen. [The director Nick] Sweeney asks McCorvey, “Did [the evangelicals] use you as a trophy?” “Of course,” she replies. “I was the Big Fish.” “Do you think you would say that you used them?” Sweeney responds. “Well,” says McCorvey, “I think it was a mutual thing. I took their money and they took me out in front of the cameras and told me what to say. That’s what I’d say.” She even gives an example of her scripted anti-abortion lines. “I’m a good actress,” she points out. “Of course, I’m not acting now.”...

Reverend Schenck, the much more reasonable of the two evangelical leaders featured in the film, also watches the confession and is taken aback. But he’s not surprised, and easily corroborates, saying, “I had never heard her say anything like this… But I knew what we were doing. And there were times when I was sure she knew. And I wondered, Is she playing us? What I didn’t have the guts to say was, because I know damn well we’re playing her."... AKA Jane Roe finds documents disclosing at least $456,911 in “benevolent gifts” from the anti-abortion movement to McCorvey....

In a 1950s time-warp, Eddie Haskell — from the real 1950s — grew up and met — in the 70s idea of the 50s — his counterpart Fonzie.

Presented for your contemplation, in a tribute to Ken Osmond ("Eddie"):

Osmond died yesterday. Here's the NYT obituary. Everyone easily took the prompt to loathe Eddie Haskell, who was the trickster and outsider to the conventional family, the Cleavers, back when TV was teaching us Baby Boomers the timeless values of honesty and domesticated sexuality. Think I'm exaggerating? Here's Mrs. Cleaver smacking down young Eddie's sexuality:

20 years later, as we Baby Boomer were rebellious young adults, TV served up the trickster-outsider we got the message to love — Fonzie. Many of us had outgrown TV sitcom messages however, and Fonzie seemed stupidly squishily lovable, but maybe if you're a few years younger than me, Fonzie worked on you and is part of the foundation of your psyche.

But I look back now and see how TV treated Eddie, and I think — they set Eddie up. We were the bullies, hating Eddie. What did Eddie want? How did he suffer? What made Eddie Eddie? I'd like to see a movie like "Joker," explaining the origin of Eddie. I think he had intelligence and desire and he was hemmed in by the stifling culture that "Beaver" celebrated for the humble people of America, who wanted to feel comfortable and rested in the evenings, as we did our TV.

I feel for Eddie, now, as I see that Ken Osmond has died. I'm in the mood to suggest: What if you had to argue that Eddie was the real hero of "Leave It to Beaver"? But of course, Eddie was hilariously awful, and we remember this secondary sitcom character 6 decades later — we remember him because we loathed him. That guy meant a lot to us! Our hate was specific and important enough that we took it to heart and remembered it all our life.

"They had a sketch where they hated each other. And they would just talk about how much they hated each other."

"And my sister overheard, and really thought that they hated each other. And then, another time, hearing them arguing and thinking it was rehearsing a sketch, and it wasn’t. So that was part of the energy in the household. They were very different people, but they were so, so devoted to each other. A very beautiful and imperfect relationship, as every relationship is. And so that was our life. And it was part of all of it for us."

From "How Ben Stiller Will Remember His Father/The actor and director on growing up with famous comedians as parents and how his father, Jerry Stiller, saw his son’s career" (The New Yorker).

Do people who want Trump to fail ever get tired of posing as if they're offering to help him avoid failure?

I'm reading Eugene Robinson over at WaPo:
President Trump’s increasingly frantic attempts to smear former president Barack Obama reek of panic. As disgusting as these efforts are, they are likely to backfire, perhaps in spectacular fashion.
Maybe there are readers at WaPo who lap this stuff up. They want Trump to be going nuts and they'd like to see his attacks backfire spectacularly. But there's no way an interpretation like this could influence Trump. He's not going to think: I'd better calm down and realize that attacks on Obama will only hurt me. It makes much more sense for him to interpret a column like that to mean that his attacks are effective.
Maybe Trump just cannot abide the fact that Obama is a Nobel laureate, respected around the world, while he has had to endure being snickered at by world leaders and portrayed as hapless and ignorant by the “fake news” media he claims to hate yet compulsively devours. Increasingly, his imagined victimizer is Obama himself. Trump even tries to blame Obama for his own administration’s botched response to a disease that did not exist when Obama was in office.

I thought everyone knew you don’t tug on Superman’s cape....
And yet, you're doing just that.

By the way, the line "you don’t tug on Superman’s cape" comes from Jim Croce's "You Don't Mess Around With Jim," and the question why Superman wears a cape — what good does it do him? — has long plagued readers of comic books who think too much.

IN THE COMMENTS: Calypso Facto said:
"Jim" also gets his ass handed to him by the upstart "Slim" at the end of Croce's song. Maybe more on point than Eugene Robinson intended? (And isn't Slim a great nickname for Trump in response to Pelosi's failed fat-shaming?)

"A typical therapist’s office, no matter how welcoming we try to make it, is still a professional space: couch, therapist chair..."

"... diplomas or abstract art on the walls, therapy-related books on the shelf and the conspicuous absence of anything that might reveal a clinician’s personal life. But to me, it seemed almost silly to try to curate a spot like this in what was clearly my bedroom. Even putting a blank wall behind me felt disingenuous, a way of pretending that I wasn’t sitting in my home just like everyone else. Soon I traded my pressed work blouses for oversized sweaters and comfortable T-shirts. I didn’t try to cover when the washing machine beeped, the neighbor’s dog barked or my son yelled, 'Mom, are you done? It’s lunchtime!' I felt freer with my patients, and they seemed to be freer with me, going places we hadn’t ventured before...."

From "The surprising intimacy of online therapy sessions during the pandemic" by Lori Gottlieb (WaPo).

In that light, what are we to make of Joe Biden, up from his basement, vlogging from the ground floor, with the window open, interrupted by geese honking (and some guy)?

Maybe he feels freer with us, and and we feel freer with him, going places we hadn’t ventured before...

Unicycle mountain biking.

The video might make you think only men do this, but I first noticed this sport when I saw it done by a bunch of girls — maybe 9 years old.

Okay, here are some kids:

"I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and his — shall we say weight group — what is 'morbidly obese'...."

Nancy Pelosi — second in line for the presidency if Trump dies — expresses concern for our President, after he says he's taking hydroxychloroquine. Transcript.

Trump would need to weigh over 300 pounds to be morbidly obese (even assuming he's shrunken with age from his peak height of 6'3"), so Nancy is either taunting him or badly misinformed. Isn't it enough to call someone obese? There's some question whether Trump is even over the line to obese, so stretching it to morbidly obese is mean, and I think a person with such a high stake in Trump's death should not look eager to refer to his dying.

But is "morbid" really a reference to death? That's how I've heard it, connecting it to the French "mort" (death) and "mortality." But what explains the "b" in the place of the "t"? Maybe I have this wrong.

"Mortal" traces back to the Latin mortālis, which means "subject to death, human, transient" and — post-classical — "causing death" or "relating to death." (I'm quoting the OED).

But "morbid" goes back to the Latin morbidus, which means "diseased, sick, causing disease, unhealthy." Strangely, there's an Italian word "morbido" which refers to the "refinement of colours, or harmony of proportions" and, earlier, meant "having a soft, yielding, or doughy consistency" and also was used for the "body or face of a woman or child" to mean "beautiful, delicate."

When we call someone "morbid," though, we mean that their thoughts are grounded in death, don't we?

The OED defines "morbid," when used to describe a person's mental state, as "characterized by excessive gloom or apprehension, or (in later use) by an unhealthy preoccupation with disease, death, or other disturbing subject; given to unwholesome brooding."

But obesity is not a person with a mental state, so the applicable definition of "morbid" is "Causing disease; characteristic of, indicative of, or produced by disease; of the nature of disease; of or relating to disease." So "morbid" in "morbidly obese" is about the causation of disease, not death.

Anyway, is Trump really taking hydroxycholorquine? Or is this more of his sarcasm that nobody understands? From the transcript:
I’m taking it, hydroxychloroquine. Right now. Yeah. Couple of weeks ago I started taking it. Because I think it’s good. I’ve heard a lot of good stories. And if it’s not good, I’ll tell you right. I’m not going to get hurt by it. It’s been around for 40 years for malaria, for lupus, for other things. I’d take it. Frontline workers take it. A lot of doctors take it. Excuse me. A lot of doctors take it. I take it....

Did the White House doctor recommend that you take that? Is that why you’re taking it?

Yeah, White House doctor. He didn’t recommend it. No, I asked him, “What do you think?” He said, “Well, if you’d like it.” I said, “Yeah, I’d like it. I’d like to take it.”...
Much more at the link, and much more discussion of it in the media. I'm only quoting one commentator, Nancy Pelosi, because I thought it was rich that she called him "morbidly obese." But I like to talk about Trump rhetoric too, and I need to throw it out there that he's just lying. He's counterpunching against all those people who've criticized him for talking up hydroxychloroquine in the past, and he's forcing everyone to talk about hydroxychloroquine and not whatever else would have been the subject of the day. He's injecting optimism into the discussion. Everyone loves to think there is a pill that can save us from the big disease, and he's saying something that people want to believe and backing it up with his own (purported) behavior. Commentators who want to oppose him are forced to sound pessimistic: No, there is no pill... it's foolish to hope there's a pill. People are hungry for hope, hungry for pills. Eat those pills! The President does. If he does. I don't know that he does, but he does want to say he does, and I can see why.

Urban mountain biking: Look what they've done with otherwise wasted land under highway in Seattle.

It's a great time to ride a bicycle in NYC... and hard to find a bike to buy.

I'm reading "Thinking of Buying a Bike? Get Ready for a Very Long Wait/The United States is facing a shortage of bicycles as anxiety over public transportation and a desire to exercise has sent the demand surging" (NYT):
In March, nationwide sales of bicycles, equipment and repair services nearly doubled compared with the same period last year... By the end of April, many stores and distributors had sold out of low-end consumer bikes....

In April, New York [City] announced that it would temporarily open 100 miles of roads to pedestrians and cyclists — a move that may lead to permanent closures, officials say....
Great (though I picture some of the bikers imagining the city as their biking paradise and intimidating the pedestrians*).
“We are already seeing people who hadn’t biked before are trying it for the first time,’’ [said Polly Trottenberg,** New York City’s transportation commissioner]. “We are going to see a lot more of that as the city starts to come back to life.”...
The article proceeds to talk about the crazy dream of turning Americans into bike commuters.
In Portland, which has the highest percentage of cycling commuters of any American city, only 6.3 percent of commuters ride bikes. By comparison, in Copenhagen nearly half of all trips to work and school take place on bicycles.
America is not going to become Copenhagen, for a lot of obvious reasons. And if NYC came "back to life" with half its commuters on bicycles, it would be a hellscape. Refer to the video in my footnote. Set in Portland, by the way.
But since the pandemic upended daily life in the United States, cycling has taken on a crucial, sanity-saving role: bikes are a way to exercise while gyms stay closed and an inexpensive means of getting around cities where more than 90 percent of riders have abandoned public transportation....
But they're not commuting. Right now, they've got the streets mostly cleared of cars. It's a paradise created out of a deadly disease.
“There is no way to keep inventory for sub-$1,000 bikes,” said Lee Katz, co-owner of Turin Bikes in Chicago. “We’ve got a few right now, but it’s a matter of scrambling for them. We really don’t expect to see much in the way of inventory like that until July.”
This is a great article for getting out the message that if you're in the market for a bike, you'd better plan on spending more than $1,000.
But... some customers wait weeks for new shipments to arrive or scour secondhand sales online....
I'd like to see some discussion of bike theft. Demand is huge, bikes are expensive, and you can sell used bikes on line. I used to commute by bike in Manhattan in the 1970s. I bought what seemed at the time like an expensive bike — a 10-speed — and it cost $110. Riding it, I was highly conscious that I could get killed at any moment, and when I got to work, I locked it up with an expensive "titanium" contraption and took off the front wheel and brought it with me up the elevator into my office. I was so worried about getting my bike stolen. And getting killed. What a fine combination! City life. I think I made $165 a week at that job.

* "I'm on a bike!":

** Peggy Trottenberg is promoting biking but, based on her name, I think she trots through the burg.

"One Saturday, I dined with a funny Brit. The following Thursday, I met a handsome cinematographer for a gym session."

"All of it happened, awkwardly, on Zoom. The dating scene is booming — it has just gone virtual....  I contemplated calling an ex (then I did). I replied to equally concerned — and equally hopeless — outreach from former flames around the world. And finally, I looked into the masked face of a friend whose romantic overture I’d pulled away from a year ago and contemplated, should I marry him?... Before Covid-19, we all had plenty of time to get to the next chapter.... The more people we meet, the more we struggle to connect to any, let alone commit to one.... Experts call it “cognitive overload.” We preserve option-value over valuing the person standing in front of us. The coronavirus hasn’t changed this paradox of choice.... We’re starting to have conversations about coronavirus status, quarantine credentials and exclusivity that are as awkward as our first virtual dates. These kinds of conversations aren’t unprecedented. New couples navigate them in any relationship, often around safe sex. Now we’ll have these intimate conversations for something as innocent as a first kiss. If we want to be safe, we have to. As the world opens up, we might start dating more selectively, more slowly, more sequentially, with more anticipation and attention than we have in years.... [T]here’s something a little thrilling about a first kiss being taboo again."

From "What Single People Are Starting to Realize/What will the first post-pandemic kiss be like?" by the filmmaker/writer Nayeema Raza (NYT).

May 18, 2020

At the Freshwater Café...


... let us know what you're thinking.

Comments are always moderated now, which means the overnight café is not a chat room, so you can't have the back and forth, but that means there's more room for extended contemplation and the development of ideas. Or leave links to things you think we might want to read. I'll see them in the morning and will look here for inspiration.

If, along the way, you have a need to shop, please use the Althouse Portal to get to Amazon.

"Technology is no savior. We can eat, sleep, look at screens, make money — all aspects of our physical existence — but that doesn’t mean anything."

"Art is the exact opposite. It’s infinite, and without it, the world wouldn’t exist as it does. It represents the immaterial soul: intuition, that which we feel in our hearts.... There’s an axiom that says there is no such thing as 'original' music. After what we could consider to be the first sound, from a spiritual perspective — 'om' to some, 'amen' to others — it’s all the same. Musicians borrow different parts and make them their own, but there’s nothing really new.... The spirit of art shines through in a performance when I stop thinking — when I let the music play itself, not just the one song that I’ve memorized, but all of the songs and experiences I have in my mind.... When I go to the museum and I look at a piece of art, I’m transported. I don’t know how, or where, but I know that it’s not a part of the material world. It’s beyond modern culture’s political, technological soul. We’re not here to live forever. Humans and materialism die. But there’s no dying in art."

From "Art Never Dies/It outlives the contentious political veneer that we cast over everything" by the jazz great Sonny Rollins (in the NYT). Rollins is 89 years old.

"Spend some mind-numbing hours tracking the origins of 'Believe All Women' on social media sites and news databases — as I did..."

"... and you’ll discover how language, like a virus, can mutate overnight. All of a sudden, yesterday’s quotes suffer the insertion of some foreign DNA that makes them easy to weaponize. In this case, that foreign intrusion is a word: 'all.' 'All' insertion was all the rage during the Kavanaugh hearings. When senators from Kamala Harris to Mazie Hirono had their regard for Dr. Blasey’s credibility elevated by Fox News pundits to universal gender credulity, their actual words, 'I believe her,' became believe all women. 'That’s literally the hashtag,' former Fox News contributor Morgan Ortagus said in February 2019.... Is there 'literally' a hashtag? Well, kind of.... Type in #BelieveAllWomen for 2017, when the #MeToo movement took off in October, and you get several dozen references, followed in 2018 (the year of the Kavanaugh hearings) by many more. But here’s the thing: I found that the hashtag is, by a wide margin, used mostly by its detractors. It seems that #BelieveAllWomen first appeared on Twitter in late 2014, in three tweets — by an Ontario midwife.... Then, in the fall of 2015, Hillary Clinton posted a tweet: 'To every survivor of sexual assault … you have the right to be heard. You have the right to be believed.' To which Juanita Broaddrick, who alleges that Bill Clinton raped her in 1978, responded on Twitter on Jan. 6, 2016, 'Hillary tried to silence me.' Conservative editor David French, who has a large Twitter following... retweeted Ms. Broaddrick at once — attaching the hashtag #BelieveAllWomen, followed by four question marks.... As happens, the canard, blown into a bonfire by the right, became accepted truth in mainstream media...."

From "'Believe All Women' Is a Right-Wing Trap/How feminists got stuck answering for a canard," by Susan Faludi (NYT).

I appreciate that tracking down the origin of a saying that can't possibly be right. It is a good taunt coming from the right, and it's important to know how to keep from getting tangled up in it.

But I can't resist taking a shot at that "canard, blown into a bonfire." A "canard" — as all of us who took French class should remember — is a duck. The French word has been used in English since the 1840s to mean "A false or unfounded story, rumour, or claim, esp. one that is deliberately misleading; (originally) spec. an extravagant or absurd story circulated to deceive the credulous; a hoax" (OED). It's a dying metaphor, so you have to watch out for putting it with other metaphors, like a bonfire. I can't read "canard, blown into a bonfire" without picturing a poor waterfowl bursting into flames...

"Stocks climbed after encouraging data about the first coronavirus vaccine tested in people."

"The drug maker Moderna said Monday that the first coronavirus vaccine to be tested in people appears to be safe and able to stimulate an immune response against the virus," the NYT reports.

So good to get good news!

The Dow Jones is up 800+ points.

"Because if you scratch at Mr. Farrow’s reporting... you start to see some shakiness at its foundation. He delivers narratives that are irresistibly cinematic..."

"... with unmistakable heroes and villains — and often omits the complicating facts and inconvenient details that may make them less dramatic. At times, he does not always follow the typical journalistic imperatives of corroboration and rigorous disclosure, or he suggests conspiracies that are tantalizing but he cannot prove. Mr. Farrow, 32, is not a fabulist. His reporting can be misleading but he does not make things up. His work, though, reveals the weakness of a kind of resistance journalism that has thrived in the age of Donald Trump: That if reporters swim ably along with the tides of social media and produce damaging reporting about public figures most disliked by the loudest voices, the old rules of fairness and open-mindedness can seem more like impediments than essential journalistic imperatives.... It’s hard to feel much sympathy for a predator like [Harvey] Weinstein or to shed tears over [Matt] Lauer’s firing. And readers may brush aside these reporting issues as the understandable desire of a zealous young reporter to tell his stories as dramatically as he can...."

From "Is Ronan Farrow Too Good to Be True?/He has delivered revelatory reporting on some of the defining stories of our time. But a close examination reveals the weaknesses in what may be called an era of resistance journalism" by Ben Smith (NYT).

A long article. Much more to read. Check it out. But I will tell you that one thing that is not discussed is Ronan Farrow's treatment of his (presumed) father Woody Allen, notably his work suppressing Woody's autobiography. The censorship of a viewpoint in somebody else's book is worse than the omission of "complicating facts and inconvenient details" in your own reporting. Where is the true spirit of journalism?

IN THE COMMENTS: Dave Begley said: "Ronan must have something coming on Biden. That's why the NYT is attacking now."