July 4, 2020

July 4th sunrise.


Enjoy your freedom.

A slightly woozy sunrise panorama.


By Meade.

I am in this picture, by the way. Near that even harder to see red-hatted man. Click the image and click again to enlarge.

A third click gets you even closer, and the look of the ripples in the water gives you some idea of how the Apple software stitches the photos together to make the panorama. It's some kind of complicated geometry. Can anyone explain it?

Can J.K. Rowling talk about her ovaries?

Having carefully read Trump's Mount Rushmore speech and analyzed it line by line, I will now look at the mainstream media headlines.

Go to the previous post for my untainted assessment of the speech. I will now see what's being said:

The front page of the Washington Post has "Ahead of July 4, Trump exploits racial, social divisions/In a dark speech at the foot of Mount Rushmore's monument, President Trump focused on what he described as a 'left-wing cultural revolution' that aims to rewrite U.S. history and erase its heritage" — reworded at the article page as "At Mount Rushmore, Trump exploits social divisions, warns of ‘left-wing cultural revolution’ in dark speech ahead of Independence Day."

Oh, it's a "dark speech." It was full of optimism and painted the beautiful version of American history, but what the Washington Post saw is darkness. But it certainly did attack the left — for its dark vision. The article brings that out, giving the most highlighted position to this quote from Trump:
"The radical ideology attacking our country advances under the banner of social justice. But in truth, it would demolish both justice and society. It would transform justice into an instrument of division and vengeance and turn our free society into a place of repression, domination and exclusion. They want to silence us, but we will not be silenced."
The New York Times has "Trump Uses Mount Rushmore Speech to Deliver Divisive Culture War Message/Down in the polls and failing to control a raging pandemic, the president cast himself as waging battle against a 'new far-left fascism' that imperils American values and seeks to erase history." The speech is full of material that can be used to make the argument that Trump was pulling Americans together, but he was calling on us to reject the destructive message that he ascribed to the far left. The left is very conspicuously "waging battle" against American values, so it's not as though Trump is starting it. He's fighting back. Whether he's fighting for America — as he says — or because he's "down in the polls and failing to control a raging pandemic" is a matter of opinion.

The quote the NYT puts in the most highlighted position is:
"Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children. Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.”
The CNN headline is "Trump tries to drag America backward on a very different July 4th." He's "stirring fear of cultural change." The highlighted quote is "merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children."

NPR has "Trump Flouts Virus Rules, Warns Of 'New Far-Left Fascism' In Speech Ahead Of July 4th." One way to spin the speech is to downplay the text and stress the disease risk in holding an event at all. Like CNN, NPR highlights "merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children."

Politico has "Trump seeks to claim the mantle of history in fiery Mount Rushmore address/The president’s speech, part of a July 4 weekend celebration, comes after weeks of protests against racism and police brutality that have forced broader discussions over America's monuments." What's most interesting about that is that it's not a big headline on the front page. In fact, it's squirreled away under the much larger headline, "Yes, Biden is thrashing Trump. But he could still blow it/Biden’s polling lead over Trump is significant, though not unprecedented." I'm going to interpret this to mean that Political saw an effective speech and is afraid and seeing an immediate need to boost Biden. The Biden article is long, and it's not about any news, just speculation about what could go wrong:
Biden might say the wrong thing at a debate, or have an awkward moment in an interview or at a press conference.... Biden’s campaign might make poor decisions about spending allocations in the battleground states.... It is possible that Trump before November will announce a coronavirus vaccine.... And it is possible that the economy will improve....
Oh, heavens, no! Not a coronavirus vaccine and an improved economy! The double whammy!!

Trump's Mount Rushmore speech came on too late for me, but...

... I've got the transcript, and I'm going to live-blog my reading of it. I'm fixing punctuation as I go and adding boldface:
There could be no better place to celebrate America’s independence than beneath this magnificent, incredible, majestic mountain and monument to the greatest Americans who have ever lived.
Somebody went heavy on the alliteration, but "incredible" sneaked in there. He's on the side of the monuments, not the destroyers of monuments.

The superlative — "the greatest Americans who have ever lived" — is a provocation. Not only is he defending these 4 men against the recent attacks, he's saying they are greater than every other American in history — greater than Frederick Douglass, greater than Harriet Tubman, greater than all of them. He didn't have to say the greatest. He could have said "among the greatest."

It would mean something just to call them "great" at all and not to qualify it with something like, though they did not escape the moral failings characteristic of their time. But he went big. He put the 4 above everyone else, which is the message of the mountain.
Today we pay tribute to the exceptional lives and extraordinary legacies of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt.
He's got the great men on his side, not like those people who want to tear down statues of all of them.
I am here as your president to proclaim before the country and before the world, this monument will never be desecrated, these heroes will never be defamed, their legacy will never ever be destroyed, their achievements will never be forgotten, and Mount Rushmore will stand forever as an eternal tribute to our forefathers and to our freedom.
That's big! Very grand. Very much a stand against the protesters and rioters... without mentioning them.  This is hyperbole, because Trump cannot protect the monument forever, and indeed, an understanding of geology would tell you that it's impossible for the monument to stand forever as an eternal tribute.

But he's not promising. He's proclaiming. I think of the proclamation on the plinth of Ozymandias. You can proclaim it is eternal, but that doesn't make it eternal. I'm going to live forever! I'm going to learn how to fly! Sing it joyously, but you're still going to die some day.

July 3, 2020

Sunrise — 5:15 and 5:26.



Notice how the rippling of the lake revs up when the sun appears.

The actual sunrise time was 5:23. The sun was first visible to me over the shoreline at 5:25. I'd been waiting and waiting, and I got the idea that if I took a long slow breath, the sun might appear before I got to the end of it. And it did!

Open thread in the comments.

And here's the Amazon portal.

"The entire house — every room, every bed, every bathroom, shower and toilet — was rigged with cameras and audio."

"Epstein kept a secret room full of monitors and watched his guests in real time. He blackmailed the powerful men who would visit and use his girls. If [Ghislaine] Maxwell dies in custody, the federal government will take a hit from which it may never recover...."

From "Powerful men are scared about what Ghislaine Maxwell will say" (NY Post).

This morning at 5:55, I paid my respects to the empty plinth of the Hans Christian Heg statue.


I didn't insert the flags — only took the photograph.

Notice the bent up portion of the bronze in back. That damage occurred when the statue was attacked last week:

"This week, it was announced that Tucker Carlson Tonight recorded the highest-rated quarter for a cable news show ever...."

"[T]he data quickly debunks the notion that the channel and its hosts are not popular with the younger, key demographics... As was the case in total viewership, Fox News led by Carlson, dwarfed the competition in the 25-54 demo.... Carlson won the valued 18-48 demographic by an equitable margin... Executives are led to believe that the two demographics are highly influenced by Twitter and other social media platforms. Carlson, the media’s biggest star, provided a brutal counterpunch to that belief. Carlson tweets once or twice a week. He sent just one tweet in the entire month of April....  His head-to-head MSNBC competitor Chris Hayes’ timeline is updated by the minute. Hayes is beloved, retweeted, and praised.... Yet... [Chris Hayes is] a lackluster 23rd overall in the younger 18-49 demo.... Carlson’s most controversial monologues over the past quarter likely represent what at least half of Americans, young and old, think. He’s made no excuse for pathetic rioters, he’s raised concerns about the dangers of Black Lives Matter being immune from judgment, and has questioned if defunding the police force would truly make us safer. Publicly, online and on opposing channels, these comments are offensive, racist, and despicable. Privately, they are interesting, subjective stances worth considering.... Alternative views are particularly a refreshment to the younger demographics, who are showered in extreme thinking online. They are just trying to get through their days without getting fired or shamed. Carlson is that opposing perspective for them in the evening."

Writes Bobby Burack (at Outkick).

"At least one highly dedicated Wikipedia user has been scrubbing controversial aspects of [Kamala] Harris’s 'tough-on-crime' record from her Wikipedia page, her decision not to prosecute..."

"... Steve Mnuchin for mortgage fraud-related crimes, her strong support of prosecutors in Orange County who engaged in rampant misconduct, and other tidbits — such as her previous assertion that 'it is not progressive to be soft on crime' — that could prove unflattering to Harris as the public first gets to know her on the national stage. The edits, according to the page history, have elicited strong pushback from Wikipedia’s volunteer editor brigade, and have drawn the page into controversy, though it’s a fight the pro-Harris editor is currently winning.... Last month, a Reddit user remembered this Atlantic piece and wrote a Jupyter script to see which 2020 vice presidential contender had the most edits in a span of three weeks: Harris had 408, Stacey Abrams had 66, Sen. Elizabeth Warren had 22, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar had four. Another Redditor pointed out that a majority of Harris’s edits were coming from a single person.... who goes by the username 'Bnguyen1114'...."


IN THE COMMENTS: wild chicken says:
Too bad. It sounds like some of those "damning" items would recommend her to me!

A black law-and-order candidate would be awesome.

Wouldn't it be funny if she were rather conservative deep down but had to play that Democrat game because California.

"For the past few months, Trump and the conservative propaganda apparatus have struggled to make the old race-and-gender-baiting rhetoric stick to Biden."

"But voters don’t appear to believe that Biden is an avatar of the 'radical left.' They don’t think Biden is going to lock up your manhood in a 'testicle lockbox.' They don’t buy that Biden’s platform, which is well to the left of the ticket he joined in 2008, represents a quiet adherence to 'Kenyan anti-colonialism.' Part of this is that Biden has embraced popular liberal positions while avoiding the incentive to adopt more controversial or unpopular positions during the primary. But it’s also becoming clear that after 12 years of feasting on white identity politics with a black man and a woman as its preeminent villains, the Republican Party is struggling to run its Obama-era culture-war playbook against an old, moderate white guy.... 'Joe Biden is a puppet of the radical left,' Trump said [in his Oklahoma rally], before acknowledging that 'he's not radical left. I don't think he knows what he is anymore. But he was never radical left.'... When the Fox News host Laura Ingraham warns that Biden 'will just melt for the macchiato Marxists,' you can sense the weariness of a tired stand-up comic clinging to a set that no longer makes anyone laugh.... ... Republicans struggle to land a punch on an elderly white man with suspicious hair, a reputation for exaggerations and fibs, questionable policy judgment, and a track record of racist remarks who is running a nostalgic campaign for a bygone era...."

From "Trump Is Struggling to Run Against a White Guy/The president is having a difficult time deploying his traditional culture-war playbook against Biden" by Adam Serwer (in The Atlantic).

By the way, I thought I was looking at Nixon...

... when I saw that oddly cropped image of Biden (at the link).

"This Fourth of July holiday is one of the most humbling in our history."

"Even at the height of world wars or the Great Depression, America inspired. But, today, the United States is destroying the moral authority it once had. There will still be fireworks. And the Statue of Liberty still towers over New York Harbor. But it is harder today to convince others that Americans embrace—or practice—the ideals that Lady Liberty represents."

Says Robin Wright in "To the World, We’re Now America the Racist and Pitiful" (The New Yorker).

I'm surprised to encounter reverence for the Fourth of July holiday. If we're going to take this year's events as seriously as Wright wants us to take them, isn't the Fourth racist? Isn't it white supremacy? Why is she calling on us to be truer to its values?

We've had the 1619 Project to instruct us. Shouldn't there now be a call to abolish the Fourth of July as a national holiday? Should we even be calling holidays "national"?

I'm not seeing that suggestion — abolish the holiday. Not yet. It must be brewing out there, though, don't you think? I'm seeing articles that look like they're anticipating that idea and pushing it back before it emerges — aborting it, pre-born.

I'm talking about things like that Robin Wright article, and, more conspicuously, at WaPo — by historian Jonathan Lande — "The Fourth of July is a Black American holiday/Black Americans have long used the holiday to crusade for equality."

"37A: Author/TV personality who wrote 'Your body is not a temple, it's an amusement park.'"

The clue to the longest answer in today's NYT crossword. I'll put the answer below the jump in case you care about solving the puzzle and — what's wrong with you?! — haven't solved it yet.

Here's the grid — filled out — at Rex Parker's blog. It's great clue, because it's an interesting quote, and you actually want to know who said that. My first thought was George's mother on "Seinfeld":

"I come home and find my son treating his body like it was an amusement park!"

But the answer is not Estelle Costanza. She's not an "Author/TV personality." Well, I thought, who wrote that episode? What's the episode? It's "The Contest"! It's about masturbation. Would the NYT center its puzzle on masturbation?! The writer of the episode could be considered an "Author/TV personality"... maybe. It's Larry David, but it's a 15-letter answer. Maybe Lawrence David? Lawrence Gene David? No, still not 15 letters.

The NYT and Vanity Fair are striving to help Trump with his underdog narrative.

NYT: "Why June Was Such a Terrible Month for Trump/Last month represented the political nadir of President Trump’s three and a half years in office, thanks to self-inflicted wounds as he played to his base and missteps by a fractured campaign."

Vanity Fair: "'WHAT DO I DO? WHAT DO I DO?': TRUMP DESPERATE, DESPONDENT AS NUMBERS CRATER, 'LOSER' LABEL LOOMS/'They probably won’t have' the Jacksonville convention. The Joni Ernst campaign is angry at Trump’s horrible numbers. Meadows and Kushner are at loggerheads over Parscale. And if things don’t turn around by Labor Day, GOP defections may begin."

July 2, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can write about whatever you like.

"These iconoclasts appeared on the Capitol Square to cover over the hate graffiti inspired by the fire bombers, looters, and window smashers."

"Their target was the WI Veterans Museum on W. Mifflin Street, which had been vandalized by the Free Yeshua Musa/Mayor Satya anarchists. The message of this motley group ran counter to the anarchists who toppled the statues of Freedom Fighter Hans Christian Heg, who gave his life fighting slavery and secession, and of Miss Forward, exemplar of strong womanhood 20 years before female suffragism. Or the beatdown of State Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee. Or the fire bombing of the City County Building.... Let’s just say the small gaggle of contrarians who posted signs declaring 'We Support Our Madison Police' were confronted with F-bombers worthy... As soon as the signs supporting police went up, many were torn down...."

Writes David Blaska, about his counter-protest activities in downtown Madison. Photos at the link.

"There are no rules about how to deal with the hair of people in prisons – it’s very difficult to supervise or place restrictions from above on how to deal with hair that has been forcibly removed."

"As a result, this has also created an environment in which [officials] are not going to turn down the economic benefits of hair that has been shaved off of people in government camps," said Chinese human rights lawyer and activist Teng Biao, quoted in "U.S. Border Control Seizes 13 Tons Of Hair Weaves Suspected To Be From Chinese Internment Camps" (Refinery29).
But the Chinese Ministry of Affairs denies the use of any forced labor or detention of ethnic minority groups. “We hope that certain people in the United States can take off their tinted glasses, correctly understand and objectively and rationally view normal economic and trade cooperation between Chinese and American enterprises,” reads a statement released by the ministry.

"According to charging documents, [Ghislaine] Maxwell 'befriended' some of these victims, 'including by asking the victims about their lives, their schools, and their families.'"

"She and [Jeffrey] Epstein spent time forging relationships with these girls, by taking them shopping and to the movies. The alleged grooming happened, according to the documents, at Epstein’s mansion on the Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan, his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, his ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as well as Maxwell’s residence in London. After developing a rapport, the documents allege, 'Maxwell would try to normalize sexual abuse for a minor victim by, among other things, discussing sexual topics, undressing in front of the victim, being present when a minor victim was undressed, and/or being present for sex acts involving the minor victim and Epstein.'... Maxwell’s father was the British media baron Robert Maxwell. She was a one-time girlfriend of Epstein’s and key presence at his side in his glittering social life, which often included rich, influential and powerful people from around the world in politics, the arts and science."

From "Ghislaine Maxwell arrested by FBI and accused of 'setting trap' for Epstein victims" (The Guardian).

"Every dog year not equivalent to seven human years, scientists find."

The Guardian tells us.
The team looked at the way particular molecules, called methyl groups, accumulated in certain areas of the human genome over time and compared them with how they accumulated in similar areas in the dog genome....

[A]s time passes, the rate of ageing in dogs, compared with humans, slows down. The findings suggest a one-year-old dog would have a “human age” of about 30, while by the age of four they’d be about 54 in “human years”, and by 14 they would be on a par with a human in their mid-70s....

"We grow weary when idle"/"That is, sir, because others being busy, we want company; but if we were idle, there would be no growing weary; we should all entertain one another."

An old conversation — between Boswell and Johnson — that's quoted in a 2016 post of mind called "Shhhh!"

That quote begins one of my favorite books, "An Apology for Idlers" by Robert Louis Stevenson. I've called it to your attention a few times, and I think that whenever I do, I flag 2 other books I like about idleness: "Essays in Idleness" by the Buddhist monk Kenko and "In Praise of Idleness" by Bertrand Russell.

Idleness is an important topic! And I wasn't even thinking — until I got to this sentence — about it's special applicability to our predicament in the time of coronavirus.

Here are 3 recent items about idleness:

1. "How Idleness Was an Early Form of Meditation for Ancient Humans" (Great Courses Daily): "Many researchers believe that people have historically spent a lot of time meditating, even if they didn’t call it meditation per se. We think of modern life as being much easier and more convenient than what’s historically been typical, but that’s a myth....  When food was plentiful [in ancient times], it’s estimated that people could find what they needed to sustain themselves—to feed themselves and their children—surprisingly quickly.... For most of the time that Homo sapiens has been around, we’ve naturally had a lot of down time.... '[O]ur brains are, and may always have been, built to require—or at least benefit from—a certain amount of meditation just to maintain normal function.... The meditation practice I’m suggesting isn’t about looking for a clever new way to enhance the function of your brain.'"

2. "The Secret Power of Idleness/The brain does some of its best work when we take a break" (Psychology Today): "When we are busiest, our brains are not necessarily doing very much. Conversely, when we take a break and engage in some apparently mindless pursuit like playing solitaire, walking, or shoveling snow, our problem-solving brains kick into overdrive.... Aristotle celebrated the value of leisure as a cornerstone of intellectual enlightenment. He believed that true leisure involves pleasure, happiness, and living blessedly. It is more than mere amusement and is impossible for those who must work most of the time...."

3. "Celebrating Literature’s Slacker Heroes, Idlers and Liers-In" (NYT): "By 'library of indolence' I mean novels like 'Oblomov,' Ivan Goncharov’s satire about a man who hates to leave his bed, and 'Bartleby, the Scrivener,' Herman Melville’s long short story about the clerk whose motto is 'I would prefer not to.' ... The wittiest and most profound [book]... is Tom Hodgkinson’s 2005 classic 'How to Be Idle.'..... He recommends not clicking on news radio upon waking. He nails me entirely when he writes, 'A certain type of person feels it is their duty to listen to it, as if the act of merely listening is somehow going to improve the world.'... 'The lie-in — by which I mean lying in bed awake — is not a selfish indulgence but an essential tool for any student of the art of living, which is what the idler really is. Lying in bed doing nothing is noble and right, pleasurable and productive.'"

"Alright, Madison. I'm getting flak for calling Hilldale mall 'upscale.' Is it or is it not upscale?"

An amusing, intra-Madison discussion at Twitter.

My favorite answer is:

"It's possible that there was an increase in spread [of the virus] among those who attended the protests... but protests may have made others more reluctant to leave their homes."

"If the protests are perceived to be dangerous (because of property destruction, violent response from police or potential for infection), that can cause people who do not attend to increase their social distancing and sheltering-at-home behaviors, said Dhaval Dave, a professor of economics at Bentley University in Massachusetts and co-author of the study. But even rates of infection among protesters who got tested in pop-up clinics is proving to be low, Dave said, suggesting that many are using effective protective measures like wearing masks and attempting to social distance as much as a person is able."

From "Coronavirus is spreading so fast among Wisconsin 20-somethings that the CDC came to investigate. Is it protests? Bars? Here's what we know" in the Appleton Post-Crescent.

See? The violence might have helped, because it was one more reason to shelter at home. I was going to say a few more sarcastic things about violence, but it's the Era of That's Not Funny, and there wasn't one of them that I wasn't afraid could be taken seriously.

5:03 a.m.


"The 90s were the best. We didn’t have coronavirus, or cell phones, or computers. We had 5.0's, blockbuster, Beavis and Butthead, Wayne's World, Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan..."

"... Mortal Kombat is still better than Fortnight ... the last of the great decades."

And we had Vanilla Ice — who is quoted above, from "Vanilla Ice throwing Fourth of July concert: 'We didn't have coronavirus' in the '90s/The 'Ice Ice Baby' singer will perform for thousands in Texas, where coronavirus cases are surging" (Entertainment Weekly).

The concert will be in a large outdoor venue — Emerald Point Bar & Grill, on the shore of Lake Travis in Austin — and they're only selling tickets for half the capacity, so people can socially distance.

By they way, "Beavis and Butt-Head" are back: "Beavis and Butt-Head being rebooted for a Gen Z world by Comedy Central" (Entertainment Weekly).

AND: With all that attention, he's out:

"Record jobs gain of 4.8 million in June smashes expectations; unemployment rate falls to 11.1%."

CNBC reports.

And: "Dow surges more than 300 points after U.S. jobs report blows past expectations."

Mikhaila Peterson interviews her father, Jordan Peterson, about his drug dependency problem.

ADDED: Peterson explains the elaborate reason he went to Moscow for drug treatment. By the way, I wonder if he named his daughter after Mikhail Gorbachev, who led the Soviet Union when Mikhaila was born.

When Biden introduced a bill to make it a crime to burn the American flag.

It was back in 1989, right after the Supreme Court had held that it violated the First Amendment to make it a crime to burn the flag to express a political opinion. Look at the gravity and sincerity (or did I see a smirk?). [ADDED: WaPo's code to embed the clip did not work, but you can watch the video without a WaPo subscription here.]

"Symbols are important... We have a symbol, unlike the court’s inability to recognize it, a symbol that is needed to unite this nation, this diverse nation, a symbol is the flag."

And if that statute didn't work, he wanted a constitutional amendment. He was ready to cut back the First Amendment. [ADDED: Here's video of Biden talking about that in 1989.]

I'm reading about this in the Washington Post — "Joe Biden used to agree with Trump on flag burning. Where does he stand now?" by Karen Tumulty.
A version of Biden’s legislation passed Congress and became law. On May 14, 1990, the day the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case challenging its constitutionality, Biden held a news conference and declared the government has a “legitimate interest” in protecting the flag. The court struck down the law, citing the First Amendment’s protection of free speech....
That was entirely predictable, but Biden and others served their political interest by flaunting an intense desire to protect the flag.


It's the Word of the Day at the OED today, and what a great word! We need to use it. It's amusing. A quite useful, because it means "Conceitedness, vanity, pretentious affectation; foppery."


"An eight-foot tall whipping post has been removed from outside the Sussex County Courthouse in Georgetown, Delaware."

"The Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs (HCA) said the post had been used to bind and whip people for crimes up until 1952, with African Americans being punished disproportionately" — 6ABC reports.

I remember growing up in Delaware and talking about whipping still being on the books as a form of punishment. Exactly how did we experience that? Hard to remember, but I think it just seemed weird, something odd about our state. It was something that wasn't actually used, but it could be. It was there. You never know!

Delaware abolished the punishment of whipping in 1972, but keeping it on display was apparently considered valuable as a matter of history. But, the director of the Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, Tim Slavin says it ought "to be preserved in the state's collections, so that future generations may view it and attempt to understand the full context of its historical significance," but....
"It's quite another thing to allow a whipping post to remain in place along a busy public street - a cold, deadpan display that does not adequately account for the traumatic legacy it represents, and that still reverberates among communities of color in our state."
Interesting use of the word "deadpan," which I feel as though I've only ever seen as a way to deliver comic lines, and obviously there was no comedy behind the stark presence of the whipping post. But "deadpan" simply refers to the expressionless face, and the missing expression can just as well be disapproval or regret.

But something is lost when the notorious object is removed from its historical place. You can no longer go there and see and touch it and say, right here, this is where Delaware whipped its convicted criminals, and imagine that happening to you, perhaps contemplating whether you might prefer a minute of whipping to a year in prison.

From a 2013 Delaware Today article:

Conservative group sues to paint its own message on the street in Washington D.C....

"... after the city wrote 'Black Lives Matter' on one street and allowed protesters to paint 'Defund the Police' next to it. The conservative group said the city has effectively turned its roadways into a public forum, and so it must allow those with differing viewpoints than BLM protesters to have the same access, or else it’s violating the First Amendment."

The Washington Times reports.

I think the messages currently painted on the street are government speech, and government can and has taken a point of view, but it's worth forcing the government to state that position clearly and disavow the notion that it is simply allowing the protesters the freedom to express themselves. It will need to own that speech to win.

The appellate court — lifting the TRO against Mary Trump's book — said "while parties are free to enter into confidentiality agreements, courts are not necessarily obligated to specifically enforce them."

It noted that NDAs are "alternatively enforceable through the impassion of money damages."

CNN reports.

As you may know, that's what I said yesterday, and so many of you jumped on me in the comments.

But I need to check another source. I can't believe the court wrote "the impassion of money damages." It has to be "the imposition of money damages." Who made the mistake? I hope it's CNN and not the court.

AND: Here's the New York state court opinion. It's the intermediate court, the Appellate Division, Second Department (Brooklyn):
While Ms. Trump unquestionably possesses the same First Amendment expressive rights belonging to all Americans, she also possesses the right to enter into contracts, including the right to contract away her First Amendment rights. Parties are free to limit their First Amendment rights by contract.... A court may enforce an agreement preventing disclosure of specific information without violating the restricted party’s First Amendment rights if the party received consideration in exchange for the restriction... A party may effectively relinquish First Amendment rights by executing a secrecy agreement in which the party receives significant benefits....

Here, the plaintiff has presented evidence that Ms. Trump, in exchange for valuable consideration, voluntarily entered into a settlement agreement...

It bears noting that, while parties are free to enter into confidentiality agreements, courts are not necessarily obligated to specifically enforce them. Whether to issue an injunction is a matter of equity. Confidentiality agreements are alternatively enforceable through the imposition of money damages.
So the error is CNN's.

July 1, 2020

At the Clematis Café...


... you can write about anything you want.


And here's that Althouse Portal to Amazon.

"Carl Reiner was Rob Petrie; the workplace experience and situations drew on his experience as a TV actor and then writer in the 1950s."

"But he couldn’t be Rob Petrie.... Van Dyke’s charisma and jack-in-the-box physical comedy as the recast lead gave Reiner a more telegenic avatar. Instead, Reiner became the star-within-a-show, the shouty, egotistic boss who kept Rob dancing on eggshells. The role would not make Reiner a household face. Just the opposite. In the early seasons of the show, Brady held court and berated his writers as shot from behind (or heard from offscreen), so viewers knew him mostly from the back of his bald (or toupéed) head. ('Seinfeld' would echo the device decades later with its depiction of George Steinbrenner, voiced by Larry David and embodied by Lee Bear, his back to the camera.) The device was a masterstroke. It made Reiner’s lack of distinction distinctive. He was no longer a second banana but an angry light bulb, radiating his peevish glare on all his underlings."

From "Carl Reiner Knew TV Like the Back of His Head/With his creation 'The Dick Van Dyke Show,' the comedy legend created a self-referential masterpiece and wrote himself a memorable supporting role" (NYT).

Lots of back-of-the-head Reiner in this episode:

"Others have rowed solo from California to Hawaii. But Ms. Madsen aimed to be the first rower with paraplegia..."

"... the first openly gay athlete and, at 60, the oldest woman to do so. She was two months in and halfway to Hawaii when she discovered a problem with the hardware for her parachute anchor, which deploys in heavy seas to stabilize the craft. She had been in constant contact with her wife, Debra Madsen, in Long Beach, Calif., by text and satellite phone, and Angela was posting pictures and observations on social media for those following her voyage. Debra said in an interview that when she warned that a cyclone was coming, Angela knew she had to fix the hardware, which would require tethering herself to the boat and getting in the water. 'Tomorrow is a swim day,' Angela posted on Twitter on Saturday, June 20. On Sunday, there were no messages from her.... At around 10:30 p.m. she texted Angela that their friend Soraya Simi, who is making a documentary about Angela, was calling the Coast Guard. At around 8 p.m. Monday, the Coast Guard spotted her in the water, lifeless and tethered to her boat.... 'Angela was a warrior, as fierce as they come.... She knew the risks better than any of us and was willing to take those risks because being at sea made her happier than anything else. She told us time and again that if she died trying, that is how she wanted to go.'"

From "Angela Madsen, Paralympian Rower, Dies on Solo Pacific Voyage at 60/With her legs paralyzed, she found freedom rowing across oceans. 'It’s hopeless, it’s majestic, it’s exhilarating,' she said." (NYT).

"Something I’ve said many times is that the only way to scale moderation online is by working alongside our community members and the moderators..."

"... because they have the context to decide whether an individual piece of content is hateful or not, for example. Which means that if we don’t have agreement from our moderators and our communities that these are the rules that we’re all going to abide by, then a community that’s not willing to work with us has no place on Reddit. And I think that became abundantly clear with The_Donald over the years, and even the past few months.... The mission of Reddit is to bring community and belonging to everybody in the world. And we’ve long had this debate on Reddit and internally, weighing the trade-offs between speech and safety. There’s certain speech — for example, harassment and hate — that prevents other people from speaking. And if we have individuals and communities on Reddit that are preventing other people from using Reddit the way we intend, then that means they’re working directly against our mission.... When we started Reddit 15 years ago, we didn’t ban things. And it was easy, as it is for many young people, to make statements like that* because, one, I had more rigid political beliefs and, two, I lacked perspective and real-world experience. Over the years, we’ve been increasingly confronted with difficult decisions, and we have to weigh these trade-offs. And so here we are, believing that free speech and free expression are really important, and that’s one of the things that makes Reddit special, but at the same time, seeing that allowing everything is working against our mission."

From "Reddit’s C.E.O. on Why He Banned ‘The_Donald’ Subreddit/Steve Huffman, Reddit’s co-founder and chief executive, says new rule changes will help the company fulfill its mission" (NYT).


* In 2018, Huffman — refusing to ban the subreddit The_Donald — said "There are arguments on both sides, but ultimately, my view is that their anger comes from feeling like they don’t have a voice, so it won’t solve anything if I take away their voice."

Under the heading "Reset," British Vogue — Vogue! — has a landscape — a landscape! — on its cover.

Yes, it's David Hockney. That's sort of like getting an important actress for a normal cover, a cover about feminine beauty and fashion. They're "resetting" to a landscape — a wheat field — the very landscape that inspired Vincent Van Gogh to blow his brains out?

The British Vogue Editor-in-Chief Edward Enninful explains (in the Independent). He says it "highlights that at the core of everything is our planet." And — referring to the coronavirus — "As the world rushes to find its feet again, we all need to be more mindful of the toll our previous pace of living took on nature."

You mean we ought to wake up from the trance you've worked so hard to put us under that has made us believe we must be ever searching for new and different clothes and paying lots of money for them?

Is that "mindful" enough?

"From 2013, Marc talks with Carl Reiner about his journey from writing to acting to directing, as well as his collaborative relationships with..."

"... Sid Ceasar, Dick Van Dyke, Steve Martin and, of course, Mel Brooks. Carl died on June 29, 2020 at age 98."

Listen to that. I did. I'm in awe. What a life!

By the way, it's spelled "Caesar." There's a whole story about Sid's recognition of Carl's ability to imitate James Mason, so I give you this:

5:04... 5:20... 5:36...




... actual sunrise time: 5:22.

"[James] Charles and [Tati] Westbrook, two stars of the YouTube beauty and makeup community, had long been friends, with Charles referring to her as 'like a mother.'"

"Then, in May 2019, Westbrook released a 43-minute video in which she accused him of using his fame to 'manipulate someone’s sexuality,' referring to straight men. Charles vehemently denied this charge in a video of his own, and for a while, the two continued releasing videos about each other, centered on their fraying friendship."

I'm trying to read a damned near incomprehensible WaPo article about YouTube withdrawing advertising from some popular vloggers. You might not know the name Tati Westbrook, but her video that came out yesterday already has nearly 6 million views. Here, try to watch it — I tried but clicked it off at the 3-second mark because that stare and series of mouth noises utterly grossed me out:

I know I wrote about this controversy — whatever the hell it is — back when it was in the news last year. Ah, here it is, May 17, 2019: "I'm reading 'James Charles, Tati Westbrook, and the feud that’s ripping apart YouTube’s beauty community...' and I cannot understand it...."

Yeah, I still can't — and won't — understand it. The reason I'm blogging it today is because I was interested in the phrase "manipulate someone’s sexuality" — in "she accused him of using his fame to 'manipulate someone’s sexuality,' referring to straight men." Is it wrong to "manipulate someone’s sexuality"? Isn't that what people do when they have sex with another person — manipulate each other's sexuality?

If it's wrong to "manipulate someone’s sexuality," then it would seem that the only ethical form of sex is masturbation. A good theory to propound on the internet!

But I don't know what Tati Westbrook is really talking about. Something special against gay men? I don't know, and I'm not going to put up with Westbrook's grotesque mouth smacking to find out. Presumably, she fascinates other people with that strange, slow-talky facial action... manipulating their sexuality.

"Mary Trump’s attorney, Theodore Boutrous Jr., said in a statement that while the judge’s order is temporary, 'it still is a prior restraint on core political speech...'"

"'... that flatly violates the First Amendment. We will immediately appeal. This book, which addresses matters of great public concern and importance about a sitting president in an election year, should not be suppressed even for one day.'... Simon & Schuster said in a filing late Tuesday night that it had already printed 75,000 copies and argued that it would be unconstitutional to stop it from distributing the book. At the same time, the publisher for the first time said that it did not know until recently that Mary Trump had signed a nondisclosure agreement as part of the inheritance settlement."

From "Publication of explosive tell-all book by Trump’s niece temporarily blocked by New York state judge" (WaPo). If prior restraints are indeed a problem here, let Trump collect damages for the breach of contract (if there is one).

"The iconoclasm is good for us. It’s a great political issue for the president."

Said an anonymous "senior [Trump] campaign official," quoted in "Trump’s Twitter feed reads like a local crime blotter as he stokes a culture war" by Josh Dawsey (WaPo). The "crime blotter" material in question is the vandalism aimed at public statues and monuments. And, yes, it makes sense for the Trump campaign to see this as a good issue for them, but they didn't start the unrest and destruction. It strikes me as unfair to say that he's "stoking" any kind of "war," when the protests and attendant violence arose out of police actions in particular cities (cities run by Democrats).

What did Trump have to do with that? Is he supposed to stand back and say nothing? His antagonists take whatever they can get, every single day, and spin it against him. Are they "stoking" a "war"? No, they're just doing their normal thing, plying their trade, writing columns like "Trump’s Twitter feed reads like a local crime blotter as he stokes a culture war" by Josh Dawsey in The Washington Post. Josh Dawsey is writing that and Trump is doing his tweets, taking the material of the day, and spinning it into an argument for his side.

Of course, he's going to improve his political standing by crying out against "the two Anarchists who threw paint on the magnificent George Washington Statue in Manhattan" and the rest of the violence toward inanimate objects. He sees and takes the advantage of embracing and extolling the icons in this time of iconoclasm.

Dawsey quotes the presidential historian Douglas Brinkley:
"His argument is Main Street values against a crazy wave of anarchy. A lot will depend on how inflamed the monument issue gets. Trump has a vested issue in this. He’s actually cheering the anarchists on, daring them to take more down."
He’s actually cheering the anarchists on... You see how that works (in the mind of the eminent historian)? Because Trump speaks out against the destruction and some people hate Trump, they're inspired to do more destruction. It's a way to get Trump. And you see the rank perversity of the implicit argument: Don't speak out against the destructiveness you oppose, because it will only inflame the destroyers, and they will do more destruction.

But look more closely: This dynamic of Trump taking advantage of the iconoclasm and the iconoclasts ramping up their destruction might hurt the moderate Democrats who are trying to win the 2020 elections. It's not a good issue for them, and hanging back and waiting for it to die down and go away on its own isn't working.

ADDED: I'm reading the Wikipedia page for Douglas Brinkley:
[D]uring the 2013 inauguration coverage, CNN referred to him as "a man who knows more about the presidency than just about any human being alive." In contrast, in 2006, historian Wilfred McClay in the New York Sun appraised Brinkley's scholarship as one that has failed to "put forward a single memorable idea, a single original analysis, or a single lapidary phrase." Similarly, author Bill Bryson characterized Brinkley as "a minor American academic and sometime critic whose powers of observation and generosity of spirit would fit comfortably into a proton and still leave room for an echo."

"Sen. Rand Paul doesn’t much care what Anthony Fauci has to say. The Kentucky Republican gets his public health advice from Friedrich Hayek."

"Hayek, the Austrian-born economist and libertarian hero, died in 1992. But Paul, an ophthalmologist before he took up politics, still takes medical guidance from the 20th-century philosopher. 'Hayek had it right!' Paul proclaimed at Tuesday’s Senate health committee hearing on the coronavirus pandemic. 'Only decentralized power and decision-making based on millions of individualized situations can arrive at what risks and behaviors each individual should choose.' Paul focused his wrath on Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease official. 'Virtually every day we seem to hear from you things we can’t do,' Paul complained. 'All I hear is, we can’t do this, we can’t do that, we can’t play baseball.' Fauci assured Paul that 'I never said we can’t play a certain sport.' Unsatisfied, Paul demanded: 'We just need more optimism.'"

From "Could America’s pandemic response be any more medieval?" by Dana Milbank (WaPo).

Medieval?! If you're like me, you're thinking, what is medieval about looking at the big picture that includes maintaining psychological well-being and willingness to keep going through hard times and to invest in the future?

Milbank says "it feels" — feels!! — "as though 21st-century America is 14th-century Europe, reacting with all manner of useless countermeasures to the plague: balancing ill 'humors' and dispelling evil 'vapors' caused by planetary misalignment, religious marches and public self-flagellation, cures involving live chickens and unicorns, and the wearing of amulets and reciting of 'abracadabra.'"

It's Milbank who is having an emotional reaction. He's telling us how "it feels" — reacting to Rand Paul's rational consideration of the psychological element of enduring the pandemic and maintaining our sanity and character. Milbank is simply freaking out and wildly insulting Paul.

Milbank proceeds to rant about anti-virus measures — requiring masks, etc. — but avoids Paul's main point, which is that top-down, centralized regulation isn't the answer: "Only decentralized power and decision-making based on millions of individualized situations can arrive at what risks and behaviors each individual should choose."

"Anger and fear are widespread. Majorities of Democrats and Republicans say they feel both sentiments when thinking about the country..."

"... though these feelings are more prevalent among Democrats. And just 17% of Americans – including 25% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and 10% of Democrats and Democratic leaners – say they feel proud when thinking about the state of the country.... The new national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted June 16-22 among 4,708 adults, including 3,577 registered voters, finds sharp differences in how voters evaluate Trump’s presidency compared with Biden’s presidency, if he is elected. Very few voters – just 9% – say Trump is an average president; 37% say he is a good or great president; and a much larger share (53%) say he is poor or terrible, including 42% who think he is a terrible president. Fewer voters (28%) say Biden would be a good or great president than say that about Trump as president. And compared with Trump, many more say Biden would be average; 29% say he would be an average president. However, 43% say Biden would be poor or terrible, which is 10 percentage points lower than the share expressing such negative views about Trump as president."

Lots of interesting comparative percentages at Pew.

June 30, 2020

At the 5:07 Café...


... you can write about anything you want.

This is the earliest of the 3 sunrise photos I've put up today — from the pre-run vantage point. The actual sunrise time was 5:21.

And here's the Althouse Portal to Amazon. Thanks to all of you who are using it!

Fishing at sunrise, 5:22.


"Supreme Court says Montana program aiding private schools must be open to religious schools."

WaPo reports.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for a conservative majority in the 5 to 4 ruling, said the Montana Supreme Court was wrong to strike down the program because of a provision in the state constitution that forbids public funds from going to religious institutions. The U.S. Constitution’s protection of religious freedom prevails, he said.

“A state need not subsidize private education,” Roberts wrote. “But once a state decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.”
AND: Here's the text of the opinion. I'm going to read it and give you more detail. I've taken out a statement I had up for a few minutes, criticizing the WaPo headline in a way that I no longer think was right.

ADDED: The state legislature enacted a tax credit of up to $150 for donations to scholarship programs, which could fund tuition for kids attending private schools. The state Department of Revenue interpreted the statute — which referred to "qualified education providers" — to exclude religious schools. That seems to be in line with the state constitution's prohibition of financial aid to "any church, school, academy, seminary, college, university, or other literary or scientific institution, controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination," but the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution requires strict scrutiny of discrimination against religion.

Under Supreme Court precedent, there's no Establishment Clause problem in including religious schools. The aid is defined in a religion-neutral manner, and it's only the parents' choice that determines that the money goes to a religious school. The hard question is whether the state court could use the state's constitutional "no aid" provision to strike down what the legislature did. The state's separation of church and state is especially staunch — stronger than the federal Establishment Clause — but can that be the "compelling state interest" that justifies discrimination against religion? The majority's answer is no, because the Free Exercise Clause is federal law.

But the state court took the benefit of the program away from everyone. So doesn't that achieve nondiscrimination? The dissenters say it does, but the majority says the legislature chose this program, and the state court's first step was a discrimination against religion. There was a second step, depriving everyone of the program, but that step was founded on the discrimination the court thought the state constitution required.

"What happens if it's a 'Flight 93 Election' and your side is corkscrewing down into the earth?"

That's the prospect facing once and possibly future Trumpists. It's undeniable at this point: Trump's falling behind and flailing. He's alienating white voters, and not gaining enough of any other kind.... If Trump loses, and in the process Democrats retain the Senate and win back the House [sic], they will have the chance to do big things. On many issues, they’re split — but one big thing they’ll be able to agree on is passing a giant Gang-of-8 style amnesty bill.... They see a mass influx of immigrants (not irrationally) as the guarantor of a more liberal electorate on into the future. And it will be irreversible, Once you amnesty you can't go back.....  [W]e'll be a nation open to the planet's free moving labor.... Second and Third Worlders stands ready to flood the market anytime wages increase (or even when they don’t).... [That]'s why the fantasizing about Trump abandoning his attempt at reelection should probably be taken seriously and even egged on... Trump himself is clearly thinking a lot about losing these days, as when he mused, absurdly, that President Joe Biden would have to finish his border wall. 'And he’s going to be your President because some people don’t love me maybe.'... The Democrats’ nominee is so weak that Republicans... might still have a chance at retaining the White House...."

Writes Mickey Kaus in "A Time to Bail... Trumpism is more important than Trump."

Pence is the most obvious choice if Trump withdraws, but Kaus also names, Mitt Romney, Tom Cotton, Josh Hawley, Nikki Haley, and Mitch Daniels.

"This is the moment for a Rooseveltian approach to the U.K. The country has gone through a profound shock. But in those moments, you have the opportunity to change, and to do things better."

Said Boris Johnson, quoted in "A Surprising Role Model Emerges for Boris Johnson: F.D.R./The British prime minister, trying to regroup in the coronavirus pandemic, wants to bury Thatcherism and embark on a program of ambitious public works" (NYT).
Mr. Johnson is a Conservative populist who ran on a platform of pulling Britain out of the European Union and had, until now, modeled himself on Roosevelt’s wartime ally, Winston Churchill....

One of [Johnson's] closest advisers, Michael Gove, recently [said]... “Roosevelt recognized that, faced with a crisis that had shaken faith in government, it was not simply a change of personnel and rhetoric that was required, but a change in structure, ambition, and organization”....

“F.D.R. was someone who had an extraordinary intuitive feel for where the public was and what the mood of the country was,” said Robert Dallek, an American presidential historian who published a biography of Roosevelt in 2017. “Does someone like Boris Johnson have that?”
From The Guardian, "Absolutely fanciful': Boris Johnson's new deal not Rooseveltian, say critics/The PM wants to be put on the same pedestal as Franklin D Roosevelt as he unveils £5bn capital projects":
“The notion that he’s going to turn himself into FDR seems absolutely fanciful,” said professor Anand Menon, of the UK in a Changing Europe thinktank. “FDR surrounded himself with experts, and drew on what they had to say, in a way that Boris Johnson so far has not.”
By the way, I'd avoid the figure of speech, "put on a pedestal." Things on pedestals are not doing well at the moment. They seem to be asking for a toppling.

But here in America, we don't put Franklin Roosevelt on a pedestal. Look, his statue is firmly planted on the ground, and he is seated in a wheelchair...

... not lording it over us at all.

RIP, Carl Reiner.

Carl Reiner lived a long time. Not 2,000 years, but a lot — 98.

"Bret, you’re the perfect Biden pitchman. Really, you deserve a statue."

Said Gail Collins to Bret Stephens in "Is Statue-Toppling a Monumental Error?/Where you place yourself along the vanguard-to-vandals spectrum says a lot about how you see the past — and the future" (NYT).

Here's Stephens's perfect pitch:
If Bernie Sanders had been the nominee, I’d be writing in someone’s name.... But the idea that a Biden presidency would be a threat to the Republic is laughable: It would be a return to politics as we used to know it before the proverbial sacking of Rome.

My pitch to the Romneys and Boltons of the world is simple: In order for their vision of sane conservatism to win, Trump’s insane vision must lose so decisively that it will be politically destroyed and morally repudiated by the broad majority of Republicans themselves. The bigger Biden’s margin of victory in November, the better it will be for normal conservatives in future Novembers. A vote for Biden now is a vote for a G.O.P. that has a future — in a country that has a future.
Illustration of the Trump presidency, from the mind of Bret Stephens:

I know you can't unscramble an omelette, but can you unsack a Rome?

ADDED: The painting is "Genseric sacking Rome," by Karl Briullov, found at the Wikipedia page "Sack of Rome (455)." It's a 19th century painting and the artist was a Russian, so view the racial characterizations in that context. The Vandals were Germanic people who came from the area that is now Poland.

"Average people have no opportunity to prepare when there’s a bump in the night or a riot breaks out...."

"Americans who find themselves needing to defend themselves are unlikely to have spares on hand trained for the occasion. It’s these situations where they need a proven, reliable, and multi‐​purpose firearm—and yes, that includes 'assault weapons.' When innocent Americans can face multiple attackers, and it can take more than 10 shots to reliably stop a single one, is a 30‐​round magazine and a reliable firearm unreasonable? Definitely not."

From "A Defense of 'Assault Weapons'" published at Cato Institute in May 2019. I'm reading it today a propos of that last post. Last year, the question What law-abiding person needs an assault weapon? was asked as if it were self-answering and the answer was Obviously, no one.

Last year.

I'll just show you one example of the mockery I've seeing of this poor couple, who were beset by a mob and unable to get help from the police.

That went up this morning — after it's been in the news that these people are not uneducated right-wingers. They are lawyers (i.e., educated) and they are Democrats (with a record of donations). [UPDATE: Snopes says the reports that he donated to Democrats were wrong — mistaking him for someone else with the same name: "According to the FEC, the McCloskey in the viral video made multiple donations to the Republican National Committee, to the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, and to Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. in 2016 and 2017."]

Here's some background on the couple, Mark and Patricia McCloskey (at KMOV4).

From Instapundit's post about the couple: "A friend on Facebook observes that although the wife clearly knows nothing about guns, she armed up and stood by her man. You could do worse — though please, go take some lessons now."

And here's Mark McCloskey explaining himself:

"It is self-destructive for any society..."

Washington Square Park... it's like it's Slaveowner Square Park....

Officially becoming a billionaire... with tomatoes and a wilted rose.

5:26 a.m.


"Both The Washington Post and The New York Times have front-page articles touting Chief Justice John Roberts as the new 'swing vote.'"

That's a post of mine from 2 years ago... in case you want to act surprised at the Roberts vote in yesterday's abortion case.

Back then, I said:
The center position is so powerful. Having seen the attention and (faux) adulation given to Justice Kennedy over the years, the Justices must be eyeing the vacancy. Some new person will get Kennedy's seat, but he is likely to be a staunch conservative like Gorsuch. The real vacancy we're seeing is in the "swing vote" position, and any Justice could feel pulled to try to sit there. Now, the liberals can't really aspire to occupy the position, but one of them, probably Justice Kagan, might become the force behind the swinging of one of the conservatives, and Roberts is the most likely to get swung. I picture Roberts seeing an opportunity to improve the reputation of the Court and to overcome the overt political look it's acquired over the years. I think there should be more elegant ways to do that than to simply throw his vote to the liberal 4 now and then. But if that's all he can do, I suspect he will.

"I would love to know how to be more American, but I can't find any books or courses on the subject."

A question for the WaPo advice columnist:
My family and I came to America from the Soviet Union when I was a teenager. We became citizens. I got educated here and own a successful business. I write well and speak correctly, with almost no accent. I feel like I am an American.

I love America and try to learn new things every day, but I feel like something is missing in me.

Since I was born and spent my formative years in a communist country (truly like another planet, compared to the USA), my "autopilot" reactions are not like those of typical American-born people. For instance, my manners, topics of conversation, humor, dress, attitude toward money and even body language sometime seem "foreign."

I feel like it is hurting me to be "culturally different." I don't think I say or do anything straight-up offensive — it's more like a lot of subtle little things.

How can I fix this "handicap?"

I would love to know how to be more American, but I can't find any books or courses on the subject.
I haven't read the answer yet, but I love the question, and the predictable answer seems obvious: America is (or should be) about diversity, and you shouldn't think of yourself as foreign, but another great part of nation of immigrants. Thanks for contributing your special, individual mix of manners, topics, and attitudes. You belong here, and we love you. The only fix for your "handicap" is to stop thinking of it as a handicap.

The columnist, Amy Dickinson, does begin with something like that: "[H]ere is a beautiful 'American' ideal (so different from the culture you were raised in): All Americans have the right to be uniquely themselves, and that definitely includes you."

But she does give him some ideas to transform himself into a person who comes across as more stereotypically American:

1. Commit to some community activities. Amy suggests volunteer firefighting, teaching English as a second language, and poll working.

2. Consume cultural materials: study American history, watch some movies that embody Americanness (“Singing in the Rain,” “Goodfellas,” “Barbershop,” “13th” and “Ramy"), read some novels (Mark Twain, Edith Wharton, Sherman Alexie, Gary Shteyngart and Jericho Brown), and listen to music (the only music suggested is... Dolly Parton!).

3. Get a friend to keep prompting you about each little thing you say or do whenever it seems less than American. And the punchline is that this person might say that "your effort makes you the most 'American' person they know." To which I say absolutely not. Your effort is the most foreign thing about you. Be yourself, with whatever set of quirks and predilections you've got — that's the American way... at least it was or should be... but those bastards want to take it away from us....

By the way, Gary Shteyngart was a good suggestion for something for this guy to read:
Born Igor Semyonovich Shteyngart... in the Soviet Union, he spent the first seven years of his childhood living in a square dominated by a huge statue of Vladimir Lenin in what is now St. Petersburg—which he alternately calls "St. Leningrad" or "St. Leninsburg". He comes from a Jewish family, with an ethnically Russian maternal grandparent, and describes his family as typically Soviet.... Shteyngart immigrated to the United States in 1979 and was brought up in Queens, New York, with no television in the apartment in which he lived, where English was not the household language. He did not shed his thick Russian accent until the age of 14....

June 29, 2020

At the Gray Cloud Café...


... you can write about whatever you want.

And think about using the Althouse Portal to Amazon.

Have a swell night's sleep!

"A serious recall effort is about to begin to remove Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes Conway from office...."

"A tall order but the people of Madison are tired of the wanton destruction, physical violence, and harassment and general kowtowing. They are sickened by a Progressive Dane mayor who apologizes to the mob for apologizing to the police. Who demanded the immediate release of accused shakedown artist and convicted felon Devonere A. Johnson. Who will yank four minority race police from our four troubled high schools despite surveys showing at least 75% of parents WANT school resource officers. Tonight, with the connivance of the mayor, an intimidated school board [ended] the popular program...."

Writes David Blaska (with an update, in brackets, added by me).

What's wrong with being a warrior... and how is it inconsistent with being a woman?


That's one of the protest murals in downtown Madison. It was photographed by me today, near this familiar corner:


I know feminism is so last year, but as I'm getting this racial ideology slammed in my face, I must protest on the ground of feminism. A woman can be a warrior! Why would you bemoan your little girls growing into woman warriors?

I remember when young women were fascinated by the book "The Woman Warrior" by Maxine Hong Kingston (1976). Excerpt:
After I grew up, I heard the chant of Fa Mu Lan, the girl who took her father’s place in battle. Instantly I remembered that as a child I had followed my mother about the house, the two of us singing about how Fa Mu Lan fought gloriously and returned alive from war to settle in the village. I had forgotten this chant that was once mine, given me by my mother, who may not have known its power to remind. She said I would grow up a wife and a slave, but she taught me the song of the warrior woman, Fa Mu Lan. I would have to grow up a warrior woman.... “And this is Fa Mu Lan... She was a woman warrior, and really existed.”

I should add that "Mulan" is a current film.

"The Supreme Court on Monday turned down a challenge to new federal death penalty protocols..."

"... potentially clearing the way for the government to resume executions as soon as next month for the first time since 2003. The court, without comment, declined to take up the lawsuit filed by four death row inmates. As is customary, it gave no reason. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor indicated they would have accepted the case.... The individual inmates facing execution could file additional challenges, which could affect whether and when these sentences are carried out.... An attorney for one of the inmates assailed the Justice Department for its push to execute the four men... 'Even as people across the country are demanding that leaders rethink crime, punishment and justice, the government is barreling ahead with its plans to carry out the first federal executions in 17 years'....  Attorney General William P. Barr announced last summer that the department planned to resume executions using a new lethal-injection procedure that involves a single drug, pentobarbital.... A district judge said last year that the government’s new protocol was inconsistent with the Federal Death Penalty Act, a 1994 law requiring that federal executions be carried out 'in the manner prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence is imposed.'... A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled 2 to 1 this spring... that the law applies only to the top-line choice among execution methods, such as whether to use lethal injection instead of hanging or electrocution...."

From "Supreme Court won’t hear challenge to new federal death penalty procedure" (WaPo).

The 4 persons facing execution were all convicted of murdering children.

The top-rated comment over there should win a prize for predictability: "And the GOP calls themselves the pro-life party."

Enlisting school children to paint "Black Live Matters" murals for downtown Madison.

I'm reading "Painting murals gives students empowering role in protest movement" (Wisconsin State Journal):
As murals were being painted at the end of the school year, SJ Hemmerich, art teacher at Randall Elementary School, created a slide presentation of them. Hemmerich then presented it to students and as a last assignment asked , “If you could design your own mural for (Black Lives Matter), what would it be?” Then Hemmerich got the idea of why not do it for real.

Hemmerich, like other teachers, reached out to “Black and brown students” to get involved. Hemmerich got permission to work on one large mural and five panels located near each other. ... Hemmerich also sent an email out to art teachers in the Madison School District to recruit more help beyond Randall and wound up with more than 135 students and some staff members.

“I am really passionate about social justice work,” Hemmerich said. “I thought it would be a really good way to get students involved.”...

Monique Karlen, art teacher at La Follette High School, said she started by recruiting some of her students and then got other help from students from Middleton and East high schools...
The only mention of parents in the article is about one student who said that her parents worry about her participation in the protests, so the mural-painting is a good, safe alternative. But I don't think teachers should be recruiting children to engage in political activism — even if it's artistic — without first involving the parents and getting their consent. I don't think adults should put any sort of pressure on children to take a political position and to do political work — even if it's artwork. Teachers should not be exploiting their access to children for any political purpose. They are given access to our children for the purpose of education, and it is a solemn trust that should never be violated.

A real guillotine?

No, just a petite model guillotine:

That's about like hanging someone in effigy, but with more pointing at the French Revolution.

"Have the people hyping this impressively crazy book [White Fragility] actually read it?"

"[Robin] DiAngelo isn’t the first person to make a buck pushing tricked-up pseudo-intellectual horseshit as corporate wisdom, but she might be the first to do it selling Hitlerian race theory. White Fragility has a simple message: there is no such thing as a universal human experience, and we are defined not by our individual personalities or moral choices, but only by our racial category. If your category is 'white,' bad news: you have no identity apart from your participation in white supremacy ('Anti-blackness is foundational to our very identities… Whiteness has always been predicated on blackness'), which naturally means 'a positive white identity is an impossible goal.' DiAngelo instructs us there is nothing to be done here, except 'strive to be less white.'... Corporate America doubtless views the current protest movement as something that can be addressed as an H.R. matter, among other things by hiring thousands of DiAngelos to institute codes for the proper mode of Black-white workplace interaction.... One of the central tenets of DiAngelo’s book (and others like it) is that racism cannot be eradicated and can only be managed through constant, 'lifelong' vigilance, much like the battle with addiction. A useful theory, if your business is selling teams of high-priced toxicity-hunters to corporations as next-generation versions of efficiency experts — in the fight against this disease, companies will need the help forever and ever.... It’s almost like someone thinks there’s a benefit to keeping people divided."

Writes Matt Taibbi.