July 11, 2020

Sunrise.

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Write about anything you like in the comments.

"Roger Stone is a victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years in an attempt to undermine the Trump Presidency."

So reads the official White House statement about the commutation of the Stone sentence. I know — from my very slight dabbling in radio and TV news last night and this morning — that this issue is getting talked to death. It's the outrage of the day, blotting out whatever was the outrage of the day before, and soon to be blotted out by the next outrage. So I don't think my time is well used listening to any of that. If I know they're talking, I already know what they are saying — more or less. But I do think it's worth looking at the details of what the White House put in an official statement in this case. Most official statements are in bland officialese, though it can be interesting to try to read between the lines or just to translate it into plain English.

But this official statement is written in the style of Trump's rally rhetoric. Let's continue (the boldface is mine):

If this won't get you cancelled... well, it won't, so that shows you one more thing that's wrong with cancel culture.

A sign that says "The right to openly discuss ideas must be defended" brings out the absolute worst in people.

"This practice of reading someone's words in an attempt to look for 'dogwhistles' is the opposite of 'charitable interpretation'..."

"... which means 'interpreting a speaker's statements in the most rational way possible and, in the case of any argument, considering its best, strongest possible interpretation.' In contrast, dogwhistle hunting is the practice of interpreting someone's words in the most unreasonable or offensive way imaginable."

Writes my son John, discussing a recent effort to cancel Steven Pinker.

I've been seeing this Steven Pinker story out of the corner of my eye for a while. I don't even know what the cancel ghouls even say that he did wrong. I just assume they're crying wolf. (Sorry to introduce a rival canine into this little post.)

"Mom went back to the gym, to aqua aerobics. Dad went out to pick up the recycling around town. So there you go, we expended 11 weeks of our lives, and now our parents are wading around in a cesspool of germs."

Said a woman whose parents are in their 80s, quoted in "As the pandemic surges, old people alarm their adult kids by playing bridge and getting haircuts" (WaPo).

Here's a quote from that woman's father: "Let’s face it, I’m 80 years old and I don’t have a whole lot to lose in the end anyway. It’s just at what level you’re willing to take your edge. I’m a Marine. I was in Vietnam, people shot at me, so this isn’t that much more dangerous than that, I don’t think."

It’s just at what level you’re willing to take your edge — interesting phrase. Some kind of Marine talk? I googled. Look at this hilarious failure to get what I wanted out of Google (click image to enlarge and clarify):
Back to the WaPo article:
Even when older people do understand the risks, it may not terrify them as much, said Laura Carstensen, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. “Older people in general experience less stress in everyday life,” she said... “They absolutely see themselves at risk, [but] there is lots of evidence that as people come to the end of their life, they come to live in the present and they stop worrying about the what-ifs,” she said.
I think people at different ages have a different awareness of death — a different relationship with concept. Perhaps younger people have kept it at a distance and are therefore more shocked when it's suddenly in their vicinity and feel an urgent need to react and fight off what absolutely must not happen (not for a very long time). But old people are so used to having thought about it on so many different occasions that it's become a familiar part of life, and it's not so alarming. There's nothing to do about it. It's been walking alongside you for quite some time, and you know at any point your exit from the path of life may turn up but you walk on, enjoying the moment you're in, and don't worry about exactly where, up ahead, that exit is. It's somewhere, not that far.

"Reopening Schools Will Be a Huge Undertaking. It Must Be Done" — say the editors of the NYT.

I'm surprised to see this mainly because it accords with what Trump has been saying — at least at a high level of generality. I'm sure there will be pointed disagreements with Trump about the specifics. Let's read:
American children need public schools to reopen in the fall. Reading, writing and arithmetic are not even the half of it. Kids need to learn to compete and to cooperate. They need food and friendships; books and basketball courts; time away from family and a safe place to spend it. Parents need public schools, too. They need help raising their children, and they need to work.
We've got to get the kids away from their parents. Who knows what decline is setting in as parents dominate the lives of "their" children (our children!)?
In Britain, the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health has warned that leaving schools closed “risks scarring the life chances of a generation of young people.” The organization’s American counterpart, the American Academy of Pediatrics, has urged administrators to begin from “a goal of having students physically present in school.”...
Everything's a risk. It also risks making the children better. Wouldn't that be a kick in the head? But we can't do an experiment on a whole generation, suddenly homeschooling them all. What if we found out the kids did better? What if day-long incarceration in school buildings and the schoolteacher-administered compulsory education isn't the best way for the young human being to live? Quick! Get them back in before anyone finds out!

Most of the linked editorial is about all the money that must flow to local school districts. Also, President Trump should wear a mask. And...
He could work to get money to schools. Instead, Mr. Trump has sent tweets, demanding in ALL CAPS that schools reopen — and threatening to cut off existing federal funding.
But "money alone is not enough." The school buildings aren't large enough to put enough distance between the students. (They're assuming the kids will stay in the distanced spaces in which they are put.) So the editors promote the idea of doing classes outdoors — in the playground and "give serious consideration to closing streets around schools and hold[] classes there." But what about bathrooms? And what if it rains?
The limits of virtual classrooms were on painful display this spring. While some students thrived, or at least continued to learn, others faded away. Boston reported that roughly 20 percent of enrolled students never logged in. In Los Angeles, one-third of high school students failed to participate. In Washington, D.C., the school system simply gave up and ended the school year three weeks early. Evidence suggests schools particularly struggled to reach lower-income kids, exacerbating performance gaps....
This is the worst of it. The students with the best home life might do even better with school out of the picture and the parents left to figure out how to educate and feed and support beneficial play for their children. The children with the worst home life are worse off than ever.

The NYT editors end by knocking Trump for asking "the C.D.C. to relax its public health guidelines for safely reopening schools." But if you want to open the schools, what's the alternative? Here's the answer the editors crafted: "Take the measure of the best available science, implement the necessary safety measures and maximize the amount of time that children can spend in classrooms." I don't know how that gets you anywhere different from what the President said to do. It seems like the editors and Trump are all saying: Let's do the best we can but the kids need to go back to school.

"We are happy to welcome this block party to Hilldale although would have been grateful to be involved in the organization of it so that we could prepare the site to receive a crowd and work to insure that all COVID-related standards of mass gatherings were met."

Said a spokeswoman for Hilldale Shopping Center (here in Madison), quoted in "Hilldale Shopping Center closes stores ahead of protest" (Wisconsin State Journal).
Organizers in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in Madison and Milwaukee said they came together at the shopping center in an effort to educate patrons on the plight faced by Black people in America. But the normally bustling shopping center was void of customers as businesses shut their doors at about 2:30 p.m., prior to the kickoff of the event....

Organizers said they were told by shopping center management that the stores were closed to accommodate the block party, but organizers were skeptical. They said shopping center security tried to block them from setting up a sound system and grill outside the Apple Store.
Oh! They felt unwelcome. And the customers of the stores didn't work as a captive audience for this proffered "education." They all went home! There was even free food... but who would eat protester-prepared food in the time of social-distancing?!
“We need to learn how to stop ignoring people’s voices and listen to them,” Frank Nitty, a community organizer from Milwaukee]. “People aren’t trying to be violent, they’re trying to be heard.”
Remember yesterday, we were talking about an essay by Damon Young, "You Want to Talk About Racism? Pay Me/And even then, maybe not"? Young, a black author of a book about racism, wanted white people to realize that when he's out and about in his ordinary life — "maybe I’m out walking, shopping or playing with my children" — he doesn't want people using that as an opportunity to talk to him about racism — even if they think they mean well and they're participating in this conversation about race we keep hearing about.

The feeling is mutual, it seems. The shoppers at Hilldale cleared out immediately. Now, part of that was probably concern about potential violence. And, frankly, Nitty's statement that his group isn't "trying to be violent" is not terribly reassuring. We've seen peaceful protests devolve into violence. How did the violence happen? I'm willing to believe the protesters, most of them, were not "trying to be violent," but then windows got broken and chaos happened. It's enough to make anybody who was at Hilldale to buy an iPad at the Apple Store or a flimsy blouse as Anthropologie to get in the car and go home.

But quite aside from the fear of disorder (and the lack of interest in street food in the time of coronavirus), few of us want someone to come up to us when we're "out walking, shopping or playing with [our] children" and force us into a conversation — or an "educational" lecture — about race.

I put the quote from the Hilldale spokesperson in the headline because it's so guarded and bullshitty.

July 10, 2020

At the Friday Night Café...

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... you can choose your own topics.

Lin-Manuel Miranda jumps into the Goya boycott.

"President Trump commuted the sentence of his longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr. on seven felony crimes on Friday..."

"... according to the White House, using the power of his office to help a former campaign adviser days before Mr. Stone was to report to a federal prison to serve a 40-month term. Mr. Stone, 67, a longtime Republican operative convicted of obstructing a congressional investigation into Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign, has been openly lobbying for clemency, maintaining that he could die in prison and emphasizing that he had stayed loyal to the president rather than help investigators. 'He knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him,' Mr. Stone told the journalist Howard Fineman on Friday before the announcement. 'It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn’t.' Mr. Trump has long argued that Mr. Stone was persecuted and lashed out at the prosecutors, the judge and even the jury forewoman in his case. The real villains, he argued, were former President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., whom he has falsely accused of spying on his campaign, as well as the people who investigated his associates, including the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey."

The NYT reports.

"I guess I understand the compulsion to find somewhere to engage this national conversation... The white people who do this..."

"... don’t realize (or maybe just don’t give a damn) that we’re on different timelines. You learned yesterday what white privilege means? Great! Welcome to 1962. This, however, doesn’t mean I need to engage you about it today. Or tomorrow. Or ever. And most important, maybe I’m out walking, shopping or playing with my children, or out just, I don’t know, staring at a fire hydrant because I want to give myself a break from writing about, from speaking about, from thinking about and from raging about racism, and you’re asking me to work for you for free. And that’s what it is: work. Free labor. An absolution device for your conscience, provided by me, shipped for free. There’s nothing inherently valuable for me out of that exchange. I don’t have a bucket list. But if I did, a 17-minute conversation about lynching, while in line for ice cream, wouldn’t be on it."

From "You Want to Talk About Racism? Pay Me/And even then, maybe not" by Damon Young, author of "What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir In Essays" (NYT).

Conversation is not like money. Handing someone a conversation is not like handing them money, because money is neutrally useful and if it's given to you, doesn't take any of your time. But a conversation isn't just a giving. It's a taking of someone's time, and it's always about something specific. That person has some power over how the conversation goes and can try to move it somewhere other than where you had in mind, but that requires time and effort, and who are you to demand that from them? Did you think about that? Or do you imagine yourself to be a wanted gift?

I looked up where Young lives, because I was trying to picture a place where people see a black man, recognize him as an author of a book about race, and think it's perfectly okay to make an effort to engage him on the topic of race, and have a conversation right there on the street at that moment, because that's where they encountered him. He lives in Pittsburgh.

I'm giving this post my tag "etiquette." Don't people understand etiquette?!

"Becoming a Himbo."

Yes, you've said it before — blah blah blah TikTok is the devil. I'm not even going to put through comments that try to make that the topic. Write your own blog if you need to do that. This discussion is only for people who watch the video below, which I am recommending as funny and memorable. Once you see the graph and its 4 quadrants, you will never forget them, probably not, unless you're too offended by the realization that our Himbo-to-be would put you in the lower left quadrant, but get the hell out of there — become a Himbo!

"In San Francisco, where many locals push for... police reform, those same locals are tired of the break-ins."

"So how do they reconcile 'defund the police' with 'stop the smash and grabs'? [Tech businessman Chris] Larsen believes he has the answer: Put security cameras in the hands of neighborhood groups. Put them everywhere. He’s happy to pay for it.... Privatization is hardly a new thing in the city. Around a quarter of San Francisco parents send their children to private school... Plenty of people already have security cameras pointing toward the street. So would a privately owned camera network be so out of bounds?... Neighbors band together and decide where to put the cameras. They are installed on private property at the discretion of the property owner, and in San Francisco many home and business owners want them. The footage is monitored by the neighborhood coalition. The cameras are always recording. The cameras are not hidden.... When crime-fighting is put into civilian hands, new and unregulated behaviors can emerge. San Francisco’s police are controlled by many laws that do not apply to civilians. One of those laws is that the police in the city may not use facial-recognition technology.... The technology that Mr. Larsen is using is sophisticated... 'designed to scale up to do license plate reading and facial recognition'... Mr. Larsen balked at the idea of his cameras using facial recognition: 'We’re strongly opposed to facial recognition technology... Facial recognition is too powerful given the lack of laws and protections to make it acceptable.'"

From "Why Is a Tech Executive Installing Security Cameras Around San Francisco?/Chris Larsen knows that a crypto mogul spending his own money for a city’s camera surveillance system might sound creepy. He’s here to explain why it’s not" (NYT).

Taking security private and avoiding the limitations that apply to the police... who can object? Surely not the "locals" who are calling for an end to the police, but how will they get credit for their virtue if they themselves engage in behavior that is beyond what the law permits the police to do? Or is facial recognition technology different from the on-the-street brutality that has been the focus of the anti-police protests? If the answer is yes, that suggests where we are going — away from taking down criminals who are trying to resist arrest and into pervasive surveillance and tracking that ensures the ultimate capture of criminals who initially escape.

I'm assuming Larsen is bullshitting about his opposition to facial recognition. Do you think private citizens, doing their own security, are going to voluntarily take on the limitations that the law puts on the police?

In the news — the attack on individualism.

Having created a tag "the attack on individualism" — for reasons stated in the previous post — and gone back to find that subject in my archive, I wanted to look at the present and see how much of this topic was in the current news.

Here are a few things I found:

1. "Big Data Analytics Shows How America's Individualism Complicates Coronavirus Response" (UVa Today):
Painstakingly, and with tremendous amounts of data processed by 97 advanced computers, Jingjing Li, Ting Xu, Natasha Zhang Foutz and Bo Bian went county-by-county to track levels of individualism – measured by the amount of time each locality spent on the American frontier from 1790 to 1890 – and correlate individualism to social distancing compliance and COVID-19-related crowdfunding.... “We were astounded by the large magnitude of those numbers, because they suggest that variations in individualism could account for almost half of a policy’s effectiveness,” said Li, an assistant professor of information technology in the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce.
2. "Andrew McCutchen criticizes Yankees' hair policy: 'It takes away from our individualism'" (CBS Sports):
The Yankees' "appearance policy" has been in force since not long after George Steinbrenner purchased the team in the early 1970s. As the story goes, Steinbrenner didn't care for Thurman Munson's appearance during one singing of the national anthem, and he put in place the following mandates: "All players, coaches and male executives are forbidden to display any facial hair other than mustaches (except for religious reasons), and scalp hair may not be grown below the collar. Long sideburns and 'mutton chops' are not specifically banned."
3. "How Individualism Spreads Racism" by Jackson Wu (Patheos):

That last post finally pushed me over the line to create a tag I've been thinking about for a while...

... "the attack on individualism."

The pressure was building after yesterday's post about Seattle's effort to teach its employees about their own "Internalized Racial Superiority," which is "defined by" — among other things — "individualism."

What pushed me over the line into new tag creation this morning was a criticism of women who fall into the "trap" of talking about their individual struggle with motherhood.

I went back into the archive and added the tag to a few old things:

June 19, 2020 — This is a quote from a review of the book "White Fragility": "'I am white and am addressing a common white dynamic,' DiAngelo explains. 'I am mainly writing to a white audience; when I use the terms us and we, I am referring to the white collective.' It is always a collective, because DiAngelo regards individualism as an insidious ideology. 'White people do not exist outside the system of white supremacy,' DiAngelo writes, a system 'we either are unaware of or can never admit to ourselves.'"

November 29, 2015 — I quoted the Tom Wolfe essay, "The 'Me' Decade and the Third Great Awakening":

I'm trying to read "Urban Baby fell into a trap all too common of our time"...

... by Helaine Olen (at WaPo). I'd never heard of Urban Baby, but it was "the seminal mothering forum of the aughts" owned by CBS Interactive, which just shut it down and isn't preserving the archive. You get to a dead end if you go to UrbanBaby.com (but there's always the Wayback Machine). I had to look up exactly when it started — "the aughts" being an annoyingly vague factoid. It was 1999. And why did CBS close it? Because it "fell into a trap all too common of our time" — whatever that is? Or was it for some other reason, and Olen just wants to accuse it of falling into some trap she's going to tell us is too common?
Urban Baby, born shortly before the millennium...
Oh, okay, she did more nearly approximate the date. My annoyance was getting out ahead of itself.
... was, in the words of New York magazine, “the collective id” of upper-middle-class professional urban mothers. It was wild, it was raunchy, it was no-holds-barred. People — all anonymous — talked about breastfeeding and strollers, sex and infidelity, money and schools, and crazy encounters with other moms, family members or even strangers.... Urban Baby was part of the first wave of confessional Internet women’s writing about parenting... and the simultaneous ratcheting up of expectations of what makes for good mothering.... This new world of parenting was challenging and liberating, but, most importantly, optimistic. There was the almost-always unspoken assumption that the Internet was going to change the world of mothering for the better.

But that did not happen. For all the delights of the mom blogosphere, its members fell into a trap all too common to our time: We might kvetch about our problems jointly, but we struggle, for the most part, alone.
All right. There's the "trap all too common to our time." Individualism. Failure to do collective action:
[V]ery few connected their struggles to the greater society and economy causing their woes....  [T]he mothering blogosphere and forums lost ground to social media, to Instagram posts by neighbors and celebrity influencers alike about the wonderfulness of their parenting lives....
The "wonderfulness" Instagrammers were not uncovering the woes of motherhood, so they were even worse individualists. They propagandized for their individualized selves and gloried in their superior prestige.
[T]he little organizing done by moms connected via online communities often revolved around such things as convincing stores that banned strollers to change their policies.... [F]or all their complaints, all too many of the people doing the talking on sites like Urban Baby still believe that they can individually surmount the ever-increasing challenges of American life rather than changing the system that underlies them. 
They didn't go big and demand more and take to the streets. Okay, I get that Olen thinks complaining and working through personal problems by writing on line isn't showy and disruptive enough and that what "our time" needs is big collective action. But that doesn't mean that the mothers in these forums were in a trap. That just means they didn't process their problems into the kind of politics that a lot of us think is — to use Olen's awkward phrase — "all too common of our time."

And I still don't know why CBS ended the forum! I don't think it was because the participants fell into the "trap" of talking about life as they experienced it as individuals.

July 9, 2020

A mellow sunrise this morning.

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Watching too was my animal friend...

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There was a waning gibbous moon...

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But 22 minutes after the "actual" sunrise time, the orange orb had not shown up:

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Write about anything you like in the comments. And thanks for using the Althouse Portal to Amazon.

"The mayor of Seoul, the country’s second-most powerful official and a potential presidential candidate, was found dead just days after a secretary in his office told the police that he had sexually harassed her since 2017..."

"... the authorities said on Friday.... His daughter told the police that he had left home after leaving a cryptic, 'will-like message'.... That detail immediately fueled speculation that Mr. Park could have taken his own life.... Mr. Park... had often been cited as a possible successor to President Moon Jae-in, whose single five-year term is set to expire in 2022.... Before becoming mayor, Mr. Park was a prominent human rights attorney who founded the country’s most influential civil rights group. As a lawyer, he won several major cases, including South Korea’s first sexual harassment case. He also campaigned for the rights of so-called comfort women, Korean sex slaves who were lured or forced to work in brothels for the Japanese Army during World War II. During the military dictatorship of the 1980s, Mr. Park helped win the conviction of a police officer who molested a female student activist during an interrogation. In the 1990s, he helped win damages for a teaching assistant at Seoul National University who accused her professor of refusing to rehire her after she protested unwanted sexual advances. It was the first sexual harassment case in South Korean history.... President Moon has supported the #MeToo movement, but accusations against prominent allies have been particularly disturbing for his governing liberal camp."

The NYT reports.

The highest-rated comment over there is: "This is very sad of course. But it also shows how different the mentality and the sense of guilt and personal responsibility is from the American alpha male (no names needed)."

I reject the idea that committing suicide is "taking responsibility."

"The President of the Republic became convinced of the need to restore Notre-Dame de Paris as closely as possible to its last complete state, coherent and well-known..."

"... while betting on sustainable development in the choice of materials and site management" the French government announced today, the Washington Post reports.

After the fire destroyed the roof and the spire, architects were asked to propose the rebuilding, and there was some possibility of modernizing the design — possibly doing something with glass, like the I.M. Pei pyramid that became part of the Louvre. That is not going to happen. Good.

"Organizers of an effort to recall Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes Conway began today with the filing of required paperwork with the city clerk."

David Blaska reports, linking to the petition that's now on a 60-day deadline to get 36,203 signatures.

Here's an article in the Wisconsin State Journal about the recall effort:
[Recall petitioner Jon] Rygiewicz said Rhodes-Conway did not keep the city safe when groups of demonstrators tore down statues, beat up state Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee, and another man, and threw a Molotov cocktail into the City-County Building on June 23.

“The sheriff said it was unsafe because of rioting and looting and senators getting beat up and things getting trashed and (the City-County Building) getting firebombs thrown in them,” Rygiewicz said. “And nothing was done to stop that at that time.”

"On the one hand, she’s already paid a steep price. That’s not enough of a deterrent to others? Bringing her more misery just seems like piling on. So if the DA feels the need to pursue charges, he should pursue charges. But he can do that without me."

Said Christian Cooper, setting a fine example, quoted in "Birdwatcher not cooperating with investigation into Central Park ‘Karen’ Amy Cooper."

In honor of the kindly, generous birdwatcher, I decided to research what is the most kindly, generous bird. The answer, it seems (from The Cut), is the parrot:
A very endearing German study recently found that parrots are capable of selfless acts of kindness. When placed in neighboring cages, researchers found, the birds will pass each other tokens that can be exchanged for food, expecting nothing in return. “This was really surprising that they did this so spontaneously and so readily,” one biologist told NPR, sounding rightfully impressed. So, yes, the study strongly indicated that parrots are among the very few species capable of generosity.... 

I saw that the City of Seattle had identified "intellectualization" as an aspect of "Internalized Racial Superiority," and I don't know if I understand that...

... or even want to understand that. As I said in my post about Seattle's effort to train its employees not to be white supremacists, I'm afraid the training could just as well backfire as cure people of the problem they are presumed to have.

What is "intellectualization" and what's so "white" about it — "white" in a bad way? Am I intellectualizing — in a bad, white way — just by asking? I don't know, but I looked the word up in the OED. Is this white of me — caring about language and using this traditional reference source that was probably written mostly by white people?

"Intellectualization" is — according to the OED — "The action of intellectualizing something; the condition of being intellectualized." To "intellectualize" is "To make (a subject, concept, etc.) intellectual; to give an intellectual character or quality to (something)." It's layers of an onion! "Intellectual" means "That appeals to or engages the intellect; requiring the exercise of understanding." And "intellect" is "That faculty, or sum of faculties, of the mind or soul by which a person knows and reasons; power of thought; understanding; analytic intelligence."

So "Intellectualization" is the action of making something appealing to the human mind. I was struck by one of the historical quotes for "intellectualization":
1887 Harper's Mag. Oct. 807/2 Is this intellectualization of women beginning to show, in the conversation of women when they are together, say in the hours of relaxation?
I was able to find the entire essay, and I thought you'd find these ideas about women and conversation quite interesting. Click to enlarge and clarify:
I'm distracted by those "P" words: "penetralia" and "persiflage." "Penetralia" are "The innermost parts or recesses of a building; spec. the sanctuary or inner sanctum of a temple" — figuratively, "secret parts, mysteries." What a fantastic word! I don't remember ever seeing that before... and yet, I blogged about it in detail in 2016 — blogged and forgot. "Persiflage," a more familiar word, has never come up in the history of this blog.

Anyway, that long quote I've given you, from Harper's Magazine in 1887, was written by Charles Dudley Warner. I'm reading his Wikipedia page. He was a friend of Mark Twain's. Charles Dudley Warner said something that Mark Twain liked to quote (and that has been consequently misattributed to Twain):
Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.
There. Is that an intellectualization? Have I made the world more beautiful? Have I made it more interesting?

ADDED: I forgot to inform you that "persiflage" is "Light raillery or mockery; bantering talk; a frivolous or mildly contemptuous manner of treating any subject." Let me make it up to you by amusing you with this poll:

The Althouse blog has...
 
pollcode.com free polls

"This guy comes running in, wearing a crazy, what I would say was a pink transgender outfit. It was a pink bikini, with lace, underneath a translucent mesh top."

"It looked absurd. He had the beard, bare legs, and wasn’t what I would call distractingly attractive. This person comes in yelling and screaming, and I thought this must be a scam or a shake-down, so I reported it to the police. He then ran away... I only later realized it must have been Sacha Baron Cohen. I thought about all the people he previously fooled and I felt good about myself because he didn’t get me."

Said Rudy Giuliani, explaining himself, in "Rudy Giuliani called the NYPD on Sacha Baron Cohen over prank interview" (Page Six).

"People started yelling for the lady to throw her kids down... I immediately got tunnel vision of the baby and somehow managed to catch him."

Said Phillip Blanks, quoted in "A former high school football player dove and caught a child dropped from the balcony of a burning building" (WaPo).
The wrenching video, captured on a cellphone, shows Blanks sprinting toward the 3-year-old child and diving to catch him mere milliseconds before the boy would have hit the ground.... Blanks said his time in the Marines, coupled with his athletic training as a wide receiver in high school and college, prepared him for this moment. The Marines taught him to “always be on high alert, not be complacent and to have discipline,” he said.... “Saving this child changed my entire perspective,” Blanks said. “It made me realize how short life is, and how we need to protect each other and treat people better.”

"The Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the way for prosecutors in New York to see President Trump’s financial records, a stunning defeat for Mr. Trump..."

"... but a decision that probably means the records will be shielded from public scrutiny under grand jury secrecy rules until after the election, and perhaps indefinitely. In a separate decision, the court ruled that Congress could not, at least for now, see many of the same records. The vote in both cases was 7 to 2. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote both majority opinions."

Writes Adam Liptak in the NYT.
Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, [said] “We are pleased that in the decisions issued today, the Supreme Court has temporarily blocked both Congress and New York prosecutors from obtaining the President’s tax records.... We will now proceed to raise additional constitutional and legal issues in the lower courts.”...

"The City of Seattle held a racially segregated employee training session aimed at White staffers and instructing them on 'undoing your own whiteness'..."

"... in order to be held accountable by people of color, according to documents obtained by a public records request... According to the documents, the Office of Civil Rights hosted a two-and-a-half-hour 'Training on Internalized Racial Superiority for White People.' In the email invitation to the event, the office asked 'city employees who identify as white to join this training to learn, reflect, challenge ourselves, and build skills and relationships that help us show up more fully as allies and accomplices for racial justice.'... Diversity trainers instructed White employees in 'practicing self-talk that affirms our complicity in racism.'... In order to be considered 'accomplices,' White employees must give up 'comfort,' 'guaranteed physical safety,' 'expectations or presumptions of emotional safety,' 'control over other people and over the land,' and 'relationships with some other white people.' White employees were also urged to give up 'niceties from neighbors and colleagues,' 'the certainty of your job,' and 'accepting jobs and promotions when we are not qualified, including racial equity jobs.'... Employees were taught how to 'interrupt' their whiteness by being 'honest and implicate yourself either in the moment or in past experiences in which you acted or thought similarly.' 'Don’t blame others. Don’t distance. Don’t make yourself seem "better." None of us is,' a handout said. 'You are also white and what someone else did today you may do tomorrow.'... 'Internalized Racial Superiority,' was defined by perfectionism, individualism, imposition, arrogance, paternalism, silence, intellectualization, control, violence, comfort, appropriation, cognitive dissonance, objectivity and 'anti-blackness.'"

Fox News reports. It's not clear from the article, but I think these sessions were voluntary. If they were required, it looks as though they were only for people who "identify as white." A possible loophole. Is it like gender, where you can apply your own standards and go by how you feel and not be stamped permanently by what you were assigned at birth? Probably not! I'm just guessing I could be cancelled just for asking that question.

Anyway, isn't it awful to think that you could be accused of white supremacy if you're into individualism and objectivity?! You're going to get leaned on now for silence and for wanting comfort. And God forbid you should buy into "intellectualization," but hey, wait a minute, isn't this whole presentation of "whiteness" and "internalized superiority" an intellectualization? I know, just asking the question, has me putting myself above that which I'm calling intellectualization — that is, I'm intellectualizing on the intellectualizers. And I'm being arrogant — and arrogance is on the list of attributes of "Internalized Racial Superiority." I'm in big trouble!

"When the English Twitter account for the French foreign ministry revealed Franck Riester’s new title of junior minister for trade and 'attractiveness'..."

"... it immediately elicited mocking online and questions about whether it had been mistranslated. In France, the term 'attractivité' is often used to refer to attracting investment. The French foreign ministry assured its followers it had looked up the definition of the word in English, but that did little to shut down the jokes and memes."

So... they've modified it to "economic attractiveness."

Politico reports.

I love the photograph of the (erstwhile) Minister for Attractiveness:



Such delicate hands! I myself am mesmerized.

Isn't there a rule — never read a book that has "PhD" next to the author's name on the cover?



Here, somebody asked the question at Quora, "Should I put 'PhD' after my name on the cover of my book?" Top answer:
Serious academic books rarely if ever include the author's qualification on the cover. I suppose it's a bit like saying "Trust me, I'm a doctor" - it makes you look shifty. A book should be judged on its content, not the author's educational status, which can be indicated in other parts of the book.

The trouble with advertising your qualification upfront is precisely the one you have indicated: is it relevant? is it even a proper degree? (Let's face it there is no shortage of dodgy PhDs out there.) I work in a library, and I have found that PhD or MD or whatever after the author's name on a cover is an almost certain sign of a book to be avoided.
ADDED: Overheard at Meadhouse:
"There, I made a post out of your idea."

"What was my idea?"

"I just wrote a whole post. Read the post!"

"I have to read your blog to know what my own ideas are?"

"Most countries have a serious news show first thing in the morning. This has the effect of stimulating such emotions as anger and anxiety in the listener."

"But 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. Duty, oh, what a burden you are! Isn’t there room for a news-free radio station? When I listen to classical music on the radio, for example when driving, there is nothing worse than having my reverie and dream-flow interrupted by the tedious reality of news headlines."

From "How to Be Idle: A Loafer's Manifesto." I mentioned this book the other day and even gave a part of that quote, but now I've gone and bought it and have access to the entire quote, so I wanted to share that. I'm also reading the whole thing, in my idle moments.

The author, Tom Hodgkinson, has written a number of books, and they all seem thematically related. The busiest one is "Business for Bohemians: Live Well, Make Money." Then there's "The Freedom Manifesto: How to Free Yourself from Anxiety, Fear, Mortgages, Money, Guilt, Debt, Government, Boredom, Supermarkets, Bills, Melancholy, Pain, Depression, Work, and Waste" and "How to Be Free." A couple great parenting titles, "The Idle Parent: Why Laid-Back Parents Raise Happier and Healthier Kids" and "Why Ignoring Your Children Will Make Everyone Happier: Or, What to Neglect When You're Neglecting." That subtitle — "What to Neglect When You're Neglecting" — is a riff on the famous old pregnancy classic, "What to Expect When You're Expecting."

I'm avoiding the headlines today.... maintaining the dream-flow.

Anyway, I just bought "Why Ignoring Your Children Will Make Everyone Happier: Or, What to Neglect When You're Neglecting." I feel like my parents had the idea for that book. I read the first 2 pages and see that it takes this D.H. Lawrence quote seriously:
"How to begin to educate a child. First rule: leave him alone. Second rule: leave him alone. Third rule: leave him alone. That is the whole beginning."
ADDED: The quote at the top of this post makes me wonder whatever happened to Erik Hagerman, "The Man Who Knew Too Little"? Blogged here in March 2018.

"Was using plastic spoons to pour some sugar in my tea when i noticed these strange pattens formed from the sugar sticking to the spoon."

"The spoons themselves are plain white. Anyone know how this happens and from what?" — a question (with photographs to show the effect) at one of my favorite subreddits, "What is this thing?," where you are not even allowed to make jokes. People really do solve the mystery.

In this case, someone says: "I think that has something to do with static electricity... The pattern is partly determined by the flowing plastic when it was on its journey through the injection-moulding process." And somebody else shows up with the perfect background to explain:
Yep. I work in food manufacturing, and one of the product we make is individual drink mix sticks (packets). One particular product was difficult to run because powder kept contaminating the seal. Eventually we discovered that the powder was sticking to the film in a particular pattern, before the film had even gone through the machine. There was static embedded in the film right from the film factory (or, at least certain patterns on the film laminate were a different surface finish which concentrated the static charge generated when the film was unrolled). We aimed an ionization bar at the film before the powder injection station of the machine: problem solved.
I love seeing the internet perform so well.

"A quirky wooden sculpture of US First Lady Melania Trump is reported to have been set on fire near her hometown in Slovenia, prompting its removal."

"... The sculpture of Mrs Trump, which could be described as only bearing a crude likeness to the US first lady, was carved out of a tree trunk on the outskirts of Sevnica, her hometown in central Slovenia. The statue, which depicts Mrs Trump dressed in a blue coat similar to one she wore to her husband's inauguration and with a club-like hand gesturing to the sky, received mixed reviews when it was erected in July 2019. Some residents branded the statue a "disgrace", complaining it looked more like the Smurfs character Smurfette than the first lady.... Since Mr Trump was elected US president in 2016, Sevnica has become a tourist magnet, as visitors search for an insight into Mrs Trump's early years Residents have brought out ranges of Melania-branded merchandise, including slippers, cakes, and Trump-like burgers with fly-away cheese 'hair.'"

BBC reports.

As a statue of Melania, the Sevnica artwork was kind of like the notorious "scary Lucy" statue. It's just really hard to understand why the artist would depict the person that way. As for why someone would set it on fire, presumably it's politics, but it could be aesthetics.

And I just want to repeat the phrase "Trump-like burgers with fly-away cheese 'hair.'" Something delightful about that. "Fly-away cheese" alone would have intrigued me.

"In 2017, a Californian mathematician called Natalia Komarova was so shocked by the negativity of the songs her daughter listened to, she decided to investigate."

"Using the research database AcousticBrainz - which allows you to examine musical properties like tempo, key and mood - she and her colleagues at the University of California Irvine examined half a million songs released in the UK between 1985 and 2015. They found a significant downturn in the positivity of pop songs. Where 1985 saw upbeat tracks like Wham's Freedom, 2015 favoured more sombre music by Sam Smith and Adele. '"Happiness" is going down, "brightness" is going down, "sadness" is going up,; said Komarova of her results, 'and at the same time, the songs are becoming more "danceable" and more "party-like."' So it looks like, while the overall mood is becoming less happy, people seem to want to forget it all and dance." Inother words, Komorvoa had identified the rise of the 'sad banger,' a song whose instrumental sets you up for good times, only to sucker punch your heart with lyrics of Biblical sadness.... By 2017, the average tempo of a hit single in the UK was 104 beats per minute, down from a high of 124bpm in 2009. In the US, where hip-hop is more prevalent on the charts, it fell as low as 90.5 bpm.... Just three years later, the trend is in reverse...."

The average tempo of the Top 20 in 2020 is 122 beats per minute.

From "Pop music is getting faster (and happier)" (BBC).

July 8, 2020

At the Wildflower Café...

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... pick your own topics.

"From the South Bronx to East New York, a new generation of graffiti writers has emerged... [L]ike early taggers who grew up in a city beset by crime, grime and empty coffers..."

"... today’s generation is dealing with its own intense fears over the devastating effects of the coronavirus on communities and the economy. 'Does art dictate the times or do the times dictate art?' said John Matos, 58, a graffiti writer known as Crash who started out in the 1970s. 'Before now, the streets were sanitized, with pieces that were cool and nice, and done with permission. Now, we’re back to the roots.'... . By 1989, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had declared victory over graffiti.... And while graffiti never disappeared completely, in recent weeks it has become ever more visible citywide. The increase in graffiti is for many residents an unwelcome sign of the recent economic upheaval.... 'It all begins and ends with angst,' said Mr. Matos, 58, the son of an evangelical preacher who grew up in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the Bronx. 'Teenage angst is always going to be provoked. I always equate graffiti with music, like the way Stevie Wonder wrote political songs. What’s going on in the streets is a response to things.'"

From "Graffiti Is Back in Virus-Worn New York/The city’s coronavirus lockdown and subsequent rise in unemployment have created the perfect conditions for a new generation of graffiti writers" (NYT).

I lived in NYC in the 1970s and early 80s and remember the graffiti everywhere, completely covering all the subway trains, inside and out, obscuring all the windows. Here's a photograph I took back then, around 1980:

"Kill You"

I remember just taking that sort of thing in stride. That was New York City. It had to be. Teenage angst? Like the way Stevie Wonder wrote political songs? I think of a Stevie Wonder lyric: "Living just enough for the city." Amazing that it changed. Tragic to let it devolve once again into chaos.

Here's the highest-rated comment at the NYT:
It will be romanticized, imbued with deep meaning and credited as youthful expression of our troubled times. But don’t be fooled. If you lived through it during the 80s you know how it degrades the urban environment for most residents and visitors save a few who view themselves as above such bourgeois notions as respect for public spaces and those who use and enjoy them. Don’t get me wrong, some of it is pretty good; brilliant, in fact. Most of it, however, is just vandalism and void of talent or meaningful messaging. In the current superheated political environment, the “debate” about graffiti will only add to the current culture wars, and not for the benefit of Democrats. 

Trump just yelled.

"Brooks Brothers, the clothier best known for men's wear that traces its roots back to 1818, filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday..."

"... as the brand buckled under the pressure from the coronavirus pandemic following years of declining sales.... [The pandemic has] pushed major names like J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus and J.Crew into Chapter 11 proceedings.... All of the chains, including Brooks Brothers, plan to keep operating, though likely in a pared-back fashion. Brooks Brothers, with its tony men's wear, has been hit especially hard by the pandemic in an era of remote work and job interviews through Zoom, and the postponement of celebrations like weddings, bar mitzvahs, graduations and more. The company... is the oldest apparel brand in continuous operation in the United States.... It has dressed all but four U.S. presidents and its overcoats have been worn for the inaugurations of Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama and Donald J. Trump, among others. It has outfitted Clark Gable, Andy Warhol and Stephen Colbert...."

The NYT reports.

I guess we don't need suits very much anymore. How much have we ever needed dress-up clothes or anything more than durable, well-fitting, weather-appropriate apparel? In the pandemic, so much has changed. I see the phrase "in a pared-back fashion" in the article — referring to the way the clothing retailers will operate in the future. But "pared-back fashion" can be used to describe what we the people are wearing in the time of the virus and, perhaps, long into the post-coronavirus culture of the future. Much has changed, and it will take some time to see which of the changes are temporary and what is the way of the future. Gaze forward: Do you see men in suits?

At least the Presidents will continue to wear suits, don't you think? Even the female Presidents, if we ever get to that phase of the future. Which 4 Presidents do you think did not wear Brooks Brothers clothes? I'm going to say Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison, because they all left office before 1818, so they couldn't possibly have worn Brooks Brothers clothes.

President #5 was James Monroe. Was the modern men's suit coming into being yet in his day? Here's something he wore:



Strange how men wore ruffles quite routinely back then. I'm remembering a tweet I saw yesterday:

"The container the suspects called 'the treatment room' contained a dental chair with straps to lash one's arms to its armrests and handcuffs at its footrest."

"Bags were also found in the so-called torture chamber, the statement said, containing 'pruning shears, loppers, branch saws, scalpels, pliers, extra handcuffs, finger cuffs, tape, balaclavas and black cotton bags that can be pulled over the head.'... According to the prosecutor's office, amid their investigation police intercepted encrypted phone messages, some of which contained photos of the containers and the dental chair. 'If I have him on the chair more will come,' one of the messages said, according to the National Prosecutor's Office, 'but the dog is missing.'"

From "Dutch police discover 'underworld' prison with torture chamber in shipping containers" (UPI).

"Okay, I did not sign THE LETTER when I was asked 9 days ago, because I could see in 90 seconds that it was fatuous, self-important drivel that would only troll the people it allegedly was trying to reach — and I said as much."

Tweeted Richard Kim, the enterprise director of HuffPo, quoted in "Artists and Writers Warn of an ‘Intolerant Climate.’ Reaction Is Swift. An open letter published by Harper’s, signed by luminaries including Margaret Atwood and Wynton Marsalis, argued for openness to 'opposing views.' The debate began immediately" (NYT). (Here's where we discussed the letter yesterday.)

From the NYT article:
[T]he letter... spearheaded by the writer Thomas Chatterton Williams, began taking shape about a month ago.... “We didn’t want to be seen as reacting to the protests we believe are in response to egregious abuses by the police... But for some time, there’s been a mood all of us have been quite concerned with.”

"The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday teachers at religious schools are foreclosed from bringing workplace discrimination cases against their employers."

"The 7-2 ruling said the lawsuits could not move forward due to the “ministerial exception” and court precedent, which has held the First Amendment protects religious institutions from some workplace discrimination complaints."

The Washington Times reports.

AND: A second case announced this morning — "In Little Sisters of the Poor v. Pennsylvania, the justices upheld a federal rule exempting employers with religious or moral objections from providing contraceptive coverage to their employees under the Affordable Care Act." I'm seeing that announcement at SCOTUSblog. Thomas writes the majority opinion and there's also a concurring opinion by Kagan, who is joined by Breyer. Only Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissent. Full opinion here.

Excerpt from the majority opinion:

The effort to rescue Biden from the demand to debate continues apace.

I was just talking about this a couple weeks ago, when WaPo had a column "It’s time to rethink the presidential debates." The columnist, I said, was "only proposing that the debates take place in a TV studio with no audience, but I expect to see a push to eliminate the debates. Not campaigning has been working well for Biden, and not debating is another step in the do-nothing game. Will he look worse doing the debate or worse avoiding the debate? I think the press will do what it can to make him look especially principled, lofty, and judicious as he declines to appear in the presence of the orange monster."

And now we've got Thomas Friedman in the NYT, with "Biden Should Not Debate Trump Unless …/Here are two conditions the Democrat should set." It's not an outright argument to keep Biden out of the debates, but that's where it's headed. Friedman begins with his "worry":
I worry about Joe Biden debating Donald Trump. He should do it only under two conditions. Otherwise, he’s giving Trump unfair advantages.
The first condition has nothing to do with the nature of the debate. It's just a demand that Trump release his tax returns, so that just seems like generating an excuse not to debate. Friedman tries to make this demand relate to the debate by saying that Biden has released his tax returns and that was  "gifting Trump something he can attack." It's not a level playing field, you see.

The second condition is a ridiculous proposal — "a real-time fact-checking team approved by both candidates be hired by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates." Friedman imagines that these beings would — "10 minutes before the scheduled conclusion of the debate this team report on any misleading statements, phony numbers or outright lies either candidate had uttered. That way no one in that massive television audience can go away easily misled."

Don't let people be "easily misled" when they can be difficultly misled. Bring on the experts! And make them work under breakneck pressure and announce truths before the deadline.

Morning thoughts on the subject of graffiti...

I'm reading the Wikipedia article on the Alexamenos graffito — the "blasphemous graffito" — because we'd been talking about graffiti.
That's a rubbing of something that was scratched into a plaster wall in Rome, long enough ago to be possibly the earliest depiction of Jesus. The exact date is unknown, but it's circa 200.
The image seems to show a young man worshipping a crucified, donkey-headed figure. The Greek inscription approximately translates to "Alexamenos worships [his] god," indicating that the graffito was apparently meant to mock a Christian named Alexameno....

Kanye West is running for President as the candidate of "the Birthday Party," Elon Musk is advising him....

... and he's not for Trump anymore — "I am taking the red hat off, with this interview."

Here's the interview — in Forbes. Other high points:
... he’s ok with siphoning off Black votes from the Democratic nominee, thus helping Trump. “I’m not denying it, I just told you. To say that the Black vote is Democratic is a form of racism and white supremacy.”
... he’s never voted in his life.
... he was sick with Covid-19 in February.
... he’s suspicious of a coronavirus vaccine, terming vaccines “the mark of the beast.”
... he believes “Planned Parenthoods have been placed inside cities by white supremacists to do the Devil’s work.”
... he envisions a White House organizational model based on the secret country of Wakanda in Black Panther.
ADDED:
His running mate? Michelle Tidball, an obscure preacher from Wyoming. And why the Birthday Party? “Because when we win, it’s everybody’s birthday.”...

A few weeks after he ended two separate text chains with me with the message “Trump 2020” and a fist raised high, he insists he’s lost confidence in the president. “It looks like one big mess to me,” he says. “I don’t like that I caught wind that he hid in the bunker.”...

That said, he won’t say much more against Trump. He’s much less shy about criticizing Biden, which certainly won’t tamp down the idea that the Birthday Party is a ruse to help re-elect Trump. “I’m not saying Trump’s in my way, he may be a part of my way. And Joe Biden? Like come on man, please. You know? Obama’s special. Trump’s special. We say Kanye West is special. America needs special people that lead. Bill Clinton? Special. Joe Biden’s not special.”...
Kanye West is very good at saying interesting things. So's Trump. They're special.

"Completed in 537 AD, Hagia Sophia stood for nearly a millennium at the heart of the Christian world...."

"In 1453, Mehmed II conquered Constantinople, and although his troops plundered what they could carry, the building was saved and turned into a mosque. For 500 years it was the venerated center of the Muslim Ottoman Empire.... Minarets were added, and later the great Ottoman architect Sinan built massive buttresses to prevent the walls from buckling under the weight of the dome, which was damaged in earthquakes. With the fall of the Ottoman Empire... Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern secular republic of Turkey, ended the role of religion in the state and closed religious institutions.... But [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s supporters speak of the building as the third holiest site in Islam, after the Grand Mosque of Mecca and Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, and insist that once a mosque it should never be unconsecrated."

From "Erdogan Talks of Making Hagia Sophia a Mosque Again, to International Dismay/The World Heritage site was once a potent symbol of Christian-Muslim rivalry, and it could become one once more" (NYT).

"Beyond politics, art historians and conservationists worry that they will lose access for study and research if the monument becomes a working mosque, and tourist companies and city authorities fear that visitors will be deterred from coming. The monument is the most visited tourist site in Turkey, with 3.7 million visitors last year.... The greatest worry is what will happen to the incomparable medieval mosaics, among them depictions of Christ, the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist, alongside rare portraits of imperial figures including Emperor Justinian I and Empress Zoe, one of the few women to rule in her own right. The mosaics were whitewashed for the more than five centuries during Ottoman rule — the depiction of the human form being considered idolatry — and were uncovered and restored only after Hagia Sophia was turned into a museum in the 1930s..... If the museum becomes a mosque, the mosaics will have to be covered during Muslim prayers somehow, including seraphs high up at the base of the dome. Tourists and non-Muslims may be restricted to certain areas...."

A thousand years is a long time and 500 years is a long time. All that religion in one phenomenal place, but the solution, since 1935, has been to keep it as a museum.

It's interesting to encounter this problem at a time when we here in America are struggling over whether to retain images of human heroes. I respect the desire to use a structure to practice a living religion — especially in a phenomenally beautiful building — but the artwork is artwork of another religion, and there's such a strong interest in protecting access for Christians and those of us who love art and architecture.

Here's a "Great Courses" episode on Hagia Sophia (click on Episode 3). I've seen it and strongly recommend it. You'll get lots of closeup looks at the mosaics and the architectural details. I've watched the whole course — "The World's Greatest Churches" — and the teacher ranks Hagia Sophia as the greatest church building in the world.

"Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. suffered a fall at a Maryland country club last month that required an overnight stay in the hospital..."

"... a Supreme Court spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday night," after an inquiry from The Washington Post. The incident had not been disclosed voluntary, but The Washington Post had heard a tip.
The 65-year-old chief justice was taken by ambulance to a hospital after the June 21 incident at the Chevy Chase Club.... Roberts has twice experienced seizures, in 1993 and in 2007, but Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathleen Arberg said doctors ruled out that possibility in the latest incident. Doctors believe he was dehydrated, she said.... The scene was apparently witnessed by some at the club.... The person who told The Post about the incident said Roberts’s head was covered in blood....
The bloody scene was witnessed and it still took more than 2 weeks to get in the newspaper. Makes you wonder what else goes on.

I hope he's okay. It is possible to be walking along, doing nothing particularly challenging, and simply to fall. I've done it. I've tripped over an irregularity in the sidewalk. I've had a shoe malfunctiontwice, in recent years. When you're older, a standard question from your doctor is whether you've fallen in the last year. I try to keep my record clean, but then there's that one fall, and you've got to say yes, and the doctor is marking you down as an old person who falls.

Somebody asked at Quora why the doctor asks if you've fallen, and a doctor of internal medicine gives this answer (which surprised me):
No matter how ridiculous it may seem, there is a “QM” quality metric that will determine your doctors “P4P” or “pay for performance.” Checking off how many people 65 or older have fallen within the last 6 months will set off the “fall risk” QM metric on which we are mandated to do or not get paid.

"Mary Kay Letourneau, a one-time teacher who became a tabloid fixture in the late 1990s after she raped a 13-year-old student and later married him, after serving a prison sentence..."

"... died on Monday near Seattle.... Ms. Letourneau was a teacher in the Highline School District, near Seattle, where she taught Mr. Fualaau in the second and sixth grades. She was 34 when she began a sexual relationship with Mr. Fualaau in 1996, when he was 12 or 13. They had their first child in 1997 as she awaited sentencing after pleading guilty to charges of second-degree child rape. After serving three months of a reduced sentence in prison, she defied court orders to stay away from Mr. Fualaau, leading to her return to prison for a seven-year sentence. She gave birth to their second child in 1998, shortly after beginning her second stint in prison.... Upon her release from prison in 2004, Ms. Letourneau was required to have no contact with Mr. Fualaau, then 21. But he fought to have the order removed, and the couple married in 2005.... Mr. Fualaau said in the A&E documentary that 'at the end of the day, it was a real love story.... A lot of things that should have gone through my mind at the time weren’t going through my mind.'"

From the NYT obituary for Mary Kay Letourneau. She was 58 and died of cancer.

She came from a conservative family: "Her father, John Schmitz, was an ultraconservative U.S. representative who ran for president in 1972 as a member of the American Independent Party. One of her brothers, Joseph E. Schmitz, was the inspector general of the Department of Defense, an executive at Blackwater Worldwide and a one-time foreign policy adviser for President Trump. Another brother, John P. Schmitz, was a deputy counsel to President George H. W. Bush."

July 7, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...

IMG_7838

... you can write about anything you like.

IMG_7825

And let me say that I really appreciate the support you show for this blog when you do your Amazon shopping through the Althouse Portal.

"Donald Trump suffered 'child abuse' at the hands of his father', the President's niece will claim in her explosive memoir...."

"Mary calls Fred Sr a ‘high functioning sociopath’, marked by a lack of empathy, a facility for lying and a lack of interest in others.... 'Donald's mother became ill when he was two and a half, suddenly depriving him of his main source of comfort and human contact. His father, Fred, became his only available parent. But Fred firmly believed that dealing with young children was not his duty, and kept to his twelve-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week job at Trump Management, as if his children could look after themselves. From the beginning, Fred's self-interest skewed his priorities and his care of children reflected his own needs, not theirs. He could not empathize with Donald's plight, so his son's fears and longings went unsoothed. Love meant nothing to Fred; he expected obedience, that was all. Over time, Donald became afraid that asking for comfort or attention would provoke his father's anger or indifference when Donald was most vulnerable. That Fred would become the primary source of Donald's solace when he was much more likely to be a source of fear or rejection put Donald in an intolerable position: total dependence on a caregiver who also caused him terror. Donald suffered deprivations that would scar him for life.'"

From "EXCLUSIVE: Donald Trump was a victim of 'child abuse' at the hands of his father, who 'caused him terror that would scar him for life', claims President's niece who believes he could be a 'sociopath' in explosive memoir" (Daily Mail).

"Hunter S. Thompson was an idol of mine. I believe he has a very famous quote that says I don't condone the use of drugs or alcohol to anyone..."

"... but they've always worked for me... Keith Richards has been a role model for me. He's one of my favourite guitarists and a great role model... I have always been interested in the counter-culture and many literary heroes of mine, including Chaucer, who was an opium addict, and Thomas De Quincey, author of 'Confessions of an English Opium Eater', were into this subject."

Said Johnny Depp, quoted in "I decided to divorce Amber Heard when she defecated in our bed: Johnny Depp calls his ex-wife a 'narcissistic sociopath' who attacked HIM and denies ever hitting her at blockbuster libel court showdown" (Daily Mail).

Was Chaucer an opium addict? That's my first question. You?

The trap.


By the way, Matt Yglesias was the specific person I was referencing when I wrote — in that last post — "Since before some of the signatories to this letter were born." Yglesias is 39.

ADDED: Did Matt Yglesias take his tweet down? The embedded material is only displaying one tweet now, instead of 3. But I happened to have a screen shot! Here's how the embed looked when I put up this post:

"The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right..."

Ugh. Sorry. I have come to expect this from the radical left.

Not the right.

I appreciate this effort, this "Letter on Justice and Open Debate," signed by a bunch of writers, scholars, and journalists, but I'm irritated by the gratuitous shot at right-wingers. The censorship and cancel culture they are talking about is very much a thing of the left. Take some damned responsibility for the attack on freedom of speech that has been nurtured among elite thinkers for the last 40 years. I experienced it in academia — first hand — through my entire career as a law professor.

To continue that sentence:
While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty.
This isn't something that is just beginning to grow on the left. It's been going on for decades, and why haven't you opposed it sooner? Is it just because it looks particularly ugly now and your political goals are threatened? Sorry, I am not experiencing this letter as courageous.
We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought.
Not just now. For the last 40 years. Since before some of the signatories to this letter were born. Go back to the 1960s if you want to find left-wing radicals who loved free speech, and then figure out whether they loved it as a means to an end or whether they loved it for its own sake. What happened after the 60s, after they'd gained ground in academia and government, suggests that they loved it as a means to an end, and I am therefore very suspicious that if they're back to show new love, it's because it might be a good means to an end once again — because some of their own are showing such a contemptible nastiness:
More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms....

This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time....
Ah! They admit it. Means to an end.

That's not enough. Freedom IS the end.

(I found that letter through my son John's blog, where he lists some of the more notable signatories and titles the post, "Why cancel culture should be canceled.")

Late morning open thread... with insect.

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I have adopted an answer to the mystery of the strange photograph: The Phantom Gnat!

You remember this photograph I posted yesterday, an image I was surprised to find among my sunrise photographs and not something I was trying to do:

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I had said in the comments: "I know it’s out of focus, but why? And why is the sun a full circle? It was only a quarter of the way up."

Oddly, some people were talking about the "circle of confusion" (a complicated subject in photography) and others were talking about the song by Cyrkle, "Red Rubber Ball" (because, as Paul Simon wrote in the lyrics, "The morning sun is shining like a red rubber ball").

Several commenters usefully brought up bokeh — which I understand — but, as I said in the comments, "I thought the camera would do that in the parts of the photo that were not deemed to be the subject. I've aimed the camera at the sun like this thousands of time and I've never seen it 'decide' that the sun is the subject and everything else should be gently fuzzed — especially with this additional effect of completely reshaping the sun, showing a circle for something that was visible as less than a half circle."

Kylos responded: "It’s actually the opposite. It’s focused on something nearby instead of the sun. My experience is that shooting into the sun can cause autofocus to get confused. Possible a lens flare or glowing dust particle caused the autofocus to think the subject was inches from your camera. Because the sun is also completely out of focus, it’s circle of confusion ends up projecting on top of the darker horizon."

That pointed me at what I declare to be the answer: "Maybe an insect flew by, got focused on, then went off camera as the image was captured. That's my theory! The phantom gnat!"



Interesting to wear a buzz cut in 1966. From the Wikipedia article on Cyrkle:

"You know what's nice? A horse trough. Sit out in that. You change the water every day. Siphon it out. Use it in the garden."

Said Meade, when the topic of inflatable backyard pools came up in a news report (they're selling well, these days, we're told).

This guy did it — spent $29 [OR: did he say $129?]:



ADDED: I did a little more googling and am seeing this referred to as a "hillbilly hot tub." I say that to Meade, and he says "I invented it — 40 years ago," then adds that a lot of other guys also "invented" it. And now that I'm thinking about it, I remember seeing many TV/movie cowboys getting immersed in a horse trough (against their will). Something about like this...



That's the sort of high jinks I'm picturing for our backyard. You can play too!

BONUS: If you scroll back to the beginning of that cowboy video — for the non-horse-trough part of the fighting — you'll hear different music. I was trying to figure out what that song was, and the lyrics came to me... He's the pip... he's the king, but above everything...



Notice that Top Cat's trash can is made of galvanized steel — same as a backyard guy's horse trough.

Whenever you talk about Tammy Duckworth, you must talk about her legs.

I wasn't going to blog this headline I saw this morning — "Tucker Carlson suggests Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who lost her legs in Iraq, hates America."

But then I saw this:

From the WaPo article:
“You’re not supposed to criticize Tammy Duckworth in any way because she once served in the military,” Carlson said Monday night. That didn’t stop him from calling Duckworth, a contender to be presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s running mate, “a deeply silly and unimpressive person” and suggesting that she and other Democratic leaders “actually hate America.”...

Duckworth’s combat experience has helped her ascend a list of Biden’s potential running mates... In 2004, she lost her legs when insurgents shot down the Black Hawk helicopter she was co-piloting with a rocket-propelled grenade....
It's terrible that she suffered this injury, and we owe her great respect and empathy, but if she's going to be the VP candidate, it better not be because we're not allowed to criticize her ideas and her political intentions.

Here's the entire Tucker Carlson monologue. The part about Duckworth begins at 11:45 as he notes, "You're not supposed to criticize Tammy Duckworth in any way because she once served in the military" (that is, he doesn't specify the grievous injury):



What Carlson holds up as "deeply silly" is Duckworth's answer to the question whether monuments to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson should come down. Duckworth gives the bland answer: "We should start off by having a national dialogue on it." That's dull and maybe deceptive, but it's not "deeply silly" (or even shallowly silly).

Actually, I happened to watch that monologue on TV last night, and the next thing Carlson said made me imitate him and laugh and laugh: "They're not looking for any kind of colloquy. What they want is a soliloquy." Why did I find that so funny? It was just the sudden turn to elevated vocabulary and rhetoric. That came out of nowhere. Caused me to look up where Carlson went to college! (Answer: Trinity College (in Connecticut).)

"[P]erhaps the funniest aspect of 'Make Russia Great Again' is how calmly Herb conveys the craziness of the Trump administration."

"With the unruffled decorum of a five-star resort manager, he describes all the complicated maneuvers needed to entertain a president who does not read, who cannot concentrate for more than a few minutes and who will not listen to anything but soliloquies comparing him to 'Napoleon, or God.' The big rally that Trump wants in Testicle, Ohio, may strain the staff’s organizational expertise, but [White House chief of staff Herb Nutterman] is never anything less than brightly complimentary as he watches his boss strong-arm Sen. Biskitt into attending. 'I marveled at the president’s powers of persuasion,' he says. “Come with me to Testicle, Squiggly, is up there with "I have seen the promised land." I got goose bumps.'... There’s a Twain-like quality to this loyal naif who skewers without intending to. While 'Make Russia Great Again' rushes along from one folly to the next, Herb’s increasingly pained efforts to see only the bright side of Trump’s reign is the joke that keeps on winning."

From a review in The Washington Post of Christopher Buckley's new novel, "Make Russia Great Again." Buckley is the son of William F. Buckley Jr., and he was the chief speechwriter for Vice President George H. W. Bush.

July 6, 2020

Mysterious sunrise photo...

Completely unretouched (other than to straighten the shoreline):

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I really don't understand how that came out of the camera. The photos taken just before and just after look like this:

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Vivid Trump ad scares us about defunding the police — which is easy to do — but is it fair to pin it on Biden?

"It shall be the policy of the United States to establish a statuary park named the National Garden of American Heroes... All statues... should be lifelike or realistic representations of the persons they depict, not abstract or modernist representations."

"The National Garden should be located on a site of natural beauty that enables visitors to enjoy nature, walk among the statues, and be inspired to learn about great figures of America’s history. The site should be proximate to at least one major population center, and the site should not cause significant disruption to the local community."

From Trump's "Executive Order on Building and Rebuilding Monuments to American Heroes."

These realistic statues must be of "historically significant Americans" and "Americans" is deemed to include those who "lived prior to or during the American Revolution and were not American citizens, but who made substantive historical contributions to the discovery, development, or independence of the future United States." In that category, he names Christopher Columbus, Junipero Serra, and the Marquis de La Fayette.

There's a list of the kinds of people who are deemed to "have contributed positively to America." The list includes "opponents of national socialism or international socialism" — a phrase that must rankle the hell out of present-day American socialists — e.g., Bernie Sanders. It implies that no socialist can be among the heroes — only opponents of socialism. What about James Baldwin? Woody Guthrie? Noam Chomsky? W.E.B. Du Bois? Kurt Vonnegut? Madalyn Murray O'Hair? Gloria Steinem? Pete Seeger? Margaret Sanger? Paul Robeson? Dorothy Parker?

Who are your heroes? Who are mine? I tend to eschew idolatry, but if we're going to make a list of American heroes, I want the left wing represented.

And speaking of idolatry, is anyone talking about the impact of this sculpture garden on people who have a strong moral or religious opposition to statues? I'm thinking in particular of Muslims. From the Wikipedia article, "Aniconism in Islam":
Aniconism is the avoidance of images of sentient beings in some forms of Islamic art. Islamic aniconism stems in part from the prohibition of idolatry and in part from the belief that creation of living forms is God's prerogative. Although the Quran does not explicitly prohibit visual representation of any living being, it uses the word musawwir (maker of forms, artist) as an epithet of God. The corpus of hadith (sayings attributed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad) contains more explicit prohibitions of images of living beings, challenging painters [who] "breathe life" into their images and threatening them with punishment on the Day of Judgment....
Note that Trump's requirement that the statues be "lifelike or realistic" mandates the very quality that is the problem for Muslims (who have traditionally sought ways to depict human beings without competing with God, the maker of forms).