December 19, 2020

At the Saturday Night Café...


... you can write about whatever you want.

"I don’t hate art. But I don’t know what the hell that was."

Said building owner Nate Comte, quoted in "Cookie Monster Mural Puzzles Artist and Enrages Property Owner/A man claiming to be a property owner in Peoria, Ill., wanted a Soviet-style mural of Cookie Monster. The artist who did the job now says he was tricked (and paid) by an impostor" (NYT). 
[The artist, Joshua] Hawkins, who apologized to Mr. Comte on his Facebook page, said he was still trying to figure out the real identity of the man who hired him, whom he described as tall, fit and in his 40s....“He knew [Comte's] building, he knew his name and he knew he wasn’t there,” Mr. Hawkins said. Around Peoria, a riverfront city of about 110,000 people in central Illinois, the episode has spawned an untold number of theories about who might have commissioned the mural....
Mr. Hawkins asked [the person who hired him] what the Russian words meant and the man replied, “Peace, land, cookies.” “I thought he was opening a bakery,” Mr. Hawkins said.... Mr. Hawkins said he was not vexed with his mysterious patron... “The guy paid me and he paid me pretty well.... So I’m not mad at all about that.”

Meanwhile, the building owner says he's getting hate mail for painting over the mural. 

Jim Carrey's "SNL" performance as Joe Biden "brought a lot of attention to the show, but it ultimately garnered mixed reviews..."

"... with some critics saying that, despite Carrey's comedic talents, his Biden was missing the mark. 'It sounded like a great get at first. Here was a big-time star that could balance out the heft of Alec Baldwin's Trump. But after three episodes, Carrey still hasn't managed to break through,' Vanity Fair wrote in October. 'Maybe he's too physical a performer, or too needy a showman, to capture the flapjack earnestness of the former vice president.' The L.A. Times concurred writing in November that 'despite the aviator glasses, silver hair and "here's the deal" phraseology, the gregarious Carrey has had a hard time exploiting Biden's demeanor on the national stage this year — deliberate, controlled and understated.'"

I'll just say:

1. "Garner." It's one thing to get mixed reviews, but to garner them... That's got to hurt.

2. "Flapjack earnestness"? I struggled to understand. "Flapjack" is not an adjective in my dictionary. But you can use a noun as an adjective. So "flapjack earnestness" would simply be earnestness that is like a flapjack — flat.

3. It's rough getting compared to Alec Baldwin, who's not just an excellent actor but who had the role of Donald Trump. It's a way meatier role than Joe Biden. Not only is the Trump character incredibly colorful and weird, but you're encouraged to make as much fun of him as possible. Biden is bland and dull, and the show wants to prop him up, not tear him down. What could Carrey do to please the crowd?

4. How is "SNL" supposed to go about being funny with the Biden administration? It's not as though someone other than Carrey has a chance.

Gentle morning.


"The Answer."

Meade directed my attention to William James Chidley (c.1860 – 21 December 1916) — "an Australian philosopher with unconventional theories on sex, diet and clothing" (Wikipedia):
In 1911, Chidley published The Answer in Melbourne.... Chidley sold copies to curious passers-by on the footpath. In 1912, Chidley moved to Sydney, where he became a familiar bearded figure dressed in a Grecian-style tunic and sandals, giving public lectures and wandering the streets, carrying a bundle of his pamphlets....
"Do nothing which is unnatural however slight" was his precept. He believed people should return to nudity, natural coition and a diet comprising only fruit and nuts to "be at one with Nature and one another."...
Chidley was charged with offensive behaviour, deemed insane by the Lunacy Court on 3 August 1912 and sent to the Callan Park Hospital.... [P]eople regard[ed] him as a well meaning eccentric or crank deprived of his liberty and his right to speak freely. In August 1916 Chidley was released from an asylum under conditions that he "not address persons, and particularly women, by circular asking them to grant him interviews, in order that he might explain his theory to them." He was banned from holding meetings in public parks but he was soon addressing Sydney crowds in The Domain. On 16 February 1916 Chidley was again found insane and committed to Kenmore Mental Hospital at Goulburn.

Here's the text of the pamphlet. Excerpt: "The female womb and vagina when active and erect, with the sphincter closed, has the power of sucking the unerect penis in, there manipulating it naturally to erection and emission.... This is the simple secret that solves all our troubles. Man fell when through tampering he cultivated an erection strong enough to force an entrance to female...." 

That's some serious female empowerment!

Christmas in Japan.

Japan is still trying to figure out Christmas from r/nextfuckinglevel

"DON’T waste time preparing stuff. People aren’t tuning in to hear what you’ve prepped, they’re tuning in to hear what comes naturally."

"Again, I have no idea why. People are idiots. Especially people who listen to podcasts. But it’s great because it means you don’t have to do any work. And work, as you two know full well, is for losers.... DO be vile to each other. People love that.... DON’T worry if everything you say feels boring and irrelevant. All podcasts are boring and irrelevant. They’re meant to be. DON’T get all depressed when you listen back and it’s rubbish and it makes you feel like you’re only doing a podcast because everyone else is doing a podcast. Everyone feels like that because everyone is only doing a podcast because everyone else is doing a podcast. DON’T worry that you won’t know how to do it because you’ve never listened to a podcast yourself. Nobody has ever listened to a podcast apart from their own. That’s why everyone has to do their own podcast."

Writes Giles Coren, advising Prince Harry on how to do that new podcast he's getting paid millions to do with his wife (in the London Times). 

Here's the podcast Giles Coren does with his wife, "Giles Coren Has No Idea ("Each week Giles Coren finds himself with no idea what to write about in his weekly column. Having read all the papers and found nothing of interest whatsoever, he takes a break and does the school run. That’s where his wife and fellow journalist Esther Walker comes in. Upon his return, Esther has half a dozen ideas she’s spotted ready to knock around with him over the kitchen table and a much needed pot of coffee"). 

I had to look up "the school run." It's parents driving their kids to school. Never heard that before. I guessed it was... oh, why write it out when I could ad lib about it in my podcast.

Pandas "sniff out fresh horse droppings, lay themselves down and roll their bulky bodies in the muck, using their paws to really make sure they are covered..."

"... from the tip of their fuzzy ears to the bottom of their tails, until their black and white fur is another shade entirely.... A team of researchers led by Fuwen Wei, a biologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, first noticed a panda luxuriating in a pile of horse excrement in 2007. Unsure of whether it was a fluke, they spent years tracking the bears with dozens of camera traps, eventually convincing themselves that the behavior was 'definitely frequent and typical'.... Drawn to the irresistible stink of the droppings — the fresher the better — the bears would first take a careful whiff, then initiate a gentle rubbing with a cheek. They would next immerse themselves in an unbridled full-body tussle in the dung, before meticulously slathering themselves with their paws to ensure all their exposed bits were covered... The researchers propose that this filthy act is all about tolerating low temperatures.... A chemical analysis of the dung revealed two short-lived compounds called sesquiterpenes.... When applied onto the paws and fur of laboratory mice, the sesquiterpenes rendered the rodents indifferent to frigid temperatures or a chemically induced chill. Further lab experiments showed the sesquiterpenes were gumming up a type of cold-sensing protein that adorns the cells of pandas and many other animals, including humans."

"'I am Charlie' gave birth to 'I am not Charlie,' giving rise to a question that demands picking camps: Are you or are you not Charlie?"

"The answer puts people on either side of France’s major fault lines, including freedom of speech, secularism, race, national identity and, of course, Islam... Today, someone who is Charlie is likely to be white and supporter of the caricatures’ publication. At its extreme, the person may back a strict secularism that at times is a cover for anti-Islam. Someone who’s not Charlie is often nonwhite and opposes the cartoons’ publication. The person could go as far as justifying Islamist terrorism or a ban of all criticism of religion. Once a slogan that transcended political cleavages, 'Je Suis Charlie' has now been largely embraced by the right and created splits on the left.... This fall, in the wake of the three recent attacks, Mr. Macron emphatically defended the republication of the caricatures as the 'right to blasphemy.' That stance led to protests in Muslim nations, was met with criticism or silence in the West, and left France isolated...."

"Looking back, it can seem like Zuckerberg’s path to world domination was inevitable."

"There’s the computerized version of Risk he coded in ninth grade; his long-standing interest in the Roman empire; his obsession with information flow and human psychology. There’s the story of his first bona fide internet scandal, when he hacked into Harvard’s directory and lifted photos of students without their permission to make the hot-or-not-style website FaceMash. ('Child’s play' was how Zuckerberg later described the ease with which he broke into Harvard’s system.) There’s the disconnect between his lip service to privacy and the way Facebook actually works. (Here’s Zuckerberg in a private chat with a friend years ago, on the mountain of data he’d obtained from Facebook’s early users: 'I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses … People just submitted it. I don’t know why. They "trust me." Dumb fucks.') At various points over the years, he’s listed the following interests in his Facebook profile: Eliminating Desire, Minimalism, Making Things, Breaking Things, Revolutions, Openness, Exponential Growth, Social Dynamics, Domination." 

From "Facebook Is a Doomsday Machine/The architecture of the modern web poses grave threats to humanity. It’s not too late to save ourselves" by Adrienne LaFrance (The Atlantic). I'm not buying into this hysteria, in case you're wondering. 

The article links to this video from 2005, when Zuckerberg was 21. He's not too prepossessing!

Looking back at that, it sure doesn't seem as though "Zuckerberg's path to world domination was inevitable." It's doesn't even seem too obvious now, and it's surely not inevitable. People don't need Facebook. On any given day, you either check in on Facebook or you don't. I find it marginally interesting. It could just as well collapse. 

"Even if you are strongly supportive of vaccines, and we are, even if you recognize how many millions of lives have been saved over the past 50 years by vaccines, and we do, it all seems a bit much."

"It feels false, because it is, it’s too slick. The Gandalf guy was euphoric because he got a shot? It wasn’t heroin, it was the corona vaccine. The lady who couldn’t breathe is enthusiastic as she was rushed to the emergency room? Come on. This is patronizing. Stop with the slogans." 

I liked Ian McKellen's tweet. He's helping! At some point, too much promotion makes people suspicious. It's good that we're sensitive to propaganda and our skepticism can be triggered. I think that's what Tucker meant by "This is patronizing. Stop with the slogans." 

Practically, there should be no temptation to overdo vaccine promotion. There are millions of people waiting in line who want to get their shot early. If some who could go early lag behind, what's the problem? I presume the vaccines are getting injected as quickly as possible and there's no shortage of people coming forward. Let the more skeptical people be the ones who wait, and you're maximizing the minimization of anxiety. 

"Casting itself as the protector of small businesses... Facebook is criticizing Apple for planning to give users of its popular devices like the iPhone more control..."

"... over the data they share with third-party apps. Starting next year, Apple will ask mobile users to 'opt in' to accept third-party tracking of their digital activity (right now, the system defaults to tracking and requires users to 'opt out' if they don’t want to be followed). Facebook relies on tracking to target ads at customers. Facebook declared in the newspaper ads that it was 'standing up to Apple and warned that such a change will be the ruin of small businesses....  Let’s be clear: Apple is no saint. While looking and acting like a defender of user privacy has long been a core tenet of the company, its bottom line does not depend on advertising, and ridding the world of intrusive marketing by kneecapping Facebook is good for its business.... Apple, pointing out Facebook’s data gluttony, and Facebook, in turn, noting Apple’s hegemony over mobile, make one thing clear: These tech companies have too much power. And no matter how you slice it, they are all in dire need of government regulation."

The topic is not free speech and censorship, but Swisher goes on to criticize Mark Zuckerberg for "stubbornness in the face of persistent criticism" — which may be relevant to the topic under discussion — and to justify that characterization by pointing to his company's support for the user's free speech: 
It delayed for years before finally tackling disinformation on its platform. The company continued untoward cozying up to the Trump administration. I am almost never surprised to see Facebook take the hard line when taking a softer one might do. 

Support for freedom of speech is only "delay" if you believe we are on track to suppress that freedom and it's just a matter of time. As for "untoward cozying up to the Trump administration" — it seems designed to push NYT readers to take the Apple side in this dispute. I'm already inclined to side with Apple on the privacy issue, but I don't like seeing freedom of speech processed into cozying up to Trump! That's a low move.

December 18, 2020

Freezing up.


"And, he's a grown man, he is the smartest man I know, I mean from a pure intellectual capacity."

That's the most inane line in Joe Biden's answer to Stephen Colbert's ludicrously leading question, reported at CBS News
"What are you going to do and how will you sustain each other for the attacks you know are coming your way?" Colbert asked. "Case in point, I know you want to be as bipartisan and reach across the aisle, but as much as you don't want it to happen, you know that the people who want to make hay in Washington are going to try to use your adult son as a cudgel against you. How do you feel about that, and what do you have to say to those people? 
"We have great confidence in our son," Mr. Biden told Colbert. "I am not concerned about any accusations that have been made against him. It's used to get to me. I think it's kind of foul play but — look, it is what it is. And, he's a grown man, he is the smartest man I know, I mean from a pure intellectual capacity. And as long as he's good, we're good." 

As long as he's good, we're good! Colbert had to rush in to help:

Colbert responded: "As a father I understand that and I admire that. But I mean, in terms of your job as president, can you reach across the aisle to people who'll be using this as an attack on you when it is such a personal attack because it's about family?" 

Notice how both times Colbert asked a question on this topic, he signaled to Biden that he needed to attack his attackers. Your antagonists are using your son as a cudgel, they're going personal — aren't they awful? Biden responded blandly:

"But if it benefits the country, yes. I really mean it," Mr. Biden said. "Because we know who we are." 

"Trump Bows to Reality, Asks Confidants: Should I Do ‘The Apprentice’ Again?"

A headline at The Daily Beast. 

“I received a call from President Trump last week. We chatted about the election briefly [and] he made it clear that he wasn’t giving up on fighting for a second term,” said Eric Bolling, a Sinclair host and friend of the Trump family who appeared on Trump’s reality TV show years ago. “I mentioned to him that I believe whatever happens with the legal fights, he would emerge as the biggest media personality on the planet. Trump has a clear opportunity to be a media mega-personality post-presidency.” 
“I think an Apprentice/Celebrity Apprentice revival would be a humongous hit,” Bolling added. “This iteration would be ratings gold for whomever is fortunate enough to get the reboot.”

First, never use "whomever" in speech. When you're wrong — as Bolling is here — it's the trying-too-hard kind of bad. Just say "whoever" and it doesn't matter if you're right or wrong. 

Second, I can't picture Trump the ex-President going backward into an old show, but I can picture Trump doing something I can't picture, so there's that paradox. I can picture it at a level of abstraction where I can't see it. 

What sort of "Apprentice" could he do? On the original show, the tasks the competing teams faced related to Trump's business. The new show could be about politics and have would-be political operators competing, but I think anyone with serious career ambitions would eschew connection to Trump... unless they wanted a career in Trumpist politics. 

"New York Times Admits Its ‘Caliphate’ Podcast Fell for ISIS Hoaxer’s Bullshit/HOOK, LINE, SINKER."

"The newspaper says it didn’t properly scrutinize the claims of Shehroze Chaudhry, who has since been charged with making up his terrorism past." 

Headline at The Daily Beast. 
The New York Times on Friday released the findings of its internal investigation into star reporter Rukmini Callimachi’s reporting on ISIS and extremism in the Middle East.... Callimachi came under intense scrutiny after the main subject of her Peabody award-winning podcast, titled Caliphate, was charged in Canada earlier this year with making up a terrorism hoax in which he claimed to have joined ISIS in Syria and have been a part of its brutal police force. Law-enforcement officials said that, in reality, Shehroze Chaudhry, better known by his alias Abu Huzayfah, lied about his exploits to the media, and had actually never traveled to Syria. His arrest immediately sparked questions at the Times, which through Callimachi’s reporting had leaned heavily on Chaudhry’s allegedly fabricated story.

ADDED: NPR has good detail:  

December 17, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...

IMG_1759 can talk about whatever you like.


"At the start of this pandemic, I recall feeling both horror at the unfolding calamity, and also a small sense of hope..."

"... that as in other times of hardship, people would find ways to change the world for the better. There was talk of community support, mutual aid and the rediscovery of the positive powers of the state to protect its citizens. Much of that has dimmed now, and it often seems that we simply want relief — to go back to the way the world was before, and as soon as possible. We have to get back to that place. Yet this may be the best chance in our lifetimes to break the hold of an industry that, until recently, was rightly vilified."

We have to get back... and we have to change the world. 

Thanks for changing the bad new world with the vaccine, but we have to get back to the good old world where we hated you.

"When Paul visited Moscow in May 2003, to perform a concert in Red Square, he had an audience with President Putin, who told him that hearing the Beatles as a boy growing up in the Soviet Union..."

"... was 'like a gulp of freedom.' On the same visit, former president Gorbachev told Paul: 'I do believe the music of the Beatles taught the young people of the Soviet Union that there is another life.'"

From Craig Brown's "150 Glimpses of the Beatles." 


White man news.

Peculiar?! With white men excluded for so long — nearly half a century — it's almost as if you could celebrate it as another first, right up there with first openly gay Transportation Secretary.

I don't think we'd watched a movie all year — not any nondocumentary — but then we watched a movie 2 nights in a row.

The first movie was something that I'd seen a few times, had not watched in decades, but wanted to watch to show it to Meade, who had never seen it. It's something that's especially fun to watch another person experience for the first time. I was reminded of it when we happened upon an interview with the star, who was quite charming talking about it.

The second was a recent movie that was prominently displayed on Netflix. I clicked it on because it was based on a book that I'd read and liked, dealt with a subject I care a lot about, and had 2 male stars that sometimes do their thing to great effect. We watched the whole thing, and only then did I check the reviews. Turns out it's considered a bomb. It's based on a true story, and I'd like to see a list of the deviations from the book, which tried for historical accuracy. The book has much more detail about the subject I care about, and the movie has — I think — tweaked things to make the women more important and to disrespect the actual subject by swapping in what they seem to find more crowd-pleasing — love.

"God in his wisdom has provided man with natural forks—his fingers. Therefore it is an insult to him to substitute artificial metal forks for them when eating."

Said a member of the clergy after in Maria Argyropoulina, in 1004, showed up from Greece for her wedding in Venice with forks (according to a post at Culinaria). 

Argyropoulina died of the plague 2 years later, and — what do you have to do to be a saint?! — Saint Peter Damian said: “Nor did she deign to touch her food with her fingers, but would command her eunuchs to cut it up into small pieces, which she would impale on a certain golden instrument with two prongs and thus carry to her mouth. . . . this woman’s vanity was hateful to Almighty God; and so, unmistakably, did He take his revenge. For He raised over her the sword of His divine justice, so that her whole body did putrefy and all her limbs began to wither.” 

Here's the Wikipedia article on Saint Peter Damian. Highlights: "[H]e introduced a more-severe discipline, including the practice of flagellation... Another innovation was that of the daily siesta... Peter often condemned philosophy. He claimed that the first grammarian was the Devil, who taught Adam to decline deus in the plural. He argued that monks should not have to study philosophy, because Jesus did not choose philosophers as disciples, and so philosophy is not necessary for salvation." 

So with Damian you get to slough off the difficult studies and take naps... but you've got to self-flagellate. Now, that might seem weird, but it's a trade-off of a sort that lots of people would choose to make if given crisply stated options. 

"We may imagine specific unlived lives for ourselves, as artists, or teachers, or tech bros; I have a lawyer friend whose alternate self owns a bar in Red Hook."

"Or we may just be drawn to possibility itself, as in the poem 'The Road Not Taken': when Robert Frost tells us that choosing one path over the other made 'all the difference,' it doesn’t matter what the difference is... In the Iliad, Achilles chooses between two clearly defined fates, designed by the gods and foretold in advance: he can either fight and die at Troy or live a long, boring life.... But the world in which we live isn’t so neatly organized. Achilles didn’t have to wonder if he should have been pre-med or pre-law; we make such decisions knowing that they might shape our lives.... As Sartre says, we are who we are. But isn’t the negative space in a portrait part of that portrait? In the sense that our unled lives have been imagined by us, and are part of us, they are real; to know what someone isn’t—what she might have been, what she’s dreamed of being—this is to know someone intimately. " 

This is a subject I raised a few days back, on the blog here. Do you have a "road not taken" point in your past — a particular moment? Do you question your fixation on that moment or do you find present-day meaning in the way that is preserved in your mind? It's not that there was a fork in the road, but that your life in its entirety is a fork, and you still have that fork.

ADDED: I have a post from 2007 called "The Road Not Taken." It's about a day I spent as a docent in a Frank Lloyd Wright gatehouse that has the inscription over the fireplace: "Taken the road less traveled by/That has made all the difference." (The precise Frost line is "I took the one less traveled by/And that has made all the difference.")

This is actually not the slightest bit like moonlight through the pines.


I wonder how people in Georgia feel about having the whole country sucking up to them right now and if it pleases them to hear this one song aimed at them over and over. This is a song about a man remembering a lost love, a woman named Georgia. It's not about the state, though it has been the state song of Georgia since 1979. It's kind of weird to be singing about a state as if it were a woman you were longing for. It's weird to think of your state as a woman — though it has a woman's name, and it's not the only state with a woman's name — and weird to address your own state as if you wished you could get back there. You don't need a road leading back. You are there!

"When the new House convenes at noon on Jan. 3, all members will have to be physically present to be sworn in, and they will have to re-pass the rule that allowed the House to vote remotely."

"If, let’s say, five Democrats have covid-19 and are quarantined or hospitalized, or can’t make it to Washington, while all the Republicans can be present, the majority could rest temporarily with the GOP. What would then happen on Jan. 6, when Congress meets in joint session to affirm the electoral college results, is anyone’s guess.... The House has not had a margin this close since after the 1930 election. That year, Republicans won 218 seats but had enough deaths before the convening of the new Congress in March — 14 in all — that Democrats were able to take the majority and hold it when they won a few of the special elections in the interim. The Democrats’ impending mini-majority means there is no leeway for President-elect Joe Biden to choose any more House members for Cabinet positions or other key posts, and there will be heavy pressure put on California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) not to choose one of the very attractive possible replacements in the House for Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris’s Senate seat when it becomes vacant on Jan. 20. And, in the meantime, any glitch — an unexpected death or resignation, or even defection, could make a big difference.... [Nancy Pelosi] will have no leeway at all. The speaker will need the support of progressives... and all the Democrats across that wide spectrum. And lawmakers will always think about the next election in 2022, a midterm vote that usually goes against the party holding the White House, making those members from swing or close districts — most of them from the moderate wing of the party — especially antsy and fearful of controversial issues or votes...."

From "Democrats’ House majority is razor-thin. Any glitch could spell disaster" (an opinion piece by Norman Ornstein in WaPo).

December 16, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want. 

And please think of supporting this blog by doing your shopping through the Althouse portal to Amazon, which is always right there in the sidebar. Thanks!

Using everything you've got.

Click here for a phenomenal Rube Goldberg device.

Biden might not be a competent President. But America might not need one.

Get used to headlines like this: "Pete Buttigieg Isn’t a Transit Visionary. But Biden Might Not Need One" (New York Magazine).

I was wondering why it made any sense that Buttigieg should run the Department of Transportation, but I think questions like that will be answered with a brush off. Oh, what difference does it make?! Let go of your anxiety. Biden is here. And everything's going to be all right.

"Sachsalber... sought to literally find a needle hidden in a haystack by the museum’s curators, taking a common idiom at face value and enacting it as a work."

"In the end, Sachsalber was successful in locating the needle.... ... Sachsalber undertook a project called Hands, for which he and his father attempted to complete a 13,200-piece puzzle of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam. ... Sachsalber produced 222 drawings based on Galerie Bruno Bischofberger ads that appeared on the back of Artforum. Other performances involved eating a poisonous mushroom and spending 24 hours in a room with a cow."

From "Sven Sachsalber, Prankish Artist on the Verge of Fame, Dies at 33" (ArtNews). It doesn't say how the young man died. 

I don't know what kind of person you are, but some of you may wonder if he died from one of his performances — we can see that he was "involved" in eating a poisonous mushroom — and others of you may muse that life itself is an art performance if you step back and look. I believe — please do not comment to confirm this belief (I don't want to know) — that most of you simply disrespect performance art and are tempted to comment that you see no great loss to the world in the death of Sachsalber.

Government gives the go-ahead for a super-spreader Christmas.

Here in Madison, Wisconsin, the Wisconsin State Journal reports: 
Less than two weeks before Christmas and with the number of new daily COVID-19 cases declining and local health providers getting the first shots of vaccine, the Madison and Dane County public health department issued a new order on Tuesday allowing indoor gatherings of up to 10 people.... Outdoor gatherings, previously limited to 10 people, will be allowed with up to 25 people.... 

The new order will be in effect for 28 days, or the length of two COVID-19 incubation periods. The health department said it’s still safest to only gather with household members, but according to a Georgia Tech risk-assessment tool, the chances that at least one person in a gathering of 10 will be COVID-19 positive has dropped from 32% when the previous order was issued on Nov. 17 to 22% today. For groups of 15 and 25, the likelihoods are currently 30% and 46%, respectively.

Things have improved because of what we've been doing, and that's a reason to stop doing what we're doing? Isn't that the cue to invoke the name Fox Butterfield

"The Butterfield Effect" is a term coined by James Taranto in his online editorial column of The Wall Street Journal called Best of the Web Today, typically bringing up a headline, "Fox Butterfield, Is That You?" later "Fox Butterfield, Call Your Office." Taranto coined the term after reading Butterfield's articles discussing the "paradox" of crime rates falling while the prison population grew due to tougher sentencing guidelines.

Would you go to a Christmas gathering where there's a 22% chance that somebody there has COVID? The "experts" say, go ahead go — go if it's 22%, but don't go if it's 32%. If we follow that expert advice, how long will it take before the chances go back up to 32%? Why aren't we saying what we're doing is working, so let's keep going with what's working? The answer better not be that the Electoral College has sealed Biden's victory, so we don't need to manufacture gloom anymore.  

"He lied to people in his advertising; he had more money to spend because he represented corporate interests; states changed their voting laws and let illegal people vote; the Russians intervened..."

"... they suppressed turnout; the press was biased against him; He was wrongly blamed for [insert here]; some people voted twice; etc."

That's what people whose candidate lost have said about why the winner won after every election since 1996, according to University of Pennsylvania polisci prof Diana Mutz, who's been taking surveys on this question. 

Edsall wants to say that now people must stop behaving like this, but why would that happen? The idea — which doesn't strike me as too promising — is that with Trump people have finally gone too far. And Trump himself stoked these ideas. Edsall quotes Harvard psychology prof Steven Pinker: 
What’s extraordinary about the present moment is how far most Republicans have gone in endorsing beliefs that are disconnected from reality and serve only to bind the sect and excommunicate the unfaithful. 
At some point, Pinker says, "reality will push back." 

Menopause stories,

December 15, 2020

At the Snow Forest Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Slightly salty deep bite."

It's a podcast — about the Person of the Year, calling Jill “Dr.”, the deep and the shallow, who cares that Elvis died, writing to annoy, and "Earthlings." Listen here (or go wherever you go for podcasts and subscribe!):

"I think 27 years of superb reporting and commitment to The New Yorker should have been weighed against an incident that horribly embarrassed the magazine but mostly embarrassed himself."

Said Tina Brown, the former editor of The New Yorker, quoted in "The Undoing of Jeffrey Toobin How a leading man of legal journalism lost his sweetest gig" (NYT). 

Malcolm Gladwell, an important New Yorker writer, said: "I read the Condé Nast news release, and I was puzzled because I couldn’t find any intellectual justification for what they were doing. They just assumed he had done something terrible, but never told us what the terrible thing was. And my only feeling — the only way I could explain it — was that Condé Nast had taken an unexpected turn toward traditional Catholic teaching." He then, we're told he took out his... ... ... "Bible and read to a reporter an allegory from Genesis 38 in which God strikes down a man for succumbing to the sin of self-gratification."

And Masha Gessen, "who initially found the incident 'traumatic'" said: "I think it’s tragic that a guy would get fired for really just doing something really stupid. It is the Zoom equivalent of taking an inappropriately long lunch break, having sex during it and getting stumbled upon."

That's all from the near the end of the NYT article. What follows is this:  
But Mr. Toobin may not want anyone’s pity. Amid the 2018 Supreme Court confirmation process for Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the journalist scoffed on CNN at Republicans who said white men, as a demographic, were being mistreated. “Garbage,” Mr. Toobin said. “All this whining about the poor plight of white men is ridiculous.”

Here's the Genesis 38 story, by the way. Not sure how what Catholics think about this story, but Gladwell and the NYT doesn't seem to care much about accurate textualism. It's not about "succumbing to the sin of self-gratification":

"His job, like everyone on MSNBC, was so to spread disinformation to help Dems & keep the MSNBC audience addicted to endorphins & fear."

That screenshot of the NYT is from this article, "CNN and MSNBC Fret Over Post-Trump Future/Ratings have hit new highs, but executives and journalists at both networks are uneasy about the year ahead.
People at both networks know that viewers who abhorred President Trump may no longer need their nightly therapy sessions with Rachel Maddow or Don Lemon. And President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. seems unlikely to generate the 24/7 grist of drama and scandal that resurrected cable news, taking it from a dying medium to a focal point of modern politics. So even as CNN smashed a 40-year viewership record last month and MSNBC notched its highest ratings since its founding in 1996, journalists and executives at the networks say they are uneasy about the year ahead....

It makes you wonder why they'd stop looking for trouble and anxiety. Are they motivated to help the Democratic Party or to keep their ratings up? 

Remember when the village people — the Village People?! — drank vegetable soup from your cupped hands?

Tala Schlossberg remembers. 

Schlossberg is the daughter of Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and yet I am not making fun of her. This video is actually really good! The story and the animation are credited to Scholossberg, and it's a funny journey into nostalgia and what we're really missing from pre-COVID times:

"In the two weeks since commercial flights began between Tel Aviv and the Emirati cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Israelis have caused a remarkable tourism boomlet in the Gulf nation."

"Suddenly, Hebrew can be heard throughout the markets, malls and beaches of a destination that was strictly off-limits until the two countries achieved a diplomatic breakthrough in August and established normal relations. More than 50,000 Israelis have brushed aside covid-19 concerns, a terrorism warning and decades of tension to make the three-hour flight across the Arab Peninsula.... The first Israelis to arrive described a congenial culture clash unlike anything they have experienced in the region. 'This is much warmer than what we felt in Jordan or Egypt,' said Arieh Engel... ... Engel had just had 'Happy Birthday; sung to him in Arabic, English and finally a halting Hebrew by the staff of the Arabia Tea House in Dubai’s Old City.... 'They are so rich here,' marveled Reem Iluz, a Tel Aviv construction engineer loaded down with bags in the palatial Dubai Mall, somewhere between the 2.6-million-gallon aquarium tank and the 19,000-square-foot ice rink. 'They have a lot to lose if there is no peace.'... For Dubai’s first public Hanukkah, the JCC is holding a nightly extravaganza at the base of the 163-story Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. Hundreds of Israelis dance, while the music of singers and a DJ flown in from Israel echo off the surrounding towers. 'I really think this is the best place to be a Jew,” [said Rabbi Mendel] Duchman..."

From the WaPo comments — this has a lot of likes:

"Boko Haram asserted responsibility on Tuesday for laying siege to a secondary school in northwest Nigeria and abducting more than 300 boys..."

"Hundreds of gunmen on motorbikes surrounded the boarding school in Katsina state Friday night and opened fire on police, witnesses said, before rounding up students and dragging them into the woods. Abubakar Shekau, the group’s leader, said in an audio message released in the early hours of the morning that fighters stormed the school to discourage 'Western education'..."

"Boko Haram" means "Western education is forbidden."

"Boko Haram has swollen its ranks over the years by striking towns, kidnapping children and ordering them to join or die. Those who escape often speak of killing people against their will, leaving them traumatized and subject to state punishment."

"The Pinterest Paradox: Cupcakes and Toxicity."

Great title for a fascinating exposé — by Francoise Brougher — of the inner workings of Pinterest. This was written last August, but I'm reading it now because it was linked in a new NYT article, "Pinterest Settles Gender Discrimination Suit for $22.5 Million/The suit had been brought by Françoise Brougher, Pinterest’s former chief operating officer, who said she was fired after speaking up about mistreatment."

"Cupcakes and Toxicity" is at Medium, so you don't need to worry about a paywall. Brougher was the COO at Pinterest. Excerpt: "There is a reason that women do not negotiate as hard as men for higher pay. It is not because we are not good negotiators. As I would learn at Pinterest, it is because we get punished when we do."

Chelsea Clinton has an etiquette question.

Question? I'd say questions. First of all, are you lying? This better not be a cover for not sending a present. How long ago was the wedding? Did you attend the wedding? How expensive was the present? Why are you accusing the new occupant of just keeping the present when you know there are thieves who steal items from doorsteps? Surely, the identity of the people you're accusing — or just asking about — could be easily uncovered. What's the etiquette about insinuating that random private citizens are thieves? How many people are in the category "my closest childhood friends" for you? Does the "childhood" part mean you're not really friends with them anymore? Did you even consider going to the wedding? Are you tweeting this now because you heard from the childhood friend and wanted to do something to vouch for your interest in her wedding? 

I read some of the replies over there and there are quite a few that say if a package from Chelsea Clinton arrived on their doorstep, they'd be so starstruck, they'd definitely keep it. It seems that Chelsea Clinton fans aren't big sticklers for legal procedure.

ADDED: In the discussion over there, Chelsea reveals that she did already send a new present to the old friend, so her "etiquette" question is only about what should be done — or thought — about the package keepers. 

"Every single avenue was made available to President Trump to contest the results.... President Trump was denied no course of action he wanted to take...."

"You know, respecting the will of the people is at the heart of our democracy, even we find those results hard to accept. But that’s the obligation of those who’ve taken on a sworn duty to uphold the Constitution. Four years ago, when I was a sitting Vice President of the United States, it was my responsibility to announce the tally of the Electoral College votes of the joint session of Congress, had voted to elect Donald Trump. I did my job.... We the people voted, faith in our institutions held, the integrity of our elections remains intact. And now it’s time to turn the page as we’ve done throughout our history, to unite, to heal.... [W]e need to work together to give each other a chance to lower the temperature.... We’re a great nation. We’re good people.... [W]e share in common a love for this country.... For we, the United States of America, has [sic] always set the example for the world for a peaceful transition of power.... We’ll do so again.... [M]ay this moment give us a strength to rebuild this house of ours upon a rock that can never be washed away. As in the Prayer of St. Francis, for where there is discord, union, where there is doubt, faith where there is darkness, light...."

Said Joe Biden, last night, on the occasion of the vote of the Electoral College. Transcript. Here's the video. 

He clears his throat near the beginning and then seems to resist clearing his throat as much as he needs to, so you can't watch this without thinking Phlegm! way more than is reasonably comfortable, and he's trying so hard to make you feel comfortable. It's just before the 10-minute mark that it gets very bad, and 10 minutes is a good cut-off point. Why not edit it down? It's not a super-pithy text. It would be better 3 minutes shorter. There was no reason to make him go this long... not unless the idea was to make us get comfortable with the idea of phasing him out and swapping in Kamala at the earliest possible moment — say, around March 1st. 

December 14, 2020

At the Frosted Trees Café...


... you can talk all night. 

AND: I changed the time on this post to put it on top of the William Barr post. I like the open thread closing the day. 

Barr's out.

"In this battle for the soul of America, democracy prevailed. The flame of democracy was lit in this nation a lot time ago. And we now know that nothing - not even a pandemic - or an abuse of power - can extinguish that flame."

"What beats deep in the hearts of the American people is this: Democracy. The right to be heard. To have your vote counted. To choose the leaders of this nation. To govern ourselves. In America, politicians don’t take power — the people grant it to them." 

So the thing happened just now — the thing we call the Electoral College.

"After years of protests from fans and Native American groups, the Cleveland Indians have decided to change their team name..."

"... moving away from a moniker that has long been criticized as racist, three people familiar with the decision said Sunday. The move follows a decision by the Washington Football Team of the N.F.L. in July to stop using a name long considered a racial slur, and is part of a larger national conversation about race that magnified this year amid protests of systemic racism and police violence.... One option that the team is considering, two of the people said, is moving forward without a replacement name — similar to how the Washington Football Team proceeded — then coming up with a new name in consultation with the public."... Other professional sports teams, including the Atlanta Braves, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Chicago Blackhawks, have said in recent months that they have no plans to change their names... The [Indians] club has said that the name was originally intended to honor a former player, Louis Sockalexis, who played for the Cleveland Spiders, a major league club, in the 19th century and was a member of the Penobscot Nation. Some have suggested that Cleveland adopt the name Spiders as a replacement."

Trump tweeted" "Oh no! What is going on? This is not good news, even for 'Indians.' Cancel culture at work!"

Personally, I think all baseball teams should be named after a type of animal, preferably one that you can picture holding a baseball bat or attempting to play baseball in a silly fanciful manner. But the only team that meets my standard is the Cubs. Maybe the Tigers. The best trend actually represented by the existing name is birds — Cardinals, Orioles, Blue Jays. So I recommend another bird. Maybe Crows — for the alliteration and because there are crows in Ohio. But Spiders is perfectly good. It's got some Cleveland tradition, it might scare the opposition, and it's an animal. It's a type of animal not currently represented among the major league team names, but it would provide company for the Diamondbacks, which are currently the only team that's named after a type of animal that isn't represented by any other team. Anyway, don't name a team after a type of human being. That was never a good idea. And don't name a team after items of clothing. That's just stupid.

"And you can understand why [Tim] Cook was surprised to learn that his company was making a show about Gawker."

"The site represented a particular irritant to Apple. The most famous incident came in 2010, when Gizmodo got its hands on a prototype of the iPhone 4. Steve Jobs pleaded to get it back, police close to the company raided an editor’s house, and Gawker reveled in the chaos. But Mr. Cook also has a personal grievance with the site, which in 2008 responded to a glowing article about the low-profile executive by floating the rumor that he was gay. (Other coverage had used euphemistic expressions like 'intensely private' lifelong bachelor.) When Apple named Mr. Cook to lead the company in 2011, it made no mention of his sexual orientation, but Gawker’s Ryan Tate introduced him as 'The Most Powerful Gay Man in America.' Mr. Cook later wrote proudly of his identity, and said he’d long been open with people in his personal life. But Mr. Tate said he thought frequently about the story afterward, and even wondered whether Mr. Cook’s parents had known about his identity before the report."

It's a momentous day.

The Electoral College is voting AND the first shots of the newly approved COVID19 vaccines are going in.

Joseph Epstein scores with an essay telling Jill Biden to put aside the "Dr. Jill" honorific.

Let's take a close look at this Wall Street Journal article that's causing a mini-uproar, "Is There a Doctor in the White House? Not if You Need an M.D./Jill Biden should think about dropping the honorific, which feels fraudulent, even comic." It's by Joseph Epstein. Epstein is an essayist. He's been writing essays and publishing collections of essays for many years. He's 83. And good for him, suddenly scoring so big with this one essay. It really gave people with a need to write essays and mini-essays — tweets 'n' blogposts — something to write oh so easily about. 

That fiend Epstein! He's a misogynist! Why's he a misogynist for calling bullshit on the use of "Dr." for people who are not medical doctors? I haven't read the essay yet and I've only glanced at the criticism — enough to see the charge of misogyny — and what I'm going to presume is that it's perceived as misogynist because it's women — and not men — who style themselves as "Dr." when they are not medical doctors. Why do women do it? Are they guessing they'll be thought less of because they are female? The "Dr." business might be a defense again real or imagined misogyny, but that doesn't make it misogynistic to argue that it's time to lay off the self-puffery of the non-medical "Dr." 

Now, let me read the essay:
Madame First Lady -- Mrs. Biden -- Jill -- kiddo: a bit of advice on what may seem like a small but I think is a not unimportant matter. Any chance you might drop the "Dr." before your name?

He's just asking. The "kiddo" might seem over-familiar, but it's in a series — from most formal to most familiar. Laying out a series of approaches to addressing the woman — Madame First Lady -- Mrs. Biden -- Jill -- kiddo — is a way to say What should I call you? He's asking.

"Dr. Jill Biden" sounds and feels fraudulent, not to say a touch comic.

That's phrased with some politeness — jocose politeness — but he's plainly saying it is fraudulent and comical. All right! He's got us, and those with an inclination to protect the Bidens are activated and ready to denounce old man Epstein. As a person of cruel neutrality, I am anticipating liking this essay. I'm thinking this "Dr." bullshit among women has gone on too long and is a marker of inferiority, so he's calling on Jill Biden to set a good example and drop the honorific. You don't need it, and you shouldn't want it. 

"Maybe New Yorkers have a little PTSD, but what we went through in the spring with all these experts giving us advice and the advice turned out to be wrong..."

"... all this anecdotal information. We invested very heavily in doing COVID testing and we do more testing than any state in the nation, but that gives us actual facts that we can base our actions upon. And we’ve now done 21 million tests.... On the facts, what we’re seeing, schools are almost without exception, safer than local communities, in terms of infection rate. This was not what was initially expected. Initially, some of the experts said, 'Well, schools are like mass gatherings, and if you get a lot of students together, there’s going to be a spread.' That is not what has happened. That’s not what the facts say. The facts say, that the schools are actually following the rules and following the guidance, the children are following the guidance.... Now, this is a decision that has been left to the local school districts.... City of Buffalo recently announced they’re going to keep their schools closed. I respect local governments, I respect the prerogative of local governments with education. I understand the balance, but my advice, and if you look across the nation, and you look across the world, most informed experts will say test in the schools, but if the schools are safer, then leave the schools open."

Said Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday (transcript). Not sure what he means to say about "experts" — "all these experts giving us advice and the advice turned out to be wrong" and "most informed experts will say test in the schools, but if the schools are safer, then leave the schools open." I think he means, we've got to listen to the experts and follow their advice, but I understand your "PTSD" about expert advice. There's a limit to how much people are going to accept being told to listen to the experts — especially as the experts themselves change as they get more data — but what else are you going to do? 

December 13, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.


And you can do your shopping through the Althouse portal to Amazon — which is always right there in the sidebar. 

"Two centuries ago, a disturbing new two-wheeled contraption appeared on the streets of New York. Pedestrians and drivers of horse-drawn vehicles saw the velocipede as a cluttering, dangerous nuisance..."

"... and it was quickly banned. It took more than 40 years for it to reappear, this time as the bicycle. A century ago, a disturbing new four-wheeled contraption appeared on the streets of New York. Pedestrians and drivers of horse-drawn vehicles saw the automobile as a cluttering, dangerous nuisance, but they found it impossible to resist. Despite the suspicion, the entire city was redesigned to accommodate it: sidewalks were narrowed, traffic signs installed, rules written, roads built, and police officers’ job description changed. Now another kind of vehicle is joining the ecosystem of the streets...." 

What was the disturbing vehicle that was around in 1820? It looked like this, idealized...

... and like this, really:

Trump is more likely to regain the presidency in 2024 if the GOP fails in the Georgia runoffs and loses the Senate majority.

True or false? I'd put up a survey, but I'm afraid you'll vote impulsively, so I'm just starting a discussion. 

I'm assuming Trump will keep raging and rallying and never stop.

"Under China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, the Communist Party’s creeping interference on the smallest details of Chinese life is being felt more and more."

"Censors have blurred the bejeweled earlobes of young male pop stars on television and the internet so that, in their mind, the piercings and jewelry don’t set a bad example for boys. Women in costumes at a video game convention were told to raise their necklines. With soccer a national priority under Mr. Xi, the crackdown has spread to sports. Last year, members of the men’s national soccer team were forced to play in long sleeves in stifling heat at the Asian Cup in Abu Dhabi after the government banned the display of tattoos during matches...."

Why did Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms turn down a position in Joe Biden's cabinet?

Is it that she wants to keep her political path separate and independent from Biden's or just that the offer wasn't good enough?

Bloomberg reports:

Bottoms had been rumored to be under consideration to be secretary of Housing and Urban Development or to head the Small Business Administration, a cabinet-level post. A reporter for the New Yorker said Friday she’d been offered the less prestigious role of ambassador to the Bahamas. The transition denied that report on Friday, and Taylor did again Saturday.

Ambassador to the Bahamas! 

"Two statues that were torn down by protesters in June — one that has come to represent women’s rights and the other honoring an abolitionist — are expected to be reinstalled this coming summer."

"Gov. Tony Evers announced Friday that the state Department of Administration has been awarded $60,000 in federal grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts to help restore the 'Forward' and Col. Hans Christian Heg statues. Restoration of the two statues has begun and both are anticipated to be reinstalled by mid-2021. Evers also has asked the State Capitol and Executive Residence Board to consider a new statue on the Capitol grounds of the late Vel Phillips, Wisconsin's first Black secretary of state. A community advisory committee plans to complete a proposal to erect a statue of Phillips by early 2021." 

I don't understand the connection between replacing torn-down statues and putting up a new statue that represents the cause that was involved in tearing down the old statues. I'd like Tony Evers to make a clear statement that is something reasonable and respectable, otherwise it seems to reward destructive behavior. Nothing against Vel Phillips, I just think it's dangerous to respond positively to destruction. What's to prevent the statues — including the new one — from getting torn down again? Or is that the reasoning, that the new statue is supposed to appease the statue-destroyers, so all 3 statues can remain standing? That's a strange sort of moderation, and it's not something that Evers or the advisory committee would say out loud. And it's not even accurate, because the statue-topplers had no fact-based reason for going after "Forward" — a symbol of progress — and Hans Christian Heg — a Civil War abolitionist who died for the cause. With such bad targeting, they might topple a statue of Vel Phillips.