February 27, 2021

Full moon at dawn.

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This morning at 6:42.

The sun looked like this:

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Talk about anything you want in the comments.

The riot at your doorstep is an insurrection.

Questions.

Equity.

Crackers.

"Do you support the government’s intervening to override the parent’s consent to give a child puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and/or amputation surgery of breasts and genitalia?"

That was Rand Paul's question to Rachel Levine, Biden’s nominee for assistant health secretary. He's quoted at "The Absurd Criticism of Rand Paul’s Rachel Levine Questioning" (National Review). 

It's a precise question. If it can't be answered, why can't it be answered? If it's an outrageous question, that must be because the answer is plainly "no," so why couldn't Levine forthrightly say "no"? There are some questions where the right answer is to refuse to answer — for example questions that nose into an individual's private life — but was Rand Paul's question a question like that? Is anyone making a clear statement of why these were questions that should not have been dignified with answers?

"The asymmetry of the table not centered under the window is troubling, no?"

Said R C Belaire, looking at this photograph in yesterday's Lunchtime Café

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Meade had, in fact, been troubled by the asymmetry, and, even before seeing Belaire's comment, had embarked on the project of repositioning the table. Here's Meade's photograph, to dispel all your troubles that are about window-table asymmetry at Meadhouse:

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"President Biden has decided that the diplomatic cost of directly penalizing Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is too high..."

"... according to senior administration officials, despite a detailed American intelligence finding that he directly approved the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident and Washington Post columnist who was drugged and dismembered in October 2018. The decision by Mr. Biden, who during the 2020 campaign called Saudi Arabia a 'pariah' state with 'no redeeming social value,' came after weeks of debate in which his newly formed national security team advised him that there was no way to formally bar the heir to the Saudi crown from entering the United States, or to weigh criminal charges against him, without breaching the relationship with one of America’s key Arab allies. Officials said a consensus developed inside the White House that the cost of that breach, in Saudi cooperation on counterterrorism and in confronting Iran, was simply too high.... Mr. Biden and his aides have repeatedly said that they intend to take a far tougher line with the Saudis than did President Donald J. Trump, who vetoed legislation passed by both houses of Congress to block weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.... Mr. Trump refused to make [the intelligence findings] public, knowing it would fuel the action for sanctions or criminal action against Prince Mohammed."

From "Biden Won’t Penalize Saudi Crown Prince Over Khashoggi’s Killing, Fearing Relations Breach/The decision will disappoint the human rights community and members of his own party who complained during the Trump administration that the U.S. was failing to hold Mohammed bin Salman accountable" (NYT).

AND: From "President Biden Lets a Saudi Murderer Walk/The crown prince killed my friend Jamal Khashoggi, and we do next to nothing" by Nicholas Kristof (NYT):

Perhaps I’m biased because I knew Jamal. Some may think: It’s too bad about the murder, but other leaders have killed people, too. True, but M.B.S. poisons everything he touches. He kidnapped Lebanon’s prime minister. He oversaw a feud with Qatar. He caused the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen. He imprisoned women’s rights activists. He has tarnished his country’s reputation far more effectively than Iran ever could. 
So, Mr. Biden, it’s not a human rights “gesture” to sanction M.B.S. Jamal was a practical man who didn’t believe in mushy gestures — but he did dream of a more democratic Arab world that would benefit Arabs and Americans alike. And by letting a murderer walk, you betray that vision.

"Video Killed the Radio Star."

It's TikTok, so I need to put it after the jump. Here's the famous Buggles version of the song. What I want you to see is pocketsuke:

February 26, 2021

At the Lunchtime Café...

IMG_5361 ... reflect.

"We are deeply disappointed in this decision. We are not going to give up the fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 to help millions of struggling American workers..."

"... and their families. The American people deserve it, and we are committed to making it a reality." 

Said Chuck Schumer, quoted in "Biden’s minimum wage increase runs afoul of budget rules/The Senate parliamentarian has issued a ruling that could jeopardize the rest of the president’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief package" (Politico).

Speaking of reality, do you think he's really disappointed? I imagine he's relieved. He and his party have the benefit of looking as though they tried and the benefit of not having the potentially deleterious policy actually imposed on us.

"Should older people with slightly above-normal blood sugar readings — a frequent occurrence since the pancreas produces less insulin in later life — be taking action..."

"... as the American Diabetes Association has urged? Or does labeling people prediabetic merely 'medicalize' a normal part of aging, creating needless anxiety for those already coping with multiple health problems?... Defenders of the emphasis on treating prediabetes, which is said to afflict one-third of the United States population, point out that first-line treatment involves learning healthy behaviors that more Americans should adopt anyway: weight loss, smoking cessation, exercise and healthy eating. 'I’ve had a number of patients diagnosed with prediabetes, and it’s what motivates them to change... They know what they should be doing, but they need something to kick them into gear.' Geriatricians tend to disagree. 'It’s unprofessional to mislead people, to motivate them by fear of something that’s not actually true.... We’re all tired of having things to be afraid of.'"

From "How Meaningful Is Prediabetes for Older Adults?/A new study indicates that the condition might be less of a worry than once believed" (NYT).

Willfully and lewdly printing indecent writings.

 

Screen grab:

"As [Christopher] Rufo sees it, critical race theory is a revolutionary program that replaces the Marxist categories of the bourgeois and the proletariat with racial groups..."

"... justifying discrimination against those deemed racial oppressors. His goal, ultimately, is to get the Supreme Court to rule that school and workplace trainings based on the doctrines of critical race theory violate the 1964 Civil Rights Act.... Rufo insists there are no free speech implications to what he’s trying to do. 'You have the freedom of speech as an individual, of course, but you don’t have the kind of entitlement to perpetuate that speech through public agencies,' he said. This sounds, ironically, a lot like the arguments people on the left make about de-platforming right-wingers. To [KimberlĂ©] Crenshaw, attempts to ban critical race theory vindicate some of the movement’s skepticism about free speech orthodoxy, showing that there were never transcendent principles at play. When people defend offensive speech, she said, they’re often really defending 'the substance of what the speech is — because if it was really about free speech, then this censorship, people would be howling to the high heavens.' If it was really about free speech, they should be."

From "The Campaign to Cancel Wokeness/How the right is trying to censor critical race theory" by Michelle Goldberg (NYT). 

Here's a good comment over there: "The problem with your argument is that Critical Race Theory is presented at schools and workplace sessions as the TRUTH, not just an (unprovable) social science theory. And it would be very uncomfortable (if not career or social suicide) to question this theory in front of one’s bosses and peers."

That makes me think of Justice Jackson's famous line, one of the most important points about freedom of speech: "If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein." 

The problem is compelled speech. To be compelled to assert belief in what you do not believe is a severe intrusion on individual free speech, and that seems to be what is happening in these workplace training sessions. Is there some way to present the insights of Critical Race Theory as ideas to be understood and weighed against other ideas and debated instead of compelling attendance at events where the ideas are dictated and participants are forced to attest to the dictated beliefs?

"The implication that white people got better, that [George Floyd] served as a martyr for this country."

"The martyrdom of Black Americans is very prevalent among particularly white liberals and we see that, I think, in how we celebrate MLK and how a lot of these folks will uphold the whitewashed and martyred idea of Dr. King without actually exploring his radical nature and radical ideology.... [It was] the typical well meaning white liberal kind of paternalistic type of racism... She called to apologize in a way and it just really rang hollow to me. It rang like somebody that, one, didn’t reflect on what she said before she heard that I was upset. She also resorted to it as an individual hurt, in saying sorry she hurt me, without an ability to see a wider level and see as what it was, racist behavior, racist mentality. And I kind of started to say that and I’m like, 'You’ve got a lot of work to do.' And she said, 'I’m trying to do that work. Maybe you could help me.' And I told her that it’s not for me, I’m not here to do the work for you. You’ve got to do it yourself."

Said Matthew Braunginn, one of the "two," in "Two Sustainable Madison Committee members resign over 'God bless George Floyd' remark" (Madison 365).

Braunginn utters a long but important phrase: "the typical well meaning white liberal kind of paternalistic type of racism." Consider how regarding Floyd as a blessed martyr is a kind of racism. Understand why Braunginn was so outraged over this that he quit his alliance with some well-meaning Madison liberals.

"His first word was 'crocodile,' three syllables."

Said Prince Harry, quoted in "We didn’t step down, we stepped back, Prince Harry tells James Corden on The Late Late Show" (The London Times). Harry was talking about his son Archie. 

Am I the only one who recognizes this perfectly silly remark as a Princess Margaret joke? I've blogged this before, from the hilarious book "Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret"

The Princess liked to one-up. I have heard from a variety of people that she would engineer the conversation around to the subject of children’s first words, asking each of her fellow guests what their own child’s first words had been. Having listened to responses like ‘Mama’ and ‘doggy’, she would say, ‘My boy’s first word was “chandelier”.

Three syllables. Chandelier... crocodile... what's the difference? The difference is what the "spare" chose to do with her/his life. 

February 25, 2021

At the Sunrise Café...

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... you can talk all night. 

That's a photo by Meade, and if you look closely, you can see me out there on the Lake Mendota ice. Here's the picture of the sunrise I was taking:

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I got vaccinated.

 Just now.

"A student said she was racially profiled while eating in a college dorm. An investigation found no evidence of bias. But the incident will not fade away."

"The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN picked up the story of a young female student harassed by white workers. The American Civil Liberties Union, which took the student’s case, said she was profiled for 'eating while Black.' Less attention was paid three months later when a law firm hired by Smith College to investigate the episode found no persuasive evidence of bias. [Oumou] Kanoute was determined to have eaten in a deserted dorm that had been closed for the summer; the janitor had been encouraged to notify security if he saw unauthorized people there. The officer, like all campus police, was unarmed. Smith College officials emphasized 'reconciliation and healing' after the incident. In the months to come they announced a raft of anti-bias training for all staff, a revamped and more sensitive campus police force and the creation of dormitories — as demanded by Ms. Kanoute and her A.C.L.U. lawyer — set aside for Black students and other students of color. But they did not offer any public apology or amends to the workers whose lives were gravely disrupted by the student’s accusation... 'It was appropriate to apologize,” [Smith president Kathleen] McCartney said. 'She is living in a context of ‘living while Black’ incidents.'...  Ms. McCartney offered no public apology to the employees after the report was released...  Anti-bias training began in earnest in the fall.... [C]afeteria and grounds workers found themselves being asked by consultants hired by Smith about their childhood and family assumptions about race, which many viewed as psychologically intrusive.” 

From "Inside a Battle Over Race, Class and Power at Smith College" by Michael Powell (NYT).

The article quotes Mark Patenaude, whom Kanoute accused of racism. He was a janitor at Smith, but not on the job at the time of the incident. He now says: "We used to joke, don’t let a rich student report you, because if you do, you’re gone.... I was accused of being the racist... To be honest, that just knocked me out. I’m a 58-year-old male, we’re supposed to be tough. But I suffered anxiety because of things in my past and this brought it to a whole ’nother level." As for all the training sessions in race and intersectionality, he said: "I don’t know if I believe in white privilege. I believe in money privilege."

"What's the avocado tree's name? (I have forgotten). It's looking pretty large."

Said MadisonMan, in the comments to the post with video of Meade grinding hard red winter wheat. Meade answered "Arthur" with a link to "Recurring features in Mad (magazine)" (Wikipedia), and then, later, took this picture of the tree and me. 

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I'm there, I suppose, for scale. 

The hat is not an affectation, but a needed shield for my eyes as I work in front of the big window, but it's funny to see it in the picture, because I just finished writing a post on the NYT obituary for the artist Barry Le Va, and the obit has the line, "Mr. Le Va became known for his ever-present Borsalino hat," and that's what my hat is, a man's Borsalino hat. 

Here's how Arthur looked in May 2019, after we drove home from Utah in one day to save him from a mid-Spring freeze. And here he is in October 2015, when he was 2.

"Mr. Le Va used his own body as material, violently, with 'Impact Run Velocity Piece,' an audio work that he performed just once — and recorded..."

"... at Ohio State University in 1969. Here he ran repeatedly at full speed into opposite walls of a gallery until he was unable to proceed. The recording was then played in the open gallery, leaving visitors to deduce his actions from sound alone: footsteps, impact and slowing pace. He allotted 30 seconds for each run. In one interview he said he had kept it up for an hour and 45 minutes (more than 200 sprints), at which point friends ended the performance, fearing for his health. The recorded piece is in the collection of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. By contrast, some Le Va works were overtly gentle, even serene. An especially beautiful example, from 1968-69, was made entirely of chalk dust.... The material, gathered into dunelike drifts, resembled an indoor earthwork. It was swept up and discarded when the show closed this month...."

From "Barry Le Va, Whose Floor-Bound Art Defied Boundaries, Dies at 79/Extolling horizontality, he made sculptures from felt, flour, glass sheets and even meat cleavers. Elsewhere, in a performance piece, his body was a sprinting projectile" by Roberta Smith (NYT).

The snowhead.

 

ADDED: The "puns" tag is for something Meade says. I make a remark that presumes familiarity with a song that I'm just going to make sure everyone is familiar with:

"It's maddening to watch the liberals who insisted for months that we should 'follow the science' reject the overwhelming scientific evidence that schools can reopen safely."

"Conservatives have argued for years that liberals don't actually care about science and only pretend to when it's convenient for the advancement of their political agenda. It appears that they had a point." 

A commenter named Jadon writes, at "School Closures Have Failed America’s Children As many as three million children have gotten no education for nearly a year" by Nicholas Kristof (NYT).

February 24, 2021

At the Sunrise Café...

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 ... you can talk about whatever you want.

It's a grind.

"His inappropriate gestures became more frequent. He gave roses to female staffers on Valentine’s Day and arranged to have one delivered to me..."

"... the only one on my floor. A signed photograph of the Governor appeared in my closed-door office while I was out. These were not-so-subtle reminders of the Governor exploiting the power dynamic with the women around him. In 2018, I was promoted to Deputy Secretary for Economic Development and Special Advisor to the Governor. I initially turned the job down — not because I didn’t want the responsibility or work but because I didn’t want to be near him. I finally accepted the position at the Governor’s insistence with one requirement — I would keep my old agency office and remain on a separate floor from him and his inner circle. The Governor’s pervasive harassment extended beyond just me. He made unflattering comments about the weight of female colleagues. He ridiculed them about their romantic relationships and significant others. He said the reasons that men get women were 'money and power.' I tried to excuse his behavior. I told myself 'it’s only words.' But that changed after a one-on-one briefing with the Governor to update him on economic and infrastructure projects. We were in his New York City office on Third Avenue. As I got up to leave and walk toward an open door, he stepped in front of me and kissed me on the lips. I was in shock, but I kept walking. I left past the desk of Stephanie Benton. I was scared she had seen the kiss. The idea that someone might think I held my high-ranking position because of the Governor’s 'crush' on me was more demeaning than the kiss itself...."

From "My story of working with Governor Cuomo" by Lindsey Boylan (Medium).

There's also, "The Andrew Cuomo Show Has Lost the Plot/Is bullying fellow Democrats part of the New York governor’s brand, or just a print storyline that didn’t make it to the screen?" by Alex Pareene (The New Republic).

"A female passenger in an evening gown ran from the car, climbed the stone parapet along the Tidal Basin and... leaped headfirst into the frigid, inky water. Her splashdown would ripple into one of the capital’s most infamous sex scandals."

From "Fanne Foxe, ‘Argentine Firecracker’ at center of D.C. sex scandal, dies at 84" (WaPo). 

Standing near the car — drunk and bleeding — was her paramour, 65-year-old Wilbur Mills, the gravelly voiced chairman of the tax-writing U.S. House Ways and Means Committee and a man esteemed as a pillar of Bible Belt rectitude and respectability. The Arkansas Democrat, an ascetic grind who shepherded Medicare and other influential legislation through Congress, was also widely regarded as the most powerful man in government after the president. “I never vote against God, motherhood or Wilbur Mills,” a Democratic colleague once told a reporter.

But on that October morning, Ms. Battistella’s eyes were bruised. Mills’s Coke-bottle glasses were smashed, and his nose was badly scratched. He reeked of alcohol. And his 16-year hold on the federal purse strings was suddenly imperiled....

ADDED: "Ms. Battistella" = Annabel Battistella AKA Fanne Foxe. 

The hat is back...

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... and a new head too. A tiny head... but a head nonetheless: 

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Yesterday, the head and hat were gone. Two days ago, the full-sized head was there, with the hat, and the overall effect was much more sprightly and exuberant, with the cane flung upward as if dancing like Fred Astaire. Today, with the warmer weather, the snow is sagging, and the snowman, bent over, seems to be using the cane like an old man who needs a cane.

"Gallup's latest update on lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender identification finds 5.6% of U.S. adults identifying as LGBT."

"The current estimate is up from 4.5% in Gallup's previous update based on 2017 data." 

When I was in college, 50 years ago, the student group devoted to gay rights was called "The 10 Percent Society." The name was based on the broadly held belief that 10% of the population is gay. That wasn't even counting bisexual or transgender. Just gay and lesbian. Not too many people were open about it back then, but we were told to think that gay people were all around — 1 in 10 people. 

So I think 5.6% is a surprisingly low number. And most of it — 3.1% — are identifying as bisexual. Only 1.4% are gay men, and only 0.7% are lesbian. 

The LGBT percentage goes up within each generation. Baby Boomers are 2.0% LGBT and Gen Z is 15.9%. But, again, that includes people who are saying they identify as bisexual. 72% of those LGBT-identifying Gen Zers say bisexual. And women are far more likely than men to identify as bisexual.

About that neckace.

I went out running this morning to catch the dawn... 

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... and as I was running, I was thinking about the post I'd just put up at 6:23. (The photograph was taken at 6:45.) 

The post talked about a WaPo columnist who had pasted together a ramshackle argument that rested absurdly heavily on a couple things Trump's nominee for ambassador to Germany had said about how women look — that Hillary Clinton was "starting to look like Madeleine Albright" and that Rachel Maddow ought to "take a breath and put on a necklace." 

I was thinking while running about how it's important to be able to talk about the way people look. Life is — in great part — visual, and we're going to think about looks, we live within looking, and looks are not entirely superficial, they speak of depths, and even what is superficial is crucial to the feeling of being alive. We're not morally obligated to blind ourselves. We want to see and to talk about what we see. 

But what did it mean to say that Rachel Maddow ought to "take a breath and put on a necklace"? The man who said it was Richard Grenell, who is himself gay and therefore at least presumptively nonhomophobic. But the old tweet is deleted, so I can't search for the context. I only see it used against him. Example:

According to the pro-LGBTQ Washington Blade, Grenell’s history of insulting women on sexist and homophobic grounds is long and toxic. He has written that Rachel Maddow, an MSNBC lesbian news anchor, “needs to take a breath and put on a necklace.”

Did he mean women should all adopt a feminine fashion style? I don't know. I'd object to that, even though I think we should be able to talk about how people look. But you ought to let them choose how they want to present themselves, so don't criticize them for failing to do something they're not trying to do. If a woman is going for a boyish look, talk about whether it's a nicely done boyish look. You're a jerk to talk about how it's not feminine. 

If that's what Grenell meant by "put on a necklace." Maybe it had something to do with Maddow's high school yearbook photo....

The masks/condoms analogy might cut the other way.

"Did people stop saying 'fragility' in the past year? I feel like I used to see it on almost a daily basis..."

"... but I can’t remember seeing it for a while now. (And I deliberately say 'see' it instead of 'hear' it because I’ve only ever seen it written, never heard it out loud.) Could it be that the word started to seem out of touch because we’ve been realizing how fragile we all are?" 

Writes my son John on Facebook, and I think he's suggesting something about our heightened awareness of death and illness during the pandemic. 

I responded over there:

Based on my search for "white fragility" in the NYT, with the results ordered newest first, I'd say it was very common up through October. Since October, there's only one appearance, in a little thing in December about what books New Yorkers read in the past year: "As nationwide discussions erupted over the summer around race and racism, demand for books on the subjects surged across the country, a trend reflected in the city’s libraries. Titles like 'White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism' by Robin DiAngelo were among the most popular in some boroughs." What changed after October? To ask the question is to make the answer obvious.

Before that December item, there were articles containing the term "white fragility" on October 29, October 22, October 6, September 27, September 17, September 6, September 1, August 31, August 11... You get the picture. 

But "fragility" was a vogue word before last year's obsession with Robin DiAngelo's book. Even if the election — the answer I thought was obvious — explains the disappearance of "white fragility," we might also be seeing a disappearance of interest in "fragility" as used in the book "Antifragile" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. If so, I'm inclined to guess that the over-prominence of DiAngelo's concept tired us all out. 

And that's the irony of being fragile about fragility that John was musing about.

Prime civility bullshit headline from WaPo's Karen Tumulty: "The people concerned about Neera Tanden’s incivility sure didn’t seem to mind the Trump era’s."

I've been writing under the tag "civility bullshit" for years. It represents my longstanding opinion that calls for civility are always bullshit. Certainly in the area of politics, calls for civility always come out when the incivility is hurting your people. When somebody is deploying incivility effectively for your side, you hold your tongue and enjoy the damage. 

But let's consider the Neera Tanden problem. Her incivility is in the past. People on her side enjoyed the damage she inflicted at the time and I don't think any of her people tried to pull her back with calls for civility. It's just that now she's Biden's nominee to head the Office of Management and the Budget, and the old incivility makes her seem like too much of a political hack to be trusted in that position.

Nobody bellyaches about incivility when it's working as a weapon for their side, and the charge of incivility is another political weapon, whipped out when the other side is landing incivility punches on you. 

Here's the Karen Tumulty piece: 

With the defection of Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, [Tanden's] nomination looks to be sunk in the evenly divided Senate if she cannot win the support of at least one Republican.... [Manchin's] stated reason, the “toxic and detrimental impact” of Tanden’s “overtly partisan statements,” is hard to take at face value.

February 23, 2021

At the Headless Snowman Café...

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... you can talk about whatever you want.

6:50 a.m.

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"In our own ways, Bruce and I have been on parallel journeys trying to understand this country that’s given us both so much. Trying to chronicle the stories of its people. Looking for a way to connect our own individual searches for meaning and truth and community with the larger story of America."

Said Barack Obama, quoted in "Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen Join Many Men Before Them, Launch a Podcast" (NY Magazine).  

... journeys... stories... a way to connect our own individual searches for meaning and truth and community with the larger story of America... 

I don't know. That must appeal to some people but it sounds perfectly silly to me. 

 I love the photograph, which I'll copy because it's Spotify's picture (by Rob DeMartin) and they seem to be trying to promote the podcast, so I'm only helping them:

The 2 men and their environment are so ideal... and yet... where are the masks? Did they really do the podcast there on abutting sides of that delicate table? Does Bruce really use wheelie chairs on those loose, blanket-like rugs? That's not going to work. Did they just happen to cross their arms and legs in the same way? More importantly, do this guys have a good podcast-y way to talk back and forth? 

ADDED: I am actually going to attempt to listen to this. I'll let you know how it turns out.

UPDATE: My effort ended 14 minutes and 27 seconds in. I found it of no interest whatsoever.

"I don’t want to see my children’s, children’s children have to say 'Oh please like me, please respect me, please know that I am important, please value me.' What is that?"

Said Stevie Wonder, explaining why he is moving — permanently — to Ghana (CNN).

"At the 66-acre site, groups of beige trailers encircle a giant white dining tent, a soccer field and a basketball court."

"There is a bright blue hospital tent with white bunk beds inside. A legal services trailer has the Spanish word 'Bienvenidos,' or welcome, on a banner on its roof. There are trailers for classrooms, a barber shop, a hair salon. The facility has its own ambulances and firetrucks, as well as its own water supply.... he most colorful trailer is at the entryway, where flowers, butterflies and handmade posters still hang on its walls...." 

From "First migrant facility for children opens under Biden" (WaPo). 

I wonder how those sentences would have been written if this "facility" had opened under Trump. 

I'll just list some words in the order that they would be most likely to be deleted/replaced if Trump were President when this place opened: butterflies, encircle, bienvenidos, flowers, handmade, colorful, welcome, bright, salon, basketball, soccer,  blue, beige, firetrucks, facility, classrooms, barber shop, white, banner....   

My favorite of those words is "encircle." They're talking about beige trailers. C'mon, beige trailers, let's form a big happy circle around the giant white dining tent!

IN THE COMMENTS: Bob Boyd accepts the challenge to rewrite the passage as it would have been written if Trump were President:

Crowded into less than 70 acres, dusty trailers huddle around a military style mess tent, a few basketball hoops and what we were told is a soccer field. There is an ominous, blue medical tent crammed with narrow, sterile bunk beds of the type one associates with mental wards of the last century. A legal services trailer with a banner on its roof reads 'Bienvenidos,' or welcome, an irony that could hardly be lost on those kept here away from family, friends and the promise of America. In a half-hearted gesture towards the basic needs of its young inmates, trailers never designed for the job have been pressed into service as makeshift classrooms, a barber shop and a hair salon. A grim-looking ambulance and firetrucks stand ready in recognition of the inevitable. The camp's water trickles reluctantly from hurriedly drilled, shallow wells. Standing out in this largely beige world, one trailer near the entryway has been ham-handedly decorated with cheap posters featuring butterflies and flowers, their once bright colors fading rapidly under the glaring sun.

"The online publication Slate has suspended a well-known podcast host after he debated with colleagues over whether people who are not Black should be able to quote a racial slur..."

"... in some contexts. Mike Pesca, the host of 'The Gist,' a podcast on news and culture... made his argument during a conversation last week with colleagues on the interoffice messaging platform Slack. In a lengthy thread of messages, Slate staff members were discussing the resignation of Donald G. McNeil Jr., a reporter who said this month that he was resigning from The New York Times after he had used the slur during a discussion of racism while working as a guide on a student trip in 2019....  Jacob Weisberg, Slate’s former chairman and editor in chief [said]... 'I don’t think he did anything that merits discipline or consequences, and I think it’s an example of a kind of overreaction and a lack of judgment and perspective that is unfortunately spreading'... Joel Anderson, a Black staff member at Slate... disagreed. 'For Black employees, it’s an extremely small ask to not hear that particular slur and not have debate about whether it’s OK for white employees to use that particular slur,' he said."

The NYT reports.

ADDED: If a place of business wants to have zero-tolerance rule that says you will lose your job if you ever say the syllables of the n-word, that's one thing. But I don't see how the policy can be, as Joel Anderson suggests, that it only applies to white employees. That's overt and unsubtle race discrimination, and it would, I think, be hard to argue that it's not a violation of statutory law. Would Anderson support a rule that required the firing of black employees who happen to slip into say the word? I don't think I've ever heard anyone push for a rule like that. So I think the employer would be well advised to take the context of the saying of the word into account.

AND: A race-neutral zero-tolerance rule would create a much greater risk for black people. I think it's very easy for white people to avoid ever saying the word. Some just don't think we should be so repressed and sensitive about the word — as opposed to its use as an insult. But if the rule is you'll be fired if you ever say it, regardless of context, white people will abide by the rule.

"Can only have been painted by a madman."

Words by Edvard Munch in tiny letters in the most famous version of "The Scream," The Art Newspaper reports

Can we be sure that the artist wrote these words? Mai Britt Guleng, the curator of Old Masters and modern paintings at the National Museum of Norway, says yes. First, the handwriting matches up to other samples of Munch's handwriting. Second, the writing is tiny:

“Had this been an act of vandalism by another person, the size of the letters would probably have been larger and the whole text more striking when you stand in front of the work."

Third — though I think this is a fact that could cut either way — the words are not painted over.

“There has been strangely little attention to the inscription.... some researchers have taken it for granted that it was written by Munch, but they haven’t discussed why and when. From 2008 it has been generally accepted that the writing was made by another person, without any discussion at all."

Guleng notes that Munch heard criticism of his work and was "confronted about his mental health" on one occasion. Why would that motivate him to write on his own painting? That's more interesting than the question whether he or some vandal wrote it. Let's assume Munch wrote it. Why did he write it? Don't assume he was judging and doubting himself. There are other possibilities: he was satirizing his critics, he was inviting us to contemplate whether only madmen paint like that, or he was celebrating himself as a madman.

***

This is the 9th post with the tag "The Scream."

The oldest post with the tag is "Shimmering shining shriek/scream" from April 2005. Excerpt:

Later, I watched the DVD of "After Hours"...

Paul [looking at Kiki's papier maché sculpture]: It reminds me of that Edvard Munch painting. What is it? "The Shriek"?

Kiki: "The Scream."

Googling for a picture for "The Scream," to illustrate this post [that was already] about how things go together, I hit a Reuters story from one hour ago, saying they've just today arrested a man for the theft of "The Scream." (The painting was stolen last August.) I love that feeling of things seeming to converge. I know it's only an illusion.

February 22, 2021

At the Snowman's Café...

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... come on in, everybody!


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"In his first post-presidential appearance, Donald Trump plans to send the message next weekend that he is Republicans' 'presumptive 2024 nominee' with a vise grip on the party's base..."

"... top Trump allies tell Axios.... A longtime adviser called Trump's speech a 'show of force,' and said the message will be: 'I may not have Twitter or the Oval Office, but I'm still in charge.' Payback is his chief obsession.... Trump is expected to stoke primary challenges [in 2022] for some of those who have crossed him, and shower money and endorsements on the Trumpiest candidates.... Many Trump confidants think he'll pretend to run but ultimately pass. He knows the possibility — or threat — gives him leverage and attention.... Trump plans to argue in the CPAC speech that many of his predictions about President Biden have already come true. Look for Trump to lay into 'the swamp' and Beltway insiders in a big way. The Trump source said: 'Much like 2016, we’re taking on Washington again.'"  

Axios reports.

At 6:55 a.m., I got to put the first footprints in the new snow on my favorite forest path.

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"Each novel takes him around five years: a long build-up of research and thinking, followed by a speedy first draft, a process he compares to a samurai sword fight."

"'You stare at each other silently for ages, usually with tall grass blowing away and moody sky. You are thinking all the time, and then in a split second it happens. The swords are drawn: Wham! Wham! Wham! And one of them falls,' he explains, wielding an imaginary sword at the screen. 'You had to get your mind absolutely right and then when you drew that sword you just did it: Wham! It had to be the perfect cut.' As a child, he was mystified by swashbuckling Errol Flynn films when he first came to the UK, in which the sword fights consisted of actors going 'ching, ching, ching, ching, for about 20 minutes while talking to each other,' he says. 'Perhaps there’s a way of writing fiction like that, where you work it out in the act, but I tend towards the "Don’t do anything, it’s all internal" approach.'"

From "Kazuo Ishiguro: 'AI, gene-editing, big data ... I worry we are not in control of these things any more'" (The Guardian). Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017.

"It truly feels as though you and I have crossed an ocean of outrage together… but something tells me it’s time to rest my social media gavel and reclaim a little neurological bandwidth."

"If it seemed like I was ignoring my main Twitter followers here and outside the US and Canada in my quest to rid our democracy of 'Orange Julius Caesar' and his Empire of Lies, it was not my intention. I just assumed that a radicalized America is a threat to us all. When a madman grabs the wheel of the bus loaded with innocent passengers and threatens to drive it off a cliff, it tends to steal everyone’s focus."  

Jim Carrey lets us know he's giving it a rest. He needs to get his brain back. He's not the only one. But don't get complacent. Who's driving the bus now... and is it really loaded with innocent passengers? Just because you could focus all your fear of evil on one person doesn't mean that when he's gone you've got nothing to fear. I recommend maintaining your equilibrium at all times.

My link goes to a NY Post article about his tweet, but the actual tweet came in a form that made some people think he was about to kill himself:

"Lo and behold, the great philosopher’s number was listed right there, next to those of mere mortals. But who should be the one to call Rawls?"

"No one volunteered for this daunting task. So Anjan nominated me. 'You should talk to him,' he said, 'because you guys have a lot in common.' The idea that a world-famous political philosopher would have anything in common with an obscure high school sophomore struck me as ridiculous. Still, a part of me was flattered by Anjan’s suggestion that I should be the one to call Rawls. So I let him persuade me. With trembling fingers, I dialed Rawls’ number, half-hoping that he wouldn’t be home. It turned out that Rawls was home. Somehow, I managed to work up the courage to explain who I was and ask my question [about an argument they wanted to make in a high school debate]. Rawls listened carefully, and then modestly admitted that he simply hadn’t thought about that issue before. Still, he stayed on the phone with me and talked about it for more than half an hour. I didn’t get much out of him that would be useful for the tournament. He really hadn’t thought about our issue before. Nonetheless, I was moved by Rawls’ thoughtfulness and even more by his willingness to treat a lowly high school student as an equal and take my questions seriously. He didn’t become impatient even when I took issue with one of his points. I still think that most of Rawls’ major ideas were probably wrong, brilliant though they undoubtedly were."

Writes lawprof Ilya Somin in "A Road to Freedom," which I'm noticing this morning because Somin is calling attention to Rawls's 100th birthday, which was yesterday. See "Happy 100th Birthday, John Rawls!/Today is the 100th birthday of the most influential political philosopher of the second half of the twentieth century" (Reason). 

Somin also calls attention to a commemoration of Rawls by Larry Solum (at Legal Theory Blog). Excerpt:
Rawls... spoke at the Association of American Law Schools annual meeting in New Orleans.... [Cass] Sunstein and Rawls engaged in an important exchange on the relationship between the ideas of public reason and overlapping consensus and Sunstein's similar notion of incompletely theorized agreement. After the lunch following the lecture, I remember that Rawls expressed a desire to gamble but no one else wanted to go! This moment haunts me still — surely I could have found time to accompany Jack (as he was known to his friends) to the Riverboat Casino for a few hours. Time passes. It is now the 100th anniversary of John Rawls birth....

I would especially love to see comments that connect Rawls's "Theory of Justice" to the topic of gambling. 

Also, feel free to imagine fictional scenarios that parallel Solum's missed opportunity: You're in some city where you intersect with a famous person who wants to do something that you wouldn't do if your usual travel companion suggested it, but you really ought to do because you'd have the chance to spend more time with this famous person.  How would that go?

And I'd love to hear about times when you were a high school student and you got some real conversation time with an eminent person you were surprised would talk to you at all.

The "Muppet Show" disclaimer "This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures."

"Rather than remove this content, we want to acknowledge its harmful impact, learn from it and spark conversation to create a more inclusive future together. Disney is committed to creating stories with inspirational and aspirational themes that reflect the rich diversity of the human experience around the globe." 

The NY Post reports, adding "It’s unstated precisely what Disney considers to be offensive on the show, but some characters depict Native American, Middle Eastern and Asian people. And in season five, legendary country singer Johnny Cash is seen performing in front of a Confederate flag." 

"Native American, Middle Eastern and Asian people"? The ethnic group I remember getting poked fun at was the Swedish... 

 

But who cares about the feelings of the Swedish these days? 

As for Johnny Cash, he took his mark within some set designer's complicated notion of what "country and western" must mean and it had a Confederate flag and a U.S. flag as wall hangings:

These shows were made between 1976 and 1981. Basically, during the Carter administration. Disney wants to be able to keep showing them and has — clunkily but wisely — slapped on a warning to fend off demands that the show be taken off the air. I'd like to give Disney some support here. They have a big old archive and they ought to make it available, not replace it all with paternalistic... maternalistic pablum. 

I'm seeing some criticism like: "Nothing screams offensive like fury puppets. When I think of a cultural danger to society, it’s obviously Jim Henson’s Muppets." 

I object... and not just because that critic wrote "fury" for "furry." I object because that criticism is offensive to puppets.

Puppets can excel at delivering offense. Here's an example of striving to use puppets to offend:

 

From the clip: "[Puppets are] human enough to be believable, but imaginary enough to be convincing when they're doing things that are crazy."

Read about "Spitting Image" and its U.S. counterpart "D.C. Follies." There are deliberately offensive puppets — real satire. I'd like to see more of that — satire of specific individuals.

But many things done with puppets are just stereotypes. I know I had some marionettes when I was a child circa 1960. One was a clown. One was a cowboy. And one was a Chinese person. It was blatant stereotyping, similar to the idea of the Chinese seen in "Fantasia": 

 

"Fantasia" is, of course, one of the gems of the Disney archive. There are people today who would demand that no one be allowed to see that film — that film and many other works of art. Disney seems to be trying to manage the pressure. I wouldn't just laugh at Disney for taking its problem seriously and putting up a warning. 

"This program includes negative depictions" — ha ha. How can you do comedy without negative depictions? Isn't that the whole idea?

ADDED: "Gary, I hate to break it to you, but the world is on the brink of disaster...."

 

AND: Speaking of "South Park" and disclaimers, "South Park" has always — or it seems like always — begun with this disclaimer (which is also a parody of disclaimers):

February 21, 2021

At the Snowface Café...

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... go ahead and talk all night.

"Ames was grilled about her 'ethnic background,' chastised by a colleague at a training session when she shared her grandparents’ experience during the Holocaust in Poland..."

"... and 'admonished' when she declined requests at superintendents meetings to take part in the comic book movie-inspired 'Wakanda Forever' salute to 'black power,' she charges in the legal filing.... At an implicit-bias workshop where superintendents were asked to tell their personal stories, [Karen] Ames talked about her grandparents’ loss of two children during the Holocaust — only to have colleague Rasheda Amon tell her, 'you better check yourself,' the lawsuit alleges. 'That is not about being Jewish! It’s about black and brown boys of color only,” court papers quote Amon as scolding." 

From "Bronx educator claims she was fired after sharing Holocaust story, refusing ‘Wakanda’ salute" (NY Post).

About that salute, there's also this (about a different teacher): "Veteran Bronx educator claims she was fired after refusing ‘Black Panther’ salute" (NY Post):

I finally made it out to see the sunrise once again.

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Had not made it out since February 2. Just too cold! And I only need it to be feels-like 9° to be willing to do it. I've done these sunrise runs since September 2019, and — not counting when we were out of town — I'd only ever missed an occasional day, maybe 2 days once or twice. I think I've missed more days this February than in all the other time combined. 

Ah, well! I was happy to get out. 

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"So, Trump will easily win a congressional seat in Florida if he runs in 2022. The census update likely means the GOP picks up 5+ seats in the house..."

"... to take control. And then the GOP makes Trump speaker. Then Trump has control over the legislative agenda and impeachment. Fun ensues." 

So said Tom, commenting on the first post of the day today.

I don't know if Tom is the first person to say that, but what an interesting scenario. It has happened before that a former President has gone on to serve in the House of Representatives: 

[John Quincy] Adams considered permanently retiring from public life after his 1828 defeat, and he was deeply hurt by the suicide of his son, George Washington Adams, in 1829. He was appalled by many of the Jackson administration's actions... Adams grew bored of his retirement and still felt that his career was unfinished, so he ran for and won a seat in the United States House of Representatives in the 1830 elections. His election went against the generally held opinion, shared by his own wife and youngest son, that former presidents should not run for public office. Nonetheless, he would win election to nine terms, serving from 1831 until his death in 1848. Adams and Andrew Johnson are the only former presidents to serve in Congress....

As for George Washington Adams:

I only signed up for Spotify because I wanted to hear what Joe Rogan had to say about the crisis in Texas...

... but I keep getting this: 

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I was going to get interested in the other features of Spotify — maybe use it as my music source — but I'm only here because of Joe Rogan and Joe Rogan won't play. 

I tried Googling for an answer, and came up with hopeless junk like this. I'm about to give up on Spotify. They're asking $9.99 for their service. That would be a great deal if it worked. But if the app is balky and malfunctioning, they ought to pay me. 

ADDED: I wondered, who owns Spotify? Spotify is its own company, a Swedish company, with global headquarters are in Stockholm. "On 6 February 2019, Spotify acquired the podcast networks Gimlet Media and Anchor FM Inc., with the goal of establishing themselves as a leading figure in podcasting." It's a year later. You bought Joe Rogan. Make your podcasting work! 

BUT: I am able to play this podcast using my iMac (desktop), using the Spotify app. Within 2 minutes, they're talking about Ted Cruz going to Cancun. Joe asks a good question: What could Ted Cruz do about the problem in Texas? It's bad optics, but he had no way to help, did he?

UPDATE: It’s now a day later, and the Joe Rogan podcast is working fine. And I’ve become absorbed in creating playlists of music for myself. The app works very fluidly for that. I’d gotten out of the habit of listening to music, and this may change that. It’s certainly worth $9.99 a month. Quite aside from Joe Rogan, the music experience is quite elegant. I’m listening more, and I’ve completely shed the desire to own recordings.

"When I’m rolling, I just want to breathe deeply and enjoy it. The simple act of breathing can be extremely pleasurable."

Said Carl Hart, chair of the Columbia University psychology department, quoted in "Columbia professor: I do heroin regularly for ‘work-life balance’" (NY Post).
At 54, the married father of three has snorted small amounts of heroin for as many as 10 days in a row and enjoyed it mightily – even if, as he recalls in his new book “Drug Use for Grown-ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear” (Penguin Press), he’s experienced mild withdrawal symptoms “12 to 16 hours after the last dose.... 
Hart, who studies the effects of psychoactive drugs on humans, finds his use of the narcotic to be “as rational as my alcohol use. Like vacation, sex and the arts, heroin is one of the tools that I use to maintain my work-life balance.” 
His reason for coming clean about doing opiates and the like is to advocate for decriminalizing possession of recreational drugs. The book makes the case “that the demonization of drug use – not drugs themselves – [has] been a tremendous scourge on America, not least in reinforcing this country’s enduring structural racism,” according to the publisher...

Hot from the oven at 5 a.m.

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Meade made bread... for the second day in a row. He even milled the grains and seeds — wheat, oats, teff, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds. 

Teff?! I had never heard of it.

Eragrostis tef, also known as teff, Williams lovegrass or annual bunch grass, is an annual grass, a species of lovegrass native to the Horn of Africa, notably to modern-day Ethiopia. It is cultivated for its edible seeds, also known as teff.... The name teff is thought to originate from the Amharic word teffa, which means “lost”. This probably refers to its tiny seeds, which have a diameter smaller than 1 mm....

So teff was one of the seeds, not one of the grains? What is the difference between a grain and a seed? I realize I don't know. From the Wikipedia article "Grain"

A grain is a small, hard, dry seed, with or without an attached hull or fruit layer, harvested for human or animal consumption.... Grains and cereal are synonymous with caryopses, the fruits of the grass family. In agronomy and commerce, seeds or fruits from other plant families are called grains if they resemble caryopses.

So teff is a grain (and a seed) and wheat is a seed (and a grain). It's good to know these terms and facts. Also good: Fresh Meade-made bread in the house!

"Lindsey Graham, who says that Trump is a 'handful,' a word usually leveled at spirited women, is going to Mar-a-Lago this weekend to golf with his sovereign lord..."

"... and try to explain the importance of the 2022 midterms to Trump’s legacy. But Trump doesn’t give a damn, except how he can use the midterms for revenge or self-promotion.... By coddling Trump on his election fakery, the Republicans gave it so much oxygen, it led to tragedy. Trump, the supreme ingrate, wasn’t grateful for McConnell’s nay vote. He promptly composed a masterpiece of spleen, a statement threatening to primary Mitch’s candidates and calling him 'a dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack' who lacks political wisdom, skill and personality.... Ted Cruz’s truckling may be the most jarring, given Trump’s attacks on Cruz’s wife and father in the 2016 campaign. But I’ve always said the story of Washington should be titled 'Smart People Doing Dumb Things.' Cruz wouldn’t even study with people from what he called 'minor Ivies' while at Harvard Law School but didn’t think twice before leaving Texans starving, freezing and dying to go catch some rays in Cancun and then blaming his daughters. We’ll see if Trump can sustain this king-in-exile routine without the infrastructure he once had. Consider his asinine election challenge with all those crazy lawyers. Ever the shrew, all he has left now is his forked tongue."

From "The Tale of the Untamable Shrew/Republicans are still trying to muzzle a smack-talking Trump" by Maureen Dowd (NYT). 

1. Dowd is comparing Trump to Kate, the shrew in Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew." As I've said more than once, there is something womanly about Trump. And there are times when the way people react to Trump is like the way they react to an untamed woman. Dowd talks a lot about "Shrew" but also wanders all over the place and never really explores the hypothesis that Trump's wildness is something like a nasty woman. Why do we feel this deep need to control him? What does it say about those who think that he did not belong in our serious, well-established institutions and that he spoke with shocking directness and exhibited self-dramatizing emotion?

2. Here's a whole Wikipedia article on the "nasty woman" meme that originated in the 2016 campaign.

3. Is it true that the word "handful" is usually leveled at spirited women? I'd guess it's mostly used about children — a nice way to say the kid is hard to manage. If you say it about an adult, you are loading in the concept that you are into manipulation. Both "manage" and "manipulate" are built from the Lain word for "hand" ("manus"). If you think an adult is a "handful," maybe you ought to consider why you're putting your hands on her/him.

4. Let's take a closer look at the last sentence of the column: "Ever the shrew, all he has left now is his forked tongue." I see 2 ways to go with this:

a. Metaphor screw up. A forked tongue is characteristic of some reptiles, notably snakes. A shrew is a small mole-like mammal.  If you don't mean to refer to the animal, but only to the extremely irritating person, then don't bring up an animal characteristic like "forked tongue." Sharp tongue would be fine.

b. Microaggression alert. Are we still using "forked tongue" to refer to lying?! I would have thought it was relegated long ago to the dustbin of potential microaggressions. Background from Wikipedia: "This phrase was... adopted by Americans around the time of the Revolution, and may be found in abundant references from the early 19th century — often reporting on American officers who sought to convince the tribal leaders with whom they negotiated that they 'spoke with a straight and not with a forked tongue' (as for example, President Andrew Jackson told the Creek Nation in 1829). According to one 1859 account, the native proverb that the 'white man spoke with a forked tongue' originated as a result of the French tactic of the 1690s, in their war with the Iroquois, of inviting their enemies to attend a Peace Conference, only to be slaughtered or captured."

"I never would have made that Nazi comparison if I’d known everybody was going to be such a Nazi about it."

 

"SNL" lampoons Britney Spears, Ted Cruz, Andrew Cuomo, and Gina Carano. There's some good enough stuff in there. The best is Pete Davidson's Andrew Cuomo impersonation.