March 27, 2021

At The Saturday Night Cafe...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Black nerds unsettle the myth of a monolithic Blackness."

"In an American imagination that has historically stereotyped Black people as alternately ignorant and emotional or sexualized and cool, the nerd — smart and cerebral, unsexy and decidedly uncool — creates cognitive dissonance. Not only do Black nerds confound racist stereotypes, they also pierce the protective orthodoxy of Blackness passed down in the United States across generations. Under slavery and Jim Crow, Black people maintaining — or at least projecting — unity proved a necessary protective practice. Strength came in numbers, as did political influence and economic clout. What would happen if we all announced publicly that we were going to start doing our own human thing without regard to the group? Few considered it worth the risk to find out. But who in 2021 benefits from thinking of Black people as just one thing? Certainly not Black individuals, who, like all individuals, are complex amalgams of shifting affinities, of inherited and chosen identities. And certainly not Black nerds, whose very existence is often rendered invisible because they present an inconvenient complication to a straightforward story of Blackness in America..."

From "The Black Nerds Redefining the Culture/By pushing back against centuries-old stereotypes, a historically overlooked community is claiming space it was long denied" by Adam Bradley (NYT).

I learned the slang term: "blerd."

Elizabeth Warren tells a joke... tells the truth...

Via "Elizabeth Warren Wants To Break Up Amazon So It's 'Not Powerful Enough To Heckle Senators With Snotty Tweets'/She said the quiet part out loud" (Reason).

How much do powerful people enjoy their power? Ah! I have crushed my enemies!! How much of that sort of thing goes on in their head? 

I feel rather certain that they must get emotional thrills, because — unless they came into their power by birth — they have to go through so much struggle to get their power. I would never do it, and I know I don't get pleasure from exerting power. I have a distaste for it. I know these people who pursue it are emotionally different from me, and I wonder how does it feel? I'm saying this on the occasion of Elizabeth Warren's tweet because I'm certain that if I were a U.S. Senator — if somehow that awful role were foisted on me — and I thought of that wisecrack, I would never write it out and publish. 

But Warren thought it was good — openly triumphing at power. I think of this:

"I don’t like struggle sessions; I think critical race theory as it developed in the academy is intellectually rich, but some of the ways it’s been adapted by workplace diversity trainers..."

"... and education consultants seem risible.... The right-wing caricature of progressive public schools as pampered re-education camps is extremely far from my own family’s experience, but if any kids are being bullied and shamed for refusing to espouse social justice principles, even principles I agree with, that’s wrong. However, the claim that the right’s war on critical race theory doesn’t threaten academic freedom is also wrong. Consider what just happened in Idaho, where last week Boise State University suspended dozens of classes, online and in person, dealing with different aspects of diversity. This week, they were reinstated, but online only and 'asynchronously,' without any live discussions.... Some of the facts behind the class suspensions are unclear. In an email to the campus, university leaders described 'a series of concerns, culminating in allegations that a student or students have been humiliated and degraded in class on our campus for their beliefs and values.' An English professor at the university tweeted that the allegation concerned a taped Zoom discussion of white privilege that had been handed over to the Legislature, but so far it hasn’t emerged publicly. (The tweets have since been deleted.) It’s obviously impossible to evaluate the allegations without knowing what they are. If a student was humiliated, that’s serious and should be addressed. But it’s hard to see how whatever happened implicated 52 different classes, and the political pressure the university is under is undeniable."

Michelle Goldberg writes carefully in a column with the inflammatory headline "The Social Justice Purge at Idaho Colleges/Republican lawmakers try to cancel diversity programs" (NYT).

We can't "Consider what just happened in Idaho" unless we know just what happened, and Goldberg acknowledges that. She's also right that CRT has some intellectual value and that it shouldn't be foisted on people. 

Those who want to teach and learn about it should be free to pursue their intellectual interests, but even if they decide — in their freedom — that they believe it's something that they must compel others to believe, they don't have the right to act on that belief and apply coercion within a government institution. 

I don't know what, exactly, happened in Idaho, but seems as though the CRT believers adopted oppressive educational techniques, the legislature responded in an effort to protect students from coercion, the colleges took steps to follow the legislation, and the CRT believers now feel intimidated about pursuing their intellectual interests. Part of the problem, it seems to me, is that this is an intellectual field that entails deep beliefs about how other people think, critiques the freedom of others, and demands action to restructure their minds.

From the comments at the NYT: "The best proof that CRT is legitimate is the enraged reaction it engenders among white people." 

But here's the highest-rated comment (by a lot):

"I had a producer bring me to his office, where he had malted milk balls in a little milk-carton-type container under his arm with the spout open."

"He walked back and forth in his office with the balls falling out of the spout and rolling all over the wood floor as he explained to me why I should fuck my co-star so that we could have onscreen chemistry. Why, in his day, he made love to Ava Gardner onscreen and it was so sensational! Now just the creepy thought of him in the same room with Ava Gardner gave me pause. I watched the chocolate balls rolling around, thinking, You guys insisted on this actor when he couldn’t get one whole scene out in the test … Now you think if I fuck him, he will become a fine actor? Nobody’s that good in bed. I felt they could have just hired a co-star with talent, someone who could deliver a scene and remember his lines. I also felt they could fuck him themselves and leave me out of it. It was my job to act, and I said so. This was not a popular response. I was considered difficult."

From "Sharon Stone Says Producer Pressured Her to Sleep With Male Co-Star to Create 'Onscreen Chemistry'" (The Vulture).

Sharon Osbourne, cancelled at "The Talk."

It's a complicated story, so read the whole thing at "Sharon Osbourne Is Out at 'The Talk'" (Hollywood Reporter). I'll just excerpt some highlights, which I don't expect you to understand if you don't know the context.

From the statement by CBS: "As part of our review, we concluded that Sharon’s behavior toward her co-hosts during the March 10 episode did not align with our values for a respectful workplace."

From Hollywood Reporter: "The news came two weeks after the March 10 dustup, one that was followed by multiple allegations of racist comments from Osbourne being levied by former co-stars Leah Remini and Holly Robinson Peete.... After Robinson Peete... alleg[ed] Osbourne had referred to her as 'too ghetto,' Remini... claimed that Osbourne had made racist comments about former colleague (and Chinese American woman) Julie Chen, homophobic remarks about The Talk creator and then-moderator Sara Gilbert and made anti-Italian slurs toward Remini herself.... [Osbourne] gave interviews to both Variety and Entertainment Tonight, claiming that she had been 'set up' by the producers and was offered up as a 'sacrificial lamb.' Her publicist also issued a doozy of a statement, alluding to Remini and Robinson Peete's comments by noting 'The only thing worse than a disgruntled former employee is a disgruntled former talk show host.'"

Now, Osbourne is the "disgruntled former talk show host." So we'll see what else she has to say.

March 26, 2021

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"The woman... told officials she was swimming in a canal when she noticed a door and entered it. She said she eventually became lost..."

"... and ended up three miles away from where she first began, surviving on a can of ginger ale she discovered unopened along the way. Police are trying to determine if the woman was actually underground for three weeks. They say the health officials they have consulted believe it is more likely the woman was only in the sewer for two or three days. 'We don’t feel that there was any crime committed,' Ted White, a police spokesperson, said. 'But the biggest question is, is her story credible? Was she actually down there the whole time?'"

From "Naked woman rescued from Florida sewer after driver hears her screaming/Delray Beach fire rescue says woman sustained superficial injuries and had been reported missing three weeks earlier" (The Guardian).

Highway shark.

"Internet turns on Jensen Karp, ‘manipulative’ shrimp tail cereal man."

NY Post headline.

I don't have a tag for "crustaceans." I have "lobster" and "crabs," but I don't have "shrimp." That boxes me in tag-wise. It's not as though I haven't written about shrimp before

There's this, in 2018: 

"This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle. I mean, this is gigantic..."

Said Joe Biden at his press conference yesterday. Transcript. He was talking about new legislation in some GOP-led state legislatures tightening up voting requirements.


What I’m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is. It’s sick. It’s sick. Deciding in some states that you cannot bring water to people standing in line waiting to vote, deciding that you’re going to end voting at five o’clock when working people are just getting off work, deciding that there will be no absentee ballots under the most rigid circumstances, it’s all designed, and I’m going to spend my time doing three things. One, trying to figure out how to pass the legislation passed by the House, number one, number two, educating the American public. The Republican voters I know find this despicable, Republican voters, the folks outside this White House. I’m not talking about the elected officials. I’m talking about voters. Voters. And so I’m convinced that we’ll be able to stop this because it is the most pernicious thing. This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle. I mean, this is gigantic what they’re trying to do and it cannot be sustained. I’m going to do everything in my power, along with my friends in the House and the Senate, to keep that from becoming the law.

By the way, he said he's "going to spend my time doing three things," then he ticked off "number one" and "number two," but he never listed the third thing. But he just kept rambling on, and he didn't have his fingers in the air to remind us that he was doing a list, so there was no Rick Perry "oops" moment. 


And, of course, the reporter (Yamiche Alcindor [formerly] of the NYT) did nothing to re-focus him on completing the list. But back to "Jim Eagle." I've seen some defense of this weird new character, upstaging the old Jim Crow. It's not hard to get what he was going for. If Jim Crow was bad, then Jim Eagle would be even worse. A crow is a bird, and an eagle is a bigger, more dangerous bird. But...

1. Is the new legislation even worse than Jim Crow laws? How could that be?

2. The eagle is the national bird, and Biden was standing in front of an image of an eagle, which we saw right behind his head as he was using the eagle as a symbol of evil:

3. The expression "Jim Crow" is not a reference to a bird, but a particular character

The origin of the phrase "Jim Crow" has often been attributed to "Jump Jim Crow",* a song-and-dance caricature of black people performed by white actor Thomas D. Rice in blackface, which first surfaced in 1828 and was used to satirize Andrew Jackson's populist policies. As a result of Rice's fame, "Jim Crow" by 1838 had become a pejorative expression meaning "Negro". When southern legislatures passed laws of racial segregation directed against black people at the end of the 19th century, these statutes became known as Jim Crow laws.

Click on the link to see how a black man was depicted on the sheet music to that song. "Jim Crow" is not a bird, but a man, depicted as inferior and contemptible, in what is overt racism. If a man were depicted in a way that called to mind an eagle, he would be a more powerful man — an admired man. Thus, to go from crow to eagle in this context is to put black people in a better position, not worse. Biden's word play is based on historical ignorance.

4. To do word play, you need to know what the thing you are playing on means. For example, earlier this morning, I blogged about the Washington Post Fact Checker, and we got to talking about the time last month when I fact-checked the Fact Checker. I wisecracked: "He's the Fact Checker, I'm the Fact Chess!" See? I'm proposing a new kind of word play where you deliberately misunderstand the word that you're playing upon. 

5. Voting rights are important and maybe humor isn't such a good idea here. I know I've just made a joke, and perhaps I should delete it, but if jokes here are to be self-censored, Biden ought to have resisted saying "Jim Eagle." In any case, it was a joke that was hard for some people to understand, and understanding it required us to come within his misunderstanding, with "Jim Crow" as a bird.

6. Since I blogged about Cliff Edwards yesterday, I want to end by saying that he — a white man — did the voice of the lead crow in the Disney movie "Dumbo," and here's the sequence "When I See an Elephant Fly," which you can watch for yourself to think about whether it's so racist it should be suppressed. Here's a Reddit discussion from a year ago, begun by somebody who thinks it's not so bad.


*If you click on the "Jump Jim Crow" link in #3, you get to this additional material: 

The origin of the name "Jim Crow" is obscure but may have evolved from the use of the pejorative "crow" to refer to black people in the 1730s. Jim may be derived from "Jimmy", an old cant term for a crow, which is based on a pun for the tool "crow" (crowbar). Before 1900, crowbars were called "crows" and a short crowbar was and still is called a "jimmy" ("jemmy" in British English), a typical burglar's tool. The folk concept of a dancing crow predates the Jump Jim Crow minstrelsy and has its origins in the old farmer's practice of soaking corn in whiskey and leaving it out for the crows. The crows eat the corn and become so drunk that they cannot fly, but wheel and jump helplessly near the ground, where the farmer can kill them with a club.

Reading the next 4 WaPo articles on Joe Biden's press conference.

Let me continue with the links I found in the top left corner of the front page of The Washington Post this morning (at around 6):


"Analysis: In news conference, Biden made some incorrect statements and claims lacking context." On the inside the headline is: "Fact-checking President Biden’s first news conference." 

Biden's claim that the U.S. has given far more vaccination shots is a distortion, because some other countries have given shots to a larger percentage of the population. Biden repeated a claim about GOP tax cuts that WaPo has already "often" given 2 Pinocchios. Biden claimed credit for school re-openings that were based on work done before he took office. Biden apparently completely made up the story of children at the border starving to death. Biden claimed that "the vast majority" of families caught trying cross the border are sent back, but only 41% are. Biden was wrong to claim that the surge at the border is the same as what happens every winter. Biden made the completely bizarre claim that the U.S. is 85th in the world in "infrastructure" (but he later corrected it to 13th). Biden misstated how much tax Fortune 500 companies pay.


"'The art of the possible': Biden lays out pragmatic vision for his presidency." 

"[Pragmatism explains] how he can describe some Republican policies as 'sick' and 'un-American' while not doing everything in his power to immediately stop them. He called the filibuster a racist relic of Jim Crow, while also insisting that he wasn’t ready to remove it entirely in the hopes there would be some compromise."


"Analysis: Takeaways from Biden’s first presidential news conference." Headline inside: "4 takeaways from Biden’s first news conference." 

"There wasn’t much truly groundbreaking news in the news conference.... Members of the media have been waiting a while to directly question this president.... There was also a distinct lack of deep questioning on the biggest current challenge facing our country and the world: the coronavirus threat. Other critiques of the questions were more overwrought.... These news conferences are difficult. Not every question is going to provide a ton of insight. And everyone thinks they can do better. But that doesn’t mean the media can’t actually do better." That's Aaron Blake.


"The many languages of Joe Biden: President switches between cryptic and casual conversation." 

This is a Robin Givhan column: "Biden, with an American flag pinned to his lapel, maintained a tone and volume that was both calm and reassuring as he spoke to a nation that remains skittish and uneasy. He only brought up his volume as a form of righteous indignation. He’d periodically move closer to the microphone and his eyes would get wide and his gaze fixed whenever he wanted to convey outrage."

ADDED: Robin Givhan's prose sounds like a description of the lead male character in a romance novel. It's quite humorous if you think about it that way.

Reading the Washington Post coverage of Biden's press conference.

There are 5 pieces lined up on the left side of the front page and more scattered about, so this is a big task. Let me get the blog started this morning with just the first headline:

"Biden prioritizes infrastructure and pandemic ahead of guns and immigration." 

On the inside, the headine makes Biden sound weaker: "Biden promises to tackle the nation’s crises, but says some may wait." Prioritizing specific issues sounds like what an active, skillful executive would do. The inside headline presents him as beset by everything and just letting us know he can't get to it all. 

The first paragraph tells us he regarded guns and immigration as "secondary." What was primary was coronavirus, infrastructure, and voting rights. 

I watched the conference, and it seemed to me that the reporters were most concerned about immigration, so WaPo is interpreting Biden's response to mean that he's minimizing the problem. 

Indeed, I remember him saying that people are just coming the way they have always come, and the surge is just because of the winter weather. The policy changes from Trump to Biden have nothing to do with it, Biden  said, so I guess there's not much value in doing anything differently from what he's currently doing, since the migrants come whatever you do. They have their own motivation, and conditions are so bad back home that they will face any adversity. In that light, we're just being cruel to put up obstructions.

In person, Biden didn't get much — or even any — push back from the press corps, and this article follows that mellow, forgiving approach. It's so absurdly different from the way the press treated Trump. There's not even the slightest pretense of making journalism seem like the same sort of thing we saw before. We're just supposed to glide along with them, greased by the mainly accurate understanding that Biden is a very different sort of person than Trump was. 

ADDED: Something is strangely missing from this WaPo piece: Immigration is a matter that Biden has handed over to Kamala Harris. That's a way of making it "secondary," but it's also a way to get things done. Here's what he said about the VP at the press conference — from the transcript:

Well, look, the idea that I’m going to say, which I would never do, if an unaccompanied child ends up at the border, we’re just going to let them starve to death and stay on the other side, no previous administrations did either, except Trump. I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to do it. That’s why I’ve asked the Vice President of United States yesterday to be the lead person on dealing with focusing on the fundamental reasons why people leave Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador in the first place. It’s because of earthquakes, floods. It’s because of lack of food. It’s because of gang violence. It’s because of a whole range of things, that when I was Vice President, had the same obligation to deal with unaccompanied children. I was able to get it slowed up significantly by working with the heads of state of those communities, to do things like, in one of the major cities, the reason people were leaving as they couldn’t walk to the street because their kids were getting beat up or shot or in gang violence.

He proceeds to talk about his own work getting street lighting installed in "those communities." He's given Harris the same job that he himself had when he was Vice President.

March 25, 2021

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

A rare sighting! Biden does a press conference!

Or so we're told. Starting time is right this minute. Keep watching here: 

"The effort by Ms. Harris to address the root causes of migration, which can take years, is..."

".... unlikely to quickly produce the swift action demanded by Republicans and some Democrats to reduce the overcrowding at the border."

From "Biden Names Harris to Work With Central America on Migration/The president gave the vice president a prominent role in the politically charged issue at a time when thousands of children are being detained in facilities along the border" (NYT).

The "root causes" language is a reference to something Harris said: "While we are clear that people should not come to the border now, we also understand that we will enforce the law. We also — because we can chew gum and walk at the same time — must address the root causes that cause people to make the trek."

Walking and chewing gum at the same time is a metaphor,* initially designed to insult someone who can't do these 2 relatively easy-to-do things simultaneously. It doesn't work too much as a brag, unless you're saying that the 2 things are easy to do at the same time. 

What are the 2 things? There's a huge difference between wanting people not to come + caring about root causes and effectively enforcing all of the law restricting the border + changing the conditions that are causing people to come to the border. 

The first set of things is easy to do, damned near effortless. The second set is nearly impossible, done together or done one at a time. Might as well laugh about doing them together because you know you're not going to make much progress at all on either.


* "The term is recorded in a Texas newspaper in [1964]. President Lyndon Johnson allegedly said that then-Congressman (and later president) Gerald Ford couldn’t 'fart and chew gum at the same time.' As early as the 1900s, it was observed that women talk a lot and chew gum a lot, but don’t 'talk and chew gum at the same time.' Entertainer and cowboy philosopher Will Rogers was described in 1926 as 'the only man in the world who can chew gum and talk sense at the same time.' It’s probable that the saying 'walk and chew gum at the same time' developed from the earlier 'talk and chew gum at the same time.'" That's at Quora. To speculate more coherently: People said women can't "talk and chew gum at the same time," then some crude fellows thought it was funner to say "walk and fart at the same time" — because walking and farting is a very funny subject. (I've seen George Carlin demonstrate the hilarity.) Then it got turned around for fun to LBJ's "fart and chew gum at the same time." Then it got cleaned up into the present-day corruption, "walk and chew gum at the same time."

"You Never Did That Before."

Here's Buster Keaton with Cliff Edwards playing one ukulele (in the 1930 movie "Doughboys"): 

And you might think this goes to show that you can't predict what will be the next Althouse post, but there is a flow here, and if you understood it well enough, you did have a chance at predicting that this charming duet would be the next thing. 

Yesterday, there was a post about a musical tribute to Joe Biden's accomplishments. It was comical — including the way it made some conservative men cringe — but I told you it gave me chills, and I ascertained that the chills were caused by the amazingly effective music from "The Little Mermaid," "Part of Your World."

That led me to play what I think is clearly the most beautiful song from a Disney animation, "When You Wish Upon a Star." But who is the singer? It's Cliff Edwards, AKA Ukelele Ike. I read about him at Wikipedia:

Edwards was born in Hannibal, Missouri [in 1895]. He left school at age 14 and soon moved to St. Louis, Missouri and Saint Charles, Missouri, where he entertained as a singer in saloons. As many places had pianos in bad shape or none at all, Edwards taught himself to play ʻukulele to serve as his own accompanist (choosing it because it was the cheapest instrument in the music shop). He was nicknamed "Ukulele Ike" by a club owner who could never remember his name.

He got his first break in 1918 at the Arsonia Cafe in Chicago, Illinois, where he performed a song called "Ja-Da", written by the club's pianist, Bob Carleton. Edwards and Carleton made it a hit on the vaudeville circuit. Vaudeville headliner Joe Frisco hired Edwards as part of his act, which was featured at the Palace in New York City—the most prestigious vaudeville theater—and later in the Ziegfeld Follies.

He recorded many of the pop and novelty hits of the day, including "California, Here I Come", "Hard Hearted Hannah", "Yes Sir, That's My Baby", and "I'll See You in My Dreams"... "Paddlin’ Madeleine Home" (1925), "I Can't Give You Anything but Love" (1928), and the classic "Singin' in the Rain" (1929), which he introduced....

He also recorded a few "off-color" novelty songs for under-the-counter sales, including "I'm a Bear in a Lady's Boudoir," "Take Out That Thing," and "Give It to Mary with Love"...

I couldn't find "Take Out That Thing." I tried! Wait — there's a different title: "Mr. Insurance Man" ("She said: Mr. Insurance Man, take out that thing for me... I crave some indemnity.... Oh, Mr. Insurance Man, let me take out that thing. Let me look at your policy.... Oh, Mr. Insurance Man, take out that thing for me. Let me see the numbers on that policy, just how much I'm gon' get").

In 1929, Cliff Edwards was playing at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles where he caught the attention of movie producer-director Irving Thalberg.... Edwards had a friendly working relationship with MGM's comedy star Buster Keaton, who featured Edwards in three of his films. Keaton, himself a former vaudevillian, enjoyed singing and harmonized with Edwards between takes. One of these casual jam sessions was captured on film, in Doughboys (1930), in which Buster and Cliff scat-sing their way through "You Never Did That Before"....

And that's when I found the clip I'm featuring in this post. 

Anyway, Edwards went on to play Jiminy Cricket in Disney's "Pinocchio" and the lead crow in "Dumbo." In the 40s, popular taste turned away from his style, toward "crooners" like Bing Crosby. But then there was TV, and he had his own show in the really early days of television — 1949. And he used to appear on "The Mickey Mouse Club," which I remember watching (in the 1950s), but I do not remember ever being this good:

Fantastic! There's some sad stuff in the Wikipedia article — alcoholism, late-life destitution. Read that if you like. But I highly recommend searching his name on Spotify (or wherever) and listening. Such a distinctive voice, many peppy, jazzy songs. If you ever — like me — went through a phase where you loved the Jim Kweskin Jug Band or Leon Redbone — not to mention Tiny Tim — you'll love it, I bet.

"Sen. Grassley presses FBI on false testimony during Justice Kavanaugh confirmation."

Writes Sharyl Attkisson (with the full text of Grassley's letter).

Amy Coney Barrett "may be giving Justice Elena Kagan a run for her money in the department of well-designed hypothetical questions" — according to Linda Greenhouse...

... writing in "Testing Time at the Supreme Court/The outcome of a property rights case could foretell how much conservatives can expect from the justices" (NYT). 

The California law, enacted in 1975 as the product of Cesar Chavez’s drive to organize the state’s farmworkers, authorizes the union to approach workers in the field before and after the working day for up to three hours on 120 days of a year.

“So let me ask you this,” Justice Amy Coney Barrett said to [the lawyer arguing that any authorization of entry onto private property is a taking]. “What if California had a regulation that permitted union organizers to go onto the property of your clients one hour a day, one day a year. Is that a taking subject to the per se rule?”

Yes, the lawyer replied. His answer was certainly no surprise to the justices listening remotely to the argument. His theory of the case required precisely that answer, as Justice Barrett — who may be giving Justice Elena Kagan a run for her money in the department of well-designed hypothetical questions — surely knew.

Nonetheless, it underscored just how audacious the Pacific Legal Foundation’s position is....

"I felt that it would give women the confidence to be able to request that leave if it was required, as opposed to just being stoic and getting on with life, when they knew that they needed time, physically or psychologically, to get over the grief."

Said Ginny Andersen, the New Zealand legislator who drafted the bill discussed in "New Zealand Approves Paid Leave After Miscarriage/The measure, believed to be among the first in the world, would apply to couples who lose a pregnancy at any point" (NYT). 

Ms. Andersen added that she had not been able to find comparable legislation anywhere in the world. “We may well be the first country,” she said, adding, “But all the countries that New Zealand is usually compared to legislate for the 20-week mark.” 

The new law does not apply to abortions, Ms. Andersen added. New Zealand decriminalized abortion last year, ending the country’s status as one of the few wealthy nations to limit the grounds for ending a pregnancy in the first half.

Is New Zealand in the vanguard — or is this another manifestation of a culture that outlawed abortion until only last year? The bill highlights the importance and reality of the child that was lost, even though it never reached the age where it could have survived outside the womb. This is the stage of development where, in America, the woman has a right to end the pregnancy and the state cannot intervene to save the life of the child. 

Now, New Zealand has created a benefit that officially cares for parents who experience the early end to a pregnancy, but it excludes the parents/mothers who chose to end the pregnancy. The gesture of exclusion of the aborters means something, doesn't it? But what does it mean? 

  • We don't think you have any grief that you need 3 days to get over. 
  • Don't ask us to help you with this particular pain, which you chose. 
  • By aborting, you declared that what was in you was not a human being, so, within your own concept of of the universe, there was no death to grieve. 
  • We want you to feel bad about aborting.

Why did Medium's algorithm offer porn to Joe Biden? What a mystery!

We talked about the problems at Medium yesterday, here. Today, I'm seeing an article at The Verge —  "The Mess at Medium" — and it begins with some material that doesn't really have much to do with the rest of the article — which is about the problems paying writers enough within the business model of the publishing platform that is Medium. But it's really funny — one of these "mysteries" that has an answer that's so obvious that you only need Occam's Razor to solve:

Last week, a partnerships manager at Medium working with the White House found that there was a strange problem with the platform: President Joe Biden was being served porn.

The manager was in a video conference with a White House staffer to discuss how Biden, who had used Medium as a campaign blog in 2020, could begin posting to the official Medium @POTUS account. While sharing his screen with the White House, the staffer logged in to @POTUS and saw the first article recommended to him by Medium: “A is for After,” which a sub-headline described as “a cuckold love story.”

It’s unclear if the White House saw the story. But after the meeting, the Medium staffer tried to improve Biden’s recommendations. He followed political topics; he “read” posts by President Obama and Vice President Kamala Harris while logged in as the president. When he refreshed his recommendations, Medium recommended another piece of erotica: “Getting a Piece (and Some Pizza Too),” a story that carries the sub-headline “step sister taboo erotica.”

The employee previously found that Medium had somehow added Biden as a writer on 10 “garbage publications,” as well as at least one software development blog. “President Joe Biden is Being Served Erotica on,” the staffer complained in an internal post. The episode captured Medium in all its complexity: a publishing platform used by the most powerful people in the world; an experiment in mixing highbrow and lowbrow in hopes a sustainable business would emerge; and a devotion to algorithmic recommendations over editorial curation that routinely caused the company confusion and embarrassment.

It's only a "strange problem" if you think Presidents don't look at porn. 

As Bob Dylan sang long ago, "Even the President of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked." ("Bob Dylan: making people picture the president naked since 1965. Thanks, Bob.")

But somebody ought to have helped him set up something other than the official Medium @POTUS account for reading his cuckold and step-sister stories. Come on, people! You know he needs help with his computers. He's 78, for God's sake!

March 24, 2021

At the Gray Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

What does it mean that Biden has put Kamala Harris in charge of the border crisis?

Here's a collection of articles on the subject.

Do you think choosing her is an effort to give her the opportunity to do something important and prominent so she can burnish her reputation in preparation for taking over the presidency? Or do you think it is more of an effort to hold her back, to saddle her with a huge problem that she's unlikely to handle well, and the idea is to keep her from edging Biden out?

"Kamala Harris to hold discussion with Bill Clinton on 'empowering women and girls'.... 'Is this a ... joke?' asked Juanita Broaddrick."

Fox News reports.

I guess this is good news for Andrew Cuomo: Bill Clinton, never cancelled, and now, forefronted, with special access to the first woman Vice President.

Okay, guys, but I've got to tell you — even though I see what you're seeing — and in spite of my stoical distancing — I got chills — repeatedly, even on a second viewing.

Can I explain getting chills? I'm not a fan of the Biden administration or a sucker for social programs, but the music is familiar and emotionally effective, and the woman's commitment to the role — with added silliness — is disarming. I can't tell that this particular performer is a dimwit fan of the new administration. This clip made me think of this extremely silly extolling of Trump: 


It's humor. But does it sell the politician? Does my getting chills mean that propaganda is working on me? I rewatched "The Little Mermaid" sequence with that song, and I got the chills in all the same places. So I tend to think it's all about the music. That's some powerful emotional manipulation.

Something made me click on "Prince Harry Is a Newly Minted Start-up Bro" at The Cut.

But no sooner did I get there than I instinctively took the exit route provided at the top of the "Most Viewed" list:

"Why Did Princess Diana’s Hair Look Like That?" 

The new news of Harry's ascension to some bogus position in a start up (BetterUp) had less meaning to me than the old non-news of Diana's hair!

“This was pre-tabloid culture. Ordinary people didn’t know about Sloanes,” says [journalist Peter] York, explaining how an Über-bougie cult of overprivileged L.L.Bean worshippers could exist in near-complete segregation from the masses. That all changed overnight as the press started to gather outside Diana’s flat, and suddenly Sloane style was seen “galloping down high street.” It’s ironic, York adds, because if Diana had just moved to the country with a low-key aristocrat like most Sloanes, she would have adopted a Sloane-mum hairstyle — longer and pushed back with a velvet hairband. Instead, she married a prince, and her look — as common as a brass-buttoned blazer in her peer group — became a totally singular statement.

That is more interesting than Harry the  Newly Minted Start-up Bro.

Goodbye to George Segal, February 13, 1934 – March 23, 2021.

Remember when American culture ate up material like this? 



Roger Ebert in his June 18, 1973 review.... gave the film four stars on a scale of four.... Vincent Canby of The New York Times described it...  as "a restless, appealing, sometimes highly comic contemporary memoir." Richard Corliss of Film Comment praised Segal's performance, claiming that "No contemporary actor can touch George Segal for klutzy charm or a seriocomic capacity for suffering (he’s the Tom Ewell of the Seventies), and no film has used his manic copelessness as well as Blume in Love."

I was 22 at the time, and I remember steering clear of this one.

"Watching the recent surge of women’s sports enthusiasts clamoring to save female athletes from the transgender rights movement, it’s hard not to feel a little wistful."

"So this is what it’s like to matter.... But all this new passion has made me wonder, what if all these people claiming to be fighting for the future of women’s sports would really fight for the future of women’s sports? What if they suddenly said, 'We demand women’s sports get equal resources, equal media coverage, and equal pay'?... Consider last week: As the N.C.A.A. basketball tournaments began, female players demanded to know why the weight room in the men’s bubble had state of the art lifting equipment, whereas they got a stingy rack of dumbbells...." From "So You Want to ‘Save Women’s Sports’?/More than 20 states are considering bills to ban transgender kids from girls’ sports. If only people really cared about female athletes" (NYT).


"Writing about gender differences within the Latino vote is inherently thorny terrain. There’s a long-standing, racist stereotype..."

"... that associates Latino men with machismo — and, as we all saw for the past six years, Trump’s political brand was built partly on an exaggerated macho sensibility. Ian Haney López, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, told me that there is a risk of reducing Latino men’s support of Trump to being about machismo — which takes 'a pervasive social dynamic' and makes it into 'an attribute of Latino culture.' 'Patriarchy is a problem across racial groups,' he says, though he adds: 'It’s also fair to say if you’re a man in a low-status group, masculinity may become more important to claiming high status.' A better place to start might be jobs.... Trump’s image as a straight-talking businessman was definitely part of what appealed to my dad. He liked that Trump was a graduate of the Wharton School and that the former president grew up with men similar to those who worked with my grandfather...."

From "Trump, My Dad and the Rightward Shift of Latino Men/Why are Latino men moving away from Democrats? And how can liberals win them back? For me, it’s a topic that hits close to home" (WaPo).

"Media Twitter does not hate Substack because it’s pretending to be a platform when it’s a publisher..."

"... they don’t hate it because it’s filled with anti-woke white guys; they don’t hate it because of harassment or any such thing. I don’t think they really hate it at all. Substack is a small and ultimately not-very-relevant outpost in a vastly larger industry; they may not like it but it’s not important enough for them to hate it. What do they hate? They hate where their industry is and they hate where they are within their industry. But that’s a big problem that they don’t feel like they can solve. If you feel you can’t get mad at the industry that’s impoverishing you, it’s much easier to get mad at the people who you feel are unjustly succeeding in that industry. Trying to cancel Glenn Greenwald (again) because he criticizes the media harshly? Trying to tarnish Substack’s reputation so that cool, paid-up writer types leave it and the bad types like me get kicked off? That they can maybe do. Confronting their industry’s future with open eyes? Too scary, especially for people who were raised to see success as their birthright and have suddenly found that their degrees and their witheringly dry one-liners do not help them when the rent comes due.... Life in the 'content' industry already sucks. A small handful of people make bank while the vast majority hustle relentlessly just to hold on to the meager pay they already receive.... They have to tweet constantly for the good of their careers, or so they believe, which amounts to hundreds of hours of unpaid work a year. Their publications increasingly strong arm them into churning out pathetic pop-culture ephemera like listicles about the outfits on Wandavision.... [T]hey have a right to be angry. But they don’t have much in the way of self-awareness about where their anger really lies.... They’re so angry because they bought into a notoriously savage industry at the nadir of its labor conditions...."

From "It's All Just Displacement/Blue checkmarks are mourning bad careers in a broken industry" by Freddie DeBoer (Substack).

"The Golden Rule is a historically-proven, cross-culturally accepted, non-religious, time-tested method for addressing social aggression and dealing with difficult people."

"The Golden Rule is a resiliency tool that allows us to remain in control and win at the bully game. But what makes bullying a game? Bullies want to look and feel like winners by dominating other people. When we remain calm and kind, we win, they lose, and they leave us alone. The Golden Rule is a force for relational change that turns enemies into friends and empowers victims.... Humanity is biologically programmed for what many social scientists refer to as the Law of Reciprocity or 'the rule of nature.' Simply stated, this principle means I’ll treat you the way you treat me. If you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice back, and if you’re mean to me, I’ll be mean back.... Unfortunately, living life according to the Law of Reciprocity means everyone else controls our emotions. They act — we react. We live in a constant state of response to others. This is where the genius of the Golden Rule comes in. Living life according to the principles of Golden Rule puts us in charge because we understand how to leverage the Law of Reciprocity in a way that allows us to remain in control of our choices. When an enemy is mean to us and we choose to be kind back, we reverse the flow of negative behavior. Our enemy’s brain tells them to stop being mean and to reciprocate kindness. Practicing the Golden Rule frees us from living in reaction to a bully’s actions. It disempowers bullies who are seeking control. It reverses the balance of power in our relationships. It allows us to communicate from a position of strength and confidence: calmly and kindly, motivated by positive virtues of reconciliation and peace, rather than negative reactions of anger, resentment, and revenge."

From "The Golden Rule Solution to Bullying" by BrooksGibbs (Medium).

That's a 2015 article that turned up when I googled the question: Does the Golden Rule empower bullies?

What just happened at Medium?

I confess I haven't ever followed Medium. I don't use it, and I don't understand what's supposed to make it different from other publishing options like Twitter and Blogger. I did see 2 headlines just now at the top of my favorite link-gathering site Memeorandum.

The first is "Medium Editorial Team Update" at Medium itself, written by Ev Williams. This piece is incredibly dense and wordy, a style that makes me suspicious. What are you trying to hide/finesse? 

I retreated to Wikipedia to read about Medium. There was no update showing the latest news, but I did learn that Evan Williams is the person who developed Twitter and also that he was the co-founder of Blogger. Clicking through on his name, I see that he is credited with coining the term "blogger," which you might think is something that I would know. Some additional clicking got me to the information that someone else coined the term "blog," but Williams goes down in the history of social media language for being the person who added the suffix that referred to the type of person.

The other headline at Memeorandum is "Medium Tells Journalists to Feel Free to Quit After Busting Union Drive/After what workers describe as a successful union-busting campaign, Ev Williams has announced to journalists who work for him that they should feel free to go" (Vice). Now, that's clear. Clear and clearly opinionated. 

But I searched for Williams's name in the news and have turned up a NYT article, "Medium Offers Buyouts to Editorial Employees/A top executive is leaving the company, which announced plans to shift its focus from its own publications to writers who use its platform." So that's where I will start (and if you wonder why I read the NYT, this is a good example of why).

The "top executive" who is leaving is not Williams, but Siobhan O’Connor.

Evan Williams, a Twitter co-founder who started Medium in 2012, explained in a long email to the staff after the meeting that Medium was “making some changes” to its publishing strategy. He said Medium would reduce the budgets of the publications run by the company and redirect resources to supporting independent writers on the platform....

Some staff members wept on the video call, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting, who were not authorized to speak publicly. Employees were told that they did not have to take the buyouts but that their jobs would most likely change if they stayed, the people said....

Less than a month ago, a union drive at Medium failed. The Medium Workers Union fell one vote short of a simple majority of workers needed for union recognition....

Where's the "union busting"? I take it the unionization effort failed. I'm guessing the story at Vice is that these new changes are designed to fend off future unionizing success. The NYT eschews any talk of that. 

I go back to Vice to explore my suspicion: 

March 23, 2021

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want. 


"Teachers taking the backseat — that flies in the face of white Western thought, right?"

"I saw a bald eagle in the wild a few years ago, and to be honest, it looked, even as it flew over the snakey river and the murmuring pines and the hemlocks—Canadian trees, according to Longfellow, whose 'Evangeline,' is a poem of exile I adore—like a bigot."

Sentence of the Day. 

Sentence of the Day is a declaration I make now and then — certainly not every day — when I encounter a complicated and weird sentence. 

That's in "Of Mice and ICE" (at the Poetry Foundation). The author is Anjuli Fatima Raza Kolb, an English professor at the University of Toronto, who teaches poetry and postcolonial theory and literature. She was writing in 2018, when the ICE problems were Trump's. 

I got there as a result of googling "beastie," a word I used in the previous post, about a fox, and have used now and again and again on this blog. 

A "beastie" is "A little animal; an endearing form of beast n. Also applied jocularly to insects. (Originally Scottish)" (OED). The oldest usage is in the Robert Burns poem that is referenced in that Poetry Foundation piece with the complicatedly weird sentence. 

Here's the Burns poem with "beastie" in the first line — "Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie."

Here's Longfellow's "Evangeline" — which begins "This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks...."

What other sentences have caused me to declare "Sentence of the Day"? There was this, in 2005:

"Plump couches, radical books, free WiFi, $5 microbrews, killer sound system, a menu that runs from catfish and collard greens to peanut butter, banana and honey sandwiches: a cool, comfortable, slightly bourgy haven for a hot, bothered, slightly bourgy peace movement."

This, in 2017: 

"It is a mildly disconcerting experience, seeing conscious evolutions and experiments in style; baroque, ornate, urgent, dyspeptic; the repetitions and modalities at various points and the stylized categorizations and oppositions – prudes and perverts, monsters and insanity, measures and tests, inquiries and examinations, bodies and boys, punishment, pleasure, asceticism, suicide; the going back over old themes in new ways; how the old becomes new but how the new can never entirely disown the old; the desire for both fidelity in the evocation of moods and worlds, but not necessarily strict historical accuracy, whatever that might in the end be taken to mean; and the desire to write all this up somehow as a history of the present." 

And here's another 2017 example: 

"You know like any face I made when I was young was adorable and now if I’m worried there’s this pathetic gleam of how do I look and yet we love an old dog or an old leather couch so why not an old female arm or an ass all its own, speaking powerfully shabbily in time."

The fox reappears...


Next time... I plan to get a better picture. I've got to reach for my old time-y camera. I'm keeping it right here on my desk. It's a mistake to grab the iPhone. What a fumbling idiot I become when suddenly excited by a chance to photograph the fox! Too many button images to look at and emphatically touch. I got that one picture and then — even though the beastie paused to take a shit — I could not get a second shot.

UPDATE: Meade texts from the backyard:


"During a trip to Italy, [his wife] gets behind the wheel of a Renault and speeds along a mountainside road outside of Siena."

"Suddenly, like Nicole in 'Tender Is the Night,' she declares, 'I’m going to kill both of us!' Roth grabs the wheel, and they continue on to the Rhône Valley. Roth started seeing Hans Kleinschmidt, an eccentric name-dropping psychoanalyst, three or four days a week. Asked later how he could justify the expense ($27.50 a session), Roth said, 'It kept me from killing my first wife.' He told Kleinschmidt that he fantasized about dropping into the Hoffritz store on Madison Avenue and buying a knife. 'Philip, you didn’t like the Army that much,' Kleinschmidt told him. 'How will you enjoy prison?'... Roth has a fling with Alice Denham, Playboy’s Miss July, 1956, who, as her cheerfully unapologetic memoir 'Sleeping with Bad Boys' revealed, also slept with Nelson Algren, James Jones, Joseph Heller, and William Gaddis. 'Manhattan was a river of men flowing past my door, and when I was thirsty I drank,' she wrote. So did Roth. Roth and [his first wife] finally split up in 1963."

From "The Secrets Philip Roth Didn’t Keep/Roth revealed himself to his biographer as he once revealed himself on the page, reckoning with both the pure and the perverse" (The New Yorker).

Here's Denham's rather decorous Playboy centerfold from 1956, when sex, apparently, entailed pillow fights, with feathers flying, and a big fluffy feather was always right there as an impromptu pastie, lest you see too much. 

I had to look up "pastie," because... is it "pasty" or "pastie"? Don't want any mixup with the meat pie. Turns out it's either "pasty" or "pastie," and, really, how often do you need the singular? But I did get to while away a few moments — disrupting my contemplation of the "a river of men" that was Manhattan in the 50s — with the Wikipedia article "Pasties"

There, I encountered this photograph — cc by Mark Lidikay — captioned "A group of women protesting for the right to go topless anywhere a man could. Venice Beach California. The demonstrator with the microphone is wearing a pastie in the shape of a nipple":

"The Christian Baker Who Said ‘No’/Jack Phillips is again in court for refusing to bake a cake with a message he objects to."

Headline at the Wall Street Journal. 

Philips was in the news years ago after he refused to make a same-sex wedding cake. He's dealt with that problem by not making custom wedding cakes anymore (and, we're told, losing 40% of his business). 

Now, he's accusing of discrimination against transgenders:

In her original complaint to the [Colorado Civil Rights Commission, Autumn Scardina] wrote that she’d told the bakery the design was “intended for the celebration of my transition from male to female.”

Blue icing on a pink cake.

After Masterpiece turned down this cake, Ms. Scardina called to request another. This one would feature Satan smoking a joint. Mr. Phillips declined....

“Jack didn’t single Scardina out for being transgender,” [said Kristen Waggoner, general counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom]. “He wouldn’t bake cakes with those messages for anyone.” This is a baker who won’t even make Halloween cakes, she adds, and serves everyone regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation....

"I have seen no evidence to support a seditious conspiracy charge against my client, Donovan Crowl. I was surprised that the former U.S. attorney would comment so publicly on the case."

Said lawyer Carmen Hernandez, quoted in "Justice Dept. Said to Be Weighing Sedition Charges Against Oath Keepers/Investigators have for weeks focused on the role of the militia in the attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob" (NYT). 

The potential for sedition charges received renewed attention this week after Michael R. Sherwin, the outgoing leader of the investigation, said on “60 Minutes” that the government had most likely obtained enough evidence to bring such a charge.

“I personally believe the evidence is trending toward that, and probably meets those elements,” Mr. Sherwin said. “I believe the facts do support those charges. And I think that, as we go forward, more facts will support that.”

March 22, 2021

At the Monday Night Café...

 ... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Wim Hof’s technique of using physical discomfort—like ice baths—to improve mind and body is gaining popularity as it seeks scientific acceptance."

The Wall Street Journal reports.

In 2013, researchers at Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands found that 12 people trained by Mr. Hof and then injected with E. coli had milder flulike symptoms than an untrained control group. In 2019, tests indicated a significant decrease in inflammation in 13 people suffering spinal arthritis over eight weeks of training in breathing, meditation and cold exposure....

Mr. Hof’s career was born out of tragedy. He was in the Pyrenees working as a mountain guide when his wife died by suicide in 1995. “That’s the way it actually began—the real trial of my life,” he says. “We were left behind with broken hearts, four kids and no money.”

Swimming in icy cold water had for years been a pastime. Now, he found it stopped the rumination and pain. Cold water causes you to be in the moment, he says. “Going into the cold brought a lot of space, like stillness in my mind. It gave me moments of time to stop the agony, the why, why, why ten thousand times a day.”

"The Supreme Court said Monday it will consider reinstating the death sentence for Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev..."

The justices agreed to hear an appeal filed by the Trump administration, which carried out executions of 13 federal inmates in its final six months in office, including three in the last week of President Donald Trump’s term. The case won’t be heard until the fall, and it’s unclear how the new administration will approach Tsarnaev’s case. The initial prosecution and decision to seek a death sentence was made by the Obama administration.... Biden has pledged to seek an end to the federal death penalty, but he has said nothing about how he plans to do so.... In late July, the federal appeals court in Boston threw out Tsarnaev’s sentence because, it said, the judge at his trial did not do enough to ensure the jury would not be biased against him. The Justice Department had moved quickly to appeal, asking the justices to hear and decide the case by the end of the court’s current term, in early summer. Then-Attorney General William Barr said last year, 'We will do whatever’s necessary.'"

AP reports.

"This is propaganda."

Little children are always subjected to propaganda, though, so the real question is whether this is the propaganda we want for them. Let's look at the article: 

Leigh Wilton and Jessica Sullivan, Skidmore College psychology professors who study race and social interaction, say that children develop implicit bias as early as 3 months old, and at 4 years old are categorizing and developing stereotypes.... 

 Children must use cues from their parents to interact with the world around them, says Shauna Tominey, an assistant professor at Oregon State University and the author of “Creating Compassionate Kids.” “From the very beginning, children look to the adults in their lives for cues as to how to respond to others, how to interpret what they see and hear, how to respond to people they meet or learn about. Even before young children can engage in conversations, they engage in ‘social referencing’ to figure out how to respond," says Tominey.

Some of this is ordinary instruction that I've seen all my life, including as a child in the 1950s. It seemed rather anodyne to me. There are a bunch of people trying to sell their anti-racist materials. I'd like to see a deep, critical look at what's in those things. I see the reason to be skeptical. That's all I'll say.

"An unlikely coalition of Democrats across the ideological spectrum mounted an 11th-hour push in the final weekend before the American Rescue Plan for President Biden to go big on tackling child poverty."

"They prevailed over what one person involved in the process called the 'cost police' in Biden’s inner circle, those anxiously warning about the ballooning cost of the stimulus package.... This under-the-radar success created what could be the most consequential piece of the $1.9 trillion package — one that, if made permanent, could approach the impact of the programs established under President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. The sudden, unexpected creation of an approximately $120 billion social program has thrown a twist into the political landscape.... With the initiative expiring in a year, all but ensuring it will be a major issue in the midterms, the child poverty measure raises a central question: Are the politics of big government back?... A family with two young children and no income will now get $600 a month. The parents of 90 percent of the country’s children will benefit, and 27 million children will be lifted from poverty, according to analysts.... ...Democrats hope American families will get used to receiving their checks, and they cite the Washington axiom that it’s hard to take something away from voters after they’ve started receiving it. Still, popularizing the program will require Biden to begin selling it..... Some Democrats acknowledge that some in their party are squeamish about having to defend the distribution of government checks to working-age adults who are not working....  "

From "How Biden quietly created a huge social program" (WaPo).

"In this case, a win for the cancellation artists would validate the dark prophesies one often finds in conservative writing, including on Substack..."

"... a future where 'woke capital,' in thrall to left-wing activists, makes it effectively impossible to hold a professional-class job without enthusiastically embracing progressive orthodoxy — especially on issues of identity. That world already seems uncomfortably close for journalists and academics, given that most of their institutions lean left. But self-publishing? It ought to be immune from cancellation unless the mob can somehow convince you to fire yourself. That changes, however, if activists can enforce a secondary boycott on the newsletter services, payment processors or web hosts that writers use. If that happens, it’s hard to see where viewpoint diversity could survive for long, except possibly in conservative outlets big enough to run their own technology and thereby survive the purge.... [E]conomist Cameron Harwick suggested... We actually are witnessing woke capital do what capital normally does, if the capitalist controls a monopoly. That is, extracting excess returns from the market — what economists call 'rents.'... And woke capital, Harwick argues, is actually the creation of a labor cartel: the highly progressive monoculture of professional workers. To keep them happy, institutions that employ a lot of professionals have been pressured toward a narrow ideological consensus, corresponding to the views of roughly the left-most 8 percent of the American electorate. It’s a hidden fringe benefit that Harwick dubs 'ideological rents.' If Harwick is right, then cancel culture can’t be defeated by Republican senators hassling Facebook or Twitter, because that doesn’t touch the monoculture...."

Writes Megan McArdle in "The Substack controversy’s bigger story" (WaPo).

March 21, 2021

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about anything 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!

"Former President Donald Trump is planning to launch his own social-media platform within the coming months..."

"... longtime Trump adviser Jason Miller said during a Sunday appearance on Fox News 'Media Buzz.' 'I do think we're going to see President Trump returning to social media in probably about two or three months here with his own platform... This is something that I think will be the hottest ticket in social media. It's going to completely redefine the game, and everybody is going to be waiting and watching to see what exactly President Trump does, but it will be his own platform'..."

Business Insider reports.

"Unreported income is the single largest reason that unpaid federal income taxes may amount to more than $600 billion this year..."

"... and more than $7.5 trillion over the next decade.... The government has a basic obligation to enforce the law and to crack down on this epidemic of tax fraud. The failure to do so means that the burden of paying for public services falls more heavily on wage earners than on business owners, exacerbating economic inequality. The reality of widespread cheating also undermines the legitimacy of a tax system that still relies to a considerable extent on Americans’ good-faith participation.... ...Charles Rossotti, who led the I.R.S. from 1997 to 2002... that Congress needs to... [create] a third-party verification system for business income.... Under his plan, the government would require banks to produce an annual account statement totaling inflows and outflows, like the 1099 tax forms that investment firms must provide to their clients.... The money is undoubtedly in chasing wealthy tax cheats, but equity argues that business income, like wage income, should be subject to a uniform reporting standard.... Consider what happened after Congress passed legislation in 1986 to require taxpayers to list a Social Security number for each person claimed as a dependent.... The next year, seven million children abruptly disappeared from tax returns.... The government can crack down on crime, improve the equity of taxation — and raise some needed money in the bargain. There are many proposals to raise taxes on the rich. Let’s start by collecting what they already owe."

Says the Editorial Board of the NYT.

Why do white people want to use the N-word?

 Question flipped:

"[Yasmin] Benoit is determined to ensure other asexual (or 'ace') people don’t feel broken or alone in a world in which lust and desire pulsate through our entire culture...."

 “And while many aces, such as Benoit, are also aromantic, meaning they have no interest in romantic relationships, others feel differently. [Angela] Chen, for example, is biromantic (attracted romantically to both genders) and has a long-term boyfriend with whom she has sex. She says she has sex with her partner for emotional reasons only – to feel close to him – but adds: 'I could go the rest of my life being celibate and I would be perfectly happy.'... If you remove sexual desire, what’s the difference between romance and an intense platonic friendship? Research suggests key differences, says Chen, with romantic attraction leaving individuals wanting to change their life for their partner, being infatuated with them and becoming possessive.... When many people envisage an 'asexual' they picture a nerdy, androgynous white male – think Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory – but as a black female model, Benoit is taking on these stereotypes...."

From "‘I don’t want sex with anyone’: the growing asexuality movement" (The Guardian).

"CUNY law school dean cancels herself after ‘slaveholder’ comment."

 The NY Post reports. 

In an email sent Saturday to the college community, [Mary Lu] Bilek said her retirement stemmed from a cringe-worthy remark she made at a personnel committee meeting in November. The group was discussing an open position for associate dean at the time. Bilek said that when she dropped the “slaveholder” reference, she was taking the blame for a hiring proposal some colleagues thought would have a “disparate racial impact.”

“In a misguided effort to draw an analogy to a model of reparations in order to place blame on myself, as Dean, for racial inequities at our school, I thoughtlessly referred to myself as the ‘slaveholder’ who should be held responsible,” Bilek wrote. “I realized it was wrong the minute I heard myself say it and couldn’t believe the word had come out of my mouth.”

Bilek went on to write that she apologized immediately at the meeting “and have since apologized without reservation to the faculty.”

“I am still shocked at what I said and have begun education and counseling to uncover and overcome my biases and further understand the history and consequences of systemic and institutional racism,” she wrote....

She was trying to take blame, but she's not as blameworthy as a slaveholder, so the analogy to a slaveholder taking blame, was... was what? She was taking blame for something racial — disparate racial impact — but disparate racial impact is much less bad than slavery, so in making the analogy, she was exaggerating her own blame. Then, she got blamed for that exaggeration, and she reacted by canceling herself — firing herself into retirement — which is another dramatic exaggeration. The original offense was to exaggerate, the exaggeration was then exaggerated, and in response to the exaggeration, she performed an additional exaggeration.

It's a perfect storm of self-dramatization. But I don't have the inside view, only Bilek's reaction. I can only attempt to imagine how the other people at CUNY School of Law behave.

"Threw my stimmy into the stock market and damn, it’s been a beautiful morning."

Said some guy, quoted in "Recast as ‘Stimmies,’ Federal Relief Checks Drive a Stock Buying Spree/The government set out to prop up the economy. It may also be propping up the market" (NYT). 

Analysts at Deutsche Bank recently estimated that as much as $170 billion from the latest round of stimulus payments could flow into the stock market. They conducted a survey of retail traders in which respondents said they planned to put roughly 40 percent of any payment they received — or $2 of every $5 — into the stock market. Traders between the ages of 25 and 34 said they expected to put half of their stimulus check into stocks.... 

The willingness of millions of Americans to use emergency federal assistance as play money for speculation speaks to the unique nature of the current economic downturn and the government response to it.

Play money? I suppose the government expected us to buy items of merchandise and restaurant meals. I would have thought that saving your money is the most dull, conservative thing to do, and if you save, aren't you supposed to invest and not just leave your money in your bank account? 

Also, "propping up the market"? Propping? Didn't look to me like it was sagging.

Ice update.

Yesterday, at sunrise:


Today (note the same tree):


"Biden was not part of the Obama entourage. He was sort of a goofball and windbag. He was a member of an older, outmoded generation."

"In other words, uncool. The West Wing attitude was that Biden should simply be grateful that the Great Obama had handed him a ticket to ride. Biden was viewed as a past-his-sell-by-date pol who needed the president’s guiding hand to keep Uncle Joe from making a fool of himself as vice president.... They trashed him anonymously to reporters, froze him out of meetings and barred him from doing some national media.... In eight years, Biden said in a recent reveal that stunned Anderson Cooper — and left Washington gasping — he and Jill were never invited by the Obamas to their private digs in the White House.... So now comes a delicious twist: President Biden is being hailed as a transformational, once-in-a-generation progressive champion, with comparisons to L.B.J. and F.D.R. aplenty, while Obama has become a cautionary tale about what happens when Democrats get the keys to the car but don’t put their foot on the gas.... Obama’s failure to go big and to send the tumbrels rolling down Wall Street certainly greased the runway for Donald Trump. The paradox of Obama is that Americans embraced radical change by electing him but then he held himself in check, mistakenly believing that he was all the change they could handle.... Obama seems more comfortable as Netflix talent, sitting pretty with celebrities and chit-chatting with Bruce Springsteen...."

Writes Maureen Dowd (NYT).

"Graphomania inevitably takes on epidemic proportions when a society develops to the point of creating three basic conditions..."

"1. An elevated level of general well-being, which allows people to devote themselves to useless activities; 2. A high degree of social atomization and, as a consequence, a general isolation of individuals; 3. The absence of dramatic social changes in the nation's internal life. (From this point of view, it seems to me symptomatic that in France, where practically nothing happens, the percentage of writers is twenty-one times higher than in Israel)."

Wrote Milan Kundera in "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting" (1979), quoted at the Wikipedia entry "Graphomania." "Graphomania" is a word I looked up after writing the previous post, about Mr. Doodle.

What if anything distinguishes obsessive writing from obsessive drawing? I don't know, but back in 2005 there was a show called "Obsessive Drawing" at The American Folk Art Museum. Holland Cotter wrote about it in the NYT: 

The act of drawing and painting, [one artist said], helped to ease a debilitating anxiety that had dogged him all his life. Once he started a drawing, the anxiety lifted. Relief arrived as a state of entrancement. One minute he'd be sitting at his kitchen table with sheets of graph paper and a pen filled with ink. The next, he'd be aware that hours had passed, and he'd done a drawing. What was the mechanism responsible? He's not sure, but it worked for a creative half century....

"In March last year I was sectioned and went to a psychiatric ward for six weeks, I had been diagnosed with suffering from a Psychotic episode...."

"It’s basically like an overspill of your brain’s 'stress bucket,' when your mind can’t handle it any more. In my case I went through a wave of hallucinations and delusions from thinking that I was speaking to God to being hired to doodle all over Donald Trump’s wall to believing that I had become the video game character Crash Bandicoot. In the psychiatric ward I believed I had met and become friends with Banksy and Kanye West and that we were destined to doodle the world together, in reality these were nurses and patients. It was amazing how convinced I was that these things were all true, it was as if I was living in an alternate reality dream world and I just couldn’t tell the difference between what was real and what wasn’t.... I was under a lot of pressure mainly from the administrative side of my work, the contracts and legal stuff got on top of me and there were too many things to deal with at once. I am much better now... and I am able to doodle better than ever before!"

Writes Mr. Doodle on Facebook. You can see a lot of his work there too — here. Instagram — here. Sample:

Here's an Artnet article about him from 3 weeks ago: "How an Artist Named Mr. Doodle Became a Multimillion-Dollar Auction Sensation With a Bunch of Squiggles and ‘Like’-able Branding/Powered by towering sales results in Asia and millions of social followers, Mr. Doodle has quietly taken the auction market by storm." 

In his private moments, Mr. Doodle (AKA the Doodle Man) is a British-born 26-year-old named Sam Cox.... [A]ny public appearance by Mr. Doodle finds Cox draped in clothing covered in his own signature imagery—the intricately interwoven pandemonium of cartoon creatures the artist sometimes refers to as “graffiti spaghetti.” (Imagine if Keith Haring adapted the Where’s Waldo? books, and you’ll start to get the picture.)...