May 22, 2021

Peonies...

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Alliums still peaking.

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And here's a photo by Meade, showing, along with the alliums, the square of wheat field that's in the process of distinguishing itself from the lawn: 

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"When you loosen yourself, as I tried to, from all the obvious delusions—religion, ideology, Communism—you’re still left with the myth of your own goodness. Which is the final delusion."

From "I Married a Communist" by Philip Roth. 

That's very close to the end of the book, which I have now finished reading... in case you're wondering how many times is Althouse going to blog quotes from this book. I'm done... unless something else I'm blogging reminds me of something that fits right into the stream of consciousness....

Actually, no. I'm going to give you one more: "The excitement in marriage is the fidelity. If that idea doesn’t excite you, you have no business being married."

Both quotes are said by a character, and not the first-person character who represents Philip Roth or the main character who in some ways represents Roth (because he's married to a beautiful actress who betrays him by writing a memoir about their marriage). These quotes are both said by another character who tells much of the story (so that there are 2 main first-person voices, the Roth character who's usually just there listening and this other guy who's doing most of the talking).  

So — does Roth want us to believe these 2 fascinatingly challenging statements? Do we all cling above all to the idea of our own goodness, and is it a delusion? How exciting is sexual fidelity and is that particular form of excitement the sine qua non of marriage?

The novelist, by using the voices of multiple characters, has so much freedom to express exciting ideas. Perhaps the excitement in fiction is the infidelity to a single point of view and if that infidelity doesn’t excite you, you have no business being a novelist.

"My father used to say to me when I was younger, he used to say to both William and I, 'Well, it was like that for me, so it’s going to be like that for you.'"

"Harry said. One of his most traumatic moments as a child, Harry said, was when he followed his mother’s horse-drawn casket in a public funeral cortege at age 12, passing throngs of onlookers, many of them openly sobbing — and staring at him. 'The thing I remember the most was the sound of the horses’ hoofs going along the Mall,' Harry told Winfrey. 'It was like I was outside of my body and just walking along doing what was expected of me. [I was] showing one-tenth of the emotion that everybody else was showing: This was my mum — you never even met her,' he said."

From "Prince Harry tells Oprah Winfrey of his excessive drinking and drug use — and says the royal family made him 'suffer' as a child" (WaPo).

AND: With all respect to Harry's suffering, well described in that passage, I do wish he'd have said: "My father used to say to me when I was younger, he used to say to both William and me...." Notice he used "me" when "William and" wasn't interposed between the subject "My father"/"he" and the first-person pronoun. He said "My father used to say to me" but then lost his grammatical way after he saw the need to include William: "he used to say to both William and I." 

This sort of error — an error of over-correction — usually seems to be caused by insecurity about one's education. You have the urge to say it the way that is actually right, but you don't trust yourself and you also don't understand the grammatical rule, so you reach for something that feels more elegant — "I" rather than "me." Could Harry possibly feel that he needs to strain to be elegant? Maybe he does. What's the point of being royal if you don't feel royal? 

And I guess that's the point of absconding to America.

5:25, 5:47 a.m.

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"Successful start-up social platforms require massive amounts of patience and personal investment, and Trump isn’t really known for either of those."

"Trump’s biggest obstacle is time. He wants the media spotlight back immediately or back by the 2022 midterms, and he can’t build a real social platform by then."

Said Nu Wexler, a communications consultant (who's worked for Twitter, Facebook and Democratic campaigns), quoted in "Trump is sliding toward online irrelevance. His new blog isn’t helping. The former president’s aides said his new online presence would ‘redefine the game.’ But his heavily promoted blog is seeing few visitors" (WaPo).

Even if Trump could build a "real social platform"...

To keep people interested, a new social network would also need to overcome more established social media sites’ “network effects” — the fact that so many users’ friends and family are on there already, locking them in — and “engineer all the tricks that the other platforms use to drive engagement and virality, which is no easy feat,” said Ashkan Soltani, the former chief technologist of the Federal Trade Commission.

“Those companies have had years and years of engineering and data and A-B testing of what evokes people writ large,” he added. “The way they are engineered to amplify divisive content; the way they use your friends and your friends’ activities to grab you; the way they use notifications to draw you back in — all those aspects aren’t going to be present in whatever thing Trump creates.”

The way they are engineered to amplify divisive content; the way they use your friends.... 

Yes, good thing Trump — who does know how to "evoke people" — can't cause a "real social platform" to come into existence for his personal/political use. It's bad enough that these generally available sites — the ones that all exclude Trump — are so vast and so highly functional. I would like to see Trump back on these places — Twitter, Facebook, etc.  Even as he's "sliding toward online irrelevance," it's more worrisome that we're all sliding — greased by this social media (and the mainstream press) — into shallow recirculation of the divisive content and pointless attention grabbing.

May 21, 2021

Until tomorrow...

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"For the first time in nearly three decades, Alabama will allow yoga to be taught in its public schools, but..."

"... Teachers will be barred from saying the traditional salutation 'namaste' and using Sanskrit names for poses. Chanting is forbidden.... Some conservative groups had called for the prohibition to be preserved, contending that the practice of yoga is inseparable from Hinduism and Buddhism and amounted to a religious activity.... [Amendments added to the bill] require parents to sign a permission slip for students to practice yoga. They also bar school personnel from using 'hypnosis, the induction of a dissociative mental state, guided imagery, meditation or any aspect of Eastern philosophy.'... The [1993] ban was enacted after parents in the state raised concerns not only about yoga, but also about hypnotism and 'psychotherapeutic techniques.'... [O]ne mother in Birmingham said her child had brought a relaxation tape home from school that made a boy 'visibly high'...."

The NYT reports.

I've told you my opinion before. Back in 2016, I had a post, "WaPo seems surprised that people regard yoga in school as an Establishment Clause problem":

The headline is: "Ga. parents, offended by the ‘Far East religion’ of yoga, get ‘Namaste’ banned from school."

In my opinion, it's cultural appropriation and otherizing not to perceive that this is religion.

Commenters [at WaPo] pick up the cue and say things like "Georgia hicks object to 'mindfulness.' Why am I not surprised?"/"They opt for 'mindlessness.'"

Wow. Double otherizing.

What is the objection to a law against something that we're told no one is doing anyway?

I'm reading "Tennessee Bans Hormone Treatments for Transgender Children/The measure signed by Gov. Bill Lee makes it illegal to give prepubescent minors the gender-confirming treatments — a practice some experts have said is not in use" (NYT). 

If medical practice already draws the line in the same place — no hormone treatment before puberty — then why object to the law? Or you can put the question the other way: Why pass the law?

1. There is symbolism — messaging — in passing the law and in refraining from passing the law. Politicians might want to express opposition to/support for transgender people.

2. There is trust/mistrust in the medical profession. Do you believe they'll determine the best treatments and restrain themselves from going too far, or do you think they need a legal line? The AMA position is that the law a "dangerous intrusion into the practice of medicine."

3. Regardless of what the medical profession decides is ethical, there are always unethical practitioners, and you need a law if you want the government to impose consequences. If no one ever violates the law, it may be because the law deterred them (and not merely that every single practitioner hewed to the ethics). 

4. How strong is the evidence that no practitioners give hormone blockers to prepubescent children? Advocates make assertions, but how do they know? The article quotes 2 advocates, but each only said that he's not aware of any practitioner who gives this treatment.

"No, I am living in the present, not in the past. Or in the future, I don’t know. I live day by day..."

"... and what is happening that day, the next day, is important to me — so I don’t care. I’m not somebody who cares very much about 'this happened on such a day,' all that."

Said Françoise Gilot, asked "Do you have any thoughts on it today, looking at it after so many decades?," quoted in "Françoise Gilot, 97, Does Not Regret Her Pablo Picasso Memoir/In 1964, her book about a decade-long affair with the legendary artist was a succès de scandale. Now, it’s back in print" (NYT). 

"It" = her memoir, "Life with Picasso."

"Life with Picasso" is a great read. I read it in the 1970s, when I myself was embedded in an artist-on-artist relationship.

Gilot began a 10-year relationship with Picasso in 1943, when she was 21 and he was 61. The quoted interview is from 2019, when Gilot was 97. I'm glad to see she's still alive. She'll be 100 soon. I like her idea of how to live as an old person — a very old person. As an old but not that old a person, I believe in living in the day, where you always have been, but have often disregarded for various reasons that don't apply anymore.

I'm reading this 2-year old article today because it's linked along with a few other things at the end of an article that is published today:

5:30, 5:50 a.m.

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"This sounds pretty terrifying to me. It's a country full of alienated people, broken communities, and estranged families. Instead of fixing the broken social fabric..."

"... we are further retreating into our anxious selves and the mental health crises will undoubtedly worsen. Except for the tiny minority of students who can truly benefit from this, the effects of a broad move to online learning on the socialization of young people would be profound and I'd rather not imagine them."

Says one highly rated comment at "Online Schools Are Here to Stay, Even After the Pandemic/Some families have come to prefer stand-alone virtual schools and districts are rushing to accommodate them — though questions about remote learning persist" (NYT). 

Another comment: "If this last year has taught me nothing else, it's that the 'digital world' is not a life worth living, and I am an introvert. I did not exactly have a successful social life in school, but I would still never trade the experience for being a hermit at home. People need to learn to get along with each other now more than ever before. Online school is an acceptable back up for times when in-person schooling is not possible such as when a student is sick, what would otherwise be a snow day, pandemics, travel demands and the like, all of these are better than the prior alternative of no school. But that's all it is, a mediocre substitute for the real thing and real people."

It's worth clicking through to see the photography at the top of the article. I really can't decide what feelings and ideas the NYT meant to highlight. It's a mother enveloping her 11-year-old son in a hug. The sun is on his face and he looks blissful. The text says he suffers from some sort of mental condition that makes him "apprehensive around other students" and that he's loved the on-line school program. But, we're told, he's going back to school, so I'm going to say that the NYT means to say all-encompassing motherly love cannot be the end point. That boy needs to get back into the real world of other kids. Which is what the commenters are saying.

"That was very offensive to me. I’m not putting in myself, my hard work, his hard work, for you to tell me that he’s at second-grade reading."

Wrote the mother of a 5th grader, quoted in "Does It Hurt Children to Measure Pandemic Learning Loss? Research shows many young children have fallen behind in reading and math. But some educators are worried about stigmatizing an entire generation" (NYT).
[Some people] are pushing back against the concept of “learning loss,” especially on behalf of the Black, Hispanic and low-income children who, research shows, have fallen further behind over the past year. They fear that a focus on what’s been lost could incite a moral panic that paints an entire generation as broken.... 
Jesse Hagopian, a Seattle high school teacher and writer, said testing to measure the impact of the pandemic misses what students have learned outside of physical classrooms during a year of overlapping crises in health, politics and police violence. “They are learning about how our society works, how racism is used to divide,” he said. “They are learning about the failure of government to respond to the pandemic.” 
Mr. Hagopian said he believed that “learning loss” research was being used to “prop up the multi-billion-dollar industry of standardized testing” and “rush educators back into classrooms before it’s safe to do so.” 

Is this a fear of learning the truth, a questioning whether standardized tests reveal the truth, or dedication to the more important truth that knowing the truth discourages people. But is that true — does knowing that your 5th grader reads at a 2nd-grade level make it harder to move him forward in his reading skills? Does knowing that black and Hispanic students are further back than ever undermine the education efforts?  We ought to at least be truth-focused as we try to understand whether knowing the truth helps.

"Depicting critics of liberal orthodoxies as mentally ill, a rage-driven bully, and a shadow of their former selves is a long-time tactic of guardians of establishment liberalism to expel dissidents..."

"... from their in-group circles. A lengthy 2003 New Yorker smear job on Noam Chomsky headlined 'The Devil's Accountant' — at the time when he was a rare and vocal critic of post-9/11 U.S. foreign policy — described how Chomsky was once a credible voice but, sadly, has now 'become increasingly alienated from the mainstream' because he 'has no ideas to offer.' Chomsky's 'thinking has grown simplistic and rigid,' the author wrote. She quoted Christopher Hitchens as saying that while he once admired Chomsky's stable ideology and noble commitment to principle, he is now going basically insane, describing his views of the war in Afghanistan as 'the gleam of utter lunacy piercing through.' The article also claimed that while Chomsky's criticisms of Israel has alienated his liberal following, it has caused him to become popular in far-right anti-Semitic circles. That article also described Chomsky as an angry bully, prone to outbursts of rage against female colleagues to the point of making them cry, being humorless, and in general just plagued by mental pathologies which accounts for his unwillingness to accept liberal pieties. Sound familiar? In 2018, I compiled many of those personality-driven and mental health smears that had been weaponized back then against Chomsky because, at the time, other liberal outlets — such as The New Yorker and New York Magazine — were already using the same mental health and personality-based themes to expel me from the precincts of liberal decency due to my rejection of their Russiagate conspiracy theories, which had turned into a virtual religion, including at The Intercept."

"Until the skateboarders came along, Vans had no real direction, no specific purpose as a business..."

"... other than to make the best shoes possible. When skateboarders adopted Vans, ultimately, they gave us an outward culture and an inward purpose

Wrote Paul Van Doren in his memoir, “Authentic,” quoted in "Paul Van Doren, 90, Dies; Built an Empire With Vans Shoes/The sneakers became a hit in the skateboard world and later a multibillion-dollar nationwide sensation thanks in part to a Sean Penn movie."

This is 9 minutes of Sean Penn in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." Scroll to the beginning if you want more, but I've clipped 15 seconds where you'll definitely be able to see the shoes:

"There is the surge of interest in cults, likely driven by the fact that for four years America was run by a sociopathic con man with a dark magnetism..."

"... who enveloped a huge part of the country in a dangerous alternative reality. And there’s a broader drive in American culture to expose iniquitous power relations and re-evaluate revered historical figures. Viewed through a contemporary, secular lens, a community built around a charismatic founder and dedicated to the lionization of suffering and the annihilation of female selfhood doesn’t seem blessed and ethereal. It seems sinister." 

From "Was Mother Teresa a Cult Leader?" by Michelle Goldberg (NYT)(drawing attention to a new podcast, "The Turning," that portrays Mother Teresa in a negative light).

Viewed through a contemporary, secular lens, is anything blessed and ethereal?

This "surge of interest in cults" — if you want me to take it seriously — needs also to include looking inward, at yourself. What cults do you belong to? I ask this of Goldberg and of everyone who's choosing to characterize other people as belonging to cults. Some people — notably Rose McGowan — say the Democratic Party is a cult. But Goldberg, unsurprisingly, brings up Trumpsters as the cult here in America as she critiques a woman in a culture that is foreign to her.

What's the difference between "cult" and "culture"? Whether you look at other people through your "lens" and react to them as alien and defective? To be a serious thinker, you must critique your own lens. 

FOOTNOTE: According to the Online Etymology Dictionary entry for "cult":

May 20, 2021

5:32 a.m.

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Perhaps you're thinking that you'd like to get up and do a sunrise run but it's too hard in the lightest 3 months of the year. I hate to use an alarm clock, but maybe, like me, you have a brain that can wake itself up a few minutes before the alarm goes off. Just setting the alarm is enough to set the brain, and then you never hear the alarm. 

Another technique, and I like this better, is to sleep with the windows open and wake up when you hear the birds. How can you make your sleeping brain react to something you hear, something that's so much gentler than an alarm clock? I don't know, but try just thinking about doing that. It's worked for me lately, but only after using the alarm for a while. At first, I was waking up to the alarm. Then, I adjusted and woke up just before the alarm went off. Then, I readjusted and woke up when the birds "went off." 

This is an excellent arrangement for me. The birds seem to come on about 40 minutes before the sunrise time. That gives me 15 minutes to get from bed to car, 5 minutes to drive to my starting point, and 15 minutes to get to the place you see in my photograph... with 5 extra minutes for gazing into the sky before the sun crosses into view.

"I'm a girl and I don't understand why other girls are obsessed with eyebrows. Can someone please explain."

"It’s not only a girl thing! Many people like to groom and apply makeup to their brows because it can change your whole face! Beautiful brows have the power to intensify your look and to kinda “put together” your facial features :)"/"They do a ton to shape someone's face. Just google 'celebrities without eyebrows' and see what a difference they make..." 

From a discussion in the Bad Makeup Artists subreddit. 

And I know my audience well enough to put this up so you don't feel you need to find it for me: 

 

 Secondary "Seinfeld" eyebrows clip: 

"According to a new book, Obama called Trump a 'madman,' a 'racist, sexist pig,' 'that fucking lunatic' and a 'corrupt motherfucker.'"

 The Guardian reports. 

The book is "Battle for the Soul: Inside the Democrats’ Campaigns to Defeat Donald Trump" by Edward-Isaac Dovere. This is the same book that quotes Jill Biden saying that Kamala Harris should "go fuck herself."

According to the article, Dovere writes that Obama preferred Trump over Ted Cruz as the candidate, because he thought Cruz is much smarter than Trump. To that, I'd say that there are different forms of intelligence — Obama ought to know — and Cruz has strong conventional indicia of intelligence but Trump is some sort of genius. The challenge is to have enough intelligence of your own to discern what field of human endeavor is the dimension of Trump's genius. If you fall short, you will find Trump is a big idiot.

Later, Obama — speaking to "big donors" — said Trump  is "a madman." 

Obama also said things like "I didn’t think it would be this bad," "I didn’t think we’d have a racist, sexist pig," and "that fucking lunatic." I consider all those statements meaningless fluff... other than the "I didn't think," which I regard as Obama's excuse for not using his clout against Trump. Why give Obama money now when he didn't even help get Hillary elected?

"But there’s a deeper reason why a cerebral cultural figure like [J.D.] Vance would convert to Trump-style trolldom."

"In today’s political and media culture, trolling is the shortest, simplest path to a level of attention you’d never get any other way. His fiery Twitter account is just the capstone on the gradual reinvention of J.D. Vance.... When Hillbilly Elegy was released in 2016, it was taken as a kind of Rosetta Stone to a world many in the left had never encountered, and Vance became a rare bipartisan figure that liberals could at once praise, pity and understand.... But...Vance became a Trump supporter. And with that, his tone and temperament appeared to shift, too, from conciliatory and unifying to aggressive and mocking. It wasn’t just liberals losing a pet; anti-Trump Republicans have felt a similar sense of betrayal, as another onetime ally is lost to the dark side.... His new tone on Twitter shows that he’s following the 45th president’s playbook, covering for his lack of political experience with the emotion he can stoke from hot-button culture war issues.... What 'the game' entails has changed over time, but at this point, it’s essentially a ping-pong match held over a viper pit... But Vance surely knows what he’s doing.... That’s why some of Vance’s critics have approached his Twitter feed with the appropriate cynicism, and a suggestion that perhaps it was his old persona—and his high wire act of straddling two worlds—that was destined not to last."

 From "J.D. Is Making Everyone Mad on Twitter. Can It Win Him a Senate Seat? The author and Senate hopeful has a special knack at getting under liberals’ skin and getting everyone to talk about him" by Joanna Weiss (Politico).

How fiery is this J.D. Vance Twitter feed? The main example quoted in the article is: "I’m in D.C. today and just saw a group of girls on the Potomac rowing—outside in the sunshine—all of them with masks on. Totally insane." That's called a "rant." It's kind of a rant to call it a rant. I'm surprised Vance got back-and-forth action on such a mundane tweet. 

I've followed Vance on Twitter for a while, and I've never been struck by any exaggerated trolling that deserves to be called a "game" and "a ping-pong match held over a viper pit." The Politico writer wants him to settle down, but why doesn't she settle down? (That's a rhetorical question. You know why.)

Okay, now I'm going to read the last few Vance tweets. Most recent (aimed at a Lincoln Project person): "Look if you guys want to come to Ohio it’s a free country. Just don’t bring your pedophile co-founder."

Next (about the NY Attorney General investigating Trump): "It’s a total joke to pledge to bring charges before you’ve even investigated. You might even say it’s a threat to Our Democracy." 

"This is something that happens in failed third world countries, not the United States. If you can run for a prosecutor’s office pledging to take out your enemies..."

"... and be elected to that job by partisan voters who wish to enact political retribution, then we are no longer a free constitutional democracy.... These investigations have also been going on for years with members and associates of the Trump Organization being viciously attacked, harassed, and threatened, in order to say anything bad about the 45th President of the United States..... These Democrat offices are consumed with this political and partisan Witch Hunt at a time when crime is up big in New York City.... But the District Attorney and Attorney General are possessed, at an unprecedented level, with destroying the political fortunes of President Donald J. Trump and the almost 75 million people who voted for him, by far the highest number ever received by a sitting President. That is what these investigations are all about—a continuation of the greatest political Witch Hunt in the history of the United States. Working in conjunction with Washington, these Democrats want to silence and cancel millions of voters because they don’t want 'Trump' to run again."

Writes Donald Trump, at his blog.

"We generally have not awarded Pinocchios when researching how politicians speak about family myths and stories."

"We also do not play gotcha when a politician flubs a talking point they have gotten correct on other occasions. Biden went too far on Tuesday when he described his great-grandfather as a 'coal miner,' but during the presidential campaign he correctly labeled him a mining engineer. So this is not a repeat of 1988, when Biden repeatedly lifted lines from a British politician’s speech and falsely said he had ancestors who worked 12 hours underground." 

Writes Glenn Kessler at The Washington Post, in the Fact Checker piece, "Biden’s claim that his ‘great-grandpop’ was a coal miner."

May 19, 2021

Mendota at midday.

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Perfection.

And I like my son John's Facebook post:

Sad to see that Charles Grodin has died at 86. Back in the ‘90s I loved watching him on his TV show and as a guest on other shows, and I also like him in The Heartbreak Kid (1972), with Cybill Shepherd.

I’m not surprised to see Rainn Wilson’s effusive tribute to Grodin, whose grimly deadpan approach to humor seems like a precursor to the cringe-inducing awkwardness of The Office.

Wilson wrote: "R.I.P. Charles Grodin, one of the all-time comedy greats. His legendary wit and dark wryness inspired me beyond all measure. Just watch this… SO FAR ahead of his time...." And links to this:

"Don’t assume you feel comfortable with the same things you felt comfortable with in the before times... You’re a different person now. We all are."

Says one expert quoted in From "The Back-to-Sex Special: How to Prepare for the Post-Pandemic Summer of Sex/It's time to have sex again. Here's how to get ready, according to the experts" (Inside Hook).

The Hot Vax Summer discourse makes it sound like everyone is about to have the horniest summer of their lives, and if you don’t, you’re doing it wrong.... For many people, the prospect of impromptu hookups with random strangers never held much appeal, and holds even less in the immediate aftermath of a pandemic....

“It might take some time to feel comfortable opening back up, and sometimes our mind might be faster than our body. So, honor your body’s pace.... Embrace the awkward..."...

“If your sex life has been mostly with yourself during the pandemic, you might be feeling a strange mix of emotions as you prepare to put yourself back out there — excitement, anxiety, maybe even dread — so it’s important to check in with yourself emotionally as you go,” says Kocak.

That said, remember that sex is something our bodies are literally built to do. No matter how long it’s been, you’re probably not as sexually inept as you fear. “It will be like riding a bike,” says Sparks. After all, she adds, “You never really forget how to have sex.”

It's not like riding a bike! You don't fall off if you're doing it wrong. And what makes you sure you were doing it right in the first place. With a bike, you were doing it right because you made forward progress and didn't fall. With sex, you rarely fall off and you aren't traveling from one geographic location to another — e.g., from your house to the park. You may think you're "traveling" through some abstract landscape from titillation to satisfaction — and there are probably towns in Pennsylvania called Titillation and Satisfaction — but you most likely began and ended at the same geographic coordinates. 

And if you've been assuming you're doing it right because it's "something our bodies are literally built to do," that's a crazily broad definition of what it means to do it right. But thanks for taking me back to the time when I was a little kid and asked my mother how babies are made. I have never forgotten her explanation, the sum total of it, verbatim: "Well, you know how men and women are physically built."

"Once the human tragedy has been completed, it gets turned over to the journalists to banalize into entertainment...."

"... I think of the McCarthy era as inaugurating the postwar triumph of gossip as the unifying credo of the world’s oldest democratic republic. In Gossip We Trust. Gossip as gospel, the national faith. McCarthyism as the beginning not just of serious politics but of serious everything as entertainment to amuse the mass audience. McCarthyism as the first postwar flowering of the American unthinking that is now everywhere. McCarthy was never in the Communist business; if nobody else knew that, he did. The show-trial aspect of McCarthy’s patriotic crusade was merely its theatrical form. Having cameras view it just gave it the false authenticity of real life. McCarthy understood better than any American politician before him that people whose job was to legislate could do far better for themselves by performing; McCarthy understood the entertainment value of disgrace and how to feed the pleasures of paranoia. He took us back to our origins, back to the seventeenth century and the stocks. That’s how the country began: moral disgrace as public entertainment. McCarthy was an impresario, and the wilder the views, the more outrageous the charges, the greater the disorientation and the better the all-around fun."

From "I Married a Communist" by Philip Roth.

ADDED: From the Wikipedia article "Stocks"

"[W]hen 'Nothing Compares 2 U' made her a star, O’Connor said the song’s writer, Prince, terrorized her...."

"She writes that Prince summoned her to his macabre Hollywood mansion, chastised her for swearing in interviews, harangued his butler to serve her soup though she repeatedly refused it, and sweetly suggested a pillow fight, only to thump her with something hard he’d slipped into his pillowcase. When she escaped on foot in the middle of the night, she writes, he stalked her with his car, leapt out and chased her around the highway. Prince is the type of artist who is hailed as crazy-in-a-good-way, as in, 'You’ve got to be crazy to be a musician,' O’Connor said, 'but there’s a difference between being crazy and being a violent abuser of women.' Still, the fact that her best-known song was written by this person does not faze her at all. 'As far as I’m concerned,' she said, 'it’s my song.'... O’Connor converted to Islam several years ago and started going by the name Shuhada Sadaqat.... 'I haven’t been terribly successful at being a girlfriend or wife,' she said. 'I’m a bit of a handful, let’s face it.' But a few months ago, when she moved into her blissfully remote cottage, she found that several other single women lived alone nearby. Soon a couple of them had come by offering bread and scones, and she found herself with a crew of girlfriends for the first time since she was a teenager.... 'Down the mountain, as I call it, nobody can forget about Sinead O’Connor,' she said. But up in the village, nobody cares, 'which is beautiful for me,' she said. 'It’s lovely having friends.'

From "Sinead O’Connor Remembers Things Differently/The mainstream narrative is that a pop star ripped up a photo of the pope on 'Saturday Night Live' and derailed her life. What if the opposite were true?" by Amanda Hess (NYT).

Prince harangued his butler to serve her soup! He weaponized his pillow in their pillow fight! He stalked her in his car and chased her around the highway! And he — he and not she — got to be considered crazy in the good way. She was crazy in the bad way, it seemed, but she's owning her brand of "crazy." 

She said she considered herself a "punk" and when "Nothing Compares 2 U" became a big hit, things felt out of whack, and tearing up the photo of the Pope restored her idea of order to her life.

She wears a hijab now (over a head that's still shaved). And if you read the comments section over there, you'll see, she comes in and answers people:  

What is "the Biden wall"?

I'm trying to read "Mexico’s coronavirus deaths are plummeting. The ‘Biden wall’ could be a factor" (WaPo) — just trying to understand what the headline means.

I'm glad to hear that the coronavirus situation in Mexico has improved, but why bring Biden into the picture and attempt to give him credit? He could be a factor. Because something he did is susceptible to being called a "wall." Can't we just be happy for Mexico and give credit to Mexico for competence? Why must it be about us? I have to presume that we are self-obsessed and partisan and WaPo is dedicated to making us click and then feeding us with pro-Democratic Party material.

Let's see if my presumption holds up. There's this in the 4th paragraph:

In addition [to things Mexico has done to control the virus], U.S. vaccinations appear to be blocking the southward spread of the virus.

Then, finally, in the 8th paragraph, we encounter the term the "Biden wall":

There may be another, intriguing factor. Malaquías López-Cervantes, a professor of public health at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, dubbed it the “Biden wall.” With nearly half the U.S. population vaccinated with at least one shot, he said, fewer infections are being carried to Mexico....

So... the "wall" is the way there are lots of people going back and forth between Mexico and the United States but because of vaccinations in the U.S., there is less virus going along with them. Quite aside from whether Biden deserves to have his name on the vaccination effort — why not Trump's?! — it's perfectly silly to call the continued flow of people between the 2 countries a "wall." 

I hope Professor López-Cervantes intended to make fun of Americans when he chose that hot word "wall" to hook us into his theory. I'm not doubting that the theory is correct — that less virus in the U.S. means less virus carried into Mexico — I'm just interested in his deployment of the term "Biden's wall" and the way The Washington Post snapped it up and propagated it. It's an idea-virus that made its way from Mexico to the U.S.

"[Wilhelm Reich] treated mostly working-class patients and believed that they were 'carrying their past experiences around in their bodies, storing their emotional pain as a kind of tension'..."

"... which he called 'character armor.' Therapy could help, as could Marxism, but what was really needed, Reich thought, was a revolution in sex, the liberatory potential of which had been warped by an extractive economic system..."

From "Olivia Laing’s Strange, Sublime Book on the Body 'Everybody' is, per the title, an interrogation of bodies, but not in the sense that bodies are usually interrogated" by Katie Waldman in The New Yorker.

This is a review of a book that is about a whole lot of people, not just Reich, but we're told he's the "central character" and "fragments of Reich’s story are woven throughout." Somehow the book is "an interrogation of bodies, but not in the sense that bodies are usually interrogated."

The book skips over traditional sites of interest, such as health or appearance, to explore questions of force and constraint, and how, more abstractly, our physical forms can shove us into conceptual categories—Black, male—that then shape us further.... The book proceeds, via an almost dreamlike, permutative logic, from the body as prison to the body in prison to masses of bodies in prison to masses of bodies in protest. At the end, we are released on a note that is either utopian or dryly ironic. “The free body,” Laing writes. “What a beautiful idea.”

Here's the book, in case you're tempted to read it. I sort of am. Well, it's the sort of thing I definitely would have read 30 years ago.

"Amazingly, the bill became law on the 11th anniversary of 'Take Our Children to the Park and Leave Them There Day,' a holiday created by Free-Range Kids and once considered so wacky—so dangerous..."

"... that it was splashed across the pages of The New York Daily News.... HB 567 enjoyed bipartisan support, sailing through the Texas Senate unopposed, and winning the House with a vote of 143 to 5. The statute enshrining childhood independence is part of a bigger children's services bill ensuring Texans that the state will not intervene and remove kids from their homes unless the danger is so great and so likely that it outweighs the trauma of entering the foster care system.... In other words, it prevents poverty from being mistaken for neglect.... 'If the mom misses that bus, she gets to work late and loses her job. How does that help the child, if now she can't pay her rent? So she leaves her child home alone for 15 minutes.' .... [T]he bill also helps folks who choose not to helicopter parent, like Austin mom Kari Anne Roy, whose case made headlines in 2014. Roy was at home while her six-year-old played within view of the house for about ten minutes. A passerby marched him home and called the cops...."

From "Texas Becomes Third State To Pass Free-Range Kids Law/'You had the most right-wing members of the legislature signed on with most left-wing members'" (Reason).

ADDED:  I haven't written much on the topic of "free-range" children, but let me quote something I wrote last year:

When I walk (or drive) around my neighborhood and beyond, I often think or say out loud, "Where are the children?" Are they inside looking at big and small screens? Are they chauffeured to adult-run activities? It's so sad! Even in the 80s when my sons were little, the neighborhood had kids outdoors, playing randomly with each other. But back in the 1950s, when I was little, the neighborhood was a constant festival of kid-dom. So much active, inventive play. It was endless. Nobody wanted our parents to scoop us up and take us anywhere. The place was completely alive and completely kid-scale, and none of it had anything to do — as far as we could tell — with preparing for a prestigious and remunerative career. I can't imagine any parents barging in and trying to leverage things for the advancement of their offspring. We were, to ourselves, on our own.

Ah, I see — I was reacting to an article questioning whether "expensive activities" for kids were a rip-off. 

Today's article, about the Texas law, is about the economics of childcare too, but it focuses on relieving low-income families of the burden of accusations of child neglect. The older article was about whether high-income families should be seeking to buy extra advantages for their children. The "free-range" idea works from both ends of the economic divide to equalize the life of children. 

If children are left alone to be self-reliant and to invent their own modes of playing, then rich and poor kids might have very similar lives. More or less. 

Could we all — from both ends of the political divide — agree on that? 

Of course not! We must disagree. We cannot have political peace. How would we live in political peace? The adults don't know how to play well together, even those of us who grew up in free-range American utopia.

May 18, 2021

Sun.

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Am I the last person to realize that voicemail is dead?

It bothered me to see this on my new iPhone:

If I touch "Call Voicemail," it just tells me I haven't set up voicemail, and there's nowhere to go to set it up. I researched it on line, saw some tips and followed them, without success, and called my service provider and spent half an hour in a very boring and fruitless conversation. 

I moved on to considering what am I really missing. I don't like when something doesn't work, even if I'm not using it, but am I using it? When's the last time I got voicemail that mattered? My one real use of voicemail is as the place where calls go because I've turned "silence unknown callers" on. If anyone not on my contacts list calls me, I won't hear the call, but they can leave a message. Now, they can't. They hear that I don't have voicemail. Is that a problem... or am I better off? 

I trying googling "no one uses voicemail anymore" and got over 3 million hits — mainly from 6 or 7 years ago. A more recent article is "Leaving a voicemail is rude...":

"Public Health Madison and Dane County announced Tuesday that after the expiration of the current COVID-19 public health order, no new ones would be issued."

So even though Dane County is one of the most-vaccinated counties in the U.S., we need to wait until June 2nd. They can't just put out a new order and free us from the restriction? Like the old order deserves to live out its life unmolested?

Sunrise.

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"Hospital admissions linked to obesity in England topped one million for the first time last year, according to NHS figures."

The London Times reports. Look at the trend (click to enlarge and clarify):

The article says that 27% of men and 29% of women in England are obese. But that's a lot less than in the United States. 36.5% of Americans are obese. — 40.4% of women and 35% of men. 

I don't know the number of hospital admissions in the U.S. that are "linked to obesity," and I don't have a chart showing the 10-year trend. I should look harder, but I am seeing "78% of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the US overweight or obese, CDC finds."

AND: Actually, that 78% figure isn't so alarming if you consider that 69% of Americans are overweight or obese. That's only 9 percentage points more than random.

"What accounts for the growing number of octogenarians and beyond who are accomplished and still accomplishing?"

Asks Jane Brody in "A Birthday Milestone: Turning 80!" (NYT). 

The article doesn't really answer the question, not any better than you'd answer it on your own: Maintain your physical and mental well being so you can continue accomplishing, and also get yourself into some line of accomplishment that's intrinsically motivating. Brody names some famous people who are still productive in their field after the age of 80 (but fails to mention Bob Dylan, who's about to turn 80).

Here's a little text from the end of the article, about regrets (which is really a different topic!):

Have I any regrets? I regret taking French instead of Spanish in high school and I keep trying to learn the latter, a far more practical language, on my own. I regret that I never learned to speed-read; whether for work or leisure, I read slowly, as if everything in print is a complex scientific text. Although I’d visited all seven continents before I turned 50, I never got to see the orangutans in their native Borneo or the gorillas in Rwanda. But I’m content now to see them up close on public television....

I thought speed-reading was a hoax. And I think it's best to leave the great apes alone. I'm put off by the elaborate fakery of traveling to Borneo/Rwanda in pursuit of an authentic encounter with orangutans/gorillas. 

And is Spanish a "more practical language" than French? French is as practical to French-speaking people as Spanish is to Spanish-speaking people, I would imagine. I think she doesn't mean Spanish is a "more practical language" but that someone living in America will find it more practical to know Spanish than to know French. One reason for slow reading is that people writing in their first language are not taking the trouble to think about what they are writing.

ADDED: My line of accomplishment is blogging, and I find it continually intrinsically motivating. So though I'm only 70, let me offer some different advice about remaining active while aging. You don't have to keep powering along in the career you chose for yourself decades ago. You can discover something within or adjacent to it that is more purely what inspires you and brings you flow. Then retire and do exactly that. I called blogging a line of "accomplishment," but I'm no longer oriented toward accomplishing anything. I live in the day. A day lived now is as good as a day lived anywhere else in the string of days that is your life. What does it matter how close to the end of the line it is? 

ALSO: From the Wikipedia article "Speed Reading," here's a photo captioned "Jimmy Carter and his daughter Amy participate in a speed reading course":

Do you think they are speed reading? The speed-reading craze got started with President Kennedy. Was he really speed-reading? Skim a few articles on the subject and I think you'll quickly get the main idea: People who claim to speed read are skimming. To read, you have to read all the words in order. You don't have to read. You can go way more quickly by skipping a lot of the words. But even skimming the articles on the subject, you should know you're bullshitting if you call that reading and claim to be "speed reading."

AND: Here's an article by Timothy Noah at Slate, "The 1,000-Word Dash/College-educated people who fret they read too slow should relax. Nobody reads much faster than 400 words per minute":

"Politics is the great generalizer... and literature the great particularizer, and not only are they in an inverse relationship to each other..."

"... they are in an antagonistic relationship. To politics, literature is decadent, soft, irrelevant, boring, wrongheaded, dull, something that makes no sense and that really oughtn’t to be. Why? Because the particularizing impulse is literature. How can you be an artist and renounce the nuance? But how can you be a politician and allow the nuance? As an artist the nuance is your task. Your task is not to simplify. Even should you choose to write in the simplest way, à la Hemingway, the task remains to impart the nuance, to elucidate the complication, to imply the contradiction. Not to erase the contradiction, not to deny the contradiction, but to see where, within the contradiction, lies the tormented human being. To allow for the chaos, to let it in. You must let it in. Otherwise you produce propaganda, if not for a political party, a political movement, then stupid propaganda for life itself—for life as it might itself prefer to be publicized.... Generalizing suffering: there is Communism. Particularizing suffering: there is literature."

From "I Married a Communist" by Philip Roth.

Sacha Baron Cohen — "not hot as himself, by the way" — confronts his cancel-worthy alter egos...

 ... as he accepts a "comedic genius" award:

 

"Thank you MTV; to the millions of fans out there who voted for me, I salute you. This is yours, I’d be nothing without you. I’m so humbled by this. I’m just a human being creating complex nuanced characters — sophisticated tools to expose …"/"Did somebody say they want me to expose my sophisticated tool?"

May 17, 2021

More of this morning's luscious sunrise.

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Mid-May — a time for allium and hesperis.

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"Two times in the space of a decade, then, I became the beneficiary of one of the greatest acts of human altruism: living organ donation."

"Now, I find myself dependent on others yet again. This time, my health relies on people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. As a transplant recipient, I am one of the immunologically unlucky: those who derive insufficient or no protective immunity from vaccinations. We organ recipients take medications — typically anti-metabolites — that suppress our immune systems, specifically, the function of the body’s B cells, which are responsible for generating antibodies. These drugs are necessary to prevent the body from attacking implanted organs, thus blocking organ rejection. But this means that many of us produce no detectable defenses against covid-19."

From "Opinion: Vaccines probably don’t work on me. So I must rely on others to beat covid-19" (WaPo).

"The Supreme Court on Monday set the stage for a major ruling next year on abortion – one that could upend the Supreme Court’s landmark decisions in Roe v. Wade..."

"... and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which the court ruled that the Constitution protects the right to have an abortion before a fetus becomes viable. The court granted review in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a challenge to the constitutionality of a Mississippi law that (with limited exceptions) bars abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy.... The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit...  reject[ed] Mississippi’s argument that the Supreme Court’s cases required the district court to determine instead whether the law creates a 'substantial obstacle' for a person seeking an abortion before the fetus becomes viable. There is no substantial obstacle, the state suggested, because a patient could decide to have an abortion before reaching the 15th week. But the Mississippi law is not merely a restriction on the availability of pre-viability abortions, the court of appeals stressed; it is a ban on pre-viability abortions.... The justices repeatedly... put off considering it at their private conference – before finally considering the state’s petition for review for the first time at their Jan. 8, 2021, conference. The justices then considered the petition 12 more times...."

Writes Amy Howe (at SCOTUSblog).

It's hard to imagine considering the petition 13 times. It seems to mean they don't want to have the take the case but also can't bring themselves to turn it away. It's so soon since the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and the Court is choosing to bring this divisive issue to the fore. I predict the precedent will remain intact, to the political benefit of social conservatives.

"Philip Roth Biography Finds a New Publisher/Skyhorse said it would release the paperback and digital versions of the book...."

 The NYT reports.

Norton’s decision [to take the book out of print] raised questions about publishers’ ethical obligations to respond to controversies that extend beyond the contents of the books they publish, and it prompted criticism from some free-speech and authors’ advocacy groups, including PEN America, the Author’s Guild and the National Coalition Against Censorship. “Books must be judged on their content. Many of literature’s celebrated authors led troubled — and troubling — lives,” the National Coalition Against Censorship said in a statement last month.... 
Last year, after Hachette dropped [Woody] Allen’s autobiography, “Apropos of Nothing,” in the wake of an employee walkout, Skyhorse acquired and published it, with a print run of 75,000 copies....

"I don't listen to podcasts. The format has never appealed to me. I am a visual learner. I love to read. Reading allows me to jump around..."

"... skim where I think it appropriate, moderate my pace, and return to passages that are important. With reading, I can easily highlight, or copy and paste a key phrase into a blog post. Moreover, much more care is put into the printed word. Authors (present company included) labor over every sentence, word, and syllable. Podcasts are different. Less care is put into the spoken word. Unless the narrator is reading from a transcript, we are left with the normal flow of conversational english.... Sure, I can play it at double-speed, but I am still stuck with his chronology...."

Writes Josh Blackman (at Volokh Conspiracy).

The thing I don't do — and for some (but not all) of those reasons — is watch the news and news commentary shows on television. You have to give yourself over to their control of your precious time. With text, you control your own time, according to your needs and abilities and predilections. And it's so passive. I can't easily blog it or send it to somebody. I'd have to either transcribe it or make a little video clip of it. So I would be either bored or agitated by the slowness, the repetition, and the loss of the opportunity to do something with it. 

But I wouldn't designate myself a "visual learner." I'm just someone who likes to do things with text. So, mostly, I read.

I have my uses for audio, including audiobooks and podcasts. I like an audiobook for a long walk for 2 reasons: 1. It keeps me from dwelling on the walk as a slog, and 2. It forces me to continue linearly through an entire book. And I like the right podcast while doing various tasks — housecleaning, personal hygiene, and so forth — that require some but not that much engagement. I like the sound of good conversation, the feeling of human company, and some random material to mix with my stray thoughts.

"Let me show you how liberal media functions to see why it's failing. Yesterday, we published at my Substack platform..."

"... an article by a veteran freelance reporter that questioned whether 'reformist' prosecutors have caused a big increase in violent crime. The article was one of the few we put behind a paywall, for subscribers only. Nonetheless — based solely on the headline — liberal journalists rose up to condemn an article they hadn't read. Why? Because they think journalism should propagnadize [sic] for liberalism and hide dissent."

Writes Glenn Greenwald (at Twitter).

"These are, I should stress again, a bunch of nice, thoughtful people.... I should stress again that these are smart people...."

"And they followed the deep partisan grooves of contemporary politics, in which liberals believed the absolute worst of a Trump supporter. But they also contained a thread of real conspiracy thinking — not just that racism is a source of Trumpian politics, but that apparently ordinary people are communicating through secret signals."

From "I’ll Take 'White Supremacist Hand Gestures' for $1,000/How hundreds of 'Jeopardy!' contestants talked themselves into a baseless conspiracy theory — and won’t be talked out of it" by Ben Smith (NYT).

An excellent sunrise this morning.

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"Mr. Gates and Ms. French Gates met at work. He was technically her boss. He ran Microsoft..."

"... and she began working there in 1987 as a product manager the year after she graduated from college. Throughout their relationship, the two have played up the cute aspects of their office romance. He flirted with her when they sat together at a conference, then asked her out when they ran into each other in a company parking lot, according to Ms. French Gates, who described their relationship’s beginnings during a public appearance in 2016. Long after they married in 1994, Mr. Gates would on occasion pursue women in the office.... Six current and former employees of Microsoft, the foundation and the firm that manages the Gates’s fortune said those incidents, and others more recently, at times created an uncomfortable workplace environment. Mr. Gates was known for making clumsy approaches to women in and out of the office.... Some of the employees said... he did not pressure the women to submit to his advances for the sake of their careers, and he seemed to feel that he was giving the women the space to refuse his advances. Even so, Mr. Gates’s actions ran counter to the agenda of female empowerment that Ms. French Gates was promoting on a global stage. On Oct. 2, 2019, for example, she said she would spend $1 billion promoting 'women’s power and influence in the United States.'"

From "Long Before Divorce, Bill Gates Had Reputation for Questionable Behavior/Melinda French Gates voiced concerns about her husband’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein and a harassment claim against his money manager. He also had an affair with an employee" (NYT).

Imagine spending a billion dollars to promote a message — to bullshit the masses — while you are blithely violating that message within your personal business realm, where people are trying to make their own little living. What royal hypocrisy! 

I don't know the facts first hand, and maybe none of these allegations against Bill Gates are true, but it seems that Melinda Gates — Ms. French Gates — is wisely choosing to disengage her reputation from his. She wants a feminist message? She's got to lop him off.

AND: It's so interesting, these marriages that begin in a workplace setting. Do they not originate in interactions like the interactions that become the evidentiary basis for claims that there is a discriminatory hostile workplace? But the success of the relationship makes all the difference. This one interaction grew into a marriage. I think of all the professors who are married to former students. That seems so nice for the lovely couple — we participate in the playing up of the cute aspects — but what's in the larger picture? Was it just that one magic student who was perceived as wifely material? We gamely presume so, we with our enjoyment of cute aspects.

New River Gorge — the newest national park.

May 16, 2021

"The father has to worry about the pitfalls in a way the teacher doesn’t. He has to worry about his son’s conduct..."

"... he has to worry about socializing his little Tom Paine. But once little Tom Paine has been let into the company of men and the father is still educating him as a boy, the father is finished. Sure, he’s worrying about the pitfalls—if he wasn’t, it would be wrong. But he’s finished anyway. Little Tom Paine has no choice but to write him off, to betray the father and go boldly forth to step straight into life’s very first pit. And then, all on his own—providing real unity to his existence—to step from pit to pit for the rest of his days, until the grave, which, if it has nothing else to recommend it, is at least the last pit into which one can fall."

From "I Married a Communist" by Philip Roth.

The character in the novel became entranced with Tom Paine by reading "Citizen Tom Paine" by Howard Fast, which came out in 1943.

Allium.

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"Where have all our heavyweight snobs gone?"

Asks Camilla Long in the London Times. 

I’m not sure I can survive on Keir Starmer secretly blanching at the thought of “thick” Angela Rayner’s vulgar wardrobe, a collection of vegan-friendly “stomper” boots and leopard-print that she wore on campaigns. Why didn’t he just tell her her clothes looked as though they’d been rescued from a flash fire in a Sicilian brothel, before giving the seditious moaner the boot?

I don't know who these people are, but I like the general idea of harsher, meaner insults aimed at powerful individuals. I looked up Angela Rayner and I'm more confused and amused, because she is — according to Wikipedia — "Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Shadow Secretary of State for the Future of Work... and Shadow First Secretary of State, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Deputy Leader of the Labour Part." 

Back to Long:

"It may be true that the Biden administration concluded we are defenseless to cyber terrorism despite years of ransomware attacks and hundreds of billions of dollars in cyber security programs."

"If that is the case, the public should be informed. The failure of Congress and our government to defend against such terror attacks is a national security failure of breathtaking proportions. The Colonial Pipeline attack was the cyber equivalent of Pearl Harbor. In both cases, we were caught unprepared and unable to deal with a threat we knew was coming. Yet, President Roosevelt did not issue a 'no comment' on the critical facts after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. Back then, we believed FDR when he stated in his first inauguration that 'the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.' What the Biden administration seems to fear most is public recognition that it is afraid — afraid of the vulnerability of our infrastructure, afraid that the public will learn what cyber terrorists already know."

Writes Jonathan Turley in "Why the White House won't define pipeline attack as terrorism" (The Hill).

One way to fight — fake fight — terrorism is to withhold the label "terrorism" from the things you can't (or won't) fight. But it might be that the administration is doing what it can to fight what it realizes is terrorism, and what it's saying to us is simply propaganda. There's nothing we can do to help, and our fear of these attacks only makes matters worse. In that light, "no comment" is the mildest possible propaganda. There's nothing even to be deluded by. 

Why does Turley bring up the ancient propaganda "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"?! Calling something that we can't fight "terrorism" would be an effort to increase fear. It's simply wrong to say the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, and it always was. If quelling fear is the only problem, then "no comment" is an admirable response.

Overcast sunrise with bikes and geese.

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Time: 5:42 a.am. 

Did I bike there? No. And bikes are forbidden there. I ran — getting back to my sunrise run (after several days of babying myself after a wisdom tooth extraction). 

Even in Madison, rules are transgressed. Not by me, though. I'm a rule follower, one of the class of persons who are restrained by rules that are not actively enforced and that those who only follow enforced rules do not follow. I regard that as a fundamental unfairness. 

And yet, I can see that willingness of some people to break rules is part of a dynamic that works against excessive restraint. A rule that everyone follows, though there is no enforcement, is probably an excellent rule.

"By intent or blunder, the left and right are colluding to undermine the noble, elusive goal of giving American children the ability to think and argue and act together as citizens."

Concludes George Packer in "Can Civics Save America?/Teaching civics could restore health to American democracy, or inflame our mutual antagonisms" (The Atlantic). 

Civics is at the heart of the struggle to define the meaning of the American idea. Think of the battle lines as 1619 versus 1776—The New York Times Magazine’s project to reframe American history around slavery and its legacy, and the Trump administration’s counterstrike in the form of a thin report on patriotic education....

"In some U.S. counties, nearly all people over 65 are vaccinated."

 The NYT reports.
Two of the most populous 90-percent-plus counties are Jo Daviess County, Ill., across the Mississippi River from Dubuque, Iowa, and Dane County, Wis., which includes Madison, the state capital.

Yay, Madison!