June 19, 2021

I stay out of the woods in a thunderstorm, but a Reddit user caught Madison's sunrise today.

"Do you think I control the laws of thermodynamics?!"

Video after the fold:

The Juneteenth flag.

Are you flying the Juneteenth flag? Is it this flag? 


I had a real-life conversation yesterday about flying flags other than the American flag.  If you fly an American flag in front of your house — as we do — do you think that you must always fly that flag and no other flag, that you're interfering with your usual message —or even unpatriotic — if you swap in a different flag some days?

In my neighborhood, which gets parked up on game days — we could get a $20 bill for letting somebody park their car in our driveway — many people put up a motion W or Bucky Badger flag when the team is playing. This month, "Pride" month, I'm seeing some rainbow flags and that complicated beyond-the-rainbow flag (now, with even more inclusivity).

I was saying I'd like to have rainbow flag for June, but that would mean taking the American flag down for an entire month. (I reject the 2-flag solution.) But what about Juneteenth? It's only one day. That makes it more flaggable to those who generally fly the American flag. (And I'll just set to the side the problem of Juneteenth interrupting the gender focus of the month of June, or, to put it another way, the problem of the gender interests having chosen the month that already contained the race-based celebration of Juneteenth).

We can all celebrate Juneteenth. No one objects to the abolition of slavery. (Yes, you can broaden the concept to include all the vestiges of U.S. slavery and slavery everywhere in the world, but people will still readily agree that's all bad, even if they're not going to do anything about it.) 

So: How to celebrate? You could fly a Juneteenth flag. When I think about doing that, I care about what the flag looks like, and I can see that the flag in that video is designed to make it easy for average Americans to see conventional American values. I'm just seeing that flag for the first time this morning. When we were talking about it yesterday, I was picturing this flag:

That's a more challenging flag! But that is not the Juneteenth flag!

That's the Pan-African flag, adopted by the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) at a conference in New York City in 1920. The UNIA drafted and adopted the Declaration of Rights of the Negro Peoples of the World on August 13, 1920 at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. It included the declaration that red, black and green (or RBG) be the colors signifying the African race.

That flag has a long history, and I think it's a great looking flag. It's better-looking than the official Juneteenth flag, which — I've got to say — makes me think of Canada. So fly whichever flag you want today or any day or fly no flag at all. It's a free country. Celebrate freedom freely.

The body of Christ, the semolina pilchard, the Mona Lisa, the Duracell batteries...

Oh, I see it now! The blog has a theme today: Things to be eaten.

"'Almost all of the girls here, they do not want to get pregnant, but it is forced on them,' Omodi said. And when they do get pregnant..."

"... 'we find that they want to have the abortion.' Some girls move away to other settlements and have their babies in secret. Some give birth and then abandon or kill their infants. Others try to end their pregnancies by taking ulcer drugs or local herbs; some dig up tree roots in an effort to make their own abortifacients. 'Sometimes, you hear they use Duracells,' he said, referring to a practice of steeping batteries in water and drinking the liquid... Although there are no reliable numbers on self-induced abortion in refugee camps, and no one knows exactly how many refugee women die of unsafe abortions every year, there is good reason to believe hazardous procedures are common. We do have solid data on the high rates of sexual violence against refugee women and girls: researchers have thoroughly documented this and, unsurprisingly, found links between rape and unplanned pregnancy. Worldwide, 61 percent of unplanned pregnancies end in abortion, and unsafe abortions cause an estimated 13 percent of pregnancy-related deaths worldwide. Every year, mothers who die from unsafe abortion leave behind some 220,000 children. Another five million women worldwide are hospitalized annually with complications from unsafe abortion; this is a phenomenon restricted almost exclusively to developing countries that limit abortion access."

From "How US Abortion Politics Distorts Women’s Lives in Conflict Zones/From Rwanda and Bosnia to Myanmar and Tigray, rape is now recognized as a genocidal crime. Yet its survivors rarely receive the health care they need—thanks to America’s deadly culture war" by Jill Filipovic (New York Review of Books).

"We were like, 'what if he bought it and ate it?'"

Said Kane Powell, author of the petition described in "Why Do People Want Jeff Bezos to Buy and Eat the Mona Lisa?/An online petition that started as a joke has gone viral, becoming a kind of digital performance art piece all of its own" (NYT). 

This article is illustrated with a photo of Jeff Bezos standing next to a portrait of Jeff Bezos. I would rather see closeups of Jeff Bezos and the Mona Lisa side by side, with Bezos looking as much like Lisa as possible. My slapdash effort:


Must I go back to the article? Powell's joke is explained pedantically. He's calling attention to "the absurdity of massive amounts of accumulated wealth." Oh, really? We're told the Mona Lisa isn't even up for sale, but if it were, what would it cost, and what would stop the buyer from destroying it? And what is it even made of? Tuna fish?

I swear I wrote that last question — a joke, based on the previous post — before I read this paragraph in the Mona Bezos article:

More recently, in 2019 at Art Basel Miami Beach, the New York artist David Datuna ate the banana in Maurizio Cattelan’s buzzy and high-priced “Comedian.” (He said that “it tasted like $120,000.”) Mr. Datuna also claimed that it wasn’t an act of vandalism, but a performance. “This is the first time where an artist eats the concept of another artist,” he said.

The tuna! 

"No amplifiable tuna DNA was present in the sample and so we obtained no amplification products from the DNA... Therefore, we cannot identify the species."

Said the unnamed commercial food testing lab, quoted in the depths of a very long NYT article titled "The Big Tuna Sandwich Mystery/A lawsuit against America’s largest sandwich chain has raised questions about America’s most popular canned fish. We tried to answer one: Is Subway selling tuna? The spokesman from the lab offered a bit of analysis."

“There’s two conclusions,” [said the spokesman]. “One, it’s so heavily processed that whatever we could pull out, we couldn’t make an identification. Or we got some and there’s just nothing there that’s tuna."

"The Roman Catholic bishops of the United States, flouting a warning from the Vatican, have overwhelmingly voted to draft guidance on the sacrament of the Eucharist, advancing a push by conservative bishops..."

"...to deny President Biden communion because of his support of abortion rights. The decision, made public on Friday afternoon, is aimed at the nation’s second Catholic president, perhaps the most religiously observant commander in chief since Jimmy Carter, and exposes bitter divisions in American Catholicism. It capped three days of contentious debate at a virtual June meeting of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The measure was approved by a vote of 73 percent in favor and 24 percent opposed." 

The NYT reports, in "Targeting Biden, Catholic Bishops Advance Controversial Communion Plan/The decision was aimed at the nation’s second Catholic president and exposed bitter divisions in American Catholicism." 

Are they targeting Biden? 

[T]he move to target a president, who regularly attends Mass and has spent a lifetime steeped in Christian rituals and practices, is striking coming from leaders of the president’s own faith, particularly after many conservative Catholics turned a blind eye to the sexual improprieties of former President Donald J. Trump because they supported his political agenda. 

And many liberal Catholics turned a blind eye to the sexual improprieties of Joe Biden because they supported his political agenda. But it's important to drag Donald Trump into this article somehow. 

In any case, I'm not a Catholic, but my understanding of Christianity is that your sins are forgiven. Actively furthering abortion rights, going forward, is different from the sins in your past. We're at a point where it seems that the Supreme Court may overturn precedent and withdraw the longstanding right to have an abortion, and Biden is openly committed to appointing new Justices who will preserve the right. And he actively and publicly displays his commitment to Catholicism and uses Catholic priests in this presentation of himself. One way or the other, they participate in politics.

Stray questions:

1. What was the "warning from the Vatican" that the bishops are "flouting"? 

Last month Pope Francis’ top doctrinal official, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, warned the U.S. bishops in a letter that a policy on communion as relates to politicians could “become a source of discord rather than unity.”

2. Is Biden really "the most religiously observant commander in chief since Jimmy Carter"? That "perhaps" is carrying a lot of weight. When George W. Bush was President, his political opponents portrayed him as a religious fanatic.

June 18, 2021



"Joan Crawford is a circus performer who can’t stand men’s hands, while Lon Chaney plays an armless knife thrower."

That's a description of the movie "The Unknown"....


... which my son John ranks as his 4th favorite movie of 1927, in his ongoing project "101 Years of Movies/My favorite movies of each year from 1920 to 2020." 

That movie was certainly unknown to me. I'd never heard of his 3rd-ranked movie either. And of the 4 movies, I've only seen the second one.

"'Political correctness' is a dated term and, more importantly, doesn’t apply anymore. It’s not that elites are enforcing a set of manners and cultural limits..."

"... they’re seeking to reengineer the foundation of human psychology and social institutions through the new politics of race, It’s much more invasive than mere ‘correctness,’ which is a mechanism of social control, but not the heart of what’s happening. The other frames are wrong, too: ‘cancel culture’ is a vacuous term and doesn’t translate into a political program; ‘woke’ is a good epithet, but it’s too broad, too terminal, too easily brushed aside. ‘Critical race theory’ is the perfect villain... Its connotations are all negative to most middle-class Americans, including racial minorities, who see the world as ‘creative’ rather than ‘critical,’ ‘individual’ rather than ‘racial,’ ‘practical’ rather than ‘theoretical.’ Strung together, the phrase ‘critical race theory’ connotes hostile, academic, divisive, race-obsessed, poisonous, elitist, anti-American. [And critical race theory is not] an externally applied pejorative... it’s the label the critical race theorists chose themselves.”

Wrote Christopher Rufo to Benjamin Wallace-Wells, who produced this New Yorker article: "How a Conservative Activist Invented the Conflict Over Critical Race Theory/To Christopher Rufo, a term for a school of legal scholarship looked like 'the perfect weapon.'"

Is that headline correct? You know, I've got a thing about headlines that begin with "how." Are we really going to be told "how" or only "that"? But is it even true that Christopher Rufo invented the conflict over Critical Race Theory? The article shows the Rufo has been collecting information about anti-racism training sessions and, since late July 2020, communicating about what he's found and what he thinks of it.

Rufo didn't invent the term. He took a term that already had a life and he exposed it and critiqued it. What did he "invent"? He's accused of — credited with? — inventing the conflict about it. If something is already out there — having an effect — and someone comes along and raises questions about it, has he invented a conflict

This is what activists do. It's the same thing the Critical Race Theorists themselves did. They looked at how systems were operating, and they "invented a conflict" about it. They said the systems contained racism, furthered white supremacy, even covertly and unintentionally. Their technique was to "invent conflict" — wasn't it? — just as much as Rufo's technique was to invent conflict. If we're going to use the phrase "invent conflict," he invented conflict about the conflict they invented.

"If you ask me what kind of a person and interlocutor President Biden is, I can say that he is a constructive person, well-balanced and experienced seasoned politician..."

"... and I expected that. He recalled his family and conversations he had with his mother. Well, these things don’t have directly something to do with our business, but nonetheless, it shows his qualities and his moral values. It is all appealing, and I believe that we spoke the same language. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to look into the eyes and see the soul, and to pledge eternal love. We defend the national interests of our countries. And these relationships are always based on pragmatism."

Said Vladimir Putin, from the transcript of his press conference after his meeting with President Biden on June 16th. 

Putin was responding to the Wall Street Journal reporter Ann Simmons, who'd prompted him with a reminder that Biden once claimed not to see "a soul" in Putin's eyes. What, she asked, did Putin see when he looked into Biden's eyes?

By the way, when Putin called on Simmons, he said "A lady. Please give the floor to the lady. She will rock my world here."

Back in April, I discussed soullessness at some length, here — "... I was having a real-life conversation about the notion that some people don't have a soul, and whether, if that could be true, the soulless person could acquire a soul, and whether a person who regards another person as soulless has a moral or intellectual obligation to look inside himself and seriously examine whether he himself has got a soul."

I don't know if Simmons rocked Putin's world, but I do see that he didn't take the opportunity to opine about whether Biden or Trump or anybody else has a "soul." And he also didn't dismiss or mock this "soul" talk.

"Slutty outfits for men."

It's TikTok, so... below the fold:

What's this bird?


Photographed yesterday by Lake Mendota (in Madison, Wisconsin). I tried various "What is this bird?" websites, but I couldn't figure it out. I asked Meade, and he said "A penguin."

IN THE COMMENTS: The most frequent suggestion is Eastern Kingbird, which was one of the options I saw, using bird identification websites, but I saw some differences. One reader, Bart, sent a picture of an Eastern Kingbird, the head of which I will juxtapose to my bird. I think the head shape is different (or maybe Bart's bird is ruffling its feathers and mine is a cooler character):

ADDED: With my photo cut off at the chest, Meade's "penguin" ID becomes entrancingly apt!

"Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible."

So begins the great New Yorker essay, "The Journalist and the Murderer," quoted in "Janet Malcolm, Provocative Journalist With a Piercing Eye, Dies at 86/Her subjects ranged widely, but she took special aim at journalism itself, writing that every journalist 'knows that what he does is morally indefensible'" (NYT). 

Goodbye to Janet Malcolm! 

The essay is available in book form, and you really must read it. If you've read it, reread it!

In fact, “The Journalist and the Murderer” has become something of a classic and was ranked No. 97 on the Modern Library’s list of the 100 best nonfiction books of the 20th century. “It is now taught to nearly every undergraduate studying journalism,” Katie Roiphe wrote in a 2011 profile of Ms. Malcolm for The Paris Review
“Today, my critique seems obvious,” Ms. Malcolm told Ms. Roiphe, “even banal.”

The book version has an important afterward, about Malcolm's own fight to defend herself against a defamation lawsuit. She'd written an article — a fantastic article — where she put quotation marks around things that were not verbatim transcriptions of speech. "This thing called speech is sloppy, redundant, repetitious, full of uhs and ahs... I needed to present it in logical, rational order so he would sound like a logical, rational person" — she said at trial. 

The Paris Review interview is great. Roiphe has the wit to start off by asking Malcolm, "So how would you describe your apartment if you were the journalist walking into your living room?"

Malcolm answers: "My living room has an oak-wood floor, Persian carpets, floor-to-ceiling bookcases, a large ficus and large fern, a fireplace with a group of photographs and drawings over it, a glass-top coffee table with a bowl of dried pomegranates on it, and sofas and chairs covered in off-white linen. If I were a journalist walking into the room, I would immediately start composing a satiric portrait of the New York writer’s apartment with its standard tasteful objects (cat included) and general air of unrelenting Culture."

Ha ha. Perfect. Exactly! 

"On my first flight in 15 months, of course we were rerouted back to the gate because two passengers got into a physical altercation over elbow placement upon arm rests."

Said one passenger, quoted in "Passengers kicked off United Airlines flight after brawl over armrest" (NY Post).

Ugh! Just stay off planes, maybe. But I approve of this precise rule for ending the eternal armrest struggle: 

Aisle gets the outside arm rest and some leg and body room. Middle gets two arm rests and window gets the armrest and window/wall to lean on.

That's the solution! The middle seat is the worst seat, everyone knows. The person in the middle seat is the only one without an armrest all to his own and without a person-free space to lean over into. So, yeah, this person gets the last word over how the 2 "internal" armrests will be used.

Remember when making Juneteenth a national holiday was a Donald Trump campaign promise?

From September 25, 2020: "President Donald Trump made a series of promises at a campaign event in Atlanta on Friday in a bid to woo Black voters, including establishing Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of U.S. slavery, as a federal holiday" (Reuters).

Of course, it was just "a bid to woo Black voters" when Trump promised to do it, but now that the members of Congress and the new President have actually made Juneteenth a national holiday, is anyone minimizing the achievement as pandering to black voters?

And then there was a time — just before Juneteenth last year — when Trump asserted: "I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous." If only Trump were still on Twitter — don't you think he'd be claiming credit for the new holiday? But the truth is, Juneteenth was already a holiday in 47 states (and the District of Columbia) when Trump made his campaign promise last September.

ADDED: I'll answer my own question — "is anyone minimizing the achievement as pandering to black voters?" — with a qualified yes. Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post is minimizing the achievement but only of the Republicans who voted for it: 

"'L' has to be like the consonant of the decade. Lily is one of the original 'L' names, or double 'L' names, like Lola, Lila and Lilian."

"Luna has gone from almost nonexistent 20 years ago to number 14 on the Social Security Administration list of popular names. Chrissy Teigen and John Legend used that for their daughter. You saw the same thing with the 'J' names of the ’70s and ’80s — Jennifer, Jason, Jessica, Joshua. Then there were the 'K' names, which the Kardashians helped popularize in the 2000s. The sound of the letter is what becomes fashionable. But why 'L'? There are a lot of words that start with L that have very positive, warm connotations, like 'love,' 'lovely,' 'lilting,' 'lively.' What about for boys? There are definitely boy equivalents — Lucas, Luca, Leo, Levi. I know it sounds crazy, but there were more than 50 boys in the United States named Lucifer last year."

From "Lilith, Lilibet … Lucifer? How Baby Names Went to ‘L’ Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are hardly the only new parents gravitating toward quirk, family tradition and 'L' names" (NYT).

Is the letter "L" the best letter? I have seen rankings of the letters, such as "Ranking the Letters of the Alphabet, From Lamest to Coolest" (Paste). But that ranking is so obviously wrong, putting "M" and "Q" near the bottom! But reasons are given. Here's what it says about "L" (which comes in at 21st):

Hard to pronounce, limited in use, and ultimately pretty apathetic. Words like lollygag and idle and lazy and aimless and desultory and casual and frivolous and sluggish and lethargic and lackadaisical and dull and dally and indolent and laggard and languid and lummox and loafer and lifeless and slack and sloth and slow and lag and somnolent and…you get it. They all feature an L, the slug of letters.

Wait! "Lummox" is a great word. It's so close to my all-time favorite word, "flummox." Yeah, I know, negative meaning, but it looks and sounds great, and this whole topic is gloriously superficial. 

And that reminds me. That NYT article tells us: "Parents are now looking at animal names like Ox — seriously." If Ox is okay, then why not Lummox. We'll name the twins Lummox and Flummox!

"For about 20 minutes in a Tampa courtroom on Wednesday, a jury listened to an 11-year-old boy describe what he survived three years ago: hearing his mother hit with a shotgun blast..."

"... seeing his sister stabbed in the head with an ax, and then feeling himself get soaked in gasoline and lit on fire. His father, Ronnie Oneal III, is charged with committing these crimes. After the 11-year-old’s harrowing testimony to prosecutors, Oneal himself got up to directly question him about it. 'Did I hurt you the night of this incident?' Oneal asked the boy, Ronnie Oneal IV. 'Yes,' the child replied. 'You stabbed me.'"

From "A boy is the sole survivor of a family massacre. His dad, the suspect, was allowed to question him in court."

The father attacked the child's credibility: The boy had said he saw his father shoot his mother, but he didn't see it, he heard it. 

Of course, the father is exercising his constitutional rights, representing himself and confronting the witness against him. This was a choice. He also chose to yell at the jury during his opening statement: "The evidence is going to show that we are under the most vicious, lying, fabricating, fictitious, government you ever seen! By the time it’s all said and done, you will see who is the mass murderers in Tampa Bay!"

The prosecutors called the boy as a witness. I'll start the video at the point when Oneal picks up his notepad and begins his cross-examination: 

June 17, 2021

Sunrise — eastern view, western view.



"One of the things we’re trying to push back hard against is reading his work in terms of the benevolence of his enslavers, assuming his owner taught him to write or gave him permission. There’s a risk that his story becomes a tonic to the cruelty of slavery."

Said Ethan Lasser, head of Art of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, quoted in "The Enslaved Artist Whose Pottery Was an Act of Resistance/Poetic jars by David Drake are setting records at auction and starring in art museums, showcasing the artistry of enslaved African Americans" (NYT).

The Supreme Court turns away 6 plaintiffs who seek relief after they were used, they say, as child slaves producing cocoa in the Côte d’Ivoire.

The opinion — in Nestlé v. Doe — is written by Justice Thomas, announcing the judgment of the Supreme Court and rejecting "a judicially created cause of action to recover damages from American corporations that allegedly aided and abetted slavery abroad."

In Parts I and II of the case, where Thomas has a majority — Roberts, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett (all but Alito) — he writes: 

Respondents seek a judicially created cause of action to sue petitioners for aiding and abetting forced labor overseas. Arguing that aiding and abetting is not even a tort, but merely secondary liability for a tort, petitioners and the United States contend that “the conduct relevant to the [Alien Tort Statute’s] focus” is the conduct that directly caused the injury. See id., at 346 (a plaintiff who “does not overcome the presumption against extraterritoriality . . . therefore must allege and prove a domestic injury”). All of that alleged conduct occurred overseas in this suit.... 

To plead facts sufficient to support a domestic application of the ATS, plaintiffs must allege more domestic conduct than general corporate activity.

The Alito dissent is very short. Key insight: "Corporate status does not justify special immunity."

... I would hold that if a particular claim may be brought under the ATS against a natural person who is a United States citizen, a similar claim may be brought against a domestic corporation.

"The refusal of Philadelphia to contract with CSS for the provision of foster care services unless [Catholic Social Services] agrees to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment."

 The Supreme Court has just ruled in Fulton v. Philadelphia.

ROBERTS, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, KAGAN, KAVANAUGH, and BARRETT, JJ., joined. BARRETT, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which KAVANAUGH, J., joined, and in which BREYER, J., joined as to all but the first paragraph. ALITO, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which THOMAS and GORSUCH, JJ., joined. GORSUCH, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which THOMAS and ALITO, JJ., joined.

I'll have much more about this soon.

UPDATE: This is a unanimous decision. The existing precedent, Smith, applies strict scrutiny to burdens on religion only when there isn't a neutral and generally applicable policy, which there wasn't here. The concurring opinions are about overturning that precedent and giving even more protection from substantial burdens on religion. 

The Barrett opinion is critical of Smith but frets about what doctrine would replace it and finds it unwise to go any further. The paragraph Breyer doesn't join is the one that is critical of Smith.

Alito wants to overturn Smith and views this case as showing why Smith is so dangerous. The majority was able to get to strict scrutiny because there happened to be a provision empowering a city official to give exemptions. But the city hasn't given exemptions and could easily now eliminate that provision and make it's policy neutral and generally applicable. Thus: "This decision might as well be written on the dissolving paper sold in magic shops." 

Alito goes on at great length in an attack on Smith that will feel entirely familiar to anyone who's been paying attention to Free Exercise Clause doctrine. Clearly, he setting up for the next phase, and we can see that there are the 5 votes to overrule Smith, if only Barrett and Kavanaugh can be presented with a practical enough new doctrine.

AND: Here's the NYT article by Adam Liptak, "Supreme Court Backs Catholic Agency in Case on Gay Rights and Foster Care/The unanimous ruling was further evidence that claims of religious liberty almost always prevail in the current court." Key speculation:

The court’s three-member liberal wing — Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — joined the opinion, which was a surprise and may have been part of an effort to avoid a broader ruling that might have allowed religious objections to override all sorts of government policies and programs.

Breyer must have played an important role, since he also teamed up with Barrett and Kavanaugh, who might otherwise have heeded to the powerful call of Alito, Gorsuch, and Thomas.

"Court tosses suit by Republican states challenging Affordable Care Act."

"The justices ruled 7-2 that Texas and 17 other states lacked standing to argue that the individual mandate to purchase health insurance is unconstitutional" — SCOTUSblog reports.  

Here's the opinion.

BREYER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS, SOTOMAYOR, KAGAN, KAVANAUGH, and BARRETT, JJ., joined. THOMAS, J., filed a concurring opinion. ALITO, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which GORSUCH, J., joined.

Looking at that, I'm most interested in why Justice Thomas concurred: 

The weeds of the morning —  milk and butterfly.



Photographed at 5:22 a.m. at my sunrise vantage point, where they were not showing color yesterday. 

I like the way going to the same point at the same time — sunrise — every day lets you see the exact day different flowers bloom. And I love the happenstance that caused to dairy names — butter and milk — to pop up on the same day.

The only thing I want to say about Toobin.

"Toobin isn’t just on CNN’s airwaves again — he was out mixing and mingling with his colleagues Tuesday night," The NY Post brays.

What's notable about the return of Toobin isn't that he was allowed back or that his colleagues are treating him like a colleague now that he is a colleague again.

I've been avoiding this story because — as I've said from the start — mishandling a camera and getting seen doing something that would be mundane in private should stimulate pity, discretion, and a rush toward forgetting. 

If it's true that what happened to Toobin was pure accident, we should react the way we do when we barge in on someone sitting on the toilet, which is to quickly say, "I'm sorry," and retreat as quickly as possible into the pretense that nothing happened. We don't laugh about it and go on for months calling this person "The Defecator" the way people are calling Jeffrey Toobin "The Masturbator."

But there is something I want to say about Toobin, and I'm not seeing the current headlines even mentioning it.

As I said last fall, there's a big difference if Toobin intentionally exhibited himself. It's possible that Toobin appropriated a captive audience for his sexual gratification:

"Some Democrats scoffed at the notion that the GOP would ever be able to deliver 10 votes needed to clear the filibuster. As of Wednesday night, they were at 11 — a number that appears likely to grow."

From "POLITICO Playbook: The inside view from the West Wing on infrastructure."

NUMBER OF THE DAY: 21. That’s how many senators now support the bipartisan infrastructure framework proposed by Sens. KYRSTEN SINEMA, JOE MANCHIN, ROB PORTMAN, BILL CASSIDY, MITT ROMNEY and the other members of their centrist group. This is big....

What does this do to the Democrat side of the equation? The fear that Sinema and Manchin will oppose a larger reconciliation package stuffed with the left’s top priorities is real.

Essentially, Democratic leaders are letting their centrists eat dessert without the veggies....

What is the dessert and what is the veggies? Seems to me the Sinema/Manchin set have a bill with just the veggies and they're saying no dessert for you lefties.

Metaphor is challenging!

Glenn Loury talks with John McWhorter about his adventure in Tucker Carlson land.


McWhorter didn't think Loury should dignify Carlson with his presence, but Loury thought he should go on the show — "Tucker Carlson Today" (paywalled here) — to reach Carlson's audience. He was wary that Carlson might try to use him as a tool but felt he could defend against that, and in the end Carlson was actually a good listener. Carlson interviewed him the way Oprah would, Loury says.

The conversation between McWhorter and Loury develops into a question I've been interested in for a long time. It's something I once asked and got vigorously shamed for even asking. "I can't believe you asked that question!," said the black female law professor, in a tone that seemed to say: I will not remain friends with —or even remain in the presence of — anyone who would ask that question. It happened in the 1990s, a time of Critical Legal Studies, Critical Race Theory, and Radical Feminism at my law school (Wisconsin).

I won't try to quote exactly how I phrased the question back then or do a transcript of what Loury and McWhorter say. This is my attempt to frame the question now: Doesn't the demand to think of everything in terms of race risk causing white people to think of themselves as a distinct interest group and to pursue their own interests? 

As Loury points out, white people are [going to remain] the largest racial group in the United States — [even if we slip below the majority to] 45%. Black people are only 13%. Hispanic people, maybe 17%. McWhorter states that the white people he knows don't think of themselves as a race and suggests that black people are better off not stimulating consciousness of whiteness.

If, under Critical Race Theory, white supremacy finds its way into every institution of American culture, then, by its own terms, our embrace of Critical Race Theory is — right now — reinforcing and advancing white privilege. How could it not? (If the theory is correct.)

June 16, 2021

Sunrise, 5:04 a.m.


"If you stand in front of a Rothko, the things that he evokes go far beyond the pain that Rothko was experiencing in his personal life at that moment."

"I don’t paint from emotion or feeling, which I think are both very ephemeral... For me, painting is much more about kind of trying to bring forth what is, I think, the universal truth. The universal truth is that everything is connected and that there’s something that goes far beyond what is our five senses and that connects us all."

Babbled Hunter Biden, quoted in "Hunter Biden’s artwork is actually good and will be worth a lot, experts say" (NY Post).

Is art about showing that everything is connected? Interestingly, there was a Metropolitan Museum exhibition on precisely that topic not long ago (though, I don't think it's at all what was flitting through the Biden-brain when the words quoted above tumbled out). But it's a better subject than Hunter's dabblings, so check it out:

Biden declined to do a joint press conference with Putin, so Putin had the stage to himself.

From the NY Post report of the event:

Putin reframed accusations of harboring cybercriminals with the dubious claim that the US is more responsible than Russia for hacking... “I’m talking about something that’s already well known, but not known to the broader public, not from American sources, I’m afraid,” Putin said through a translator....

The Russian leader changed the topic when a journalist asked about his government imprisoning opposition leader Alexei Navalny, pointing to the prosecution of more than 400 supporters of former President Donald Trump for allegedly storming the Capitol on Jan. 6 to disrupt Biden’s victory. “People came to the US Congress … they face prison sentences, up to 20, maybe the 25 years — they’re being called domestic terrorists,” Putin said....

He also cited alleged US “torture” of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and at secret CIA prisons established in Europe after 9/11 and the Black Lives Matter movement as evidence of American violations of human rights. The US “recently had very severe events … after the killing of an African American and an entire movement developed known as Black Lives Matter,” he said.

Cristiano Ronaldo moved 2 Coke bottles out of his way, held up a bottle of water — and said "Agua!" — and $4 billion fell out of the Coca-Cola market value.

That's what it says here in "Cristiano Ronaldo snub wipes billions off Coca-Cola’s market value/Portugal captain rejects bottles in Euro 2020 press conference/Soft drink company’s share price drops by 1.6%" (The Guardian).

"It’s just incredible, when they blow in the winds they look like wave. It does look creepy the way it covers all the signs and everything."

"You can’t really see it in the photos but there are spiders all over. It’s like thousands and thousands of spiders."

Said Jena Beatson, quoted in "'They look like waves': spider webs blanket Gippsland after Victorian floods Flooded roads and paddocks disrupt local spiders which seek higher ground on road signs, trees and any tall grass they can find" (The Guardian).

"When President Biden, standing at NATO headquarters on Monday, referred to President Vladimir V. Putin as 'a worthy adversary,' ears perked up in Moscow...."

"'Putin’s goal is to transition to a respectful adversarial relationship from the disrespectful one we have today,' said Vladimir Frolov, a Russian foreign affairs columnist. 'That seems to be in line with Biden’s objectives for a "predictable and stable relationship."'...  In his interview with NBC taped last week, Mr. Putin praised Mr. Biden as a 'professional' who had spent 'just about all his conscious life in politics.'"

From "In Geneva, Putin Wants Respect. Biden Might Just Give Him Some/By calling the Russian leader 'a worthy adversary,' the president raised expectations in Moscow, but he will expect the favor to be returned" (NYT).

Praised? I don't think that was praise!  

One day Biden called Putin a "killer," and later Biden was calling him "a worthy adversary." Can you be both, did Putin change, or was Biden bullshitting both times or only once? In any case, how can it be that Putin thinks of Biden as anything but weak? 

Putin sloughed off the "killer" accusation as macho Hollywood talk of the sort people in America go in for. I'm sure he no more susceptible to compliments like "worthy adversary."

ADDED: From "No sign of thaw between Russia and US ahead of Geneva summit" in The Guardian:

Analysts suggested that the upcoming summit would be “boring” and a carefully-controlled “snoozefest” as both sides attempted something of a reboot following a catastrophic meeting between Putin and Donald Trump in Helsinki in 2018, which Trump insisted on holding without any aides. Top US aides were apoplectic as Trump emerged from one-on-one talks with Putin and rejected his own FBI’s assessment that Russia had interfered in the 2016 elections. “President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be,” he told reporters. One advisor later said she considered faking a medical emergency to end the press conference....

The White House does not want a joint press conference this time. Biden told reporters: “This is not a contest about who can do better in front of a press conference to try to embarrass each other.”

Don't compete in events you can't win. Know your limitations. But does Biden know all his limitations and have the wisdom to decline to participate in all the activities he can't handle?  


ADDED: Tom emails "For some reason I thought of that scene in The Big Lebowski, where Walter is musing about Vietnam":

"We talk about 'old movies,' but I like to think of movies that come out today as 'old,' because they come from an industry that’s been around for over a century."

"I’d rather talk about movies from the 1920s as 'young movies.' It can be exciting to see the medium in its youth, when the whole idea of a movie was more fresh and new, not as weighed down by the accumulation of influences and expectations." 

Writes John Althouse Cohen as he begins a blog called "101 Years of Movies" (subtitle: "My favorite movies of each year from 1920 to 2021").

His choices for years 1920 and 1921 are already up. I know he's put a lot of movie-watching and thought into this project and these are genuinely personal choices. 

ADDED: John writes: 

My goal is to be positive about the movies on this list, not to criticize any other movies or to suggest that my taste is better than anyone else’s. I hope this website inspires other people to make their own list and to explore more movies.

So there's no reason to argue with him about his choice. Just follow his example and make your own choice. Is there some 1920 or 1921 movie that you've put above his choice? Have you seen "Way Down East" and "The Kid"? Maybe you adore "The Sheik"... and "The Mask of Zorro."

"Can’t you just wait a while and leave it alone?" says Rita Moreno, defending Lin-Manuel Miranda who is criticized for not casting dark-skinned Hispanic people in his new movie.

So now Rita Moreno is trending on Twitter, with endless denouncements.


A sampling of anti-Moreno tweets: "'Can’t you just wait a while…' EXCUSE ME?? Rita Moreno really just told dark skin Latinos to sit there and wait. Let the light skin ones go first. IM SICK"/"Rita Moreno opened her mouth and my abuelita spoke through her. Disappointed, but not actually surprised. Because having HER, of all people, dismiss the colorism problem in the latine community basically shows how deep it runs"/"I love Rita Moreno. Yes, Lin-Manuel has done whole lot. It doesn’t mean he couldn’t do better with representation for Afro Latinos. Why does the fair skinned always say wait your turn to darker skinned people?"/"Rita Moreno *this* close to changing her name to Rita Blanquita"/"Rita Moreno inadvertently giving 'West Side Story' (2021) bad PR for its bad casting months before its release."

June 15, 2021

Sunrise — 5:18 to 5:20.




These attacks on people who are supposedly getting Critical Race Theory wrong are evidence that its proponents have failed to explain and defend it.

I had more to say on this subject yesterday, in a post criticizing a NYT column called "Demonizing Critical Race Theory" (NYT). I said: "I challenge proponents of Critical Race Theory to speak to ordinary people in terms they can understand and explain the theory, why it's a theory, and what is meant by 'critical.'... Why can't that be done clearly and straightforwardly? People are right to feel anxious and suspicious about something so big and powerful that can't be talked about. To say 'In fact, I don’t even believe that most people have any real concept of what critical race theory is' is to blame the people for failing to understand what isn't being discussed clearly. That's perverse and elitist."

Jon Stewart suddenly reinvents himself.

Answering my question what the hell is that song stuck in my head.

From Romper:
Into the thick of it! Into the thick of it! Into the thick of it! Ugh! If that little ditty is stuck in your head, you can thank the Nick Jr. children’s show The Backyardigans. But Pablo, Tyrone, Uniqua, Tasha, and Austin aren’t behind just one viral trend on TikTok right now; the animal pals also sing “Castaways,” the smooth samba you’ve been hearing on your “For You” feed. That’s right, “Into the Thick of It” and “Castaways” are from The Backyardigans, which aired on Nick Jr. from 2004 to 2013.

If you don't know these songs, you can click through and hear them or just count yourself lucky and save yourself while you still can. Backyardigans, indeed.

ADDED: Two-eyed Jack writes, "You obviously need to watch this:"

"I can hear the hurt and frustration over colorism, of feeling still unseen in the feedback. I hear that without sufficient dark-skinned Afro-Latino representation, the work feels extractive..."

".... of the community we wanted so much to represent with pride and joy. In trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short. I’m truly sorry. I’m learning from the feedback, I thank you for raising it, and I’m listening.” 

Tweets Lin-Manuel Miranda, quoted in "Lin-Manuel Miranda Addresses Lack of Afro-Latino Representation in ‘In the Heights’: ‘We Fell Short’" (Variety). 

Here's the criticism that caused him to go straight to apology mode:

By the way, that's an interesting use of the word "extractive" — "without sufficient dark-skinned Afro-Latino representation, the work feels extractive." Is that a new usage? The OED has the adjective "extractive," but in the sense of "extractive industries" — like the coal industry, where a resource is extracted. 

Miranda does not want to have merely extracted material from the community — Washington Heights in NYC. He wants to represent it. To extract is to treat the people like an inanimate resource — like, say, coal. He wants to treat people like people, not things. But you may question whether matching the colors of the actors to the colors of the people in the neighborhood is the way to treat people like people.

"Articles on use of pornography by young people often point out how boys can come to believe that the abusive and misogynistic things that happen are normal and right..."

"... which might cause them to be too aggressive. But parents should not ignore the opposite effect on many girls, who see these videos and think 'if I act subservient and cool with whatever they want to do to my body, that will make me popular and boys will like me.' I'm not victim-blaming. I know of what I speak and I think it's an important part of the conversation."

That's the top-rated comment — by a lot — on the NYT article "If You Ignore Porn, You Aren’t Teaching Sex Ed" by Peggy Orenstein.

"It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear."

On November 24, 2020, on Jimmy Kimmel's TV show, James Taylor performed a song from the 1949 musical "South Pacific," "You've Got to Be Carefully Taught":

This was a daring song in its time, Wikipedia notes

[The song was] judged by some to be too controversial or downright inappropriate for the musical stage. Sung by the character Lieutenant Cable, the song is preceded by a line saying racism is "not born in you! It happens after you’re born..."...

James Michener, upon whose stories South Pacific was based, recalled, "The authors [of the musical, Rodgers and Hammerstein] replied stubbornly that this number represented why they had wanted to do this play, and that even if it meant the failure of the production, it was going to stay in."

I love James Taylor — the warmth, the non-corny sincerity — and I don't know why he selected that song from the set of things he put on his "American Standard" album. The album came out November 1, 2020, and the performance was shortly after the election. I imagine the choice had something to do with the idea that Americans had just voted out a President who, for many people, embodied a message of racial hatred. 

But YouTube pushed it at me the other day, as I was reading about recent efforts to teach young children about racism and thinking how sad — how immoral — it was to be teaching children that they are hated,  that they are repositories of hate, and that you need to understand — whether you can see it yet are not — that this is a world of hate.

Lyrics from 1949:

You've got to be taught to hate and fear 
You've got to be taught from year to year 
It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear 

"There was an unspoken understanding among women that we were on a collective and never-ending diet. It was a hellish time..."

"... but it seemed completely normal. And I haven’t even touched on Bridget Jones.... a film series portraying a 130lb woman as a disgusting sad lump....  Of course this is not to suggest that millennials are the first or last generation to be subject to unattainable beauty standards. While the body positivity movement has done so much to shift the conversations we have about our bodies, Gen-Zers are already beginning to deconstruct their own relationship to TikTok and Instagram’s faux empowerment of the 'slim thicc' ideal-type. I mourn the life I could have lived if the Nineties had just let me weigh what I weighed."

From "Millennials were traumatised by Nineties fatphobia" (Evening Standard).

"Slim-thicc" refers to an overweight woman with a relatively small waist and a somewhat flat stomach. It seems to be fat acceptance within the narrow range of the conventional appreciation of voluptuousness. That is, you can weigh a lot and look great but only if it's distributed according to a certain traditional preference. That's the ideal that, in the future, Gen-Zers will look back on in articles about what traumatized them in the 2020s.

"[F]or some men, seeking sex with a sleeping woman is an active preference, a fetish known as somnophilia."

"Svein Overland, a Norwegian psychologist, is one of the few to have studied it.... Overland believes somnophilia is part of the wider growth of what he calls 'one-way sex.' His research into online porn showed a steep rise over the past decade in categories such as 'sleeping sex,' as well as other forms of sex that are based on unresponsiveness, on only meeting your own needs. ('Flexi dolls' is another example – where women pretend to be sex dolls.) These preferences overlap with porn itself, says Overland. 'With one-way sex, with porn, with masturbation, there’s no dance, no seduction, no interaction and no pressure to perform,' he says. 'The more I looked at this area, the more you see that a lot of men are afraid of having sex. Society is becoming more pornified but, at the same time, many studies show that people are becoming less sexually active. We have young men buying Viagra, unable to keep an erection.'... As a kink between two consenting adults, somnophilia comes with rules and (problematic) terms such as 'blanket consent' and 'consensually non-consensual.'"

From "The sexual assault of sleeping women: the hidden, horrifying rape crisis in Britain’s bedrooms" (The Guardian).

"Stop joking about your lockdown weight gain – it reeks of fatphobia."

Writes Adwoa Darko (in Metro).

The policing of "fatphobia" has reached the point where joking about your own struggle with weight gain is becoming unacceptable.

ADDED: Reader JPS emails, "I think Adwoa Darko would spontaneously combust if she saw KD French’s 'She’s At The Fridge Again,' from last August. I think it’s hilarious, and beautifully done" and links to this:

"I am not concerned with whether or not fat people can change their bodies through self-discipline and 'choices.'"

"Pretty much all of them have tried already. A couple of them have succeeded. Whatever. My question is, what if they try and try and try and still fail? What if they are still fat? What if they are fat for ever? What do you do with them then? Do you really want millions of teenage girls to feel like they’re trapped in unsightly lard prisons that are ruining their lives, and on top of that it’s because of their own moral failure, and on top of that they are ruining America with the terribly expensive diabetes that they don’t even have yet? You know what’s shameful? A complete lack of empathy."

Wrote Lindy West, quoted in "Farewell to Shrill: truly radical TV that laughs in the face of fatphobia" (The Guardian).

West wrote that in 2011 in a piece titled "Hello, I Am Fat" (Stranger). The current TV show — "Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman" — is based on it. According to the article in The Guardian, "Shrill encapsulates the constant politics of being a fat person."

"To say that fatphobia is not connected to anti-Blackism is to not understand the deep-rooted history between the two."

"During the late seventeenth century, body type was used as a marker for racial categorization. Scientific racism led to the attribution of other signifiers, besides skin color, to justify the horrendous treatment of the enslaved. Body size became way to dehumanize and demonize Black people. The robust figures of Black women’s became associated with immorality, laziness, and lack of self-control— painting a stark contrast with the 'rationality' and 'refinement' of Europeans. Thinness became associated with whiteness and intellectual and moral superiority." 

From "These 7 Black Influencers and Bloggers Are Challenging Fatphobia" (Ebony).

AND: "Despite the fact that intersectionality lies in the very groundwork of our community, the conversation around size inclusivity often remains white-focused. Efforts to uplift more marginalized voices within the plus-size space — particularly of Black women, who originated the body positive movement — have often neglected an important experience: that of the Asian American Pacific Islander community" — from "The Unique Experience of Navigating Fatphobia Within the AAPI Community" (Nylon).

June 14, 2021

Sunrise, 5:20.


Best in Show.

"We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale."

"It has been since man crawled out of the slime. And our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that perfect world in which there's no war or famine, oppression or brutality -- one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock, all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused."


That's Ned Beatty as Arthur Jensen in "Network" (1976).  

Ned Beatty died yesterday at the age of 83.

"In fact, I don’t even believe that most people have any real concept of what critical race theory is."

"It’s just a collection of words that hint, to them, at agitation and aggrievement: a theory that mentions race and that is critical, or, in their minds, criticizes.... So the rush by states across the country to ban the teaching of critical race theory in schools isn’t really about a real threat. Very few schools even teach C.R.T. as a core part of their curriculums, if at all... This attack on critical race theory is no different than the rush during the Obama administration by states to ban Shariah law in state courts, even though there was absolutely no threat that Shariah law would be recognized or used in those courts.... The freakout about critical race theory is also not dissimilar from the ongoing attack on trans people, particularly people who were assigned male at birth.... Now states are moving to ban trans girls and women from participating in high school and college sports, although this is not really an issue...."

Writes Charles M. Blow in "Demonizing Critical Race Theory" (NYT).

If "most people" lack "any real concept of what critical race theory is," then why don't Democrats and others communicate the information? Instead, as Blow describes in his column, Republicans use the term to generate anxiety about what those terrible left-wingers want to do to us. 

I challenge proponents of Critical Race Theory to speak to ordinary people in terms they can understand and explain the theory, why it's a theory, and what is meant by "critical." Don't just tell us conclusions and demand that we accept them and don't just introduce another confusing term. That is, don't just say that there is "systemic racism." Explain the theory and what is critical about the theory. 

Why can't that be done clearly and straightforwardly? People are right to feel anxious and suspicious about something so big and powerful that can't be talked about. To say "In fact, I don’t even believe that most people have any real concept of what critical race theory is" is to blame the people for failing to understand what isn't being discussed clearly. That's perverse and elitist.

Blow writes "Very few schools even teach C.R.T. as a core part of their curriculums, if at all," but that only shows why it's obtuse to ban teaching CRT. What's being taught are lessons influenced by the CRT ideology. Students are not in danger of becoming empowered to think at the level of the academics who originally propounded the theories, whatever those theories are. They are taught history and other subjects and those subjects may be skewed when they are entitled to the truth and not ideological indoctrination.

"The assumption that Harris is a bad politician is largely based on her 2020 Democratic primary run. It’s true that Harris wasn’t the greatest candidate."

"That said, Harris, like Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Warren, never really had a chance to win. After the shock of Hillary Clinton’s loss, Democratic voters were committed to running a man against Trump. And there was really never a chance that Democrats were going to nominate a Black woman. But many Democrats were also never going to say any of that directly, forcing them to look for ways to ding Harris and the other female candidates — 'bad campaigns!' — to avoid citing their actual reason."

From "Opinion: We should rethink how we think about Vice President Harris" by Perry Bacon Jr. (WaPo).

"As the president got out of the car, wearing dark glasses but having ditched his mask a few seconds before, he and his wife held hands, which was either a gesture of matrimonial affection or a useful bit of support as the president negotiated the dais steps."

That's how the London Times describes Biden meeting the Queen in "President Biden pays Queen the mother of all compliments."

The "mother of all compliments" — haven't heard that "mother of" phrasing in a long time — was that she reminded him of his mother.

June 13, 2021

Tradescantia (AKA spiderwort).


 Photographed at 5:49 a.m. near the shore of Lake Mendota on June 11th.

A man in shorts demonstrating competence, thatching.

I approve of this one:

"I keep seeing the debate about what length men's shorts should be. The fact is, all of these are wrong."

 "There's only one acceptable length..."

"What's that thing, I think, Voltaire said — 'Not that I should succeed, but that my friends should fail'?"

Said Duncan Trussell, near the end of a new 3-hour Joe Rogan podcast. 


I love Duncan Trussell, who is also, and very obviously, Joe Rogan's favorite guest, but I think he's got the attribution wrong. 

I associate it with Gore Vidal, but in the form "It is not enough to succeed; others must fail." No friends in that picture. 

But Quote Investigator looked into a set of similar quotes, one of which was "It is not enough to succeed; one’s friends must fail."

I think it's better without dragging the friend relationship into the concept, but the oldest appearance of the approximate idea was: "Now that I’ve grown old, I realize that for most of us it is not enough to have achieved personal success. One’s best friend must also have failed." 

That's Somerset Maugham (quoted in 1959). There's an older appearance if you count this as the same thing: "In the misfortune of our best friends, we always find something which is not displeasing to us." That's La Rochefoucauld (in the 17th century). He also said, "We all have strength enough to bear the misfortunes of others." 

Gore Vidal's name comes up in a 1973 NYT article by Wilfrid Sheed. Vidal is quoted saying "Every time a friend succeeds I die a little," and then Sheed goes on to credit La Rochefoucauld for the quote, "it is not enough to succeed; a friend must also fail." 

The first use of the form that I think is best — "It is not enough to succeed; others must fail" — comes from Iris Murdoch in 1973.

Anyway, leave Voltaire out of it. He wouldn't say that. Would he?

IN THE EMAIL: 2 readers — policraticus and dksd — independently thought of this New Yorker cartoon by Leo Callum (from 1997):

"The early-20th-century Hindu guru Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi taught that sleep is the 'pure state' in which there is full awareness, in contrast to 'total ignorance in the waking state.' "

"In the Bible, God himself spoke to Joseph in dreams, telling him to take Mary as his wife and later to flee with his family to Egypt to save the baby Jesus. Pope Francis is known to have a special devotion to Saint Joseph, and when he has a problem, he writes it on a slip of paper and places it under his sleeping-Joseph statue—and then goes to bed himself.... Starting tonight, treat bedtime like a liturgy in which you make the decision to seek greater philosophical depth and clarity about life."

From "The Lie We Tell Ourselves About Going to Bed Early/To get better sleep, stop treating it like a chore" (The Atlantic).

Compare Donald Trump: "I'm not a big sleeper, I like three hours, four hours, I toss, I turn, I beep-de-beep, I want to find out what's going on."

The Washington Post publishes a long, flattering article about an astrologer.

Can anything justify this idiocy? The article is "Can astrology make sense of cryptocurrency? Maren Altman and a million TikTok followers think so," so it's in the form of a question, and maybe it's just another quirky piece about social media and cryptocurrency. 

The news is that there are people out there that consume this video, not that the answer to the question in the headline is "yes."

Let's read some of this trash:

In a typical crypto astrology video, Maren reads the birth chart of a particular currency and offers thoughts on its immediate future. She often films herself in front of a brick wall adorned with a red neon sign reading “amor fati,” Latin for “love of fate,” and her language can get pretty colorful at times, befitting her punkish vibe.

In early January, Maren read Bitcoin’s chart, using its creation date, Jan. 3, 2009. “New moon in Capricorn, January 13th, looks big for bitcoin,” Maren says in the video... Though Maren claims in the video that she isn’t offering financial advice, many of the comments on the post suggest some take it that way....

She said a misconception many have is that astrologers believe the planets cause [world] events. It’s more that they believe the celestial positions give us a head’s up as to what might happen. As Maren put it, “we aren’t positing that Jupiter’s sending out … rays to make us spend more money … It’s like how the clock on the wall isn’t making it three p.m. but it might tell us it’s three p.m.”

Yeah, just like the clock.... This could be hilarious, but it's not written as hilarious. It's written as a display of coolness. So lame. And right when it's important to get people tracked onto real science. But — oh! — there's a cute young woman with a punkish vibe being colorful! And WaPo is the dorky old man galumphing after her.

"[T]he captain asked that 'all able-bodied men please come to the front of the plane for an emergency... basically every man on the plane stepped up....'"

Said one passenger, quoted in "Delta passengers and crew subdue off-duty flight attendant on Atlanta-bound flight" (CNN). Newsweek quotes the pilot saying: "We'd like all strong males to come to the front of the aircraft to handle a problem passenger."

That's what happens in a true emergency, even today, with all our aspirations of gender equality. A passenger went wild and threatened to bring down the plane, and the standard of who must act now was: "all strong males." And just about all the men stepped up. 

We do understand that, however much we minimize discussion of that aspect of reality. Thanks to the men.

5:19 a.m. — cloud cover 0%.


Putin sloughs off the accusation that he's "a killer" and diminishes Biden "a career man" who has spent "virtually his entire adulthood in politics."


NBC News' Keir Simmons blurts out: "Mr. President, are you a killer?" Putin's answer is the opposite of blurted:

"Over my tenure, I've gotten used to attacks from all kinds of angles and from all kinds of areas under all kinds of pretext, and reasons and of different caliber and fierceness and none of it surprises me," Putin said.

He went on to call the "killer" designation something "macho" or "Hollywood" only normal in U.S. culture, and not in Russian politics. "I'm always guided by the interests of the Russian people, and the Russian state," Putin said....

Simmons persisted in reading out a list of specific names of Putin's opponents who have been killed, usually in mysterious circumstances in recent years, including Anna Politkovskaya, Alexander Litvinenko, Sergei Magnitsky, Boris Nemtsov and Mikhail Lesin. "Are all of these coincidences, Mr. President?" Simmons asked.

About Trump, he said: "Even now... I believe that former U.S. president Mr. Trump is an extraordinary individual, talented individual... a colorful individual. You may like him or not. And, but he didn't come from the U.S. establishment, he had not been part of big time politics before, and some like it some don't like it but that is a fact." By contrast, "President Biden is a career man. He has spent virtually his entire adulthood in politics... That's a different kind of person.... and it is my great hope that yes, there are some advantages, some disadvantages, but there will not be any impulse-based movements, on behalf of the sitting U.S. president."

The linked NBC article takes that to mean that Putin seems to "favor" Trump. Did Putin read that? I picture him laughing. If Putin is indeed "guided by the interests of the Russian people, and the Russian state," then I would think he prefers the "career man" who can be trusted not to make "impulse-based movements." But yes, obviously, he comes across as admiring Trump, the man, especially now that he's out of office and not threatening "impulse-based movements" that might hurt Russian interests.

But Putin is, I presume, always manipulating, and every statement is manipulation, not his actual opinion. Right now, he's putting Biden in his place. In Putin's presentation, Biden is a weakling — posturing in a stupid Hollywood cliché. And Trump was really a man of substance — an extraordinary self-creation. What a crafty taunt!

The 🤏 emoji — signifying penis smallness — has become a pivot point for anti-feminist activism in South Korea.

According to the L.A. Times in "What’s size got to do with it? Mocking a man’s manhood spurs a reverse #MeToo in South Korea" (L.A. Times).
“Men’s rights” groups have taken to searching for the image included in various posters and ad campaigns, in a McCarthyistic hunt for companies, organizations or their employees sympathetic to feminism, targeting them with boycotts or a barrage of complaints....
The pinching hand entered the gender debate in South Korea in 2015, years before it became an emoji. That year, a group of South Korean women fed up with widespread misogyny on male-dominated online forums decided the best way to push back was to give as good as they got. They began referring to men by their genitals, as men had often done of women. 
They created male versions of online slang that was degrading to women, and reverted sexist idioms — “A woman’s voice should never go beyond the fence,” “Women and dried fish need a pounding once every three days” — against men. They ridiculed and belittled men based on their physical appearance, and often, the size of their appendage. The group of women called itself “Megalia” and chose as its unabashed emblem the image of a pinching hand.

ADDED: Why would anyone think that telling men their penises are small — deriding them for this characteristic — functions as a good approach to achieving feminist goals?

On a crude level, one could say men have been awful to women, so women are returning awfulness, hitting them where it hurts, right in their masculine pride; we're fighting subordination with humiliation. 

There is also the old notion — and I'm speaking only of how I've experienced in the United States — that a male with a small penis compensates by behaving like an asshole. I haven't heard this recently, but it used to be standard humor to say — when witnessing an aggressive male jerk — "He probably has a small penis." This would exert some pressure on men to behave better, lest they be thought to have a small penis.

But to push that theory is to give priority to a person's physical attributes: You are what your body makes you. That way of thinking isn't helpful to feminism.

"Mr. O’Conor did not know how long he would keep jumping, or even particularly why he kept jumping, morning after morning."

"But there was something about the whole endeavor that appealed to his big, obsessive personality and his appreciation for routines.... During the winter, there were days he could not really jump at all: When Lake Michigan was covered with snow and ice, he had to break through with a shovel to find a place to carefully drop into the lake, then climb out again. A woman interrupted him at the water’s edge once, concerned about his mental health. 'Are you trying to kill yourself?' she asked. 'No, I’m just jumping in and getting out,' he replied.... There is nothing elegant or artful about his technique. He does not swan dive or cleanly disappear into the water. He plunges, messily. Sometimes he executes a solid, and fairly impressive, back flip."

From "This Is the Story of a Man Who Jumped Into Lake Michigan Every Day for Nearly a Year/He started one Saturday as the pandemic was raging. Then he just kept going, never mind Chicago’s winter" (NYT).

In case you were wondering what you need to do to get a big article about you in The New York Times. Plenty of photographs too.

Well, whatever, nearly all the news is manufactured. At least some of the manufactured news is feel-good. Most of it is the opposite.

And I'm a big proponent of morning rituals. Just keep it light. Don't get too ritualistic. And don't kill yourself.