August 21, 2021

At the Sunrise Café...


 ... you can talk about anything you want.

"Because of potential security threats outside the gates at the Kabul airport, we are advising U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the airport and to avoid airport gates at this time."

Says a security alert just issued by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, quoted in "US Embassy in Afghanistan tells citizens to stay away from Kabul airport" (NY Post).

"The Clyburn-led veterans [of the Congressional Black Caucus] have hugged close to Ms. Pelosi to rise through the ranks, and believe younger members should follow their example."

"They have taken a zero-tolerance stance toward primary challengers to Democratic incumbents. They have recently pushed for a pared-down approach to voting rights legislation, attacking proposals for public financing of campaigns and independent redistricting committees, which have support from many Democrats in Congress but could change the makeup of some Black members’ congressional districts. And when younger members of Congress press Ms. Pelosi to elevate new blood and overlook seniority, this more traditional group points to Representatives Maxine Waters of California and Bennie Thompson of Mississippi — committee chairs who waited years for their gavels.... Mr. Clyburn makes no secret of his disdain for progressive activists who support defunding the police. In the interview, he likened the idea to 'Burn, baby, burn,' the slogan associated with the 1965 Watts riots in California. '"Burn, baby, burn" destroyed the movement John Lewis and I helped found back in 1960,' he said. 'Now we have defunding the police.' [Rep. Gregory] Meeks, the political point man for the caucus, said he expected its endorsements to go where they have always gone: to Black incumbents and their allies."

"To me, the crime is that Monica, Linda and Paula had no control over how they were perceived... It was unbelievable, the hate."

Said Sarah Burgess, a producer and writer of most of the 10-episode series "Impeachment," quoted in "'Impeachment' Focuses on the Women Behind Clinton’s Scandals/In a group interview, Ryan Murphy and the stars and creators of the FX drama discuss why they made Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky the stars of the show, and why we still care" (NYT).
Set in the 1990s, the 10-episode series revisits the miasma of scandal and innuendo that shrouded the Clinton White House: Paula Jones’s sexual harassment lawsuit against President Bill Clinton; Clinton’s sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky; Lewinsky’s friendship with Linda Tripp; and the tangle of lies, half-truths and illicit recordings that were ultimately detailed in the Starr Report, the infamous and lurid document prepared by the independent counsel Kenneth Starr....
From the group interview with Annaleigh Ashford (Paula Jones), Sarah Paulson (Linda Tripp), Beanie Feldstein (Monica Lewinsky), and Ryan Murphy (who isn't really identified in the article/we're just told it's "Ryan Murphy's 'Impeachment'):

"'The Larry Project,' neurotic and tender by turns, evolved into a much more emotional, all-encompassing undertaking — in which the absent Larry, whom Ms. Upson never met..."

"... expanded into the artist’s muse, her lover, her persecutor and, ultimately, her doppelgänger. By the end, no clean distinction was left between artist and subject; the two had become doubles. One drawing in the Hammer Museum show bore the words 'I am more he than he is.' The project ended in 2011 with a performance at a Los Angeles gallery at which she dragged a charcoal-and-wax mannequin of Larry on the walls and floor inside a plywood cube until the effigy disintegrated, symbolically turning Larry’s body into dust."

In the 1970s, he began to translate his photographic sources into pixelated images, filling in the individual cells of a grid with distinct marks, colors and tones that would cohere into photographic images when viewed from a distance....  His pragmatic, problem-solving approach would serve Mr. Close well in the second half of his career. In New York, on Dec. 7, 1988, he was felled by what turned out to be a collapsed spinal artery, which initially left him paralyzed from the neck down. In the ensuing months of rehabilitation, he began to regain movement in his arms, and he was able to sit up and paint using brushes strapped to his hand. He not only returned to painting with unimpaired ambition but also began producing what many would view as the best work of his career.... Up close, the new paintings seemed to swarm with woozy, almost psychedelic energy, while from a distance the image would emerge in all its photographic exactness.

As for the allegations of sexual harassment, a doctor is quoted attributing his actions to Alzheimer's disease: "He was very disinhibited and did inappropriate things, which were part of his underlying medical condition. Frontotemporal dementia affects executive function. It’s like a patient having a lobotomy — it destroys that part of the brain that governs behavior and inhibits base instincts."

"The FBI has found 'scant' evidence the Jan. 6 insurrection was the result of an organized plot..."

"'Ninety to ninety-five percent of these are one-off cases,' an anonymous former official said of the nearly 600 people who have been arrested for their involvement in the attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 presidential election. 'Then you have five percent, maybe, of these militia groups that were more closely organized. But there was no grand scheme with Roger Stone and Alex Jones and all of these people to storm the Capitol and take hostages."'  

Writes Joel Mathis at The Week in "The Jan. 6 'plot' that wasn't." Mathis strains to patch together something like a conspiracy theory:
There didn't need to be a secret conspiracy. Instead, it sounds more like self-radicalization as a mass phenomenon. The term "self-radicalization" has been used in recent years to describe the underlying causes of lone-wolf terror attacks like the... Orlando's Pulse nightclub, or the Pensacola shooter... [or] Dylann Roof.... What is Jan. 6, if not a similar phenomenon... only with all the wolves gathered in a single, very important location for the same purpose? None of this gets Trump off the hook.... The people who came to Washington D.C. on Jan. 6 did so at Trump's invitation, and then marched to the Capitol at his behest. He didn't have to plot with anybody — he just had to rile up his followers, then point them in the right direction. 

They were protesters, though, not killers! They behaved like protesters, going to the place where the thing they were protesting was happening. If they'd been like Roof or like the Pulse or Pensacola shooters, they'd have done something much more violent than trespassing on the building.

By the way, I've been wondering what might have happened if the Senators had not all gotten the same idea at the same time and run out of the Senate chamber, leaving it to the protesters. What if a Senator or 2 or 3 had stayed in place, where they belonged and the protesters had to face them? 

We've been encouraged to think the protesters would have brutalized them. But what if one Senator had the nerve and the presence of mind to stand his (or her) ground and confront them with words? I'm thinking of something about law and civilization....


"A man just naturally can't take the law into his own hands and hang people without hurtin' everybody in the world, 'cause then he's just not breaking one law but all laws.... It's the very conscience of humanity..... Your husband, Donald." (I left the "Your husband, Donald" part in the otherwise heavily elided quote, because... it surprised me... weirdly.)

"Biden Ran on Competence and Empathy. Afghanistan Is Testing That. The chaotic endgame of the American withdrawal has undercut some of the most fundamental premises of President Biden’s presidency."

That's the lengthy headline for a "news analysis" piece by Peter Baker in the NYT.  

Had you been under the impression that the Biden presidency was premised on empathy and competence? I'd never gotten that impression, and I did a search of my blog archive for "Biden" and "empathy," and everything that came up was about the press shielding Biden from scrutiny, saying he's got empathy and (of course) Trump does not. I haven't done a search, but I'll hypothesize that running on competence worked the same way. The press touted Biden as a remedy for the disease they'd been scaring us about for years — Trump. 

And so Biden wasn't tested. He was promoted. Did we ever believe in his "competence and empathy"? Are anybody's "fundamental premises" getting undermined? That headline — however much it questions Biden — engages in the same unexamined touting of Biden that got him elected in the first place. He never demonstrated competence and empathy! People just hoped he had it, because they thought Trump didn't have it, and the press encouraged them to indulge in those beliefs and hopes. 

I'm questioning assumptions contained in the headline. The article itself is questioning Biden's competence and empathy, which I think ought to have been done when he was running for office. From the article:

At points, the president has evinced little sense of the human toll as the Taliban swept back to power. Asked about pictures of fleeing Afghans packed into planes and some even falling to their death after trying to sneak aboard, Mr. Biden interrupted. “That was four days ago, five days ago,” he said, when in fact it was two days earlier and hardly made less horrific by the passage of a couple of sunsets.... 

Biden — or his handlers — knew he'd be asked about that, and he said something that was not only bluntly callous but wrong in the way that is most easily proved wrong — numerically. 

Meanwhile, American citizens are called upon to care deeply about things that happened over a hundred years ago and to work diligently on their psyche if they think it would be best to look optimistically toward the future and not dwell on the distant past. 

August 20, 2021

At the Morning Glory Café...


... please feel free to discuss the topics that don't fit any of today's posts.

"If you have a forest of barriers in a classroom, it’s going to interfere with proper ventilation of that room... Everybody’s aerosols are going to be trapped and stuck there..."

"... and building up, and they will end up spreading beyond your own desk.... One way to think about plastic barriers is that they are good for blocking things like spitballs but ineffective for things like cigarette smoke. The smoke simply drifts around them, so they will give the person on the other side a little more time before being exposed to the smoke. Meanwhile, people on the same side with the smoker will be exposed to more smoke, since the barriers trap it on that side until it has a chance to mix throughout the space."

Said Linsey Marr, "professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech and one of the world’s leading experts on viral transmission," quoted in "Those Anti-Covid Plastic Barriers Probably Don’t Help and May Make Things Worse/Clear barriers have sprung up at restaurants, nail salons and school classrooms, but most of the time, they do little to stop the spread of the coronavirus" (NYT).

"Let me be clear: Any American who wants to come home, we will get you home. I cannot promise what the final outcome will be, or that it will be without the risk of loss."

Does that even make sense on its face? It's from Biden's speech today, quoted in "President Biden tries to restore calm, vowing to rescue Americans and Afghan allies" (NYT). 

He says "Let me be clear," but it's not clear. Because "Any American who wants to come home, we will get you home" sounds like a promise to bring all Americans home (if that's what they want), and the next sentence negates the promise: "I cannot promise what the final outcome will be...." 

He must have meant we will try to get you home. Well, of course, they are trying. But will they succeed? He cannot promise what the final outcome will be. Yes, that's what we thought, based on what we can observe, so what did you add? 

Later, he said, "What interest do we have in Afghanistan at this point, with Al Qaeda gone?" Did he forget the interest in extricating Americans and the people who have worked with Americans? I don't think he forgot. I think he expects us to forget!

ADDED: He started 50 minutes late and he mispronounced approximately every other word.

"Airplanes and helicopters... are unlikely to provide the Taliban much practical value, given the expertise needed to operate and maintain them..."

"... defense analysts have said. Aircraft and aircraft components and parts could be worth more in the profits they would bring when sold on the secondary market.... Many of the seized U.S.-made small arms are likely to benefit related groups, such as Pakistani Taliban factions and militants and separatists in Kashmir and the Balochi region, said Matthew Henman, the head of terrorism and insurgency research at Janes, a defense-industry analyst. The most valuable items are Humvees and Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles, known as MRAPs, since they support existing Taliban patrols and require limited know-how and upkeep. But some of the defense analysts said the abandoned weapons don’t provide the Taliban with an advantage over U.S. forces. 'These seizures have more propaganda value for the Taliban than any real leveling-up of capabilities,' Mr. Henman said."

"Most voters believe it’s likely that President Joe Biden won’t finish out his term of office, and don’t think Vice President Kamala Harris is ready to step up to replace him."

"A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that only 43% of Likely U.S. Voters think Harris is qualified to assume the duties of the presidency, including 29% who think she is Very Qualified. That’s down from April, when 49% said Harris was qualified to become president. Now, 55% say Harris is not qualified to assume the duties of the presidency, including 47% who say she is Not At All Qualified.”

Meanwhile, Harris is on a trip to Singapore and Vietnam. AP reports:
A longtime district attorney and former senator, Harris is largely untested in international diplomacy and foreign policy. Her swing through Vietnam could draw unwanted comparisons between the humiliating withdrawal of U.S. troops there in 1975 and the tumultuous effort this week to evacuate Americans and allies from Afghanistan. 
And it’s all happening in the shadow of China, whose growing influence worries some U.S. policymakers. “She’s walking into a hornet’s nest, both with what’s taking place in Afghanistan, but also the challenge of China that looms particularly large in Vietnam,” said Brett Bruin, who served as global engagement director during the Obama administration and was a longtime diplomat....

"A couple of years ago, I had a nervous breakdown over, among other things, our planet’s dark future."

"I started crying every day on the subway, feeling utterly helpless and baffled at how to mourn a loss of this magnitude. But in the past couple of years, one very important new relationship has acted as an invaluable balm on my climate anxiety — my relationship with the Earth itself.... My mental health was so fragile that I quit my job and started spending full days wandering the streets, lying on the grass in Bryant Park and ambling in circles around Bed–Stuy. And now that I had the time to notice, it occurred to me that the nature in NYC wasn’t as sparse as I thought.... In California, I had picked lemons every night from the tree in my yard, but it wasn’t so different in New York once I began paying attention.... [NYC has a] Super Stewards program.... Shorekeepers remove invasives from the city’s shorelines and marshes. Trail Maintainers keep trails clear by hiking them regularly to report or fix any issues, like erosion.... I chose to be a NAVigator, whose task it is to remove invasive species and sometimes plant native ones in the city’s forests and parks.... ... I find the work silences any anxious, meandering thoughts coursing through my mind. When I’m done, I face the tree I freed from the vines and smooth my hand over the scars they left in its bark. I marvel at her branches stretching upwards where they belong, pat her trunk, and say, 'You’re welcome.'"

Your worrying doesn't help. Do something you can do.

"Bioscleave sounds utterly insulting, like old people are babies. Then I looked it up. My lord! It's like old people are hamsters!"

Ridiculous! Hilarious! And who cleans that place? Especially of all the blood....  Take a look at that Bioscleave again. If they try to take you there... get out. I don't want your Hamster Habitat of Death. And I'm not charmed by your burbling about 'non-Western' ideas. I don't want your Bioscleave just like I don't want your acupuncture. I want an ultra-Western ultra-modern house to go with my ultra-Western modern medicine."

I looked it up this morning because I'm seeing in New York Magazine "Why Was It So Hard to Sell a House That Promised Eternal Life?":
“Oh no, it’s the Bioscleave House again,” a recent story on a Hamptons real-estate blog announced when it went back on the market this spring for $975,000 — a fire sale compared to the house’s asking price of $5.5 million in 2009. Rumors circulated that if the house couldn’t find an appreciative buyer, it would face the wreckers; developers saw more value in the one-acre site than in the bizarre building on it. A house meant to fortify eternal life was itself on the brink of death. It doesn’t seem like anyone has really lived there aside from short stays focused on experiencing the novelty of such a strange place. It was unlivable — and unsalable — as a house and existed as a precious (though not that precious, judging by the final price) art object, which is finally how it sold this summer.

Here's a big collection of images of Bioscleave. I think it would be a very cool AirBnB. Stay for a couple days maybe.

"Biden Afghanistan policy counts on war weary Americans to lose interest."

A disturbing headline at Reuters.
President Joe Biden is brushing off criticism of his administration's chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal because he and his aides believe the political fallout at home will be limited, according to White House allies and administration officials....

"The public opinion is pretty damn clear that Americans wanted out of the ongoing war and don't want to get back in. It's true today and it's going to be true in six months," said one Biden ally. "It isn't about not caring or being empathetic about what's going on over there, but worrying about what's happening in America."

ADDED: I came back into this post to edit something about the formatting and accidentally lopped the "P" off "President," leaving "resident Biden." 

Resident Biden... doesn't that seem about right? He's the man living in the White House.

"When Virginians voted nearly 2-to-1 last fall to establish a bipartisan redistricting commission, the idea was to embrace a fairer method of drafting the state’s political maps...."

"But... the 16-member panel — split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, citizens and state legislators — was unable to agree on hiring a single, nonpartisan lawyer to guide its work, settling instead for one affiliated with each party. Then, at a similar impasse over hiring a firm to draft boundaries for congressional and state legislative districts, it opted for two firms, each partisan.... The commission’s rules allow any two of its legislator members of either party to block a proposed map, a structure intended to promote compromise. If instead the outcome is an impasse, the enterprise will be turned over to Virginia’s Supreme Court, which will hire its own experts to do the job. That could lend Republicans a partisan advantage; a majority of the court’s judges were appointed by past GOP-led legislatures...."

So the people voted in a referendum for reform to solve a problem that has reemerged in the reform. They voted against partisanship for something that also manifested partisanship. The editorial ends by saying that because the people voted to "improve democracy," the commissioners ought to take improving democracy "more seriously." Yet it looks like what's really going on is that the Democrats on the commission just have to figure out if they are worse off making concessions to the Republicans or letting the Republican-dominated state Supreme Court pick the "experts" and let them draw the lines. It's a grisly business.

ADDED: I don't like my own phrase "They voted against partisanship." Who knows exactly why people vote for what they vote for? It's at least as likely that they voted with hope that the new method of redistricting would benefit their party more than the method it replaced. In that case, the WaPo's editors threat to the commissioners is silly: The people believed they were voting for democracy, so you'd better not give them partisanship. 

Biden will "address the furor over the sluggish process, stymied by mayhem."

Today at 1 p.m., the NYT reports.

But the reassurances from Washington belie the fear and futility on the ground.... As Afghans clutching travel documents camped outside [the airport] amid Taliban checkpoints and tangles of concertina wire, anxious crowds were pressed up against blast walls, with women and children being hoisted into the arms of U.S. soldiers on the other side.... 

“This is an operation that will continue at as fast a clip as we can possibly manage,” said Ned Price, a State Department spokesman.... 

“There are tens of thousands of Americans and Afghans literally at the gate,” said Sunil Varghese, the policy director for the International Refugee Assistance Project. “This could have been completely avoided if evacuation was part of the military withdrawal.”

August 19, 2021

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"There’s something quietly disconcerting about the mix of whale music pumped into the pod and the vaguely medical scent of the floatation solution...."

"The liquid was just over a foot deep and heated to what I assume is body temperature.... Moving my limbs was about the only entertainment. Occasionally a shimmer of something passed across my eyes. Hallucinations, but nothing revelatory. Then, from beneath me, I heard a low rumble. Just the muffled clattering of the Victoria line. Once I recognised it, it proved a comforting sound.... I emerged with a feeling of almost artificial serenity, as if someone had dialled down the radio in my brain. I returned into the Vauxhall evening, to join my fellow earthlings."

From "My strange night in a sensory deprivation tank" by Gus Carter (The Spectator). 

Actually, it didn't seem strange at all. The article caught my eye — and grabbed the 3rd of my 3 free monthly reads in The Spectator — because I was just listening to an old Joe Rogan podcast where there was discussion of a sensory deprivation tank.


It's an especially interesting topic to me because many years ago when I was a law clerk in federal court I worked on a copyright case about the book "Altered States."

"They think that because they speak better English, that they graduated from Ivy League schools, that they are better than us."

Said one of the protesters quoted in "Why Some People in Chinatown Oppose a Museum Dedicated to Their Culture/In Manhattan’s Chinatown, anti-gentrification protesters are furious over funding granted to a museum that they say doesn’t represent their community" (NYT). 
Many residents believe that to preserve the story of Chinatown, it makes more sense to safeguard the actual neighborhood than a historical record of it.... 
[F]or many locals, the museum doesn’t feel like it belongs to Chinatown.... “If we keep going down the path we’re going right now, Chinatown is going to disappear,” said Truman Lam, who is part of the family that owns [the restaurant] Jing Fong.... 
Even before the pandemic, large restaurants struggled because of high rent and taxes, and that was the case for Jing Fong, Mr. Lam said. All these changes have made Manhattan’s Chinatown even more dependent on tourism and outsiders.

ADDED: The museum is called Museum of Chinese in America, and it teaches the history of the Chinese in America, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act. Protest signs in a photograph at the link: "Chinatown is not a museum/Stop displacing workers" and "Museum Of Corrupt Asians."

"Generations of students have called the concrete mass the 'Inhumanities Building' or claimed it was built as a riot-proof bunker."

"It’s so cold that faculty members need layers of office rugs to keep their feet warm. It’s also confusing — a partially connected horizontal labyrinth spanning a city block. When it opened in October 1969, a student got lost and was late to class, establishing a UW rite of passage. 'Is this supposed to be some kind of maze?' the student huffily asked a Daily Cardinal reporter. Current plans call for Humanities’ removal between 2029 and 2030, to be replaced by modern academic buildings..... How did such an ambitious project by one of America’s most innovative architects turn into a punch line?...  [T]he state awarded the contract to Chicago architect Harry Weese... His tastes clashed with the dominant International Style of glass and steel. He remained partial to natural materials, though he often challenged them to do unnatural things..... 'Weese’s first impulse was to subvert the apparently logical way to do something and then see how he could resolve all of the problems brought on by the initial decision,' [art historian Robert] Bruegmann wrote."

The topic here is architecture, but I welcome comments that branch out into other situations where the idea seems to have been "to subvert the apparently logical way to do something and then see how [you can] resolve all of the problems brought on by the initial decision." Don't confuse this with the idea of rejecting tradition and going on logic. This is rejecting logic, thereby creating problems, and achieving greatness by solving the problems that you created.

Meanwhile, this Biden interview with George Stephanopoulos was hard to avoid.


I'm surprised to see this long interview with Trump from Tuesday night.

 Blogging all day yesterday, I never saw any references to it. Here's the transcript. Here's the video.


It's amazing that this got so little attention. It's devastatingly critical of Biden. Biden is able to maintain support even as he's stranded 40,000 American citizens behind enemy lines. I understand that the press protects him, but what was his plan?

From Trump:
This is the greatest embarrassment in the history of our country. There’s never been… And let me tell you, we haven’t stopped. This is not ending again. We have all of those thousands of Americans over there and others, and you’re saying, "How are they going to get…" They have a Taliban ring around the airport and they said, “Nobody else now.” They’re saying we’ll negotiate. But I really… Do you really think… I mean, their history is that they’re very brutal and they don’t like to negotiate. That’s their history and Biden put us in this position. He should have gotten the civilians out first. Then he should have taken the military equipment. We have billions of dollars of brand new, beautiful equipment. Take the equipment out and then take the soldiers out. And frankly, I said, take the soldiers out. But before you leave, blow up all the forts because we built these forts that are being now used by the enemy. It’s not even believable.

August 18, 2021

At the Sunrise Café...

... you can talk about whatever you want. And here are some phases of today's interesting sunrise. 

The pale edge of the sun first appeared a little way up from the shoreline, as if there was a phantom horizon:


It heated up nicely:


 And, from a distance, Meade took a picture of me taking a picture.


"I write from the Panjshir Valley today, ready to follow in my father’s footsteps, with mujahideen fighters who are prepared to once again take on the Taliban."

"We have stores of ammunition and arms that we have patiently collected since my father’s time, because we knew this day might come. We also have the weapons carried by the Afghans who, over the past 72 hours, have responded to my appeal to join the resistance in Panjshir. We have soldiers from the Afghan regular army who were disgusted by the surrender of their commanders and are now making their way to the hills of Panjshir with their equipment. Former members of the Afghan Special Forces have also joined our struggle.... No matter what happens, my mujahideen fighters and I will defend Panjshir as the last bastion of Afghan freedom. Our morale is intact.... But we need more weapons, more ammunition and more supplies.... There is still much that you can do to aid the cause of freedom...."

From "The mujahideen resistance to the Taliban begins now. But we need help" by Ahmad Massoud, "the leader of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan"(WaPo).

6:19 a.m.


"Of course, I blame President Biden for the disastrous retrograde operation still unfolding. But let us not allow that to deflect us from heaping even more blame on military leaders."

"They stonewalled President Trump rather than beginning deliberate preparations to exit the country when he told them to. They thought that they could outlast him and then talk sense to his successor. Then after the inauguration, they pressed the new president to reverse course. He wisely chose withdrawal. Then and only then did the generals begin their preparations in earnest. But it was too late to do it well.... General Milley must resign. Not only is he the Chairman of the Joint Staff, prior to that he was the Chief of Staff of the Army. While all services share the blame, the Army is the land domain proponent. The 20 years of failure in Afghanistan is an Army failure.... The capital fell in less than 90 hours. Failure must be punished. And punishment in a bureaucracy means mass firings and a smaller budget—not more money so that they might be better the next time. Congress must consolidate and collapse our intelligence agencies. And when its reorganization is done, if the overall size of the nation’s intelligence apparatus is a quarter of what it is now, that still is too large.... [T]he generals, the intelligence analysts, the defense contractors, and the pundits all leveraged America’s rarest resource: the American serviceman and woman... Even after its failure was apparent to their leaders, they continued to enlist and reenlist, largely because their superiors—the experts—assured them that success was possible. It was not. It never was."
That's part of a message from "a senior military officer" published at Instapundit.

"Mindfulness meditation can increase selfishness and reduce generosity among those with independent self-construals."

An interesting headline at PsyPost. I don't think I'd ever seen the term "self-construals" before. It's perfectly easy to understand, but just odd. It feels dismissive of personhood and identity, as if those things are just a Western perspective.

Mindfulness developed as a part of Buddhism, where it’s intimately tied up with Buddhist spiritual teachings and morality.... [M]indfulness and Buddhism developed in Asian cultures in which the typical way in which people think about themselves differs from that in the U.S. Specifically, Americans tend to think of themselves most often in independent terms with “I” as their focus: “what I want,” “who I am.” 
By contrast, people in Asian cultures more often think of themselves in interdependent terms with “we” as their focus: “what we want,” “who we are.” For interdependent-minded people, what if mindful attention to their own experiences might naturally include thinking about other people – and make them more helpful or generous?

The author of that text — which makes me uncomfortable — is Michael J. Poulin, an American psychology professor. From that "Asian" stereotype, Poulin came up with a hypothesis — "for independent-minded people, mindful attention would spur them to focus more on their individual goals and desires, and therefore cause them to become more selfish" — and designed an experiment. 

The NYT ethicist — Kwame Anthony Appiah — comes out in favor of cultural appropriation.

The column begins with a letter from an art therapist who had hospital patients go on "a guided mindfulness journey to find their spirit animals." This involved teaching them about Native American cultures and having them draw "their animals" on a totem pole. One patient questioned the activity and used the criticism "cultural appropriation."

I think it's an awful exercise, for many reasons. I don't know what has to happen to you to make you a patient on the receiving end of such "therapy," but if I'd been in that situation, if I had anything like the mind I have now, I'd have refused to participate. It's an imposition of ersatz religion. It's fake and sappy, and it appropriates the sincere religion of others and turns it into a childish art project. 

The ethicist began by questioning whether it is cultural appropriation when there's only a "hazy" connection to a culture. Speaking of religion, he makes a food analogy:

"[I]t seems that the president simply didn’t want to appear to be abiding by the terms of a deal negotiated by his predecessor."

Mike Pence writes in "Biden Broke Our Deal With the Taliban/It’s a foreign-policy humiliation unlike anything our country has endured since the Iran hostage crisis" (Wall Street Journal).

"Mindful of the people hanging onto the plane, the pilots taxied slowly at first. Military Humvees rushed alongside trying to chase people away..."

"... and off the plane. Two Apache helicopter gunships flew low, seeking to scare some people away from the plane or push them off with their powerful rotor wash. REACH885 accelerated and was airborne. Minutes later, however, the pilot and co-pilot realized they had a serious problem: The landing gear would not fully retract. They sent one of the crew members down to peer through a small porthole that allows them to view potential problems in the wheel well while aloft. It was then the crew saw the remains of an undetermined number of Afghans who had stowed away in the wheel well — apparently crushed by the landing gear.... Alerted of the tragedy on board, mental health counselors and chaplains met the anguished crew members as they disembarked."

August 17, 2021

At the Sandhill Café...

View recent photos

... you can talk about whatever you like (but it will take a moment or more before you post will go up). 

That's a photo by Meade, taken within a mile of home. The path in the foreground is the Lakeshore Path. The lake is Lake Mendota. The cranes are very accustomed to people nearby. They stalk about in the university parking lot. They're a real fixture of the landscape.

"The first thing that happened to 'woke' was that it was borrowed from Black slang. It first appeared in neither a BuzzFeed article nor a rap but..."

"... a jolly piece on Black vernacular expressions in 1962 in this newspaper called 'If You’re Woke, You Dig It.'...  It was after 2010 that 'woke' jumped the fence into mainstream parlance. Erykah Badu’s 'Master Teacher' seems to have at least planted a seed, and then those 'stay woke' salutes on Twitter in 2012 were in the wake of the Trayvon Martin killing, upon which the expression was truly set in stone.... 'Stay woke' on white people’s T-shirts is a sign of coming together.... But... then why is wokeness now something so many people are more likely to disavow than own? Isn’t that the same old thing, a rejection of Blackness? A rejection, yes — but of a kind too typical of what happens to words all the time to fit a race-specific narrative. We understand this when we see that the real wind behind its wings in the early 2010s was that 'woke' served as a handy, nonpejorative replacement for 'politically correct.'  I remember that term used straight, without dismissal and only a hint of irony, in 1984. A white college friend, very much of the left, used it with a quiet sprinkle of irony, but sincerely. ('Of course, you know this if you’re' — smile and two-millisecond pause, signaling 'you know' — 'politically correct.') He meant that a certain complex of leftist beliefs — i.e., the ones called 'woke' in 2012 — were obviously the proper ones for any reasonable person to have, that they signaled a higher awareness. In a view like that, there is, inevitably, a certain self-satisfaction. And in some of those holding this kind of view, that self-satisfaction will express itself in dismissal and abuse of those ungifted with the third eye in question. The result will be resistance...."

Writes John McWhorter in "How ‘Woke’ Became an Insult" (NYT).

I think 1984 was the year I first heard the expression "politically correct." It's an easy year for me to remember because it was the year I moved to Madison. People who lived east of the state capitol liked to say they lived on "the politically correct east side." They were proud of where they lived and intended a putdown of the presumably more conventional people — more corporate people — who chose the west side. 

McWhorter doesn't come right out and say it, but the answer to the question how woke became an insult is that it was used as an insult: Those who self-indentified as woke meant to insult those who didn't agree with them. That makes people want to insult you in return, and throwing your own word back in your face is the simplest reflex. It's sarcasm. You just say the same thing they were sincere about but you say to be mean. It's low discourse, but it's so easy. 

"Metz-Caporusso, who uses they/she pronouns and describes themselves as 'unapologetically fat and queer,' came up with the idea for roll flowers after hearing clients wistfully talk..."

"... about the tattoos they wanted to get -- but only once they had lost weight. The tattooist could empathize -- they had also once felt pressure to reach 'whatever weight I thought I needed to be at' before getting a stomach tattoo.... Metz-Caporusso noted there was a 'lot of fat shaming in tattooing,' and 'a lot of turning people down' for being above a certain size.... 'I knew when I designed the roll flowers, the first thing people would think was, "But what happens when you lose weight?" So, I was trying to challenge that thought... A fat person isn't a failing thin person. A fat person is just a person, and they should be made to feel as good as anyone else should be made to feel.'"

From "The tattooist creating body-positive 'roll flowers'" (CNN).

Go to the link for photographs. The "roll flowers" work with the rolls of fat on the body. I'd never thought about the problem of tattooing and fat rolls. You don't want the image to disappear inside the roll. Metz-Caporusso makes the roll part of the design and has plant shapes emerging from the rolls in a natural way. It's an interesting solution, though it does make it clear why many tattooists would want to reject a client with fat rolls. Is it "fat shaming" not to want to work on a pleated surface?

"TikTok is full of young actors playing with characters. Maybe slow down and listen. Consider the possibilities."

I advised, yesterday, in a post about a young woman on TikTok whom Joe Rogan seemed to assume was sincere but I thought could very well be a comic actor. 

I've encountered a similar case today, this time with Andrew Sullivan possibly not picking up the humor:


Sincerity is difficult! But I assure you that I'm being sincere when I say that I genuinely do not know whether this is a kindergarten teacher who is thoroughly pleased with herself or whether this is a young comic actor — I originally wrote "comedienne" and then de-gendered my terminology — who's embodying the role of a kindergarten teacher who is thoroughly pleased with herself.

Notice that her name is Koe Creation. That suggests a comic persona, but it could also be a name adopted by a real person who wants to express the feeling of creativity or of being a self-creation. 

I see that she has a book, "This Heart Holds Many: My Life as the Nonbinary Millennial Child of a Polyamorous Family," and that Amazon lists it in the categories LGBTQ+ Biographies & Memoirs, Gender Studies, and LGBTQ+ Biographies. Not humor. 

I really don't know! I won't assume. Maybe it's possible for a person to be nonbinary when it comes to seriousness and humor!

"One sentence in the new book by the American political scientist Charles Murray, Facing Reality: Two Truths about Race in America, leapt out at me."

"Suggesting that the reader might imagine living in a lower-class, multiracial city neighbourhood, he writes: 'Most of the children in the bottom of the class in your child’s school are minorities.' Well, in Britain that just isn’t true. The children at the bottom of that class are likely to be white working-class boys. They are doing worse than Asians, Chinese or Afro-Caribbean children. Although Murray is writing about America, he is making an assertion about innate racial differences in intelligence. He protests that it isn’t the product of a 'racist imagination' but represents 'lived experience.' But it doesn’t, at least in Britain. So is it a generalisation based on racist assumptions? This matters because Murray has been tarred and feathered for years as a racist and eugenicist.... Murray is correct when he writes that the new ideologies of the far-left are akin to the Red Guards of Mao’s Cultural Revolution — 'and they are coming for all of us.' However, insulting and cancelling him merely inflates his martyr status while failing to subject his arguments to cool and rational dissection, as [Thomas] Sowell has done so fairly. Murray wrote Facing Reality out of alarm that ethnicity was becoming central to identity and social organisation. The reality he has to face is that his own theorising does precisely that."

From "Race claims need examining with a cool eye/Theorising about the abilities of different ethnic groups risks fuelling divisive identity politics" by Melanie Phillips (London Times).

"[S]pokesman Zabihullah Mujahid... who had been a shadowy figure for years, promised the Taliban would honor women’s rights, but within the norms of Islamic law..."

"...  though he gave few details. He said the group wanted private media to 'remain independent,' but stressed journalists 'should not work against national values.' And he promised the insurgents would secure Afghanistan — but seek no revenge against those who worked with the former government or with foreign governments or forces. 'We assure you that nobody will go to their doors to ask why they helped,' he said. Earlier, Enamullah Samangani, a member of the Taliban’s cultural commission, made similar promises, saying the Taliban would extend an 'amnesty' without giving details and encouraging women to join the government.... Meanwhile, women in hijabs demonstrated briefly in Kabul, holding signs demanding the Taliban not 'eliminate women' from public life." 

AP reports.

6:14, 6:17.



"We had a model where we'd made clear what our red lines were. We'd made clear the things we were prepared to do to defend them."

"We could have executed a plan in a way that would have led to the orderly withdrawal. We would have demanded that the Taliban actually deliver on the conditions that we laid out in the agreement - including the agreement to engage in meaningful power sharing agreement - something that we struggled to get them to do but made clear it was going to be a requirement before we completed our requirement to fully withdraw."

Said Trump's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, quoted in "Mike Pompeo Outlines How Trump Admin Planned to Handle Afghanistan, Taliban" (Newsweek).

"I feel like I watched a different speech than the rest of you guys. I was appalled!"

The return of female newsreaders.

"This is one of many messes that the U.S. has made on the way out, but this one they could fix. They need to ensure safe passage not just for the people at the airport, not just for interpreters who worked for the U.S. military, but for anyone who wants to leave."

Said Heather Barr, associate director of the women’s rights division of Human Rights Watch who has "long experience in Afghanistan," quoted in "Get Afghan Refugees Out. Then Let Them In" by Michelle Goldberg (NYT). 

Goldberg proceeds to concentrate on the need for Americans to accept refugees. She brings up our recent resistance to Syrian refugees. It's another occasion to criticize us for xenophobia. 

A sampling from the comments over there. First, this, from someone in Singapore:

Good idea, please take in all the refugees there are from this war. That will be about 5 [million] Afghans. It would be a first to see that the US really cares about the damage they do to a country they brought peace and democracy to. 

I think that's sarcastic. Then there's this from someone in Pakistan: 

America will be making a huge mistake by accommodating Afghan nationals and I will tell you why: Pakistan took in more than 4 million refugees post soviet war but look what they did to the hosting country. With Afghans came hard drugs, AK47s and above all terrorism. Pakistan has bled rivers and is still bleeding thanks to the Indian/Afghan nexus. Afghans have deeply rooted themselves and mingled amongst the Pakistani population which makes it easier for them to carry out terrorist activities with the help of India that cannot stand Pakistan as a sovereign state. History is a witness to Afghans' ungrateful nature and we might as well witness it again after the US takes in a couple of hundred thousand of them.

Goldberg and others are critical of the bureaucracy that impedes Afghans who want to leave the country. It's why more of the people who worked with us were not extricated before the Taliban took over. Now, the argument is just take everyone — it's too late to filter. The notion is that we have lost the moral ground to protect ourselves from terrorism. Are we going to stand back and watch the slaughter of everyone who worked with us? An easy, horrible way to answer that question is that we've already squandered the chance to extricate them. 

ADDED: The quote in the post title was chosen for its absurdity. It imagines the extrication of people — in vast numbers — when we just saw that even people who managed to get to the airport could not get into a plane. Some were packed onto the floor of a C-17. Others clung to the outside of a plane as it took off.

I want to read this Chris Cillizza piece — "Joe Biden is facing a crisis of competence" — at CNN Politics, but...

"... it begins with a premise I can't get my head around: "At the heart of Joe Biden's 2020 presidential campaign was a single word: competence." 

What I remember is continual doubt that he had even minimal competence. I searched my blog archive — and I scanned presidential campaign news every single day — to find anything about Biden and "competence" and the closest I came was a May 2, 2020 post where I was quoting something from New York Magazine about Biden campaigning from his home basement: 

[Biden is] largely staying true to the strategy that’s guided his campaign since early on, which holds that the winningest Biden is one to be imagined, not seen, heard, or even thought about too hard. His staff recognizes that the less its candidate speaks, the less opportunity his supporters have to neglect evidence that undermines their faith — in his competence, his election odds, and, increasingly, his innocence.

If competence was the heart of his campaign, then it was a campaign in negative space. Through his absence, the idea of his competence might survive in the minds of the people who maintain a spark of belief in it. And, really, that had more to do with the widespread and vehement belief that Trump was incompetent. For those in that mindset, almost nothing was expected from Biden. 

So what's this "crisis of competence" Biden faces now? As Trump fades into the past and those who believed in Biden look to him for performance, rather than mere nonTrumpness, it's a crisis for the vain fool.  

Oh, am I really going to read this Cillizza thing? 

After four years of Donald Trump's incompetence in, well, everything, the Biden argument was that the country badly needed a steady hand on the tiller -- someone who had been there and done that.

Ludicrous. Steady hand on the tiller... been there and done that.... Thanks for signaling that you're writing on autopilot.

August 16, 2021

At sunrise.



Please use the comments section to introduce whatever topics you like. I'm still moderating all the comments, so you have to wait for me to put your comment through. To pass moderation, be interesting — be worth reading.

"So I’m left again to ask of those who argue that we should stay, how many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghanistan’s civil war when Afghan troops will not?"

"How many more lives, American lives, is it worth? How many endless rows of headstones in Arlington National Cemetery? I’m clear on my answer. I will not repeat the mistakes we’ve made in the past. The mistake of staying and fighting indefinitely in a conflict that is not in the national interest of the United States. Of doubling down on a civil war in a foreign country, of attempting to remake a country through the endless military deployments of US forces.... The events we’re seeing now are sadly proof that no amount of military force would ever deliver a stable, united, secure Afghanistan as known in history as the graveyard of empires. What’s happening now could just as easily happened 5 years ago or 15 years in the future.... I will not mislead the American people by claiming that just a little more time in Afghanistan will make all the difference. Nor will I shrink from my share of responsibility for where we are today and how we must move forward from here. I am President of the United States of America, and the buck stops with me."

From the transcript of President Joe Biden's speech today. 

He walked out without responding to questions from the press. The transcript records one and only of of the questions shouted at him: "Mr. President, what do you make of the Afghans clinging to the aircraft?" 

ADDED:  Biden took responsibility. Though he "inherited" a deal President Trump made, he made a choice. There was "a cold reality of either following through on the agreement to withdraw our forces or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more American troops back into combat in Afghanistan, lurching into the third decade of conflict." He stated that cold choice and then said "I stand squarely behind my decision" — my decision. And though he wants us to believe they "planned for every contingency," he admits what he must: "this did unfold more quickly than we had anticipated."

He didn't take full responsibility, because he did blame the Afghan forces: "American troops cannot and should not be fighting in a war, and dying in a war that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves." But I don't think he blamed other Americans.

"Defense hawks such as Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, are outspoken about what they see as a precipitous withdrawal and a collapse that can and should be placed at the Biden administration’s feet...."

"But such voices are becoming rarer in a Republican Party that continues to embrace former President Donald J. Trump, who had demanded an even swifter pullout from Afghanistan, and in a war-weary Democratic Party that is largely standing by Mr. Biden — or staying silent. That may reflect the opinion of voters in both parties. But ultimately an end to the U.S. military’s involvement in Afghanistan may prove to be more popular than the weekend chaos proves to be a liability. Representative Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat and Marine Corps veteran of Iraq, wrote on Twitter: 'What I am feeling and thinking about the situation in Afghanistan, I can never fit on Twitter. But one thing that is definitely sticking out is that I haven’t gotten one constituent call about it. And my district has a large Veteran population.'"

From "In Washington, Recriminations Over Afghanistan Emerge Quickly President Biden is finding few outspoken defenders amid the chaotic collapse of the Afghan government. But after 20 years, a war-weary America may still give the president a pass" by Jonathan Weisman (NYT).

"The two sides apparently agreed to a 'deconfliction mechanism' in which operations at the airport in Kabul are permitted to continue without interference from the Taliban."

Reports The Hill in "US reaches deal with Taliban on evacuations: report." 

I'd never noticed the word "deconfliction" before, but the OED traces it back to 1973, and defines it as "To reduce the risk of collision in (a combat situation, airspace, etc.) by separating the flight paths of one's own aircraft or airborne weaponry." Example (from Time, 1974): "What the brass calls ‘deconfliction’—making sure warplanes and relief planes don't confuse one another—is now a major focus of the Pentagon strategy."

"BREAKING NEWS/President Biden will return to the White House to deliver remarks on Afghanistan this afternoon."

CNN reports:
Biden remained at the wooded Camp David presidential retreat with members of his family over the weekend as chaotic images from Kabul emerged. He will return to Washington ahead of his address, which is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. ET. 
Speaking on morning television programs, senior members of Biden's national security team sought to shift blame for the collapse of the Afghan government on the country's defense forces, which they said lacked the will to defend their country against the Taliban. 

Blame the Afghans. Have they gamed it out and decided it would be a mistake to blame Trump? Trump isn't even mention in the article. Perhaps they can see that to blame Trump is to open the path of blame back to Obama.

"Through an outfit called 'Advance Peace,' the city will offer a stipend of $1,000 per month ('transformational opportunities') to 'young men involved in lethal firearm ­offenses'..."

"... at the same time pairing them with 'neighborhood-change agents' — 'credible messengers, meaning they bring life experience, conflict-mediation and mentorship skills to the target population.' "

From "De Blasio’s plan to give a grand a month to violent offenders is insane" (NY Post).

"Desperate Afghans clung to the side of a moving US military plane leaving Kabul airport on Monday, with at least three people apparently falling to their deaths from the undercarriage immediately after takeoff."

"Video footage shows hundreds of people running alongside the plane as it moves along the runway of Kabul international airport. A number of people hang on to the side of the C-17A aircraft, just below the wing. Others run alongside waving and shouting."

The Guardian reports, with video that I won't embed. It's hard to interpret the scene. The people look more celebratory than desperate. Were they trying to capture the plane or somehow ride with it? Were they taunting the Americans or longing to stay within our strange guardianship?

Who? Who? Who? Who? Who? Who? Who?

Post title is a play on the famous Biden quote "Why, why, why, why, why, why, why?" 

I don't know if that photograph really is a leak of secret information. Here's what bothers me about it. There's Biden sitting behind a table that's way too big for one man, and his advisers are heads on the TV. That was released by the White House yesterday, presumably to convey the message that Biden is on duty and working hard and to appease us as we're watching TV, seeing Afghanistan collapse in a weekend. 

We feel bad and confused and outraged, but we can only sit helplessly watching the TV. And what the White House tries to spoonfeed us is Biden stranded at a big table staring at a TV screen. Biden should have been sitting behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office facing us, speaking directly, explaining, comforting, demonstrating that he is the President. 

Why didn't we get that? (Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?) Is it that no one noticed that it would be a good idea — it's what's expected, it's what other Presidents would do? Did they just have no idea what would be appropriate to say or fear that anything they say will be used against them in the political discourse and that leadership must wait until partisan interests show the way? Or is it that Joe Biden wasn't in a presentable mental state over the weekend and had to be kept off video camera? It had to be a still. Prop him up in a chair. That's the best we can do. Look! He's working. He's alive. His eyes are open. Isn't that enough?

This morning I'm seeing, "White House weighs response as Biden faces mounting criticism over Afghanistan crisis/Democrats on Capitol Hill and former Obama administration officials joined Republicans over the weekend in publicly criticizing the president’s handling of the situation" (NBC News). The White House is doing the best it can. 

White House officials were discussing how Biden should address the Taliban’s rapid rise to power, a senior administration official said late Sunday, acknowledging there is a sense that the American people wanted to hear from the president. Biden could make a speech from the White House early this week, but no final decision had been made....

It's not even Biden who's "weighing" what the hell to do. Just "White House officials." And they're just acknowledging we'd like "to hear from" the President. He could make a speech. Maybe tomorrow. Or the next day. Haven't really finalized the plan yet....

Meanwhile, in America, Joe Rogan recommends the Libs of TikTok — which presents "the most nonsensical, fucking cuckoo talk" for your delectation.


"There was a girl on the Libs of TikTok who had beads — different color beads — to wear that indicated which gender she identified with and how she's feeling because her gender changed multiple times a day"/"It's like a mood ring!" 

Here's the video that was referred to. I need to stress that I strongly object to calling this "mental illness." Two big reasons: 1. It's disrespectful and discouraging to the many real people who struggle with mental disabilities, and 2. It's presuming the mental condition of a performer and impairing your ability to perceive critique and humor.

TikTok is full of young actors playing with characters. Maybe slow down and listen. Consider the possibilities. 

Maybe Joe Rogan needs a set of bracelets to wear — 

yellow — I think everything's a big joke.

red — I get the comedy done in the style of me and my friends and all the rest of you are our prey. 

blue — not a damn thing is funny in this fucked-up world.

And I want to add purple — obviously the best one — I listen to everything, think from many perspectives, see humor and attempts at humor, and make fine-tuned individual decisions about who to attack in public, taking into account the age and experience of the performer and leaning toward punching up and not down.

"In the blue haze of hookah smoke that filled Kandahar’s Cafe Delight on a recent weekend afternoon, it was easy to forget there’s a war outside."

"Young male professionals with well-groomed beards and mullet cuts, slumped in plush chairs, sipped espresso drinks beneath flat-screens that pulsed with racy Turkish and Indian music videos, the bare midriffs of women blurred by channel censors. This was still Afghanistan, a conservative Islamic society. But the patrons belonged to a more permissive, urbane generation that came of age after the fall of the Taliban, with vague to no memory of the oppressive, fundamentalist regime, born in this southern city, that banned television, music, and cinema; forbade men from trimming their beards; and forced women to wear head-to-toe burkas..... [A café owner] monitored closed-circuit TV cameras he had recently installed to thwart 'sticky bombs'—crude explosives triggered by mobile phones—that were targeting officials, activists, minorities, and journalists, as well as random civilians, part of the extremists’ strategy to eliminate dissent and project fear deep into urban centers. Emboldened by a February 2020 agreement with the United States that sidelined the Afghan government and paved the way for the withdrawal of American forces by the end of August, the Taliban had established their grip on rural areas and were closing in on cities at breathtaking speed. Still, with its eucalyptus-lined streets, luxury villas, and shopping plazas lit by nearly round-the-clock electricity, the Ayno Maina gated community offered an atmosphere of suburban normalcy for middle- and upper-class Afghans, many on a government payroll. 'We have no worries here,' said Suleiman Aryan, 28, an English teacher who works and lives in the complex with his wife and two children. That was then. The calm has been shattered."

From "As the Taliban return, Afghanistan's past threatens its future/The freedoms Afghans have gained since 2001 are in jeopardy as extremists complete their takeover of the nation, spurred by U.S. exit" (National Geographic). 

At the link, you'll see lots of beautifully lit, ultra-flattering photographs of highly attractive Afghans, many (or all of which) bear captions that tell you the person has been killed. I found the article because I was trying to answer my own question how many people did the Taliban kill in their sudden, sweeping takeover of the country. 

Was it surprisingly few? This Washington Post article — "Afghanistan’s military collapse: Illicit deals and mass desertions" — gives the impression that there was skillful, sustained, widespread deal-making by the Taliban —"a series of deals brokered in rural villages between the militant group and some of the Afghan government’s lowest-ranking officials":

Malala speaks.

I wondered what she had to say and looked it up:


That's her first post since July 27th. Just before she managed that, on August 13th, OpIndia published "Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, who was shot by the Taliban, turns a blind eye as the terror group steps up atrocities in Afghanistan/Malala has refused to even acknowledge the fact that the Taliban is relentlessly chipping away at the democratically elected Afghan government and establishing their supremacy in the strife-torn country." 

Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, who is otherwise pretty vocal in voicing her opposition to the Taliban, is conspicuously silent on the escalating offensive by the terror outfit in Afghanistan. There is not even a whimper, let alone a cry of protest by the Nobel Laureate who fashions herself as some sort of teenage activist and had become the face of crusade against the Taliban.

Well, she's 24 now, not a teenager.

August 15, 2021

"My mother says we should buy a burqa. My parents are afraid of the Taliban. My mother thinks that one of the ways she can protect her daughters is to make them wear the burqa...."

"But we have no burqa in our home, and I have no intention of getting one. I don’t want to hide behind a curtain-like cloth. If I wear the burqa, it means that I have accepted the Taliban’s government. I have given them the right to control me. Wearing a chador is the beginning of my sentence as a prisoner in my house. I’m afraid of losing the accomplishments I fought for so hard. ... I stay up late at night, sometimes till one or two in the morning, worrying about what will happen. I am afraid that because I am rejecting the burqa, soon I will have to stay at home and I will lose my independence and freedom. But if I accept the burqa, it will exercise power over me. I am not ready to let that happen.”

Said a 26-year-old woman named Habiba in Kabul, quoted in "Afghan women’s defiance and despair: ‘I never thought I’d have to wear a burqa. My identity will be lost’" (The Guardian).

With two-thirds of the population [of Kabul] under the age of 30, most women here have never lived under Taliban control....
Amul, a model and designer, has worked for years to establish a small business and now she sees it heading towards obliteration. “My whole life has been about trying to show the beauty, diversity and creativity of Afghan women,” she says. All her life, she says, she has fought the image of the Afghan woman as a faceless figure in a blue burqa. “I never thought I would wear one but now I don’t know. “It’s like my identity is about to be scrubbed out.”

"How much of this is regular professional midlife-crisis stuff? These women seemed a little young to be going through it, but is this just what happens..."

"... when people get deep enough into a lucrative career—they have a freakout? Contemplate walking away from everything? Perhaps, but these ladies’ meltdowns struck me as a lot more soulful than the behavior we associate with a typical midlife crisis: getting a Brazilian butt lift, say, or starting an affair with a co-worker. The One Hundred Women weren’t screwing up their lives. They were focussing on their loved ones, or on creative pursuits they’d never let themselves take seriously before the pandemic, or on important causes like the environment."

From "The Rise of the COVID Midlife Crisis/Why are so many women leaving corporate America?" by Lizzie Widdicombe (The New Yorker).

Are your meltdowns more soulful than these other people's meltdowns?

"The Taliban effectively sealed their control of Afghanistan on Sunday, entering the capital, Kabul, and meeting little resistance as President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, the government collapsed, and..."

"... chaos and fear gripped the city, with tens of thousands of people trying to escape.... In a lightning offensive, the Taliban swallowed dozens of cities in a matter of days, leaving Kabul as the last major redoubt of government control.... Al Jazeera reported that it had interviewed Taliban fighters who were holding a news conference in the presidential palace in Kabul, the capital. The fighters said they were working to secure Kabul so that leaders in Qatar and outside the capital could return safely. Al Jazeera reported that the fighters had taken down the flag of Afghanistan. As it became clear that Taliban fighters were entering Kabul, thousands of Afghans who had sought refuge there after fleeing the insurgents’ brutal military offensive watched with growing alarm as the local police seemed to fade from their usual checkpoints. The U.S. Embassy warned Americans to not head to the airport in Kabul after reports that the facility was taking fire..."

The NYT reports.

6:07 a.m.


(Open thread in the comments.)

"It's striking that, with 20 years to think it over, the United States withdrew its forces without a plan for the aftermath."

"As the bulk of American troops departed... there was no plan for securing regional base access, for the contractors that maintain the Afghan military, for training that military after the U.S. departure, for evacuating interpreters and helpers."

Said Richard Fontaine, "head of the Center for a New American Security and former foreign policy adviser to Sen. John McCain," quoted in "1 big thing: Biden's stain" (Axios). 

That word "stain" comes from Ryan Crocker, "a U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan under President Obama," who said, last weekend, "I think it is already an indelible stain on his presidency."

"Marissa Meizz, 23, was out to dinner with a friend in the East Village in mid-May when her phone started buzzing. She tried to silence it..."

"... but the texts kept coming. They all wanted to know: Had she seen the TikTok video? She clicked the link and a young man appeared onscreen. 'If your name’s Marissa,' he said, 'please listen up.' He said he had just overheard some of her friends say they were deliberately choosing to hold a birthday party when she was out of town that weekend. 'You need to know,' he said. 'TikTok, help me find Marissa.' Ms. Meizz’s heart sank. After getting in touch with the man who posted the video, which amassed more than 14 million views, she confirmed that she was the Marissa in question and that it was her friends who had conspired to exclude her from their party."

So begins "Now Going Viral: Meeting Online Friends in Real Life/Marissa Meizz became a TikTok meme after her friends excluded her from a birthday party. She decided to do something about it" (NYT).

Here's the original "TikTok, help me find Marissa" video: 

What people are actually reading...

"The Taliban in a statement said that they wouldn’t take Kabul by force. The insurgent group added that it had ordered its fighters to wait and not attack the Afghan capital..."

"... home to six million people, and that it was in talks with 'the other side' to discuss entering the city without harming its residents. Until the transition of power is done, the current Afghan government would remain responsible for the security of the capital, it said, while adding that a general amnesty was announced for all government officials and soldiers.... Both the U.S. and Afghan government have asked the Taliban to hold off for two weeks until a transitional government could be agreed to, [said saenior Afghan official].... At the U.S. Embassy on Sunday afternoon, helicopters ferried American and Western diplomats and civilians to the military side of Kabul airport. One after another, Chinooks and Black Hawks took off from the landing zone, spraying dust. Below them was a city of traffic jams and roundabouts choked by cars—many of them filled with Afghans trying to reach the airport’s relative safety. Dark smoke, presumably from burning documents, rose from the presidential palace...."

From "Taliban Enter Kabul as Panic Spreads in Afghanistan’s Capital/Mass evacuations of Western diplomats and civilians under way, with insurgents preparing to assume power" (Wall Street Journal).

"What does an 'Art Deco Buddhist temple' look like? The phrase is nearly nonsensical; it’s hard to imagine... But this didn’t deter the Twitter account @images_ai, which promises 'images generated by A.I. machines.'..."

"The account has produced everything from a version of Salvador Dalí’s painting “The Persistence of Memory” in the neon-pastel style of Lisa Frank to a depiction of 'the edge of reality and time,' a frightening swirl of floating eyes, hourglasses, and windows onto nowhere.... [T]he account’s proprietor is... Sam Burton-King, a twenty-year-old student at Northwestern University.... They began as a math major, but, finding the coursework too difficult, moved into studying philosophy and music.... To create art for @images_ai, Burton-King feeds a selection of written prompts into what’s known as a generative adversarial network (G.A.N.), a machine-learning system in which two artificial neural networks—computer models that mimic the information processing of a human brain—compete with each other to come up with a result that best matches the inquiry..... 'People ask for Shrek all the time, or Big Chungus, or Donald Trump in various situations,' they said. One successful prompt was 'Elon Musk experiencing pain'....  Burton-King feels that the looming impact of A.I. is out of their hands, though; the machines are getting more skillful all the time..... 'I don’t mind contributing to the artificial-intelligence apocalypse,' they said, 'as long as they have a cool civilization after ours.'"

From "Appreciating the Poetic Misunderstandings of A.I. Art/The Twitter account @images_ai has gained a following for its feed of surreal, glitchy, sometimes beautiful images created through machine learning" by Kyle Chayka (The New Yorker).

"Now, because identity looms so large in the culture, and because the internet makes it so easy for likeminded lunatics to find each other, we find [the Plymouth killer] conveniently categorised as an incel."

"These are involuntary celibates, a category he toyed with online. Once, if you couldn't get a girlfriend or get married – and several blameless men I know were at one time or another in that not uncommon position – you were just a normal bloke with a girl problem; now there's a debate about whether to categorise incels as terrorists, up there with the Real IRA and IS. There are and always will be, men with a sense of grievance who take out their rage and frustration on others. The BBC seems oddly willing to entertain the idea that incels should be designated as terrorists, possibly because it gives a boost to the notion that misogyny should be categorised as a hate crime – an already dodgy category.... [I]t is guaranteed to waste police time and resources by obliging them to investigate incel outpourings online (and the whole stupid lexicon of red and black pills).... [And] it would be unfair to men who happen to be involuntarily celibate but who wouldn't dream of running amok with firearms...."

From "Why incels aren’t terrorists" by Melanie McDonagh (Spectator).

"You’ve got boys coming to these communities and saying, ‘I don’t know how to talk to a girl,’ and the response is, ‘Rape it.’ It tends to be completely under the radar of teachers and parents. They aren’t aware of this as a form of radicalisation at all."

Laura Bates, "a researcher and author who went undercover in incel groups," quoted in "Plymouth shooting: Incel groups radicalising boys as young as 13" (London Times).

“This is an extremist group advocating for women to be massacred, but at every level we don’t treat this in the way that we would any other comparable form of extremism and hatred,” she said.... 

“The presence of a small but significant minority of children that are very clearly being sucked into this is concerning,” she added. Adherents of the incel subculture describe having taken the “black pill” — a reference to the Matrix films — which means they believe that no matter what they do, they have no chance of establishing sexual relationships with women.

There's no "black pill" in "The Matrix," just red and blue pills, but it's a term in incel talk, as Wikipedia explains here:

"Why is the incidental cliché of describing one student as 'chocolate-coloured' worthy of embarrassed public retraction?"

"Thou shalt not employ foodstuffs when describing non-white people. As the logic of this 'rule' is hardly self-evident, I did some online digging. Any mention of the edible in reference to the oppressed is apparently 'dehumanising,' 'objectifying' and 'commodifying' (like slavery) — as if, one contributor on Reddit explains, 'characters exist to be consumed or are otherwise disposable.' ... European complexions are often 'olive,' 'honeyed' or, less flatteringly, 'doughy'; their tastes can be 'white-bread,' meaning uninteresting, or vanilla,' meaning plain. We reach for comestibles to capture colour because common foods provide a shared visual vocabulary. Thus we often name colours after what we eat. Aubergine, mulberry, raspberry, peach, orange, sage, saffron, chestnut, pecan: they itemise not only our pantry but our paint samples. Seriously, if we depict something as a food-derived hue, do we imply that what we’ve described is consumable?"

From "Authors must stand up to the language police/The cancelling of writers who use phrases like ‘chocolate-coloured skin’ will only spiral if we appease the purity zealots" by Lionel Shriver (London Times). 

Shriver is commenting on the abject apology made by teacher/memoirist Kate Clanchy after she was criticized for using the phrases "chocolate-coloured skin" and "almond-shaped eyes." 

“I am not a good person,” she grovelled. “Not a pure person, not a patient person, no one’s saviour.”

Is that groveling or is it a rejection of the notion that a writer ought to pose as virtuous? Presenting oneself as good/pure/patient/redemptive will ruin a memoir. But here's something else that ruins a memoir: trite descriptions. And that's the real crime of "chocolate-coloured skin" and "almond-shaped eyes." 

If you're a decent writer, and you see words like that coming out of your fingertips, you need to jerk your hands off the keyboard and scream or laugh at yourself. The problem isn't maybe you're not a good person. It's you're a shitty writer. You'd better see the problem yourself and edit. 

And this is a teacher, describing her students. If you're going to make your reputation by talking about them, you'd damned well better acknowledge their individuality and use fresh and specific words if you're going to tell us how they look and require us to categorize them by race.

How would you like it if your child's teacher published a memoir in which your child was described with clichés — racial clichés?