September 25, 2021

Sunrise.

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"But statements from the informant appear to counter the government’s assertion that the Proud Boys organized for an offensive assault on the Capitol intended to stop the peaceful transition from Mr. Trump to Mr. Biden."

"On the eve of the attack, the records show, the informant said that the group had no plans to engage in violence the next day except to defend itself from potential assaults from leftist activists.... Then, during an interview in April, the informant again told his handlers that Proud Boys leaders gave explicit orders to maintain a defensive posture on Jan. 6. At another point in the interview, he said that he never heard any discussion that day about stopping the Electoral College process.... According to the records, the informant first began to tell the F.B.I. what he knew about Jan. 6 in late December after a pro-Trump rally in Washington that month turned violent.... [T]he records contain no indication that the informant was aware of a possible plot by Proud Boys leaders to purposefully instigate those normal Trump supporters — or what members of the group refer to as 'normies'— on Jan. 6."


ADDED: My hypothesis has been that if there had been a plan, the FBI would have known about it and it would have been defended against. If the government has evidence of a plan now, my question is why didn't they know in advance and defend the Capitol properly? The simplest answer is that there was no plan. 

"But the assumption that these tactics would go unchallenged when deployed by a Democratic administration, as was often the case in the past, appears to have been a serious miscalculation."

"The spotlight that Trump shined on the southern border for four years is still plugged in. The public is still paying attention. And images that evoke the era of slavery—with fair-skinned men on horseback rushing Black migrants, whiplike reins flailing behind them—have added to a long-simmering push from the left to consider immigration policy not simply in terms of economics or national security, but also in terms of race.... Members of the Congressional Black Caucus were whisked to the White House for a meeting this week, and Al Sharpton, who traveled to the border recently, told The Washington Post that, like thus-far-unsuccessful efforts toward police reform, the treatment of Haitian migrants was an example of how Biden was failing Black Americans. Biden 'said on election night: Black America, you had my back, I’ll have yours,' Sharpton said. 'Well, we’re being stabbed in the back, Mr. President. We need you to stop the stabbing—from Haiti to Harlem.'"

ADDED: Biden resorted to attacking the agents. BBC reports:
"I take responsibility," Mr Biden told reporters at the White House on Friday. "It was horrible to see, to see people treated like they did, with horses nearly running them over. People being strapped. It's outrageous.... I promise you those people will pay. They will be investigated. There will be consequences."

Will pay... will be consequences... That sounds completely unfair. As the Atlantic article points out, horses have been used in this function for over a century and the agents were doing what they were ordered to do by supervisors who serve under the power of the President. Let the President take responsibility for everything that is going on at the border, not blame others and vow to punish them. 

"But if you think about it, I really did pretty much the opposite of whatever he said."

Said Trump, about Anthony Fauci, quoted at The Hill, in a piece with a headline about Trump's answer to the question what would stop him from running for President. 

In case you're itching to know his answer to the somewhat creatively phrased question, it was: "I guess a bad call from a doctor or something, right? Things happen, through God, they happen. But I feel so good."

"Fox News' 'Gutfeld!' beat all the other late-night shows Wednesday after the liberal hosts collectively hyped their so-called 'Climate Night.'"

"Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, James Corden, Trevor Noah and Samantha Bee traded in comedy for activism on Wednesday night and joined forces to sound the alarm on climate change. Going beyond the opening monologues, Kimmel had multiple climate scientists on his show, Meyers interviewed President Biden's climate czar John Kerry and Colbert spoke candidly with 'Mother Earth.'"

Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg has mocked President Joe Biden over his promises to tackle climate change via his 'Build Back Better' plan. During a climate rally in Berlin on Friday, she [said]... "World leaders are talking about 'building back better,' promising green investments and setting vague and distant climate targets in order to say that they are taking climate action.... When you look at what we are actually investing the money in — the money that is supposed to be building back better — it shows the hypocrisy of our leaders."

So... even the lightweight activism of "Climate Night" turned audiences away, but Greta Thunberg won't accept that the U.S.-style climate activism is anywhere nearly enough. 

I want to reprint something I blogged back when the lockdown began, in early April 2020, "Why aren't we seeing the argument that when we phase out the economic shutdown, we need to open it up into the Green New Deal?":

A panorama to demonstrate that the sunrise is a small part of the sky.

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Inspired by something I overheard at yesterday's sunrise.

"I just feel like they don’t have a purpose, and he was like every bug and insect has a purpose."

Said the woman set up on a blind date with a man who is an entomologist with the Smithsonian Institution, quoted in "Date Lab: Would these two become lovebugs?" (WaPo). 

The "they" in "they don’t have a purpose" are mosquitoes. 

It was nice to read one of these "Date Lab" pieces where both participants rate the date at 5 out of 5. 

They have a religious difference and commonality. Though their background religions are different — Islam and Catholicism — both experienced a culture that somehow caused them not to date until they were in their 20s. The man says, "None of my friends dated, I never really considered it as something that I could do, and even through my college years." The woman was forbidden to date in high school.

"The rise of the liberal blogs, during the run-up to Barack Obama’s election, brought us the headiest days of Internet Discourse Triumphalism."

"We were going to remake the world through radically democratized global conversations. That’s not what happened. To oversimplify, here’s where we ended up. The Internet really did bring new voices into a national discourse that, for too long, had been controlled by far too narrow a group. But it did not return our democratic culture and modes of thinking to pre-TV logocentrism. The brief renaissance of long blog arguments was short-lived (and, honestly, it was a bit insufferable while it was happening). The writing got shorter and the images and video more plentiful until the Internet birthed a new form of discourse that was a combination of word and image: meme culture.... Everyone had to shout to be heard, and the conversation morphed into a game of telephone, of everyone shouting variations of the same snippets of language, phrases, slogans—an endless, aural hall of mirrors.... [T]he people screaming the loudest still get the most attention, partly because they stand out against the backdrop of a pendulating wall of sound that is now the room tone of our collective mental lives...."

September 24, 2021

"It's a very small part of the sky," said the teenager observing the sunrise.

Overheard by me, this morning just as the sun was about to make its first appearance. 

He had, I guess, seen many pictures of sunrises and was struck by the small proportion of the sky that is framed in a photo of the sunrise... like this one of mine:

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Another teenager: "What if it turned around and went the other way?" 

And that caused another teenage to visualize the newspaper headline: "Teenagers witness apocalypse/Millions terrorized." I thought that was very funny. Nice absurdity. "Millions" is a good touch. And just the idea that there would be a headline, a newspaper issued on the day the world ended.

"Somehow, as sex positivity went mainstream and fused with a culture shaped by pornography, attention to emotion got lost."

"Sex-positive feminism became a cause of some of the same suffering it was meant to remedy. Perhaps now that the old taboos have fallen, we need new ones. Not on sex, but on callousness and cruelty."

That's the concluding paragraph of Michelle Goldberg's new column, "Why Sex-Positive Feminism Is Falling Out of Fashion" (NYT). 

When I first read the headline, my snap answer to the question "why" was: Because the sex-positive feminists got old. Young people have the delusion that they are the first human beings to truly experience sex as it's meant to be. They get older and imagine they've discovered critique that's different and better than what those who've gone before them were ever able to perceive.

I've been reading and talking about sex and feminism for 50 years, so things have cycled around at least 3 times, and I myself have been many different ages. I must say I'm a bit impatient with — bored by — efforts to recount the historical phases of American feminism that do not struggle with the disruption that had to do with Bill Clinton and protecting the interests of the Democratic Party. 

But there are so many men to protect — husbands, boyfriends, present and future. Most people don't keep feminism at the top of their priorities, so it's going to get distorted into the shape they want it to be. Is pornography the subordination of women? You'll never get an accurate answer. Is your interlocutor in love?

"One night I was at party and was introduced to a woman named Reparata, so..."

"... I mentioned this record and group and she said, 'Yeah; that was me. I'm Reparata.' I thought I'd smoked something funny at the party, but she and I ended up talking about music and it was quite apparent she indeed was Reparata! She was very cool."

From the comments at...

 

Here's the Wikipedia page for Reparata and the Delrons. "Whenever a Teenager Cries" came out in 1965, and I don't know why it's not familiar to me, since I listened to everything on the radio in the actual year 1965 and have spent many hours listening to the 60s satellite radio channel in the last 20 years. 

I stumbled into that song as I was researching the great song from 1960, "Angel Baby," originally by Rosie and the Originals. Looking that up on Spotify, I saw there was a version by Reparata and the Delrons. With a name like that, I thought they were some sort of tribute to or spoof of girl groups, maybe from the 1970s. But no, they were a real 60s group:

That's Mary "Reparata" Aiese on the right.

They asked Mary Aiese to choose a stage name to make the group name more interesting and marketable. She chose Reparata, her confirmation name, which she had taken from one of her favorite teachers at Good Shepherd Catholic grammar school.
Reparata sounded vaguely punk to me, but in fact, it is a saint's name

"It's like a prison being an adult."

Here is the most brilliant child tantrum I have ever witnessed. 

This little girl is crying because she is realizing, deeply, that childhood will end, that she can only live on to become an adult, and from what she can tell, it's no good being an adult. It's like a prison! 

"I don't even want to be a teenager!... I just want to be a kid!" 

If you wanted to search for Plato with a 7-year old, what would you do?

I'm reading "Searching for Plato With My 7-Year-Old" by Thomas Chatterton Williams — in the NYT — and I see from the photo and the subheadline that he's not doing what I would do. 

The subheadline is: "In Athens with his daughter, Thomas Chatterton Williams could finally pay homage in person to the classical education his own father gave him." 

I wouldn't take a 7-year-old halfway around the world,* spending time in airplanes, hotels, restaurants, and ruins and walking long distances through confusing, complicated environments. What does that have to do with philosophy? (I ask, Socratically). Even for an adult, but especially for a little child, the scale is all wrong.

I would take the little child on child-scale walks on the sidewalks of our town and in the nearby woods, and I would gently and subtly offer simple philosophical questions of the sort that would occur to a child. What is the best life for a child? And I would listen to the child's answers and form new questions, challenging myself to do what is best for the child.

People are telling Scott Adams to "kill his cat."

September 23, 2021

At Kurt's Kaffe...

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... you can write about anything you want in the comments.

I took that photo of my favorite Indianapolis mural when I was in town last weekend.

"Franzen’s position is a common one among liberal intellectuals: He concedes the threat to free speech norms on the left is real, but..."

".... insists it is too insignificant to merit criticism....  Franzen’s position, a common one on the left, implicitly concedes that there could be a point at which the problem grows to a level that it does merit criticism... Franzen takes the clarifying step of making that level explicit: when 'people start being sent off to Lubyanka' — the headquarters of the Soviet secret police — 'for having said the wrong thing to the wrong person.' I would suggest that, once we have gotten to, or anywhere near, the point at which stray comments result in abduction, torture and execution, it will be a bit late to speak out. Yet that is apparently the point at which Franzen is willing to start complaining publicly... Franzen’s mind seems to have particular difficulty calibrating and ordering multiple problems; the same befuddlement once inspired him to argue that environmentalists should focus on saving birds because mitigating climate change is hopeless."

Franzen refused to sign a letter. I'm not going to accept Chait's characterization of why he refused, because I can see that Chait is misinterpreting the Lubyanka statement, which I'd read as hyperbole. People who say "It's not the end of the world" don't mean it's not worth worrying about if it's not the actual end of the world. 

And I suspect Franzen doesn't like signing his name to other people's writing. He seems to prefer to craft his own very particular statements. I've read a couple books of his essays, including one where he takes on the critics of his remarks about birds and climate change, and I don't think he would appreciate Chait's paraphrase — befuddlementization — of those remarks. 

I won't purport to paraphrase it myself, but here's what Franzen wrote in The New Yorker in 2019, "What If We Stopped Pretending?/The climate apocalypse is coming. To prepare for it, we need to admit that we can’t prevent it." It begins:

"What do you do when a big swath of Americans believe things that are demonstrably false...?"

"Are we a nation of lunatics...?... We’re told to trust the voters because ordinary folk know what’s what, but how can you trust the voters if so many of them think their paranoid delusions are reality?... My friend Alan, a Marxist historian... compares our present moment to the world described by Johan Huizinga in The Waning of the Middle Ages. As feudalism began to break up in the 1300s and 1400s... [p]essimism, fear, and a sense of cultural exhaustion prevailed.... Maybe, Alan suggested... [w]hites and Christians feel their cultural preeminence slipping away, and they just can’t handle it, especially if superpatriotism, racism, and male supremacy were all they had to begin with. Well, maybe. It would be better for Alan’s theory if present-day irrationalists were, like the members of other right-wing movements, disproportionately young white men enraged by their downward mobility and lack of girlfriends. But according to The New York Times, QAnon appeals to a much broader swath—'health-conscious yoga moms,' for example.... It’s as if the Internet is bringing together all existing forms of credulousness: Covid denialism, Trumpism, health nuttery, hyperlibertarianism, New Age woo-woo, fundamentalist Christianity, and an unhealthy fixation on exaggerated or imaginary dangers to children."

"Anti-vaxxers in the Taconics-Berkshires region include local organic farmers, members of homeschooling and alternative-education communities, anti-war hippies...."

"The anti-vax faction here has its roots in the left-libertarian politics of the Back to the Land movement, which flooded the area with the disaffected urban upper-middle class in the 1970s and ’80s. That influx of hippies and students, most of whom came from New York City, brought with it a political belief in naturopathy and a mistrust of institutional authority.... Enid Futterman, a local journalist and Bernie Sanders supporter... told me she finds the idea that COVID is caused by 5G cellphone towers more believable than person-to-person transmission. 'I’ve read both sides, and that’s what makes sense,' Futterman said.... Traditional left-wing concerns about corporate influence mesh well with anti-vax fears that the pharmaceutical industry pushed federal regulatory agencies to sign off on the COVID-19 vaccines before they were truly ready. Skepticism about the safety of genetically modified food can easily blend into worries about mRNA vaccines....  Futterman told me she sees no contradiction between her views on vaccines and public health and her lefty Democrat political positions, citing the 'open-minded' approach of liberalism... 'I do see a disconnect between me and a lot of Democrats, which is sort of shocking, but true.'"

I am person, hear me roar make a sound associated with a non-human animal..

"Now a team of scientists in New York say they have pinpointed the genetic mutation that may have erased our tails."

"When the scientists made this genetic tweak in mice, the animals didn’t grow tails, according to a new study that was posted online last week... Darwin shocked his Victorian audiences by claiming that we descended from primates with tails..... 'This question — where’s my tail? — has been in my head since I was a kid,' said Bo Xia, a graduate student in stem cell biology at N.Y.U. Grossman School of Medicine. A bad Uber ride in 2019, in which Mr. Xia injured his coccyx, brought it back to his mind with fresh urgency. 'It took me a year to recover, and that really stimulated me to think about the tailbone,' he said.... [H]e compared the DNA of six species of tail-less apes to nine species of tailed monkeys. Eventually, he discovered a mutation shared by apes and humans — but missing in monkeys — in a gene called TBXT.... The mutation that Mr. Xia discovered had not been observed before. It consisted of 300 genetic letters in the middle of the TBXT gene.... Even if geneticists are beginning to explain how our tail disappeared, the question of why still baffles scientists. The first apes were bigger than monkeys, and their increased size would have made it easier for them to fall off branches... It’s hard to explain why apes without tails to help them balance wouldn’t have suffered a significant evolutionary disadvantage.... 'That’s the next outstanding question: What on earth would the advantage be?'"

ADDED: I continued reading the article blogged in the previous post and I ran into this, which I want to put here:
I thought, early on, I would’ve loved to have been a singer. But I realized that, at a certain point, the audience makes a pact. I remember this guy, his name was George Kirby, I saw him on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” He did the greatest impersonations of everybody. And one week, on “Ed Sullivan,” he just was going legit. He was just going to sincerely sing. And I’m going, “Is there a sandbag that drops on him at one point? You’re breaking your contract with us.” Lorne Michaels has this thing where he says, “You go to the zoo and you see the monkeys and they have a right to be reflective, but if they’re not swinging by their tails and jumping around, we go, ‘I’ll come back later.’ Marty, you’re one of the monkeys.”

"During the fight—which Short notes was about nothing at all, as most relationship squabbles are—Nancy did something unexpected."

"She asked to speak with Ed [Grimley] rather than with Martin. Short immediately transformed into his alter ego. When Nancy asked 'Ed' what her boyfriend’s problem was, he suggested that Martin was 'jealous of your beauty and wisdom and saddened by his own tragic limitations.' He then added, 'Although his endowment has certainly been blessed by the Lord.' Nancy thanked Ed and told him to go away. Argument over."

ADDED: Something I learned reading that interview: This is the first appearance of Ed Grimley:


"Is a snake the Devil?"

The Biden administration's dubious effort to solve the "Havana Syndrome" mystery.

Read this NBC News article about the resignation of the person the State Department put in charge. Pamela Spratlen was a retired ambassador to Uzbekistan: Why was she chosen in the first place? 
At the time, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said she would “help us make strides to address this issue wherever it affects Department personnel and their families.” 
What I'm thinking now, after reading the whole article, is that "to address the issue" did not mean to discover the cause of the syndrome, but to get those affected by it to accept that they would never receive an answer.  Those people "lost... confidence" in her:
Diplomats suffering from Havana Syndrome  this month in a tense phone call with Blinken and Spratlen over continuing stigma and disbelief within the U.S. government about their injuries, more than four years after the incidents began in Cuba.... On the call, Spratlen responded to a question about an FBI study that found no evidence of an attack and determined that the staffers were most likely to be suffering from mass psychogenic illness, or mass hysteria. 
Spratlen responded by saying she had read the study but did not indicate that she agreed or disagreed with its findings — a response that sufferers on the call later described as “invalidating.”

That sounds like her role was to get them to accept their predicament. I suspect that she was appointed to deliver that message, and the "sufferers" don't like it. Here, read her Wikipedia page. What relevant expertise does she have... other than as an appropriate person to inspire quiet acceptance of the FBI study?

Marc Polymeropoulos, a former senior CIA officer who says he was hit by Havana Syndrome in Russia in 2017, wrote Tuesday on Twitter that declining to rule out the “mass hysteria” theory was “insulting to victims and automatically disqualifying” from leading the task force.

At least tell us we're not crazy. 

ADDED: Here's the Polymeropoulos tweet:

September 22, 2021

The western view at 6:52 a.m.

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Talk about whatever you want in the comments.

"As 'Norwegian Wood' played faintly on a crappy stereo, Courtney led me down a short hallway to the bedroom."

"I got to the door and opened it to find Kurt lying in a little bed in a little room, his back against the wall, facing the doorway, his shocking blue eyes gazing at me through the subdued lighting. His bare feet stuck out past the bedsheets, and his toenails were painted a rosy hue. The smell of jasmine flowers wafted through the screen of the window above his head. To this day, whenever I smell jasmine I’m transported to that moment. 'Hi,' he said, and two things struck me instantly. The first was: oh, wow, I know this guy. He wasn’t some sort of rock-and-roll space alien—he was actually like a lot of the stoners I went to high school with. (I was kind of a stoner in high school myself.)... I asked Kurt what he was like as a kid, and he said something about being small for his age. I stood up, unfurled my wiry five-foot-six-inch frame, and said, in a theatrically manly voice, 'I don’t know what you’re talking about!' We exchanged smiles, and our bond grew from there. Somehow I got to talking about Arlo Guthrie’s 'The Motorcycle Song' and how I’d play it on the family record player and run around the house pretending I was a motorcycle. And Kurt said, 'I did that, too!'"

"Biden slips into political quicksand amid Haitian migrant buildup."

A clickbait headline at Politico. 

From the article: 
The White House condemned footage of Border Patrol agents on horseback appearing to use reins to deter Haitian migrants, which drew blowback from the agents themselves. 
In sharply visceral terms, the national Border Patrol union blasted the White House on Tuesday, characterizing it as inept for failing to have a plan in place to deal with the influx of some 15,000 migrants that left agents overwhelmed.... 
“We’re outnumbered by 200 to one. We’re put into a situation where we’re in between people — there’s a propensity for violence when there’s large crowds. We’re expected to control that,” [Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council] said. “We don’t strike anybody. We used the tactic we were trained with — and the White House vilified us.”

"There is a whole vein of British music that usually gets called 'music hall' when bad critics talk about it..."

"... even though it owes nothing to the music that was actually performed in actual music halls. But what it does owe a great deal to is the work of Anthony Newley. One can draw a direct line from him through Davy Jones of the Monkees, Bowie, Syd Barrett, Ray Davies, Ian Dury, Blur… even a performer like John Lydon, someone who would seem worlds away from Newley’s showbiz sheen, has far more of his influence in his vocal inflections than most would acknowledge. Every time you hear a singer referred to as 'quintessentially British,' you’re probably hearing someone who is either imitating Newley, or imitating someone who was imitating Newley."

From a bonus episode of "A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs," "'Strawberry Fair' by Anthony Newley."

This was a surprisingly interesting episode. It just came up in the order of things, and I was in no mood to get interested in Anthony Newley, but I let it run. Here's an old video I dug up on my own in which he and Joan Rivers are discussing whether it's good to be a rock star:

"In theory — or in a kindlier, alternative universe — exercise would aid substantially in weight loss."

Writes Gretchen Reynolds in "Your Workout Burns Fewer Calories Than You Think/Our bodies compensate for at least a quarter of the calories we expend during exercise, undermining our best efforts to lose weight by working out" (NYT).

Only someone who has lived a most privileged life could imagine that the world would be kinder if human bodies shed weight rapidly when working hard. It is kindly of the universe to have created bodies that compensate — conserve energy — when we exercise. 

In Reynolds's imagined kindly universe, all the many human beings — throughout history and prehistory — who have struggled to find sufficient food would have had a harder time staying alive and putting strong effort into hunting, gathering, farming, and food storage and preparation. She's simply forgotten about these people and is thinking only of us privileged people of today who have all the food we want and put so little energy into acquiring it that we force ourselves into exercise programs solely to burn off the extra fat we no longer see as protection from starvation. 

Ironically, if Reynolds's kindlier universe had existed all along, it's likely that someone —ages ago — would have died and ended the line of ancestry that resulted in her — and all of our — existence. 

Let us honor the universe that has given us bodies with this wonderful capacity to compensate when we increase our energy consumption. And if we feel inclined to bemoan the extra fat we carry around and can't easily exercise off, let us recognize the immense privilege that fat represents. We live in luxury. 

The statues that were torn down last summer — "Forward" and Hans Christian Heg — were restored to the Wisconsin state capitol square yesterday.

 From the Wisconsin State Journal: 

[O]n June 23, 2020, as protesters battered the “Forward” statue. A deep boom followed as the roughly one-ton bronze piece fell to the ground. Hundreds cheered. Shortly after, protesters tore down the Heg statue....
The night of unrest was prompted by the arrest of a local Black activist earlier that day after he walked into a restaurant carrying a baseball bat and swore at customers through a bullhorn.... 
The “Forward” statue, a replica of the original that is stored in the state archives, suffered abrasion damage from being pulled through the street, and some of the figure’s fingers broke off when the statue initially fell, [bronze fabricator Jay Jurma] said. The replica was also covered in red paint, a challenge to remove. 
The Heg statue was “far more severely damaged,” Jurma said. When protesters pulled it down, one of the legs detached from the rest of the statue, the base became twisted and the whole statue became crooked, as if Heg were leaning forward. At some point the statue’s head came off. What remained of the statue was filled with mud from Lake Monona. 

I did not realize the statues were about to be reinstalled. I'd been seeing the empty plinths, covered in plywood, for so long and felt outraged that the restoration had not yet occurred. Why wasn't it more of a political issue? What an awful sight — that blank plywood. What dismal symbolism.

That said, I do understand the protest. In that video and elsewhere, there are expressions of the idea that the protesters were ill-informed about the meaning of the statues and therefore made a mistake in targeting them. Quite aside from whether it's bad to destroy art and to damage public property, the protesters picked the wrong statues because Hans Christian Heg fought and gave his life for the abolitionist cause and "Forward" symbolizes the state's progressive values.

But the protesters had a theory of systemic racism, so the outward appearance of progressivism is part of the problem. To tear down the statues expresses outrage at the veneer of enlightenment that disguises and therefore facilitates the underlying evil. 

September 21, 2021

Heavy cloudscape at 6:46 a.m.

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"For many years, Yusuf Islam has been pretending he didn’t say the things he said in 1989, when he enthusiastically supported the Iranian terrorist edict against me and others."

"However, his words are on the record, in print interviews and on television programs. … I’m afraid Cat Stevens got off the peace train a long time ago.”:


Fishman, who is a culture writer, and who clearly wants to be able to indulge himself in the pleasures of listening to the wonderful old Cat Stevens recordings, goes on to say:

"... I’ve got a calling in life. And that is to inspire Americans to venture beyond Orlando. The practical goal is to get people who have been to Disney World four or five times to try Portugal. It won’t bite you...."

"I make dad jokes, and I’m a sucker for alliteration. I think people want to be put at ease. Like, it’s O.K. to be a little dorky. It’s O.K. to laugh in a museum. You can be looking at the 'PietĂ ' and you can still laugh.... For a lot of people, their default is, 'O.K., I want to drink, and my favorite drink is this Martini.' Well, you’ve got to get away from that when you’re travelling, O.K.? The question is not, Where can I get my drink? but, What do local people drink here?... When I’m in Greece, I go for a glass of ouzo. I never come home after a long day of work in Seattle and think, I’d like a nice cloudy glass of ouzo. That’s almost ridiculous.... When I’m in Belgium, I like a milkshakey, rich, monk-made beer. When I’m in Prague, I like a nice refreshing Pilsner. When I go to Tuscany, it’s a full-bodied glass of vino rosso. I don’t think I’ve ever made a pot of tea here in my house. It makes no sense to me. But when I’m in England, a spot of tea after a nice day of sightseeing feels just right. When I’m in Scotland, I have a little shot of whisky each night. This is a very beverage-forward world philosophy."

He's saying to timid Americans that they can be "cultural chameleons," and what does it really matter if they blend in from the point of view of the people of the traveled-to environment? They're getting tipsy — getting woozy — on the local beverage and with the encouragement of the ultra-accessible travel writer, their drink is a magic potion. Disney serves up the magic in Florida, but you can — you really should — go to Europe and drink your mind into a magical state....

 

What's the difference really — where you go or what you do to manipulate your mind? You could stream a Disney movie right there on this screen — why not that one in the clip? It's set in Scotland. Sip a glass of Scotch and travel the glens and moorlands of your mind.

"My teachers were always, like, ‘Who’s going to wear this? Who’s your customer?’ And I would say, ‘I hope I don’t know who my customer is, because they shouldn’t exist yet.'..."

"Reed describes himself as gender fluid: 'Not bang-smack in the middle of male and female, but fluid—literally anywhere on the pendulum.' Though Reed had been calling himself gay since he was nine, he began to struggle with the identity in London: 'I didn’t feel like I was a gay man. I didn’t feel like my gender fit. I didn’t feel represented by it.' For the first time, he had friends who were transgender or pansexual. 'I started meeting all these people that felt so confident expressing themselves in different ways,' he said. 'That’s when I came into the idea that being gender fluid suited me.' He adopted 'they/them' pronouns, though he was flexible. 'If I was doing stuff in Russia, it would be "she,"' Reed told me. 'If I was doing things in Latin America, it would be "he." And in very woke America and England it would always be
"they."' Embracing gender fluidity as an identity allowed Reed to preserve indeterminacy while also rejecting stereotypical categories of masculinity and femininity as they pertain to power and beauty....  Earlier this year, Reed returned to going by 'he/him.' He had grown concerned that the concept of gender fluidity, rather than being a liberation, might be its own limiting categorization.... Switching back to masculine pronouns was occasionally fraught; Reed discovered that some people were more certain about how he should be referred to than he was. But he held firm: 'I was, like, "I don’t owe anyone fucking anything—I’m just me."'"

ADDED: Notice the idea that the fluid gender flowed differently within different human cultures — Russian, Latin American, and Woke America. That makes sense. 

Gender doesn't exist within the individual alone: It's a relationship you have with the world around you. It's not possible to feel you are male or female without examples out there of other human animals expressing themselves in ways they are calling male and female, and the humans do that differently in different places, at least as Reed experienced it. 

Of course, he is also a participant in commerce, and in the commerce of fashion, the designer is integral the sales pitch, and it's savvy to vary the pitch for the customer... even when you're saying enigmatic things like My customer shouldn’t exist yet

Shouldn't! That's funny. Absurd authoritarianism.

"Just hours after the Spanish island of La Palma rumbled and the volcano erupted, a theory about its wider repercussions began to gain strength, again."

"And despite the fact that the authorities, professionals, the Instituto VulcanolĂłgico de Canarias and geologists from the National Geographical Institute deny it, the aftershocks of these claims continue to be felt.... According to the theory, if the island were to split in two, it would create a wall of water that would reach the coast of Portugal and southwestern Spain, which both lie to the north east. The waves could be up to 25 meters high, and would even cause damage to the south of England further north and then to the west they would reach the North American coast, as well as 'destroy the West African coast with waves of up to 100 meters,' according to the research."


"The plumber placed the camcorder he used to record the beating up for auction last July for $225,000."

"Though it is unclear if it ever sold, [George] Holliday said that he never profited from the video...."

Have you been following the news? They say an Indiana man kept calling 911 to say that he is tired.

Are you tired? 

"This T-shirt has a straightforward message: 'i put ketchup on my ketchup.'"

"Now, that’s the statement of somebody who is seriously in love with ketchup. It kind of teases those Americans who put ketchup on everything, but I find it interesting that one of the companies that distribute these shirts is none other than Heinz. A little self-deprecatory humor going on here, but you can’t help feeling the American spirit in it, the optimistic, cheerful lack of introspection that says, 'Who cares about being sophisticated! I’m gonna do what I want!'"

I appreciate Murakami's appreciation of Americans, and I just used the rhetorical device the T-shirt uses. It's something I talked about before, back in 2019, prompted by a quote from Walt Whitman: "I live here in a ruin of debris—a ruin of ruins." 

I blogged that because I'd recently seen the idea of a cult following with a cult following:
This could be the kind of joke I've seen many times over the years. I remember hearing it long ago when some character on TV (I think it was Gidget's unattractive female friend [Larue]) said she was so excited her "goosebumps have goosebumps." 

That made a big impression on me when I was a teenager — "My goosebumps have goosebumps." Even at the time, I think, I wondered Is this a good template for humor or is it too dumb? 

One answer is Who cares about being sophisticated! I’m gonna do what I want!

September 20, 2021

A walk around Lockerbie Square.

I'm back home now, but I was in Indianapolis for a few days. Some photos from the Lockerbie Square Historic District. The last picture is the home of the "Hoosier Poet" James Whitcomb Riley (which got me to recite "Little Orphant Annie," something I've known by heart for more than 60 years):

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"In his later years, however, he spoke and wrote at length not only about his belief in God but also, with more reluctance, about his opposition to abortion."

"('I don’t like saying it because it’s unpopular,' he said on Dennis Miller’s radio program.)... His comedy was remarkably free of malice, and in recent years it was marked by startling displays of mercy and humility.... By the end of his life, Mr. Macdonald seemed to have abandoned even his well-known animus against O.J. Simpson. 'All he’s guilty of to me,' he said on a Comedy Central program in 2019, was of being 'the greatest rusher in the history of the N.F.L. Maybe I was the greatest rusher — to judgment.'... Perhaps the most obviously Christian element of Mr. Macdonald’s legacy was his quiet acceptance of what we now know were nine years of cancer, from which he died without acknowledging his illness in public.... Unlike secular ethical systems — stoicism, for example — Christianity almost uniquely invites its adherents to find value in suffering because it allows us to unite ourselves with Christ in his Crucifixion.... In the early centuries of the church, Christians were mocked by their pagan fellow citizens for a kind of blithe silliness that reminded them of drunkards. Even in his final years of pain, Mr. Macdonald, too, exhibited an almost Falstaffian joie de vivre. 'At times, the joy that life attacks me with is unbearable and leads to gasping hysterical laughter,' he told his Twitter followers in 2018. 'How could a man be a cynic? It is a sin.'"

From "Norm Macdonald’s Comedy Was Quite Christian" by Matthew Walther (NYT).

"Little People, Big Dreams is series of illustrated books for kids of five and over that tells the life stories of what it considers history’s admirable men and women..."

"... Darwin, Mary Shelley, Marie Curie, Malala, Elton John, RuPaul… The books imagine what these high-achieving adults were like as children: bright-eyed and bravely refusing to be cowed. The back of each book explains the conceit: 'All of [these people] achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream.'... It’s just plain untrue to say that the men and women of history started out by fantasising about some great achievement. Marie Curie didn’t spend her time hankering for a Nobel Prize, she just got on with studying the science. In no possible world was John Lennon 'the boy from Liverpool who dreamed of peace.' Lennon as a child, in his own words, ‘did my best to disrupt every friend’s home.' What unites great men and women isn’t a capacity to dream big but a love of what they do and a capacity for sheer graft.... [There's a] weird 21st-century idea that childish things are especially virtuous, and that it’s noble, not deluded, to dream of greatness...."

From "Is it cruel to crush your child’s dreams?" Mary Wakefield (The Spectator).

"A woman who speaks 'perfect English' has been found on a rock in the sea off a Croatian island but is unable to say who she is or how she got there."

"The woman, thought to be in her sixties, was covered in cuts and bruises when she was spotted by a fisherman on the craggy outcrop on the isle of Krk. She was on her own crying.... Officials said she had no passport, papers or phone....  A resident who lives near by [said]: 'It’s weird that she was in the area at all. It is an extremely inaccessible part of the bay with terribly sharp rocks — literally razors that cut the rubber on your shoes. There is no life or animals except maybe wild boars or bears which know how to swim here in search of food, but this is a rarity because there is no food, nothing. A woman that age certainly could not swim that distance, it needs exceptional strength.'"

"A man in his 50s with red hair and a beard allegedly approached another man to ask him if he wanted to help him 'take people.'"

"The man called the Kalispell Police Department to report the redhead who didn’t give any other specifics. A very intoxicated man seen lying on the ground reportedly turned down a bartender’s offer to call him a cab after they closed up for the night. The man did not want help from law enforcement either.... A white car containing a dog had reportedly been parked near garbage cans for two days and someone claimed they didn’t see the dog let out once.... Someone asked officers to check on the welfare of a teenage hitchhiker they picked up on the bypass and dropped off at a bike path. They said he was on a skateboard and was trying to get to Lakeside. Officers made contact with the skateboarder who was OK."
 
I don't know. There doesn't seem to be much news this morning. I'm reading The Daily Interlake police report and feeling vaguely encouraged.

"The Indictment of Hillary Clinton's Lawyer is an Indictment of the Russiagate Wing of U.S. Media."

 Writes Glenn Greenwald (at Substack).

The FBI... quickly concluded that there was no evidentiary basis to believe any of it.... The central role played by the U.S. media in perpetuating this scam on the public — all with the goal of manipulating the election outcome — is hard to overstate....

September 19, 2021

At the Confabulation Café...

... have a seat and talk all night.

The notion that it's an unfair burden on the black students of Madison to attend a school with the name Madison on it.

One of our high schools here in Madison is called James Madison Memorial High School, and, because Madison owned slaves, the School Board set up a committee to change that name — the name of the school not the name of the city. 

Now, the Wisconsin State Journal reports on the 4 finalists in the naming process. Those behind the petition to change the name were pushing for Vel Phillips Memorial High School. Vel Phillips, a black woman, was successful in Wisconsin politics. But Vel Phillips Memorial High School is listed 3rd in the committee's ranking.

In first place is Bruce Dahmen Memorial High School. Who was Bruce Dahmen? He's a white man, so you might think that would exclude him. But he was the school's principal from 2004 until his death in 2014. I suppose we'll need to hear all about this man's character and reputation, including from those who are pumping for Vel Phillips. 

In second place is Memorial High School. Of all the effrontery! Just not honoring anyone at all! I like that solution. I've always heard the school called Memorial High School, and the other high schools here have neutral names — West High School and East High School. Memorial High School solves the stated problem — eliminating the recognition of James Madison. 

A physician in Texas has violated the new abortion law and he wants his action to be public knowledge.

Alan Braid explains why in The Washington Post:
Newly graduated from the University of Texas medical school, I began my obstetrics and gynecology residency at a San Antonio hospital on July 1, 1972.... At the hospital that year, I saw three teenagers die from illegal abortions. One I will never forget. When she came into the ER, her vaginal cavity was packed with rags. She died a few days later from massive organ failure, caused by a septic infection....

"The painted zebra rug needs to stay - It really ties the room together."

Says a commenter — referencing "The Big Lebowski" — at "What a Spectacularly Decrepit Greenwich Village Apartment" — a New York Magazine piece about "a totally decrepit one-bedroom, for an asking price of $685,000, on West 11th Street... a gut-reno kind of place."

I say buy it and live in it just how it is. Cherish it.

What if they gave a riot and nobody came?

I'm seeing this in the NYT:
Fewer than 100 right-wing demonstrators, sharply outnumbered by an overwhelming police presence and even by reporters, gathered at the foot of the Capitol on Saturday to denounce what they called the mistreatment of “political prisoners” who had stormed the building on Jan. 6.
It was, we're told, "peaceful." Maybe it wouldn't have been so small and so peaceful if only the government hadn't prepared so well:
Where only movable metal barriers stood between a mob and the Capitol on Jan. 6, layers of newly erected fence and dump trucks lined end to end guarded the building. Mounted police, absent eight months ago, now stood at the ready. Riot shields were stacked at Capitol entrances, and law enforcement from the capital region, including the Virginia State Police and the police departments for Fairfax County in Virginia and Prince George’s County in Maryland, arrived with armored cars. One hundred National Guard troops from the District of Columbia were also on alert. 

Was that ridiculous or a demonstration of why they say "If you want peace, prepare for war." 

My post title is a variation on another old saying: "What if they gave a war and nobody came?" 

I went down a rathole looking for the source of that saying, which I just remember from common speech in the late 60s/early 70s. I won't bore you with the arguments that it originated with Allen Ginsberg, Bertolt Brecht, or Carl Sandburg. I'll just say that the attribution to Brecht is the most scurrilous — written in German, mistranslated. And the Sandburg reference is the oldest, though not verbatim: "Sometime they'll give a war and nobody will come."

"It is almost as if President Franklin D. Roosevelt had stuffed his entire New Deal into one piece of legislation, or if President Lyndon B. Johnson had done the same with his Great Society, instead of pushing through individual components over several years."

Writes Jim Tankersley in "Biden’s Entire Presidential Agenda Rests on Expansive Spending Bill/A plan for the economy, education, immigration, climate and more binds disparate Democratic lawmakers, but the proposal risks sinking under its own weight" (NYT). 
If Mr. Biden’s party cannot find consensus on those issues and the bill dies, the president will have little immediate recourse to advance almost any of those priorities.... Republicans say the breadth of the bill shows that Democrats are trying to drastically shift national policy without full debate on individual proposals.... 
Ted Kaufman, a longtime aide to Mr. Biden who helped lead his presidential transition team, said the core of the bill went back much further: to a set of newsprint brochures that campaign volunteers delivered across Delaware in 1972, when Mr. Biden won an upset victory for a Senate seat.... 
Margie Omero, a principal at the Democratic polling firm GBAO, which has polled on the bill for progressive groups, said the ambition of the package was a selling point that Democrats should press as a contrast with Republicans in midterm elections. “People feel like the country is going through a lot of crises, and that we need to take action,” she said....

You know the old saying: Do something, everything. Including whatever was in those 1972 Delaware newsprint brochures. Come on, man! Biden's waited half a century to do whatever it was he claimed he wanted to do when he was 30. We've got to just do it in one fell swoop or none of it will ever get done. It's all or nothing. Take it or leave it. Don't you love it when your options are presented to you so clearly?

“This is our moment to prove to the American people that their government works for them, not just for the big corporations and those at the very top,” Mr. Biden said on Thursday. He added, “This is an opportunity to be the nation we know we can be.”

I'll accept his assurances if he'll explain what's in the bill and proves that he knows what he's talking about. And what is "the nation we know we can be"? Other than the one that is governed by people who support what they don't even begin to understand, because why not just combine everything into one inscrutable package? Actually, I do know we can be that, and it scares me.

By the way, it was only last April that I blogged a NYT article with this passage:

Invoking the legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mr. Biden unveiled a $1.8 trillion social spending plan to accompany previous proposals to build roads and bridges, expand other social programs and combat climate change, representing a fundamental reorientation of the role of government not seen since the days of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society and Roosevelt’s New Deal.
The Times used the same comparison to LBJ and FDR and it was only $1.8 trillion. It's $3.5 trillion now! Who knew you could equal the Great Society or the New Deal spending a mere half of what they're proposing now? This new thing is like the Great Society PLUS the New Deal.