October 23, 2021

Sunrise — 7:23, 7:25.



"A trans woman who transitioned late, in her fifties for example, who benefited from being treated as a man and paid as a man throughout her career, could really skew the figures."

"It makes the data inherently unreliable. It is unsafe as a matter of principle. The idea behind the sex pay gap is to identify systemic sex-based discrimination and rectify it. That’s the idea. It’s to right the historical wrong of women being underpaid."

Said the barrister Akua Reindorf, quoted in "Biggest firms won’t record sex of bosses under diversity plans/Identifying as a woman is enough in proposals from regulator ‘captured by Stonewall'" (London Times).

Stonewall is an LGBTQ group that wants "woman" defined to include anyone who identifies as a woman and to require companies to make statements about the number of women in their leadership positions. Reindorf is pointing out a conflict between transgender goals and traditional feminist goals. 

"If your home has more than one level, consider inverting the traditional layout."

"Admittedly, you might never get used to the idea of declaring 'I’m going downstairs to bed,' but in most other respects it makes a lot of sense, unlocking the light and views for the living spaces, and using the naturally darker areas lower down the building for sleeping."

From "Mismatch plates and hang art low: 18 ways to create a more beautiful home" (The Guardian).

No one will do this, but it's a funny idea. Another way to get natural dark for sleeping is just do your sleeping at night. But that's too easy! I guess I can imagine a building where the upstairs could work as the main living area. I've lived on the ground floor of a 4-story brownstone where the owners occupied the middle 2 floors and there was a nice stairway up to the second floor. We had an entrance that went underneath that stairway. If the owners had taken the bottom 2 floors instead of the middle 2 floors, it would have made sense to put the bedrooms on the lower floor. But they did not make that choice! That's the thing. The bedrooms under the main floor would be weird. So how would that be better for sleeping?

"In early Oct., a 'F--- Joe Biden!' cry broke out among the crowd at Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway."

"Kelli Stavast, an NBC Sports reporter, was interviewing NASCAR driver Brandon Brown live on air at the time, and she quipped, 'You can hear the chants from the crowd, "Let’s go Brandon!"' Trump supporters instantly saw signs of a coverup, claiming on social media that journalists were deliberately censoring anti-Biden sentiment. The brief video exchange quickly turned viral. The result has been a proliferation of chants in recent weeks, both of 'Let’s go Brandon!' — now used as a stand-in by the Trump faithful — and the more vulgar original, sometimes shorthanded as 'FJB.' Trump’s Save America PAC has even begun selling a $45 T-shirt featuring Biden’s black-and-white visage above the phrase 'Let’s go Brandon.' And the PAC sent a message to supporters that read, '#FJB or LET’S GO BRANDON? Either way, President Trump wants YOU to have our ICONIC new shirt.'... The vitriol has even entered the House chamber. Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) wrapped up a floor speech this week with the sign-off, 'Let’s go Brandon.'..."

From "Biden’s critics hurl increasingly vulgar taunts" (WaPo).

I've avoided talking about the "Let's go Brandon" trend. It irks me, because I favor civility. But I'm blogging this, because I police what I call "civility bullshit," which is the expression of concern by those who hope to suppress what they fear is the effective rowdy speech of their opponents and who will revert to defending and enjoying such speech when it's coming from their side. 

"In the Hobbesian formula, the Leviathan relies upon fear to suppress pride. It is pride that makes men difficult to govern."

"It may be illuminating to view our Covid moment through this lens and consider how small moments of humiliation may be put in the service of a long-standing political project, or find their meaning and normative force in it. Specifically, to play one’s part in Covid theatre, as in security theatre at the airport, is to suffer the unique humiliation of a rational being who submits to moments of social control that he knows to be founded upon untruths. That these are expressed in the language of science is especially grating. We need to consider the good faith intellectual positions that greased the skids for our slide into an illiberal form of governance. For, in addition to the political opportunism surrounding Covid, there were also well-meaning efforts to control the pandemic by altering people’s behaviour. The question is: what were the means employed for doing this, and what was the view of human beings that made such means attractive? What we got, in the end, without anyone really intending it, may fairly be called a propaganda state that seeks to manipulate without persuading...."

"The new public health despotism/Draconian rules are suppressing our humanity"
 by Matthew B. Crawford. There's much more at the link, but let me give you a little more below the fold:

"Attorney General Merrick Garland is, like Mueller before him, a diligent institutionalist. And while the institutionalists are not to be faulted for..."

"... attempting to prop up institutions—answering chaos with chaos is not an option—it is now amply clear that propping up institutions in response to the carnival is not enough. As Garland’s testimony Thursday morning revealed, the big lie is already going to be halfway across the world while the institutionalists are still double-knotting their loafers. When we comforted ourselves with the bromide that boring old institutionalists and reliably respected institutions would serve to cool the fever dreams and the fearmongering that characterized every day of the Trump administration, what we forgot was that boringness and stability are no match for the show. Garland is currently attempting to restore confidence in an independent, professionalized, apolitical Department of Justice, but he is doing so in the face of claims by his opponents that the DOJ is the new KGB and that its jackbooted thugs are coming to arrest you in the dark of night for expressing peaceful opposition to a classroom curriculum.... Garland is well aware that decreasing confidence in the Justice Department is a crisis that will accelerate acts of violence and self-help. That’s why he’s trying to bore us into believing that nothing nefarious can really happen on the watch of a silver-haired man with earnest centrism. The problem is that to the bulk of the GOP, anything done to uphold the rule of law now codes as nefarious. The trouble with boringness is that it’s boring.... But nobody craves boring sincerity anymore.... I used to believe that answering hysteria with vanilla bean–flavored institutionalism would restore confidence in institutions."

Writes Dahlia Lithwick in "Why Merrick Garland Can’t Win" (Slate). 

I have a lot of problems with that!

1. No one is "still double-knotting their loafers." Loafers are, by definition, slip-on shoes. No laces at all.

2. Vanilla is a very real, exciting, and complex flavor. I happen to have a very low sense of smell, and I test it from time to time by sniffing at the bottle of vanilla. I remember the smell, and oh, how I would love to smell it in its full-bodied beauty once again. Tears come to my eyes as I imagine that moment. 

3. Nobody craves boring sincerity anymore? I do.

4. Even if people find boring to be boring, we love boringness very deeply, even if it's a don't-miss-your-water-'til-the-well-runs-dry kind of love. We hate chaos. And Lithwick's incitement to chaos is loathsome to me because I have the sense to foresee the long-term losses to a short-term fling with chaos. 

"Once M.I.T. starts choosing speakers based on their public stances, it becomes responsible for every stance of every speaker it does invite. Isn’t that a bigger risk for M.I.T. than a stance-neutral policy?"

A tersely brilliant question framed by Ilya Shlyakhter, published in "Letters: Canceled by M.I.T.: The Professor’s Talk" (NYT).

It could become impossible to invite anyone anywhere, because something could turn up post-invitation and you'd need to pull off the awkward, conspicuous act of revoking the invitation. It could become impossible to accept an invitation, because you're asking for anyone to search through whatever there might be out there that could be used against you, throwing your life into total disarray.

ADDED: I'm searching the NYT and finding a lot of letters to the editor from Ilya Shlyakhter. I'll highlight a few:

"The neighborhood’s camera opponents argued that the systems were a pointless, Orwellian annoyance they didn’t want greeting them every time they drove home."

"To them, the cameras felt like another step toward mass suburban paranoia, where every once-forgettable slight is now recorded by Ring doorbell cameras, shared on Facebook and discussed endlessly on Nextdoor. But the cameras’ supporters said... [g]oing soft on crime could put their families at risk... and no one on public roads should expect privacy, anyway.... 'You would think we were living in a war zone,' said [Michele] Lawrence, 55. 'We have neighbors who have fortressed their houses in Ring cameras, and it’s gotten them nowhere — and nothing, except this false sense of panic. It creeps me out.'... Tensions boiled over at community meetings, said [David Paul] Appell, who recalled the head of the pro-camera faction screaming that an opponent was 'chusma' — Cuban Spanish for 'low class.' ... Camera supporters griped that opponents were naive, penny-pinching Luddites.... And the critics griped that they were being transformed into a surveillance state thanks largely to one board member notorious for repeatedly — and, to them, unnecessarily — calling the police."

From "License plate scanners were supposed to bring peace of mind. Instead they tore the neighborhood apart/A battle among homeowners in the Colorado mountains shows how a new generation of surveillance technology is reshaping American neighborhoods" (WaPo).

It's hard to know which side is right. Once lots of people — making their own individual decision — have put in Ring doorbells, you're arguing for privacy that's already gone, and it's mostly about money. The article says the license-plate-scanning cameras cost $2,500 a year. What's each person's share of that and how does that loss compare to what you're losing through crime? You're losing peace of mind through crime, even if no one steals anything from your car. But if we're talking about the value of your emotional state, we need to put a dollar amount on the feeling that you've got less privacy, even if your privacy was already shot to hell.

I learned a new word, "chusma." From the Urban Dictionary:

October 22, 2021

At the Friday Night Café...

October 22, 2021 sunrise

 ... I'm making soup. What are you up to?

"Singapore’s otters are... testament to Singapore’s reforestation and ­anti-pollution efforts. When the otters resettled here in 2014..."

"... they returned to clean waterways with schools of fish untouched by predators for decades. The city has since implemented an ambitious plan to interweave green and urban ­areas, including creating wildlife corridors so that every resident will live within a 10-minute walk of a park by 2030. 'It doesn’t have to be a concrete jungle,' said Anbarasi Boopal, the co-CEO of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, Singapore’s wildlife rescue center. 'Singapore has a huge potential to be a new model for where greenery, animals and people can learn to live in close proximity... There will be resistance. We are so used to having everything presented to us so nicely.... I tell people, we cannot train the animals. I cannot train the monkey. But I can train you.'"

From "Otters are taking over Singapore" (WaPo).

Would you co-exist with otters?

"[T]he United States is in the midst of a spiritual reboot. Just look at the stats: Four in ten millennials no longer identify with any religion..."

"But while people are leaving organized religion in droves, Americans are still hungry for spiritual nourishment.... Astrology and other psychic services are booming, and the pandemic has only accelerated the trend of consumers seeking out mysticism. Psychedelics fit perfectly into this new framework.... 'Our religious and spiritual institutions have become hollowed-out shells. They’re bereft, in a way, and a lot of people want something more than that—an affirmation to their intuition that there’s something beyond ordinary day-to-day life,' says [ethnopharmacologist Dennis] McKenna... [T]he same religions that people are today abandoning were themselves, [according to Brian Muraresku, author of The Immortality Key: The Secret History of the Religion With No Name], built on the foundation of psychedelic mysticism. In his book, he advances a renegade academic theory that claims the original sacraments of Western civilization, born in ancient Greece, were spiked with primitive, mind-altering drugs. Annual pilgrimages were made to an ancient city called Eleusia to participate in secret ceremonies where adherents consumed a potion, kykeon, that contained ergot, the same fungus that Albert Hofmann used to synthesize LSD. Similar rituals and sacraments were then adopted by the earliest Christians sects, which suggests that Christianity itself was potentially founded on a psychedelic sacrament."

"There is a narrative out there that people sat on the El train, and watched this transpire and took videos of it for their own gratification."

"That is simply not true — it did not happen."

Said District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer of Delaware County, quoted in "Prosecutor Casts Doubt on Account of Train Passengers Not Intervening in Rape/A local prosecutor disputed accounts, put forth by other authorities, that passengers on the train near Philadelphia had watched the assault happen and done nothing in response" (NYT). 

This is the first time I'm blogging about this incident. I held back because I couldn't see that the initial report was fact-based and people seemed to just snap it up and run with it.

"Terms like 'curb alert' or 'first come first serve' are discouraged. You are not putting your stuff on the street hoping someone claims it..."

"... before the trash truck comes. Instead, you are intentionally 'gifting' your possessions.... [M]embers are not allowed to trade or barter, as each object is seen as a gift independent of anything else.... The giver is encouraged to let an offer 'simmer' for a period of time, selecting a recipient for some reason other than being the fastest one to reply. Members who raise their hands ask to 'be considered,' and may offer a compelling reason for wanting, say, a table lamp. Or maybe they’re asked to tell a joke, or pick a number, and a winner is chosen.... Ms. Lightman... has given.... a fish taco that she ordered but did not eat, and dirty water from her 30-gallon fish tank. Her husband doubted that anyone would want dirty fish water. But he was quickly proved wrong, as the nutrient-rich brew makes for excellent fertilizer."

Sublime sunrise.

October 22, 2021 sunrise

That happened at 7:19 this morning.

"... Simon and Garfunkel also played a high-profile gig at Gerde’s Folk City in the Village, and a couple of shows at the Gaslight Cafe. The audiences there, though, regarded them as a complete joke..."

"... Dave Van Ronk would later relate that for weeks afterwards, all anyone had to do was sing 'Hello darkness, my old friend,' for everyone around to break into laughter. Bob Dylan was one of those who laughed at the performance — though Robert Shelton later said that Dylan hadn’t been laughing at them, specifically, he’d just had a fit of the giggles — and this had led to a certain amount of anger from Simon towards Dylan."

That's from the podcast "A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs," "Episode 135: 'The Sound of Silence' by Simon and Garfunkel." 

I've never been much of a Simon and Garfunkel fan, though, of course, I've often enjoyed listening to their songs. They did seem self-absorbedly gloomy, and I completely identify with the people who thought it was funny to intone — out of the blue — "Hello darkness, my old friend." I have a vivid memory from 1965, when "I Am a Rock" was a hit, and I was 14. I was with some of my girlfriends and a boy from our class, walking by, suddenly and, I think sincerely, sang out "I Am a Rock." Oh, how we laughed at him! It still makes me laugh. You're a rock, are you? That's so interesting. I guess if he was a rock, our derision didn't hurt him.

Knowing little of S&G's background, I learned a lot from that episode:

Believe the science... of astrology.

The Salt Lake County Health Department gives us this: Is that okay because it's sort of a joke or all in good fun or a possibly effective way to stimulate a competition to get your group to win? But it reinforces superstition and channels people into fantasy, and it might cause some people to become more resistant to getting the vaccination. It's easy to imagine a Scorpio identifying with a rebel image and leaning into it.

I got there via The Washington Post, which has a headline that isn't grounded in science but is perfectly supportive of astrology believers: "What does your star sign say about your covid vaccination status? One Utah county crunched the numbers. Leos are apparently most likely to be vaccinated, and Scorpios the least. An astrologer weighs in."

I know WaPo will defend itself by claiming astrology is just for fun and it's a relaxing diversion from all the sad news. And surely its readers know astrology isn't science. They can dabble in astrology and then get back to following real science. 

From WaPo:

"Had it been a lightning strike? A release of carbon monoxide or other gases from nearby abandoned mines? Exposure to cyanide? Suicide?"

"One by one, all of these theories were ruled out. For two months, the deaths remained a mystery. But on Thursday, sheriff’s deputies in Mariposa, a small mountain town east of San Jose that serves as a gateway to the Sierra National Forest and Yosemite National Park, announced they had finally identified the cause: heat."

What was presented as something highly mysterious turned out to be utterly ordinary.

Alec Baldwin shot and killed the cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

I'm reading "Alec Baldwin Fatally Shoots Crew Member With Prop Firearm, Authorities Say" (NYT).
According to Ms. Hutchins’s website, she was originally from Ukraine and grew up on a Soviet military base in the Arctic Circle. She studied journalism in Ukraine and film in Los Angeles. She called herself a “restless dreamer” and an “adrenaline junkie” on her Instagram profile....

“Rust” is a movie about a 13-year-old boy who goes on the run with his estranged grandfather after the accidental killing of a local rancher....
How can it happen that a prop gun is loaded?
The shooting echoed an accident on a movie set in 1993 in which the actor Brandon Lee, Bruce Lee’s son, was shot and killed during a scene when a bullet that was lodged in the barrel of a gun was discharged along with a blank cartridge.
Here's one photo of Hutchins from her Instagram page:

ADDED: From Showbiz 411: 

"That this vision appeals to so many viewers, especially young ones, suggests a chilling and bleak perspective — on capitalism, on 'freedom,' on individual agency..."

"... that should stop us in our tracks.... Maybe the viewers of 'Squid Game' just thrill to the bold, cartoon-colored shock of it: Its visual and spiritual aesthetic are what you’d get if you crossed an episode of 'Teletubbies' with a highlights reel of Quentin Tarantino at his grisliest.... Then there’s the indiscriminate manner in which a huge hit becomes an even bigger phenomenon — a trend — divorced from its actual content.... The Times also published an article by Vanessa Friedman about how track suits were newly 'hot' because the 'Squid Game' contestants wear them (as a kind of prison uniform, mind you). The Times published another article, by Christina Morales, about the history of dalgona candy, which is a deadly prop in one of the series’s elimination contests. There was a link to instructions, by Genevieve Ko, on how to make it. In a week and a half, on Halloween, we’ll be bombarded by 'Squid Game' costumes.... To some extent, 'Squid Game' is big because it’s big, its first-burst popularity generating attention that begets even greater popularity as everyone wants in on the action and as a curiosity’s slippery tentacles reach farther and farther into people’s consciousness. But its commentary on class, greed and savagery is much too central to be incidental... [T]his portrait of life as a sadistic lottery and poverty as a hopeless torture chamber has resonance...."

1. Young people have been watching horror and violence for decades. Consumers have a taste for what they've consumed in the past. It's the kind of thing where to give more of the same, you have to give it more intensely and in a greater dose. The manufacturers of violent material do what they know they need to do to keep shocking.

2. But maybe it's not just a taste for horror and violence. Maybe it's the critique of capitalism that "has resonance." Bruni assumes that viewers begin with a gloomy attitude and that the show is confirming their pessimism. He does not consider the possibility that the show is anti-capitalism propaganda, designed to infect the mind of the young — not just to play with their pre-existing angst, but to direct their thinking.

3. Bruni provides some criticism of the New York Times. Once something is popular, it generates life-style articles that ride on the trend. He gives us some evidence, but doesn't observe the genderedness of this phenomenon. I can't help observing that his examples are articles written by women and the subjects — food and fashion — are stereotypically female. 

October 21, 2021

At the Thursday Night Café...


... you can talk about whatever you like.

An absurdly ambiguous headline: "Bannon only one of 19 not cooperating with Jan. 6 panel."

That's in The Washington Post.

That could mean that all 19 are refusing to cooperate or that Bannon is alone among the group. It's the latter, as you might guess, but the language is susceptible to the first interpretation. 

I am only one of many bloggers following this story, but I think I am the only one harping on the ambiguity of that headline. 

Funnier than "The Closer"?

ADDED: The video in the tweet got removed, but here's other video of the same scene that I found:

"M.I.T. has behaved disgracefully in capitulating to a politically motivated campaign. This is part of a larger trend of the politicization of science."

"Can we just be honest here? This is not happening because Dr. Abbot used a bit of especially vivid language. This is a legitimate subject of debate, and the argument that it makes students unsafe is risible."

Said Robert P. George, director of Princeton’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, quoted in "M.I.T.’s Choice of Lecturer Ignited Criticism. So Did Its Decision to Cancel. Dorian Abbot is a scientist who has opposed aspects of affirmative action. He is now at the center of an argument over free speech and acceptable discourse" (NYT).

You know, back in the 1980s, at the University of Wisconsin, I heard a Critical Race Theory professor take the position that affirmative action was a manifestation of systemic racism. That was a legitimate subject of debate for people who were developing the theory. But of course, I also heard professors — mainly white professors — actively suppressing debate. Affirmative action was the chosen policy, so don't dare say anything against it. Don't test it. 

But why not test everything — especially if your hypothesis is that white privilege is hidden inside whatever white people do? If the answer is that it makes black students feel unwelcome or unsafe, you ought to have to test that answer for hidden racism. Isn't it mostly white people demanding that their policy not be questioned? 

Look at this quote from Phoebe A. Cohen, a Williams College geosciences professor and department chair: "This idea of intellectual debate and rigor as the pinnacle of intellectualism comes from a world in which white men dominated."

Yes, and? Affirmative action comes from a world in which white men dominated. Test the idea. Test the idea of testing the idea. If you won't even do that, you are circling the drain.

It's been a long time since I've done a Sentence of the Day — diagram it if you dare! — but this one dropped out of the sky and cried for attention.

"If certain forms of Republican insouciance about Covid are forged in the fires of cultural resentment, in which you reject Faucian micromanagement by ditching masks and refusing the vaccine, certain forms of liberal overregulation seem forged in fear of red American contagion — in which we just have to mask our kids indefinitely, even though many other developed countries aren’t doing it, because we need to set an example of seriousness to shame all those red-state anti-maskers."

That was written by the redoubtable Ross Douthat, in "How Will Blue America Live With Covid?"

Speaking of the waltz...

Here's "Love On The Spectrum Season 2 Dates, Ranked/Of the many dates on Love on the Spectrum's second season, some stand out among the rest."

Many spoilers in there, so watch the show first. I binged all the episodes — both seasons — in the last 2 weeks. Highly recommended!

"The Vienna Tourist Board has joined the adults-only site [Only Fans] to display artworks that other social platforms have censored."

The NYT reports. 

The offending artworks include the Venus of Willendorf, a 25,000-year-old limestone figurine of a woman. Facebook removed a photo of it from the Vienna Museum of Natural History’s page several years ago for being “pornographic.” ....

Goodbye to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.


I found out via my son John's blog. John noticed the death announcement at the author's Facebook page. He quotes something I copied onto my blog a while back, Csikszentmihalyi's enumeration of the elements of "flow":
First, the experience usually occurs when we confront tasks we have a chance of completing. Second, we must be able to concentrate on what we are doing. Third and fourth, the concentration is usually possible because the task undertaken has clear goals and immediate feedback. Fifth, one acts with a deep but effortless involvement that removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life. Sixth, enjoyable experiences allow people to exercise a sense of control over their actions. Seventh, concern for the self disappears, yet paradoxically the sense of self emerges stronger after the flow experience is over. Finally, the sense of the duration of time is altered; hours pass by in minutes, and minutes can stretch out to seem like hours. The combination of all these elements causes a sense of deep enjoyment that is so rewarding people feel that expending a great deal of energy is worthwhile simply to be able to feel it.

ADDED: I'm still not seeing obituaries at mainstream news sites. It's possible that the author's Facebook page is wrong. In any event — alive or dead — Csikszentmihalyi is wonderful. I highly recommend his book "Flow," one of the most useful books I've read in my life.

AND: I've blogged about Csikszentmihalyi, many times over the years, as you can see if you click my tag (which I just discovered had been missing the final "i" all this time, corrected now).

Have you ever heard of insect emotion? Neither had I.

Signs of affection.

And here's the link to the original comic.

October 20, 2021

The lake at midday.




"Some people are clearly more altruistic than others. But even these super-cooperators can’t do all the heavy lifting alone."

"Haphazard or individual-level efforts to be helpful are rarely sufficient to keep cooperation going in a larger population. For one thing, a cooperator surrounded by noncooperators will usually stop being helpful—for who wants to be a chump? Yet devolving to an 'every man for himself' dynamic is injurious to all. That’s no way to fight a plague.... We also practice punishment and ostracism, both of which can, in the right circumstances, foster cooperation. Shunning transgressors comes naturally to us precisely because, in our ancestral past, it was useful for our collective survival.... Indeed, President Joe Biden announced a broad series of interventions last month, including requiring all employers with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccination and doing the same for federal workers and others.... We do not need to see these actions in a negative or even authoritarian light. They are not simply the workings of our political system. They are rooted in our ancient past, helping us survive. Seen from an evolutionary perspective, putting our thumb on the scale of the COVID-19 response allows our natural impulse toward goodness to flourish. And such efforts are in keeping with our fundamental instincts to be altruistic and cooperative in the first place. As Albert Camus argued in his novel The Plague, 'What’s true of all the evils in the world is true of the plague as well. It helps men and women to rise above themselves.'" 

From "Sometimes Altruism Needs to Be Enforced" by Nicholas A. Christakis (The Atlantic).

"Boris Johnson has pledged to introduce criminal sanctions for social media bosses who allow 'foul content' to be posted on their platforms...."

"The prime minister was responding to criticism from Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, who... pointed to media reports that 40 hours of hateful content [which] “The prime minister and the government could stop... by making it clear that directors of companies are criminally liable for failing to tackle this type of material on their sites....” Johnson responded: 'Of course we will have criminal sanctions with tough sentences for those who are responsible for allowing this foul content to permeate the internet.'"

From "Social media executives will be prosecuted for hatred and abuse online, says Boris Johnson" (London Times).

"President Biden headed to his childhood hometown, Scranton, Pa., on Wednesday to... give a speech at the Electric City Trolley Museum, where he will reflect on his working-class upbringing and how it influenced his values and the policies he has pursued in office."

From "Biden Heads to Scranton to Sell a Shrinking Agenda/The president’s trip comes as Democrats circle in on a deal to advance two bills carrying a scaled-back version of his domestic policy priorities" (NYT).

It seems to be argument by pathos.

The poor, lost, little old man... tottering home.... Let's take him to the Trolley Museum. He always loved the trolleys. That might put a smile on his face.

ADDED: Here's the speech at the trolley museum (and notice that the man who introduces Biden is not wearing a mask and speaks directly at Biden's face):

ALSO: He begins "Hello, hello, hello" — like Lisa Kudrow in "The Comeback."

"The initial version of the Democrats’ proposal would have required financial institutions to provide the IRS with two new figures every year..."

"... the total inflows and outflows for any bank account with more than $600 in annual deposits or withdrawals, 'with a breakdown for physical cash, transactions with a foreign account, and transfers to and from another account with the same owner.' The requirement would apply to all business and personal accounts at financial institutions. After Republicans raised concerns that the $600 minimum would sweep up almost all Americans, Democrats raised the proposed threshold to $10,000.... Republican senators including Crapo and Kennedy claimed that under the Democrats’ tax enforcement plan, the IRS would be snooping on the sensitive financial details contained in Americans’ bank records. The burden of proof is on the speaker, as we like to remind our readers, but in this case, no proof was supplied. In reality, the proposal is to monitor the total amount of money going in and out of any bank account with more than $10,000 of transactions in a given year, not the blow-by-blow of where and when people spend their money. And just before this GOP news conference, Democrats had curtailed their proposal to cover fewer Americans and to exempt all wages and federal benefits from the new requirements. These claims earn Three Pinocchios."

From "No, Biden isn’t proposing that the IRS spy on bank records" by WaPo Fact Checker Salvador Rizzo.

I don't see how you get "Pinocchios" when your criticism is undermined by causing your adversary to change their proposal! And I don't see why you get "Pinocchios" for failing to supply proof. The Fact Checker ought to come up with proof that the statement-makers knowingly said something false before assigning all those "Pinocchios." 

By the way, that headline screams partisan politics. When I clicked on that headline, I didn't think I was going to end up at a Fact Checker column. But they got my click, and I'm sure they got lots of other clicks, so I should expect more of this sort of thing in the future.

"Focused Interruption."

I'm trying to read "Madison, Dane County consider focused effort to address surge of gun violence" (Wisconsin State Journal). 
The idea is to identify those at high risk of gun violence, connect with them and immediately offer services, and to rely on law enforcement as a last resort, Focused Interruption founder and CEO Anthony Cooper Sr. said. The initiative would be implemented by Public Health Madison and Dane County’s Violence Prevention Unit, according to the group.... 
Police Chief Shon Barnes said there is more work to be done, adding that the department welcomes assistance from Public Health and Focused Interruption. The cycles of violence underscore racial inequities, with Blacks more likely than whites to be victims and to become ensnared in the criminal justice system, according to Focused Interruption....
The proposed spending for the Gun Violence Reduction Strategy, which would cover pay for people with lived experience in violence; training and technical assistance from national experts; input from the community most affected by violence; and programming, could eventually become a $3.38 million effort to more fully address the problem, Cooper’s group estimates.

Here's the Focused Interruption website

"The same people who sat at home praising essential workers as heroes now repay them with exclusion and sneering condescension."

That's the subtitle for "Lectures From Limousine Liberals" by Bridget Phetasy (Tablet). Excerpt:
The sneering contempt many in the left-wing pundit class have demonstrated in their recent rhetoric about the “unvaccinated,” many of whom are lower-income people of color, is in direct opposition to the years of “diversity, equity, and inclusion.” 

"Popular California burger chain In-N-Out is refusing to comply with San Francisco’s mandate that restaurants check vaccine cards before allowing customers to dine indoors..."

"... a move that resulted in a temporary shutdown of the city’s only location. 'We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government,' Arnie Wensinger, the company’s chief legal and business officer, said.... 'It is unreasonable, invasive, and unsafe to force our restaurant Associates to segregate Customers into those who may be served and those who may not, whether based on the documentation they carry, or any other reason.'... 'We fiercely disagree with any government dictate that forces a private company to discriminate against customers who choose to patronize their business,' Wensinger said. 'This is clear governmental overreach and is intrusive, improper, and offensive.'"

From "In-N-Out Burger clashes with San Francisco over vaccine mandate: 'We refuse to become the vaccination police’" (WaPo).

"I’m unfamiliar with this football story, but as an academic I can assure you cancel culture exists."

"I lean left, and yet I withhold anything that might be a mildly divergent opinion. A renowned climate scientist was recently disinvited from speaking at MIT on the topic of climate change for the sin of saying academic admissions should be based on metrics (as reported in the Atlantic). Cancel culture exists, and it’s most noticeable not in the renowned scientists whose speaking engagements are canceled but in the lives of academics like me who are carefully silent."

That's the top-rated comment at the NYT on a column by Lindsay Crouse, "‘Cancel Culture’ Isn’t the Problem. ‘OK Culture’ Is." 

Crouse — "a producer and athlete who focuses on gender and power" — is writing about Jon Gruden, who was forced out of his job as a National Football League head coach after the revelation of racist/sexist/homophobic language in his email.

Crouse is attempting to popularize the term "OK Culture":

"A dark future is awaiting everyone in Afghanistan, especially female judges."

"I lost my job and now I can’t even go outside or do anything freely because I fear these freed prisoners."

Said Nabila, a former judge, quoted in "Female Judges in Afghanistan, Now Jobless and in Hiding/They fear that they or their loved ones could be tracked down and killed because of their work delivering justice to women. 'We have lost everything — our jobs, our homes, the way we lived'" (NYT).

And there's this, from Susan Glazebrook, a supreme court justice of New Zealand, who is president of the International Association of Women Judges: 
"They are women who had the effrontery to sit in judgment on men. The women judges of Afghanistan are under threat for applying the law. They are under threat because they have made rulings in favor of women according to law in family violence, custody and divorce cases.... Women judging men is anathema to the Taliban.... These women believed in their country, believed in human rights and believed in the importance of the rule of law and their duty to uphold it... [And because of that, t]hey are at risk of losing their lives.”

"After 22 years of serving the citizens of Washington, I am being asked to leave because I am dirty.... And Jay Inslee can kiss my ass."

Says Robert LaMay, of Washington State Patrol, signing off on his last day, as he is forced out of his job by his refusal to comply with a mask mandate.


LaMay, who went public with his opposition to the mandate in August, told The Post that he was skeptical about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines... He said he was concerned that “the people pushing it are politicians.” 

October 19, 2021

Sunrise — looking east at 7:19 and looking west at 7:25.



Talk about anything you like in the comments.

And if you'd like to see about 100 of my best sunrise catches on one page, go here.

I'm reading too much into the headline "Everyone Is Reading Too Much Into Virginia’s Race for Governor/Many fear that if Terry McAuliffe loses, doom for Democrats is imminent. Don’t be so sure."

That's at The New Republic.

What I'm reading into that is that Democrats originally loaded a lot of meaning into that election, because they wanted to use it for leverage to argue in favor of their interests, to predict future success, and to demand support for vigorous exercise of ambitious power, and that now, they see a need to dismantle that foundation, because they think they will (or might) lose, so they want to unload the extra meaning attached and isolate the election as something random and local.

From the article, which is by Alex Shepard:

If McAuliffe loses to [Glen] Youngkin, it could throw an already chaotic scene into further disarray, as the various factions mull a response. A McAuliffe loss in a state that Joe Biden won by 10 points, and that a Democrat won by eight only four years ago, would be treated as apocalyptic harbinger—a sign of an imminent bloodbath in just a year’s time. Joe Biden’s agenda, along with all of the Americans who stand to benefit from its passage, could be a casualty in that mass panic....

Clearly, I'm cherry-picking, but that's there in the article with the headline chiding us about reading "too much" into the election. 


It's the "word of the day" at the Oxford English Dictionary:

I love the way it's a completely unfamiliar word, but it means nothing more than the obvious thing anyone would guess. And yet, when would you ever need to use "beardom"?

1842 E. B. Barrett in Athenæum 13 Aug. 729/3 Johnson was Dryden's critical bear, a rough bear, and with points of noble beardom. 

1930 Illustr. London News 8 Nov. 832/3 Not just a bear, but the quintessence of beardom. 

2005 J. Brennan Forester 38 We have bunnyocity. It is like beardom, but for bunnies.

I don't think "beardom" should count as a word. You could put "-dom" on all sorts of things, as the entry for "-dom" illustrates, with the examples "curdom," "appledom and peardom," "blizzardom," "good-sailordom," "Manchesterdom," "theatredom," "topsy-turveydom," "officialdom," and "old fogeydom." 

And that's today's news from OEDdom. I hope you liked beardom. It's better than boredom.

State Sen. Tim Carpenter "wasn’t acting like an ally. He was filming them and frightening" the protesters, and now "we’re talking about a white man who holds a powerful position."

Said Jessa Nicholson Goetz, lawyer for the defendant Kerida O'Reilly, quoted in  "State senator who was battered during 2020 protest said he came Downtown to a 'hornet's nest'" (Wisconsin State Journal).
Carpenter testified he did not know that [the protesters had forbidden photography], but said he considers himself an ally of the Black Lives Matter movement. He paused to take a picture before walking from his car to his Capitol office, he said, not realizing his phone was set to shoot video. His 11-second video shows [defendant Kerida] O’Reilly and [former co-defendant Samantha] Hamer charging toward him before his phone is jostled away.... 

That's what happens when you attack someone who's shooting video: There's video of your attack. And what does it matter that they had their own anti-photography rule or that Carpenter would have followed their rule if he'd only known about it?  

The attack on Carpenter happened on June 24, 2020, the night protesters tore down the Capitol Square statues of "Forward" and Hans Christian Heg, that is, the night they tore down their own reputation. 

We're told that "as a crowd closed in on him during a midnight protest over police brutality last year, just before some in the group began to hit and kick him," Carpenter said he thought, "Holy cannoli, what’s going to happen?" That's the sort of Wisconsin form of expression that people outside of Wisconsin find folksy and charming, but, as Carpenter went on to elaborate, what he thought was that he would be killed and he continues to suffer from "a lot of anxiety and depression."

There's also this enigmatic Carpenter quote: "It’s created a lot of political difficulties that weren’t appreciated." I'll just guess that means he really, really wanted the image of ally and now, here he is, witness for the prosecution.

UPDATE: The jury acquitted O'Reilly.

"Senator Sinema began her Washington career... reveling in... eye-catching, idiosyncratic and colorful clothes speckled with flowers and zebra stripes..."

"... the kind that are not unusual in civilian life, but stand out like neon lights under the rotunda of the Capitol; the kind that maybe call to mind an uninhibited co-worker with a zest for retail therapy at the mall. But that the senator continued to do so as she ascended the political ranks... made her nationally recognizable.... and it placed her at the forefront of a social trend at a time when dress codes of all kinds are being reconsidered.... And, it made it clear she just wasn’t going to apologize for enjoying shopping. She clearly does a lot of it. So what? As far as she is concerned, she can have her stuff and substance too. In other words, all those seemingly kooky clothes that Ms. Sinema is wearing aren’t kooky at all. They’re signposts. And the direction they are pointing is entirely her way."

Friedman is being awfully nice here, perhaps because it's dangerous to take shots at a woman's appearance these days. One of Sinema's clothing items is a shocking pink sweater with "DANGEROUS CREATURE" written across the chest. That caused Mitt Romney to tell her she was "breaking the internet," and, we're told, she answered, "Good." 

I don't know if she thought it was good because she'd like to see the internet broken or because she loves attention per se or — I'll go with this — she wants a lot of people to contemplate her dangerousness. Everyone with political power is dangerous, so it functions as a warning label, and warning labels decrease dangerousness. We potential victims can, perhaps, take care.

And Friedman does take care. What are the dangerous things that could be said about Kyrsten Sinema's clothes? Well, for one thing, they're in bad taste, and many times, they're unflattering. They're very tight... But don't talk about that. It's dangerous!

October 18, 2021

7:19 a.m.


"Did Kamala Harris Just Violate Federal Law To Boost Terry McAuliffe In Virginia?"

Asks Jonathan Turley, and I was inclined not to be too picky about this. I thought — what? — did she encourage black churchgoers to vote, and we just know that's done with the expectation that they'll vote Democratic? But then I watched the video: She explicitly campaigns for McAuliffe.

Turley writes: "If this is indeed played in churches (as opposed to simply posted on Internet sites), it does appear a premeditated and unambiguous violation of the federal law governing churches as non-for-profit institutions."

Turley doesn't explain how this means Harris has "violated" federal law. Isn't the only issue whether the churches should lose their tax-exempt status? 

World gone mad?

"The theme of our party was Constitution Day. I was trying to say we’d be serving classic American foods, quintessentially American foods—sort of caricaturing ourselves as Americans..."

"... on Constitution Day, this very American day. And I have a very casual tone when I write emails. So that’s why I referred to 'basic-bitch-American-themed snacks.'"

Colbert is one of Yale Law School's Native American students, by the way, and the email at the core of this controversy was addressed to Native American Law Students Association. This is such a small group — so hard to recruit in "critical mass" numbers — that it amazes me that Yale wasn't especially considerate to Colbert when he was accused of racism. 

It's also interesting to me that the Native American group was making a party out of being ordinary Americans. It's so loathsomely incurious of Yale to jump at the critique by black students and to have no interest in what this meant to Native American students.

That party idea made me think of "Mundane Halloween," a trend in Japan and Taiwan where they costume themselves as ordinary people — "From 'the guy who had to work during vacation' to 'the surprised man who got a vasectomy last year,' all the costumes you're about to see are downright amazing."

"And I've become, like, such a slave to the GPS, I just follow it like I'm a robot. And I'm following it..."

"... and at one point, my dad's in the backseat. My mom's sitting next to me in the front seat. And at one point, my dad said, like, where are you going? Like, why are you going this way? And I don't even know exactly where I was. I think it had taken me to the Cross Island, and then an exit in Queens. And he was like, why are you going this way? And I was like, the GPS says-- I'm just following the GPS-- (LAUGHING) like I always do. And then it told me to make a left on Broadway in Queens. I made the left, and dad was like, oh my god, Janet, we're going to go right by-- Janet, do you know where we are?"/"It had taken them right to the neighborhood where her parents were first a couple, working together in his family's business."

From the prologue to Episode 750 of "This American Life" ("The Ferryman"). I highly recommend the 7-minute audio, here. And here's the transcript.

This isn't a Halloween episode, by the way. There isn't even the slightest speculation about how something supernatural might happen via GPS. The daughter, mother, and father are on their way to the hospital in Manhattan — a drive they'd done countless times without ever getting this route from the GPS — and they all know that the mother is very close to death (and does die a week later). 

"Colin Powell, military leader and first Black US secretary of state, dies after complications from Covid-19."

 CNN reports.

"My mum’s favorite cold cream was Nivea, and I love it to this day. That’s the cold cream I was thinking of..."

"... in the description of the face Eleanor keeps 'in a jar by the door.' I was always a little scared by how often women used cold cream. Growing up, I knew a lot of old ladies—partly through what was called Bob-a-Job Week, when Scouts did chores for a shilling. You’d get a shilling for cleaning out a shed or mowing a lawn. I wanted to write a song that would sum them up.... When I took the song to George [Martin], I said that, for accompaniment, I wanted a series of E-minor chord stabs. In fact, the whole song is really only two chords: C major and E minor. In George’s version of things, he conflates my idea of the stabs and his own inspiration by Bernard Herrmann, who had written the music for the movie 'Psycho.' George wanted to bring some of that drama into the arrangement. And, of course, there’s some kind of madcap connection between Eleanor Rigby, an elderly woman left high and dry, and the mummified mother in 'Psycho.'"

From "Writing 'Eleanor Rigby'/How one of the Beatles’ greatest songs came to be" by Paul McCartney (The New Yorker).

AND: There's also some kind of madcap connection the mummified mother and your "mum" with her cream used to fend off the wrinkles, wrinkles being very obvious on the mummified mother. 

"For shockingly long stretches of time, you felt as though your own excellent taste and sensitivity were powering the novels."

"You wanted to live in Knausgaard’s brightly illuminated version of a world that you almost recognized as your own. In other words, Knausgaard performed a sly transference, a variety of literary hypnosis."

The article writer — Brandon Taylor — deploys "you" in describing a feeling he can't possibly know that I have ever had. He's had it, and he's challenging me to think about whether I have ever had it? I wonder! It's a pretty specific delusion. 

October 17, 2021

Sunrise, 7:16.


"I wasn’t sleeping so I took a pretty strong sleep aid. And I had this dream that David had called me and that we’d had this conversation."

"Then later I thought, 'Did he actually call me?' And I went to my phone and he had. But I have no recollection of what that conversation was. He died a week later. It’s all so frustrating."

Said Susan Sarandon, quoted in "Susan Sarandon reveals she had a final phone call with ex-lover David Bowie a week before he died and they shared 'things that needed to be said'" (The Daily Mail).

No recollection... but things that needed to be said

Did that need to be said?

In my day the expression was: "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

That coercive line of reasoning has morphed into something even harsher, as explained by Glenn Greenwald in "Civil Liberties Are Being Trampled by Exploiting 'Insurrection' Fears. Congress's 1/6 Committee May Be the Worst Abuse Yet. Following the 9/11 script, objections to government overreach in the name of 1/6 are demonized as sympathy for terrorists. But government abuses pose the greater threat":
When it comes to 1/6 and those who were at the Capitol, there is no middle ground. That playbook is not new. "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists" was the rigidly binary choice which President George W. Bush presented to Americans and the world when addressing Congress shortly after the 9/11 attack. With that framework in place, anything short of unquestioning support for the Bush/Cheney administration and all of its policies was, by definition, tantamount to providing aid and comfort to the terrorists and their allies. There was no middle ground, no third option, no such thing as ambivalence or reluctance: all of that uncertainty or doubt, insisted the new war president, was to be understood as standing with the terrorists.

"[Carmen] Mola is best known for a trilogy starring a 'peculiar and solitary' female police inspector 'who loves grappa, karaoke, classic cars and sex in SUVs'..."

"Last year, a branch of Spain’s Women’s Institute listed Mola’s 'The Girl,' a part of the trilogy, as one of the must-read books and films by women that 'help us understand the reality and the experiences of women.'... Only the writers spinning these tales were really Jorge Díaz, Agustín Martínez and Antonio Mercero — established Spanish television scriptwriters in their 40s and 50s. 'Carmen Mola is not, like all the lies we’ve been telling, a university professor,' Díaz said after winning the Planeta prize, the Financial Times reported. 'We are three friends who one day four years ago decided to combine our talent to tell a story.'"

From "A woman won a million-euro Spanish literary prize. It turned out that ‘she’ was actually three men" (WaPo).

The WaPo article, by Miriam Berger, is silly enough to begin: "The work of one woman was, it turned out, the equivalent of the labors of three men." There was no "work of one woman." There was never anything other than the work of 3 men. There's no reason to act as though 1 woman = 3 men. The woman does not exist. 

They claim they made up the pseudonym for fun and without an idea that it would serve their interests to hide inside a female identity. They seem to feel pressure to deny that they used femaleness to sell books.

Is womanface reprehensible? 

"Nothing could be less representative of Maria Callas, as no opera singer, not even a second-grade student at music school, would ever adopt such a pose with crossed arms in front of their chest."

"Opera is about singing and … freeing up the voice. If Callas were to try singing, in real life, in the stance conceived by the sculptor, the result would be like a violinist trying to play on a broken violin."

Said one former opera singer, quoted in "Gandhi in heels? Maria Callas statue hits the wrong note/Critics compare figure of famous soprano erected in Greek capital to an Oscar statuette" (The Guardian).

Thrusting for faith.

I'm reading a very worthwhile essay in Commentary by Bari Weiss "We Got Here Because of Cowardice. We Get Out With Courage/Say no to the Woke Revolution." (Google some of the text if the link doesn't work.) 

Read the whole thing. Maybe I'll write another post later, but this post is to concentrate one thing — "thrusting for faith":
Why are so many, especially so many young people, drawn to this ideology? It’s not because they are dumb. Or because they are snowflakes....All of this has taken place against the backdrop of major changes in American life—the tearing apart of our social fabric; the loss of religion and the decline of civic organizations; the opioid crisis; the collapse of American industries; the rise of big tech; successive financial crises; a toxic public discourse; crushing student debt. An epidemic of loneliness. A crisis of meaning....

“I became converted because I was ripe for it and lived in a disintegrating society thrusting for faith.” That was Arthur Koestler writing in 1949 about his love affair with Communism. The same might be said of this new revolutionary faith. And like other religions at their inception, this one has lit on fire the souls of true believers, eager to burn down anything or anyone that stands in its way....

As my tag "religion substitutes" proves, I have a longstanding interest in religion substitutes, and I agree that a lot of current politics — especially "woke" politics — fits the needs traditionally served by religion and is practiced like religion... religion at its worst.

But was Arthur Koestler thrusting for faith?! His essay appeared in the collection "The God That Failed," and the relevant passage looks like this:

"I firmly believe in not exposing people to offensive words, especially racial, gendered or sexual slurs."

"Any offensive words that appeared in ‘Typeshift’ puzzles were there in error, and when I was informed of them I updated the block list and generated new puzzles." 

Typeshift is a game like the NYT "Spelling Bee," where you're given a bunch of letters and you have to find words. The games could avoid offering letters that even permit the spelling of some very offensive words or, more simply, refuse to accept certain words even though you're seeing the letters that would spell them. Just by chance, today's NYT "Spelling Bee" serves up the letters to write what is conventionally considered (by Americans) to be the dirtiest English word and it's also a misogynistic slur:

The game won't accept that word, but the letters are still foisting it upon the game-players. We have to see it in our mind! The NYT is letting that happen, even though it goes pretty far in excluding words that appear in the letters. As I've blogged about in an old post, it doesn't accept "nappy." I do think the NYT would avoid offering a set of letters that could be used to spell the "n-word," but other than that, its mechanism for preserving good feeling is to reject the word when we think of it. 

"I went running up the road with my holy oils.... [The police officer] said 'It’s a crime scene. You can’t go in. There’s evidence that needs to be collected.'"

"It’s very sad. It’s something that’s necessary in Catholic belief for the soul’s journey to God, to have those last prayers." 

Said Father Jeffrey Woolnough, quoted in "Father’s shock after son held over Sir David Amess murder" (London Times). 

The word "Father" in the headline doesn't refer to the priest but Ali Kullane, the father of Ali Harbi Ali, who has been arrested for the murder. That father said: "I’m feeling very traumatised. It’s not something that I expected or even dreamt of."