January 27, 2022

"Over the past 10 years, hundreds of thousands of men have traveled to Qatar to build these structures. Migrants from all over the world — from Mozambique to Nepal, from Egypt to the Philippines..."

"... worked hard 10-hour days, six days a week, to raise stadia out of the desert, but also to build luxury residential developments, construct museums and cultural spaces, and lay down new geometric islands in Qatar’s glistening bay. Day after hot day, scaffolders hauled tons of scaffolding pipes, planks and clamps up the lattice structures they fixed together. Cladders and rope artists craned huge panes of aluminum and glass into the air and then balanced off the edges of buildings to attach the panels. Welders torched metal to create the curved joints of buildings, wrapping their workspaces in fire retardant tarps against the desert wind and enclosing themselves in an excruciating whirlwind of fire and sparks. Workers tore up the ground to excavate deep foundations for towering high-rises or to bore tunnels for Doha’s new metro network, which aims to be the fastest driverless system in the world.... I know because I spent a year on construction projects in Qatar interviewing them and shadowing them on-site. They described the fear that stalked them as they scaled the skeletons of buildings. They spoke about the way the extreme heat — averaging highs of more than 105 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months — seemed to melt the air and made them feel as if they were drowning. They recounted the rage they swallowed at being asked, under threat of deportation, to do things that violated their company’s safety regulations and that they knew would put them at risk of injury...."

From "Opinion: In Qatar’s glittery World Cup, the poor toil for the thrill of the rich" by Natasha Iskander (WaPo).

That tab was open in my browser, and it was open, unread, when, earlier today, writing a post about the new Supreme Court nomination, I needed to see the percentage of women in the American population — it's 50.5 — and I ended up on this World Bank site that shows the percentage of women in all the countries of the world. I clicked to sort the countries from the smallest to the largest percentage. How low do you imagine that percentage goes and what country do you think is at the top of this column? The country is Qatar and the percentage is 24.8.

24.8?! What could possibly be happening? Are they killing their women? Is there an insane rate of death in childbirth? The abortion of females? No, I thought, it is most likely the importation of extra men, used for work, and, seeing this article now, I think that was the right guess.

Qatar has, by far, the lowest percentage of women, and it's the only country with a number in the 20s. There are a few countries in the 30s: United Arab Emirates (30.9%), Oman (34.0%), Bahrain (35.3%), Maldives (36.6%), and Kuwait (38.8%).

An "elite destination"?

I'm trying to read Axios: "MSNBC will soon announce plans to move morning anchor Stephanie Ruhle to the 11 pm ET hour that Brian Williams turned into an elite destination, two sources familiar with the move tell Axios." 

Did Brian Williams ever even achieve the comeback he needed? I didn't watch closely, but I don't even understand the claim that he created an "elite destination" out of the MSNBC 11 pm time slot. 

It could mean that very few people watched. Is Axios snarky like that?

But "elite" doesn't mean just small — unless you're talking about type size. It means "exclusive, select" (OED):

1962 G. Murchie Music of Spheres ii. 24 The most elite of the elite new breeds grew powerful antigravity muscles and air gills called lungs.

1985 P. W. On & C. H. Persell in P. W. Cookson & C. H. Persell Preparing for Power i. 28 Janitors pick up the litter of the elite students and the dogs.

2014 G. Tholen Changing Nature of Graduate Labour Market ii. 45 Recruitment practices for elite graduate positions may not deliberately be unmeritocratic.

White people and men have always been represented on the Supreme Court out of proportion to their portion of the American population.

If Biden keeps his pledge and nominates a black woman, and if she is confirmed, then, for the first time, the percentage of black people on the Court (22.2%) will exceed the percentage in the population (12.1%).

Women will still be underrepresented in proportion to the population — 40%, instead of 50.5%.

Does 22.2% seem like too much representation for black people on the Court? Consider that there has never been even one Asian American or a Native American nominated to the Supreme Court. But also consider that many people believe that Clarence Thomas, because he is conservative, doesn't represent black people at all. 

Look how clearly Thurgood Marshall stated that position as he vacated the seat Thomas took (scroll to 2:30):

See the top right corner of every page of this blog? It says "Create blog."

If there's something I'm not accepting that you want to say, you can hit that button and immediately acquire a place for yourself to say what you want.

What I'm not accepting in the comments: Things that don't fall within the scope of my post, things that I believe were written in bad faith (that is, with the purpose of harming or degrading this blog), low-effort peevish junk.... I can't complete this subjective list, but to quote the Supreme Court Justice who was my favorite back when I was in law school — I graduated in 1981 — I know it when I see it.

A blog is a triumph of subjectivity and exquisitely limited personal power, and I intend to keep it that way.

January 26, 2022

At the Gold Bird Café...

... you can talk all night.

That's titled "Bird Finial," and it's in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum. It's from the Zenú culture of the "5th-10th century." I ran across it today because I was searching for finials, after the icy, snowy weather formed what looked like finials on the railing posts of the deck. Something about the birds on the deck had me looking for bird finials, and I was delighted to find this gold ornament.

"Spotify sides with Joe Rogan after Neil Young ultimatum."

The Hill reports. 

Spotify is removing Neil Young’s music after the musician gave the streaming service an ultimatum, saying it could not provide a platform to both him and Joe Rogan due to the podcast host’s “fake information” on COVID-19 vaccines. “I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform. They can have [Joe] Rogan or Young. Not both,” Young wrote in a letter earlier this week to his record label and management team....

Well, of course, Spotify should side with Joe Rogan. The person who makes an ultimatum like that should lose. It's ridiculous. If that worked, there'd be an obnoxious celebrity throwing his weight around every day. 

So much for "rocking in the free world," Neil, you big jerk.

"Oh? I'd forgotten that he'd pledged to choose a black woman. Isn't that inconsistent with his 3 reasons for not giving us a list?"

"There can't be that many potential choices if he's got the type of person narrowed down like that. Who are the under-60 black female federal judges appointed by Democratic Presidents? Won't they all be influenced in their decisions — reason #1, [below] — even though their names are not on a list? Aren't they all just as vulnerable to 'unrelenting political attacks' as the individuals on Trump's list (reason #2)? And are you not violating reason #3 by making this pledge? You are trying to gain favor in a partisan election campaign, and when it's over, you'll be locked into that limitation and not able to make the sober, nonpolitical analysis you want us to think you will make. And isn't your pledge to appoint a black woman — just a black woman, not the person with the greatest skill and integrity — more political than Trump's list of real people, whose skill and integrity we can investigate?"

I blogged on September 20, 2020, after Biden gave 3 reasons why he would not, like Trump, give voters a list from which he'd choose his Supreme Court nominees.

The 3 reasons were:

Breyer will retire!

Big news! 

I'm reading the report in the NYT:

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the senior member of the Supreme Court’s three-member liberal wing, will retire, two people familiar with the decision said, providing President Biden a chance to make good on his pledge to name a Black woman to the court.

Oh, so there's a "pledge" and he'll need to "make good" on it. 

ADDED: We've already got affirmative action on the Supreme Court's agenda this year as we move toward the elections, and if Biden fulfills this pledge, it will intensify the political theater. He already fulfilled a black-woman pledge in selecting his Vice President, and there's a fair amount of disappointment in her. (She's got worse poll numbers than he does.) But that doesn't mean he should violate his pledge. (I'm assuming it is, indeed, a pledge.) He should elevate an extraordinarily impressive black female judge, so that the political theater is highly supportive of this kind of selection process, and the resonance with the pending cases helps the pro-affirmative-action side win favor with the people. 

ALSO: At WaPo, Neal Katyal, the former Solicitor General and a former law clerk to Breyer, has an op-ed that was all ready to go: "Breyer’s act of listening will pave the way to a healthier democracy." I thought the "act of listening" was going to be the act of listening to people who were telling him he needed to retire to give Biden a chance to nominate somebody before Republicans took back the Senate, but no, it's about judging cases:

A deep part of his listening practice was to pay attention to experts in the field. He often said federal judges are not experts on national security, or the environment, or the economy, and that a deep part of wisdom was deference to expertise. Breyer’s path was to triple check his personal impulses, and particularly so if they conflicted with the views of true experts on the question before him.

That's pretty sober and lofty, but here's how Katyal brings it in for a landing:

Consider just how different that is from the political debates today, where extremist ideology has attacked things that should be noncontroversial, from wearing masks to taking vaccines, from addressing global warming to protecting voting rights.

America stands at a crossroads. On one path is more toxic extremism, the culmination of which we witnessed on Jan. 6. Despite that armed insurrection, the path remains just as seductive as ever to many.

Armed insurrection?

The other path is quieter and more difficult to practice. It is a path forged by Breyer: respect for others, reverence for the law, and most of all, a commitment to listening to and learning from one another.

You know, if you want to be quieter and reverent and committed to listening to and learning from one another, you wouldn't have written "armed insurrection." Or "toxic extremism." This gets my "civility bullshit" tag.

And why shouldn't we be able to debate wearing masks and the best way to protect voting rights and whether we're getting accurate reports of the science about vaccines and global warming? We are not deciding cases and dictating what other people must do, the way the Court does. We're exchanging opinion in the public forum, debating and expressing ourselves! 

That's not "toxic extremism." It's toxic extremism to say that it is!

AND: From right before the 1980 election: "Reagan Pledges He Would Name a Woman to the Supreme Court" (WaPo). In June 1981, Potter Stewart announced his retirement, and Reagan got his slot to fill. I had just graduated from law school, and I remember telling my father that I was excited about the first woman on the Supreme Court. My father scoffed and said he didn't expect Reagan to make good on his pledge. He confidently asserted that the nominee would be William French Smith.

"What is it like to be you?"

 

Joe Rogan does a good job with Jordan Peterson — putting on the brakes now and then and questioning assertions and checking them on the spot but mostly letting Peterson expatiate in his inimitable style I'm just putting up the longest clip currently available. The episode is over 4 hours long. I'm well past the midpoint, so I'm proud of my stamina on this one.

"They were very, very proud to cast a Latino actress as Snow White, but you’re still telling the story of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.' You’re progressive in one way … but you’re still making that … backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave. What … are you doing, man?"

Said Peter Dinklage, on the Marc Maron podcast, quoted in "Peter Dinklage slams Disney’s plans for ‘Snow White’ remake: ‘Backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave’" (WaPo). 

From the comments over there: "I listened to the podcast before reading this article. The editors that picked the title should ask themselves whether they deliberately feed th[e] media hyperventilation. Dinklage didn’t 'slam' anything. He calmly discussed the issue and critiqued it in a thoughtful way. Stop ginning up controversy where there need be none."

In any event, Disney responded: "To avoid reinforcing stereotypes from the original animated film, we are taking a different approach with these seven characters and have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community. We look forward to sharing more as the film heads into production after a lengthy development period."

It seems to me that the original animated film made a big point of giving each dwarf an individualized characteristic — Sleepy, Happy, Grumpy, Sneezy, etc. — so isn't that the opposite of stereotyping? Or is it stereotyping to say that in this category people have one and only one outstanding characteristic — these are a one-dimensional — or 2-dimensional, if you count dwarfism — kind of person.

I remember a times when saying "dwarf" and "dwarfism" was considered politically incorrect and one had to use a euphemism, and I'd happily — not grumpily — do that if I were not taking the lead from The Washington Post and Disney. I don't know exactly when that changed.

"Frank Zappa once said 'the world is rudderless.' I like yours SO MUCH better."

Said RideSpaceMountain, about my phrase "there's a choke point somewhere, controlled by idiots," in the comments to this post about the outsider artist Lee Godie. 

I'd wanted to embed a trailer for a documentary about the artist, and the Vimeo page gave me the HTML code, but then, on publication, it wouldn't display, and there was a reference to some privacy policy. I said: "That seems so out of keeping with the spirit of the artist, so there's a choke point somewhere, controlled by idiots." 

I was just putting up this new post — because I want to encourage the world to adopt the line, "there's a choke point somewhere, controlled by idiots" — when RideSpaceMountain re-commented: "Correction: Alan Moore made that quote, no[t] Zappa." 

"Do they really believe that the Black voters who formed the base of the Democratic Party think like Ibram X. Kendi, or the leaders of BLM? Are they crazy?"

"I mean, how can they not understand there’s enormous sort of diversity among the worldviews of people within the Black community? They vary by class, they vary by age, they vary in all kinds of ways. And the idea that they are sort of all on board with this crusade against the superficial aspects of so-called systemic racism, that that’s really what they care about, is fanciful, really." 

Said Ruy Teixeira, quoted in "Confessions of a Liberal Heretic/Ruy Teixeira was co-author of one of the most influential political books of the 21st century. Now, he says, Democrats are getting its lessons all wrong" (NYT). 

Teixeira's influential book was "The Emerging Democratic Majority," predicting, in 2002, that the process of demographic change would pile up votes on the side of the Democratic Party.

Interviewed about that idea now, he says that even back then he (and his co-author) "very specifically said — and this is widely ignored — that for this majority to attain and exercise political power, you have to retain a significant fraction of the white working class." And he admits that they didn't recognize how much the "professional-class hegemony in the Democratic Party... would tilt the Democrats so far to the left on sociocultural issues" and lead to positions on immigration and crime and systemic racism that are alienating to many white working class voters.

"For almost 25 years, Godie lived mostly outdoors and slept on park benches, even during subzero temperatures. She stashed her possessions..."

"... in rented lockers around the city. Her studio was wherever she happened to be — an alley, a bridge, atop a deli counter.... In the 1970s, she took hundreds of self-portraits in photo booths at the Greyhound bus terminal and in the train station. In these black-and-white snapshots — which she often embellished with paint or a ballpoint pen — she portrayed her many sides: a coquette; a Katharine Hepburn look-alike; a rich lady flashing a wad of cash; and above all an uncompromising artist whose work can be found today in American museums.... [A]t 60, [Godie] suddenly appeared on the steps of the majestic Art Institute of Chicago, declaring herself a French Impressionist who was 'much better than Cézanne.'... 'She lived in a fantasy world... In her mind she was a world-famous artist. And everything was about France.'... There were recurrent figures, including a woman in left profile with a topknot and bared teeth, the so-called Gibson Girl...; Prince Charming, or Prince of the City, a patrician figure with a bow tie and parted hair, often portrayed in front of Chicago’s John Hancock Center; and a waiter, a mustachioed man with sideburns, based on a real waiter whom Godie found handsome. Some of her female figures resembled the actress Joan Crawford. Other common motifs were birds, leaves, insects, grape clusters and hands playing piano. Godie sometimes wrote on her canvases too: 'Staying Alive' and 'Chicago — we own it!' appear with the frequency of personal mottos.... She reportedly earned as much as a thousand dollars a day, which she squirreled away in her shoes, underwear and hidden pockets of her coat. On brutally cold nights, she splurged for a $10 room at a flophouse."

From "Overlooked No More: Lee Godie, Eccentric Chicago Street Artist/A self-described Impressionist, she hawked her art on Michigan Avenue in the 1970s and ’80s and lived mostly outdoors. But her work is in museums" (NYT).

The tallest mountain in the world — most of which is underwater — has been ascended — bottom to top — for the first time.

SF Gate reports on the climbing of Maunakea, which is 33,500 feet tall, with 19,698 feet of that underwater.

Mountain climber and underwater explorer Victor Vescovo teamed up with Native Hawaiian scientist Cliff Kapono to scale Maunakea Volcano from its base at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean to its peak.... The historic voyage included descending to the bottom of the ocean, kayaking to shore, then biking and hiking to the peak.

Oh, this isn't what it sounded like from the headline. They didn't go up the mountain in some underwater trek. Then went straight down to the starting point but then came straight up and kayaked over to the starting point on land:

Big and small headlines at WaPo on crypto.

1. "Crypto collapse erases more than $1 trillion in wealth, forcing a reckoning for everyday investors." 

2. "Melania Trump auctions off her hat, and has become the latest victim of the cryptocurrency crash." 

I'm glad to see that on the "most read" list in the sidebar, the big story is ranking above the big hat story:

Actually, it's the Melania story I choose to read, because it's hard to understand how accepting cryptocurrency hurts her. It's only a hat she doesn't want that's going out in the world. What difference does it make to her — the "I really don't care, do u?" lady — how the cryptocurrency bids translate into dollar amounts? She restricted the bids to cryptocurrency — for whatever reason — but since there are different cryptocurrencies, aren't all the bids presented at the bidding site in dollar amounts? No, she's only accepting one cryptocurrencies — Solana — so that simplifies things. Its value has fallen 40% in the last week, but wouldn't that cause people with Solana who want the hat to pour a lot more of this declining stuff into the quest for the hat? How is Melania a victim? 

Oh, I'm sure people could put together a list of ways in which Melania is a victim. Make a list and rank it, with the Solana-for-a-hat problem on it. If it ranks high, then good for Melania. But I'm laughing at the Washington Post readers who are drooling over the news that Melania is suffering.

 WaPo snatches the hat and runs with it:

January 25, 2022

Coffee time!

@kjetilkrogstad Coffee time! ☕️ #coffeetime #dancingguy ♬ Blurred Lines - Robin Thicke

"The legendary Jeff Goldblum reviews impressions of Jeff Goldblum."

"Adele described the pool as a 'baggy old pond' and refused, point blank, to stand in the middle of it. The intention was to fill it with water on the set as she was lifted up on a crane-type mechanism, creating the illusion she was floating on water."

From "ROLLING IN THE DEEP END/Adele cancelled her Las Vegas residency after furious rant over swimming pool stunt" (The Sun). 

"What the Trump Documents Might Tell the Jan. 6 Committee/Following last week’s Supreme Court ruling, the House panel has received material that it hopes could flesh out how the attack on the Capitol came about."

This is an article in the NYT, which I'm reading because what I hope is that the material will show that Trump wasn't involved in planning or promoting breaking into the Capitol or committing any illegal acts. And isn't that what everyone should hope? 

So I'm reading this article and setting to the side everything that is about Trump's belief that he really did win the election, his search for a legal path to victory, and his desire for a big, exciting rally showing strong support for this cause. 

So, what does the NYT list? I've copied and pasted the whole text into my compose window, and I will now cut out everything I just said I was setting to the side:

 

 

 

Okay. Now that I've done that... feel free to check my work. Maybe you'll say that the talk of seizing voting machines indicated a willingness to pursue a path that wasn't clearly legal, but it was only considered and then not done. Wasn't it part of brainstorming about what could be done if an election actually were being stolen? 

Let's consider the question hypothetically: What if an American presidential election were stolen? What could be done? What if it looked about like the 2020 election, but it really was a fraud? 

One answer might be: In the event of such a calamity, it would be best to go forward and treat the ostensible winner as the winner in order to maintain confidence in the system and to avoid the trauma of revealing and delving into the chaos beneath the surface. The true winner of the election should see the profound national interest in moving forward with a new President in office and fully in power — free of any cloud of uncertainty. The true winner should do nothing more than to offer strong support to his erstwhile opponent and to celebrate the beauty of democracy.

"My first thought was 'wow.' My second thought was 'what a clever way for someone to acquire things over the objections of their partner -- get it all set up and let the toddler hit 'place order.'"

Writes one commenter, on "A New Jersey toddler spent nearly $1,800 using his mom’s phone. She didn’t know until packages started arriving" (WaPo). 

From the article:

Although she’d loaded the items into her online Walmart shopping cart while browsing for the family’s new home in Monmouth Junction, Kumar knew she hadn’t purchased any of them.... While playing on his mom’s phone, the 22-month-old had gone rogue, buying nearly $1,800 of furniture that was in the cart. When the Kumars realized what had happened, they tried to cancel the remaining orders but were too late....

"When the court considers the Harvard and UNC cases, it would do well to reject the 'diversity' rationale entirely, or at least subject it to much tougher standards of review...."

"As one expert in an amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs pointed out, the 'Hispanic' or 'Latino' category lumps together such varied groups as Argentinians, Cubans, Mexicans and immigrants from Spain. 'Asian Americans'' include racial and ethnic groups that cover more than half the world’s population, such as Chinese people, Indians and Filipinos, among others. Such distinct groups as Arab Americans, native-born white Protestants and recent immigrants from Bulgaria are all classified as 'white.' 'African American' combines native-born Black Americans with immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean. Needless to say, these groups have vastly different histories. Lumping them into a few crudely defined categories makes a mockery of the idea that universities are genuinely pursuing diversity as opposed to engaging in gross stereotyping. Perhaps even worse, the diversity rationale could be used to justify all kinds of racial and ethnic preferences.... For many schools, however, the diversity rationale for racial preferences is likely a smokescreen for the real purpose: compensating minority groups that are victims of long-standing discrimination, particularly African Americans. This justification, which has largely been rejected by the Supreme Court, is much more logically compelling than the diversity theory."

Writes Ilya Somin at "Supreme Court affirmative action cases challenging Harvard, UNC policies are overdue/The Harvard suit features extensive evidence that the school’s admissions system discriminates against Asian American applicants" (NBC News). 

Somin says he has has "considerable sympathy" for the alternative rationale, but it's hard to imagine the Supreme Court switching from diversity to compensation for past discrimination, which it rejected as a basis for affirmative action long ago (in the 1970s). 

[T]o my knowledge I was the only Russian Jewish immigrant in my class at Yale Law School. Would 'diversity' justify Yale using ethnic preferences to make sure there was another the following year?

The words "make sure" load that question, but I think — as someone who has served on my law school's admissions committee many times — that it would be perfectly fine to read an applicant's file, find yourself on the line between yes and no, see that this person is a Russian Jewish immigrant, and go with yes. And that yes would be based on what the current doctrine requires — a prediction that this person's contributions will be beneficial to the class as a whole. It would not be based on the idea that Russian Jewish immigrants have been discriminated against in the past. 

How could I possibly assess all the various harms of the past and funnel the urge to compensate into this one applicant? There's no expertise to defer to. With diversity, there is a notion, however hazy, that the school's file-readers have some special intuition about putting together a good student body and making the classroom lively and full of challenging viewpoints. There's a mystique, a magic, a black box that the Court can decide to leave closed. I know many of you are scoffing at that box. But the easiest answer is to leave it closed, not to move to another rationale for affirmative action.

"Do you think inflation is a political liability in the midterms?"/"It’s a great asset. More inflation. What a stupid son of a bitch."

The conversation everyone's talking about. A question from Fox News reporter Peter Doocy, and an answer from President of the United States Joe Biden.

Do you have a problem with any of it? It all makes sense to me. All I can see is that if anybody has a problem with it, but they also called out Donald Trump, in his presidential days, for his lack of "civility" when he made equivalently rough statements, then it's an occasion for my "civility bullshit" tag. Otherwise it's idle chitchat. Don't be distracted.

I need to give a link for the statement. I saw it yesterday multiple places, but I'm reviewing it at 4:45 in the morning at "Caught on a Hot Mic: Biden Uses a Vulgarity to Insult a Fox News ReporterThe president later called Peter Doocy and 'cleared the air,' Mr. Doocy said" (NYT).

Doocy didn't need an answer to that question. He was just publicizing an issue that obviously hurts Biden. Biden was presidential enough not to say "Fuck you," which would have been a completely justified and normal response. And if I am to believe the NYT, both men are engaged in a lengthy political dance:

Mr. Doocy is a reliable needler of Mr. Biden, although the president often appears more amused than angered by their jousts. Their sometimes spiky exchanges have become a regular feature of Mr. Biden’s public appearances.

Here's the video:

ADDED: As tim maguire says in the comments, since Donald Trump was criticized for lacking civility, it becomes necessary to criticize Biden too, in order to avoid using the kind of hypocrisy I call "civility bullshit." I still want the tag "civility bullshit," because it's a discussion of the problem of the double standard, and because I don't think Biden is roundly denounced for lacking civility, for degrading the public discourse. I think his roughness is largely tolerated, and it isn't characterized as a deplorable trend.

January 24, 2022

At the Backyard Fox Café...

IMG_9029 

... you can talk about whatever you want.


IMG_9030D

"The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear challenges to the admissions process at Harvard and the University of North Carolina..."

"... presenting the most serious threat in decades to the use of affirmative action by the nation's public and private colleges and universities.... In the latest case, groups backed by a longtime opponent of affirmative action, Edward Blum of Maine, sued Harvard and UNC in federal court, claiming that Harvard's undergraduate admissions system discriminated against Asian American students and that UNC's discriminated against both Asian American and white students.... The challengers in both cases, Students for Fair Admissions, urged the justices to overrule the court’s 2003 decision on affirmative action, which upheld the University of Michigan's use of race as a plus factor and served as a model for similar admissions programs nationwide...."

NBC News reports.

"Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work."

Said Gustave Flaubert.

I'm reading that this morning because it popped up in the end of a New Yorker article about — of all things — Led Zeppelin:

If the predetermined task of rock gods and goddesses is to sacrifice themselves on the Dionysian altar of excess so that gentle teen-agers the world over don’t have to do it themselves—which seems to be the basic rock-and-roll contract—then the lives of these deities are never exactly wasted, especially when they are foreshortened. Their atrocious human deeds are, to paraphrase a famous fictional atheist, the manure for our future harmony.... [S]urely all kinds of demonic and powerful art, including many varieties of music, both classical and popular, have been created by people who didn’t live demonically. What about Flaubert’s mantra about living like a bourgeois in order to create wild art? In Led Zeppelin’s case, the great music, the stuff that is still violently radical, was made early in the band’s career, when its members were most sober. The closer the band got to actual violence, the tamer the music became.

Yes but who is the "famous fictional atheist" and how can I reverse the paraphrase "atrocious human deeds are... the manure for our future harmony"? Oh, I managed to do that.

The NYT tries hard to get Temple Grandin to talk about vaccines and the fear of autism, but she won't go there.

They get an interesting interview out of her anyway — "Temple Grandin Wants Us to Think Differently About Kids Who Think Differently" — but it starts off incredibly awkwardly: 

During the pandemic, there has been a lot of discussion about who’s vaccinated and who’s not, and historically, a fear of autism is one of the things that antivaxxers — I will make only one comment: I have two Pfizers and a booster and a flu shot. That’s all I’m going to say.

Well, if it’s OK, I have another couple of questions about vaccines and autism, and you can choose if you’ll answer or not. That’s a subject where that’s pretty much all I’m going to say. I am glad that I have my vaccinations. I don’t have to worry about going to the hospital. I’ll leave it at that.

In the past, you’ve expressed openness about people who felt skeptical about vaccines because of — No comment.

Is it your understanding that the concern that certain parents have with vaccines is — No comment.

OK, I’ll move on for now...

"When the snow melts in the spring, fields can get so muddy in the plains of Eastern Europe that Russians have a word for it: Rasputitsa, or 'the season of bad roads.'..."

"If Russian President Vladimir Putin orders his forces to invade, analysts believe it would come before the spring thaw. 'The best time to do it is winter because it's going to be a mechanized advance and the mechanized divisions need hard frozen ground'... At a news conference Wednesday marking his first year in office, President Joe Biden warned Putin against an invasion, threatening a strong response by the US and NATO, but waffled over what would happen if Russia made a 'minor incursion,' in an awkward statement he sought to clarify afterward. 'The Russian dictator has not been subtle or secretive about what he wants. He might as well make the national anthem the Beatles' "Back in the U.S.S.R.,"' wrote Max Boot, in the Washington Post. 'He definitely wants to resurrect the Soviet empire, thereby undoing what he has called "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th century. And that requires bringing back into the fold the second-largest former Soviet republic (by population) — the independent state of Ukraine.'"

From "Putin confronts the mud of Ukraine" (CNN).

*** 

From a 2011 post of mine, collecting mud quotes: 

"We sit in the mud... and reach for the stars." — Ivan Turgenev 

"I have tried to lift France out of the mud. But she will return to her errors and vomitings. I cannot prevent the French from being French." — Charles de Gaulle 

"Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance..." — Thoreau 

"My own brain is to me the most unaccountable of machinery - always buzzing, humming, soaring roaring, diving, and then buried in mud. And why? What's this passion for?" — Virginia Woolf

Russian, French, American, British.

ADDED: Thank God we have a mentally competent President. He understands the seasons — "First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.... Yes, there will be growth in the spring!"

January 23, 2022

At the Snowfall Café...

IMG_9015D

... you can write about whatever you want. 

IMG_9016D

"What's Up With The Ignorant Tattoo Style?"

I learned a lot from this fascinating video:

 

I became aware of this phenomenon yesterday, when I saw this and this at the subreddit r/shittytattoos.

Here's video of the "[c]reator of the famed Ignorant Style tattoo style, Fuzi... a street art legend."

And here's an Instagram collection of Ignorant Style tattoos.

I'm pretty amused by the concept and, especially, the name — though I think most examples of this sort of thing are a mistake. Many years ago, probably in the 1990s, I saw a young woman on campus that had a tattoo of a bathtub on her neck. Just a dark line drawing of an old-time claw-footed bathtub with the pipe extending upward for the shower head. I felt so bad about it. And I love bathtubs. But now I can see that it was an early example of the Ignorant Style!

ADDED: Back in 2009, I blogged about a tattoo artist that did things that he might characterize as Ignorant Style. It's at least adjacent to Ignorant Style. I said "I love these scribbly tattoos!" You can see a lot of his things at Instagram, here.

"Could we have had a more unsuitable man in charge? Sloppy, lusty, blind to details..."

"... just look at the piteous footage of Boris Johnson as he apologised to the Queen last week, nearly weeping, entirely out of self-pity. Nobody, he moaned, told him the massive party he had personally attended was 'against the rules.' If it wasn’t a 'work event,' he said, he couldn’t 'imagine why on earth it would have gone ahead.' I can tell him why: it went ahead because no one at Downing Street ever gave a toss about the rules. Not a single one of the scores of entitled, cashmere-hoodie-toting Tinder-swiping gin-in-a-tin-chugging junior staffers who flocked to the basement disco gimpfest the night before Prince Philip’s funeral gave a second thought about what was happening in the rest of the country. It says everything that even when Johnson came out of hospital, one of the earliest things he did wasn’t to tell Carrie to tone down the fire-pit heart-to-hearts; he went to what one MP described as a 'welcome back' party in his garden. He ignored Covid and nearly died from it but came back and still ignored it and licked everything. Who does that?"

From "Keeping up with the Johnsons is exhausting — life is lived at 10,000 miles a minute" by Camilla Long (London Times).

I do enjoy reading The London Times. The writing is different from what we get here in America. Apparently, in the U.K., a classy paper will print the word "gimpfest." And every other sentence makes me want to diagram.

"To celebrate his birthday, he had also brought along his mandolin, foie gras and champagne...."

From "French adventurer, 75, dies in attempt to row across the Atlantic/Jean-Jacques Savin, a former paratrooper, wanted ‘to laugh at old age’ but got into difficulties off the Azores" (The Guardian).

I don't much celebrate birthdays — do you? — but I don't think I'd even consider celebrating my birthday while alone, and if I did, I might come up with the idea of champagne and some special food, but not of picking up a musical instrument and serenading myself. 

It's so charming — don't you think? — that mandolin, foie gras, and champagne. I look to see — when was his birthday? Did he get to that birthday before the deathday popped up in the timeline of fate? Yes, he did. His birthday was January 14th. He died on the 21st.

"Some senators get so whacky in the national spotlight that they can’t function without it."

"Trump had that effect on Republicans. Before Trump, Lindsey Graham was almost a normal human being. Then Trump directed a huge amp of national attention Graham’s way, transmogrifying the senator into a bizarro creature who’d say anything Trump wanted to keep the attention coming. Not all senators are egomaniacs, of course. Most lie on an ego spectrum ranging from mildly inflated to pathological. Manchin and Sinema are near the extreme. Once they got a taste of the national spotlight, they couldn’t let go. They must have figured that the only way they could keep the spotlight focused on themselves was by threatening to do what they finally did last week: shafting American democracy."

Writes Robert Reich in "Where egos dare: Manchin and Sinema show how Senate spotlight corrupts" (The Guardian). 

Is it "whacky" or "wacky"? The author of "Common Errors in English Usage" says:

"Curriculum transparency bills are just thinly veiled attempts at chilling teachers and students from learning and talking about race and gender in schools."

The ACLU tweets, quoted in "The ACLU Suddenly Reverses Its Support For Transparency/The long-time civil liberties organization continues its partisan transformation" (Inquire).

The ACLU tweet links to this NBC News article, "They fought critical race theory. Now they’re focusing on ‘curriculum transparency.' Conservative activists want schools to post lesson plans online, but free speech advocates warn such policies could lead to more censorship in K-12 schools." From that article: 

"But his themes are part of the inheritance of modernity, ones that he merely adapted with a peculiar, self-pitying edge and then took to their nightmarish conclusion..."

"... the glory of war over peace; disgust with the messy bargaining and limited successes of reformist, parliamentary democracy and, with that disgust, contempt for the political class as permanently compromised; the certainty that all military setbacks are the results of civilian sabotage and a lack of will; the faith in a strong man; the love of the exceptional character of one nation above all others; the selection of a helpless group to be hated, who can be blamed for feelings of national humiliation. He didn’t invent these arguments. He adapted them, and then later showed where in the real world they led, if taken to their logical outcome by someone possessed, for a time, of absolute power. Resisting those arguments is still our struggle, and so they are, however unsettling, still worth reading, even in their creepiest form."

From "Does 'Mein Kampf' Remain a Dangerous Book?" by Adam Gopnik (The New Yorker).

In this short article, Gopnik uses variations on the word "creepy" 5 times: "not so much diabolical or sinister as creepy.... The creepiness extends toward his fanatical fear of impurity.... Creepy and miserable and uninspiring as the book seems to readers now.... Putting aside the book’s singularly creepy tone.... it contains little argumentation that wasn’t already commonplace still worth reading, even in their creepiest form."

That suggests that, if we readi the book, we will feel an instinctive revulsion against the writer, even as the writer was endeavoring to inspire revulsion against designated others. Is it good to rely on this instinct to deliver us from evil?

"The indictment [for seditious conspiracy] describes some Oath Keepers’ belief that 'the federal government has been coopted by a cabal of elites actively trying to strip American citizens of their rights.'"

"That [Stewart Rhodes, the leader and founder of the Oath Keepers], the leading defendant, graduated from one of the country’s most élite law schools, Yale, is more than just a fun fact. He developed his views on the Constitution as a law student eighteen years ago, and won a school prize for the best paper on the Bill of Rights. His paper argued that the Bush Administration’s treatment of 'enemy-combatants' in the war on terror was unconstitutional. Rhodes wrote that 'terrorism is a vague concept,' and that 'we need to follow our Constitution’s narrow definition of war and the enemy.' The argument would have found much support in liberal legal-élite and civil-liberties circles.... [I]n order to convict the defendants of seditious conspiracy, the government will have to prove that they planned their storming of the Capitol with the purpose of opposing the lawful transfer of Presidential power.... Rhodes’s seeming belief that his plan for January 6th was resistance to an unconstitutional process may seem wholly unreasonable.... But, if the case goes to trial... [s]ome jurors may find it difficult to convict Rhodes and others of seditious conspiracy if they find that sincere views about reality informed the defendants’ purpose.... Such an outcome might have the effect of adding legal legitimacy to the big lie.... Now that talk of potential 'civil war' occurs not only among extremist groups but in the mainstream press, a public trial of alleged seditionists will showcase the central fissure that could lead us there."

Writes Jeannie Suk Gersen in "The Case Against the Oath Keepers/Members of the group face seditious-conspiracy charges for their roles in the January 6th insurrection. Can a sincere belief that the election was stolen protect them?" (The New Yorker).

Gersen highlights the risk the government is taking, forcing public attention onto the seditious conspiracy charge: Americans will put effort into understanding the defendants' arguments, some unknown segment of us will agree with them, and many more will think the government has overreached because it cannot prove that they were insincere.

Why Ayn Rand is trending on Twitter under the heading "Sports."

I thought this was odd:

 

But I clicked through and saw that it was no mistake:

Yes, I blogged Aaron's bookshelf gesturing — back on January 4th... in happier days....

January 22, 2022

Here's a place...

 ... where you can write about whatever you want.

"[S]ince around 1980, English speakers have been more given to writing about feelings than writing from a more scientific perspective."

"From around 1850 on, [researchers] found, the frequency of words such as 'technology,' 'result,' 'assuming,' 'pressure,' 'math,' 'medicine,' 'percent,' 'unit' and 'fact' has gone down while the frequency of words such as 'spirit,' 'imagine,' 'hunch,' 'smell,' 'soul,' 'believe,' 'feel,' 'fear' and 'sense' has gone up. The authors associate their observations with what Daniel Kahneman has labeled the intuition-reliant 'thinking fast' as opposed to the more deliberative 'thinking slow.' In a parallel development, the authors show that the use of plural pronouns such as 'we' and 'they' has dropped somewhat since 1980 while the use of singular pronouns has gone up. They see this as evidence that more of us are about ourselves and how we feel as individuals — the subjective — than having the more collective orientation that earlier English seemed to reflect."

Writes John McWhorter, in "Don’t, Like, Overanalyze Language" (NYT), discussing a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that purported to detect a "surge of post-truth political argumentation" and a "historical rearrangement of the balance between collectivism and individualism and — inextricably linked — between the rational and the emotional.” 

"One of the first killer jokes in the stand-up act of Louie Anderson was about the meanness of older brothers."

"Imitating one of his own in an intimidating voice, he warned that there was a monster in a swamp nearby. With childlike fear in his eyes, Anderson reported that he avoided that area 'until I got a little older and a little smarter and a little brother.' Pivoting to the future in an instant, he adopted the older brother voice, pointing to the swamp and telling his sibling: 'That’s where your real parents live.'"

From "Louie Anderson and the Compassion of America’s Eternal Kid/He displayed an empathetic humanity that he shared offstage with his friend Bob Saget. The loss of both comics represents the end of an era" by Jason Zinoman (NYT).

What is the controversy about this magazine cover at British Vogue?

Consider the question for yourself before reading the criticisms.

At Instagram, British Vogue says: "The nine models gracing the cover are representative of an ongoing seismic shift that became more pronounced on the SS22 runways; awash with dark-skinned models whose African heritage stretched from Senegal to Rwanda to South Sudan to Nigeria to Ethiopia. For an industry long criticized for its lack of diversity, as well as for perpetuating beauty standards seen through a Eurocentric lens, this change is momentous."

At CNN, a writer based in Nigeria says: 

"[State voting] laws — like that recently passed in Georgia — are far from the nightmares that Dems have described, and contain some expansion of access to voting."

"Georgians, and Americans in general, overwhelmingly support voter ID laws, for example. Such laws poll strongly even among allegedly disenfranchised African-Americans — whose turnout in 2012, following a wave of ID laws, actually exceeded whites’ in the re-election of a black president. In fact, the normalization of ID in everyday life has only increased during the past year of vax-card requirements — a policy pushed by Democrats. And Biden did something truly dumb this week: he cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election in November now that his proposal for a federal overhaul has failed: 'I’m not going to say it’s going to be legit.' No sitting president should do this, ever. But when one party is still insisting that the entire election system was rigged last time in a massive conspiracy to overturn a landslide victory for Trump, the other party absolutely needs to draw a sharp line. Biden fatefully blurred that distinction, and took the public focus off the real danger: not voter suppression but election subversion, of the kind we are now discovering Trump, Giuliani and many others plotted during the transition period.... And why have they wildly inflated the threat to election security and engaged in the disgusting demagoguery of calling this 'Jim Crow 2.0'? The WSJ this week tracked down various unsavory GOP bills to suppress or subvert voting in three states — three states Obama singled out for criticism — and found that they had already died in committee. To argue as Biden did last week in Georgia that the goal of Republicans is 'to turn the will of the voters into a mere suggestion — something states can respect or ignore,' is to add hyperbole to distortion...."

Writes Andrew Sullivan, in "How Biden Lost The Plot/Listening to interest groups and activists is no way to get re-elected" (Substack).

January 21, 2022

At the Friday Night Café...

 ... you can write about anything you want.

"I’m an African-American man, so I speak plainly. It was a Black theater. You yelled at the screen, and folks would talk."

"A major component of Black existence is forced comportment in white spaces. There is a comfort derived from taking off the disguise, if just for a few minutes in the cinema." 

Said Cyrus McQueen, a stand-up comedian, quoted in "The ‘Shouting Back’ Theater Abruptly Closes, and Brooklyn Mourns/A rowdy movie house suddenly goes dark, inspiring an outpouring of dismay and reminiscences" (NYT).

The theater closed last Sunday, taking regulars by surprise.... Dean Fleischer-Camp, a filmmaker, said that his favorite movie experience ever involved people “screaming, laughing, singing” and “throwing popcorn” during a 6 p.m. screening of “Drag Me to Hell.” Lincoln Restler, the newly elected councilman whose district includes Downtown Brooklyn, shared a picture of a moving van parked outside. “For the shouting-back-at-action-movie experience,” he wrote, “there was no place better!”

"How can the Washington Post say the court decisions on his vaccine or testing mandates were 'out of his control'?"

"Biden and his legal team are supposed to figure out a way to implement his policies that *won’t* get blocked by courts! Those court decisions didn’t happen at random; they happened because judges looked at what the administration did and decided that it didn’t comply with the law."

Writes my son John, at Facebook, commenting on "A year ago, Biden unveiled a 200-page plan to defeat covid. He has struggled to deliver on some key promises" (WaPo).

"Biden and his legal team are supposed to figure out a way to implement his policies that *won’t* get blocked by courts!" — We are all expected to pursue our goals and desires within the limits of the law. But we still can complain about the law that stands in our way and excuse our failure to achieve by pointing at this pesky law.

Sometimes you push the limits of the law and hope to convince judges. With a slightly different configuration of the Supreme Court, the vaccine mandate would have succeeded. Blaming the Court is worth doing to set up judicial appointments as a campaign issue.

And would the implementation of the vaccine mandate have served Biden's interests? Isn't he better off with it failing? He can point to it and say that he tried so hard and not be burdened with the realities of driving so many people out of employment, leaving businesses inadequately staffed, and imposing on the intimate personal bodily autonomy that his Party ordinarily celebrates. 

By the way: "Activists look ahead to what could be the 'last anniversary' for Roe" (NPR).

Speaking of the pending abortion case... did the Texas legislators "figure out a way to implement [their] policies that won’t get blocked by courts"? I'd say they deliberately overreached well-known law because they wanted to convince the Court to change it and, failing that, they wanted political credit for trying.

"Hello, I’m Tom Hanks. The US government has lost its credibility, so it’s borrowing some of mine."

 Said Tom Hanks in "The Simpsons Movie" (in 2007), quoted in "‘The Simpsons did it first’: Tom Hanks’s video for Biden likened to cameo" (London Times).


From the London Times article:

In a two-minute video released by the Biden Inaugural Committee yesterday, the Oscar-winning actor narrates the accomplishments of the Biden administration in its inaugural year — pointing to the distribution of vaccines and that “shops and businesses are buzzing again all over the country.” 

Here's the new video, which I clicked off — muttering "Oh, jeez" — at the 3-second mark: 

 

I'm going to try again to watch it, for the sake of this post, but I'm going to publish first, because I don't know how many on-and-off clickings it will take for me to reach the end. 

ADDED: Okay. I've finished. It was long, but it mainly said we're dealing with Covid and the economy is coming back. It would have worked just as well as a Trump ad. Maybe the Democrats realize they need to squirrel away the divisive issues.

"'Bat Out of Hell' was rejected by dozens of record companies before the album was finally released by Cleveland International, a small label.... It received tepid, even hostile reviews at first."

"But through relentless touring and a 1978 appearance on NBC’s 'Saturday Night Live,' Meat Loaf found an audience, making 'Bat Out of Hell' an enormous, if unexpected hit.... Its signature tune, 'Paradise by the Dashboard Light'... was an ornate melodrama about a teenage make-out session... more than eight minutes long and [it] even contained a long segment narrated by Hall of Fame baseball player and broadcaster Phil Rizzuto, describing a batter rounding the bases and sliding into home. (Rizzuto said he didn’t realize his description was meant to be an elaborate sexual metaphor.) His musical secret, Meat Loaf said, was that he approached every song like an actor preparing for a role. 'I can’t sing unless there’s a character... Because I don’t sing. It’s almost like being schizophrenic — I don’t sing, the character sings.' Early in his career, the long-haired, 300-pound Meat Loaf was openly mocked by critics — and even by [his collaborator Jim] Steinman, who once called him 'a grotesque, bloated creature, who stalked the stage like an animal but acted as if he were a prince.'"

From WaPo's very lengthy obituary, "Meat Loaf, whose operatic rock anthems made him an unlikely pop star, dies at 74."

This wasn't my kind of music, but I can admire his work from afar. People loved him in "The Rocky Horror Show,” and he had a very interesting role in "Fight Club." 

 

And he's got a great Donald Trump connection — "Meat Loaf, should I run for President?" 

 

Later, "You look in my eyes: I am the last person in the fucking world you EVER want to fuck with":

"In his first press conference for 78 days, the President was perhaps seeking to demonstrate his command of detail, ultimately speaking for almost two hours."

"But the moment he finished White House officials desperately scrambled to 'clean up' the remarks on Ukraine. They said what Mr Biden had been talking about was the divisions in Nato over how to respond to Russian aggression. It was also suggested that by 'minor incursion' he had meant Russian cyber attacks, rather than a small military invasion.... For Mr Biden it was the latest gaffe on foreign policy. In October, his officials had to calm the waters after he suggested the US would come to Taiwan's defence in the event of an attack by China, appearing to shift Washington’s delicate longtime policy of 'strategic ambiguity.' On Wednesday... Mr Biden then embarked on a lengthy analysis of what he thinks is going on inside Mr Putin's head - a notoriously difficult thing to predict. He went into great depth speculating on what Mr Putin might believe about a variety of subjects, including fires on the Russian tundra and nuclear war. If he was watching - it was the middle of the night in Moscow - Mr Putin must have been rather puzzled by it all."

From "Joe Biden's gaffe may have inadvertently revealed the truth about his Ukraine policy/The President appeared to suggest that a 'minor incursion' by Russia wouldn't result in harsh sanctions" (Telegraph).

It's "notoriously difficult" to know what's going on in Putin's head, the article-writer says... before asserting that "Mr Putin must have been rather puzzled." Must have? I'd imagine Putin to be something other than puzzled. Isn't he an evil genius playing 3D chess?

"The green M&M, previously seen in ads posing seductively and strutting her stuff in white go-go boots, will now sport a pair of sneakers."

"A description for the green candy on the M&M’s website says she enjoys 'being a hypewoman for my friends.' 'I think we all win when we see more women in leading roles, so I’m happy to take on the part of supportive friend when they succeed,' the green M&M said on the promotional site." 

From "M&Ms characters to become more inclusive" (The Hill).

I didn't know that M&Ms had become color-based characters. If you're green, you're one thing, red, another...? Is that a good lesson for the kids?

I feel so old, only able to remember an M&Ms advertisement that's half a century old — you know, the one where the peanut M&M and the regular M&M are sunning by a pool. The emphasis back then was that kids made a mess out of chocolate that's not "candy-coated." They did add arms, legs, and faces to the M&M, so they were, essentially, characters, but I don't think we expected them to have individualized personalities. Or was the peanut M&M a bit "nutty"?

"As young women, we were taught to keep silent. We were taught early that taking second place is easier than first."

"You tell yourself that’s all right, but it’s not all right. It is important that we learn to express ourselves, to say what it is that we like, that we want."

Said Françoise Gilot, quoted in "Françoise Gilot: ‘It Girl’ at 100 The painter, writer and the only woman with the spunk and self-determination to leave Picasso has a few things to say about success, personal style and the nature of intimacy" (NYT).

She has not always been above using her looks to further her aims. Soon after they met, she writes, she took up Picasso’s invitation to teach her engraving. “I arrived on time wearing a black velvet dress with a high white lace collar, my dark red hair done up in a coiffure I had taken from a painting of the Infanta by Velázquez.”

When he remarked that her turnout was ill-suited for engraving, she informed him that she knew he had no intention of teaching that day. “I was simply trying to look beautiful,” she told him.

"She has not always been above using her looks to further her aims" — Is that sarcastic understatement?

Speaking of herself now, at the age of 100, she says: “Maybe I rather like the way I look... A sense of style is important... It’s like a pane of glass that makes you seem transparent but at the same time is a barrier.... You should not make yourself known that much to other people and keep your most intimate thoughts to yourself... People tell you to be natural. But what is natural, I would like to know?"

I read her book "Life with Picasso" half a century ago. Highly recommended.

How are you picturing that Infanta hairdo? This seems rather implausible:

January 20, 2022

Another Coldness Café.

No photos of this too-cold day. I only took a half step outside the door to pick up a package — that toaster I ordered yesterday. It's the third day in a row that I have not left the house, I'm sorry to say. It's cold! I have my indoor things — eating toast, etc. — so I'm quite all right. Only one more day of this intense cold, I think.

Meanwhile, please use the comments section to talk about whatever you like.

"Trump gives Biden the best advice."

@austinnasso Trump has advice #donaldtrump #trump #impression #fyp #usa #america #biden #bidenimpression ♬ original sound - Austin Nasso
ADDED: It looks much nicer as a TikTok embed, so I've replaced the YouTube version. I'll put it below the fold if people say this doesn't work on their browser. By the way, the last line is so clipped you could miss it, but it's excellent.

"Because the Court of Appeals concluded that President Trump’s claims [of executive privilege] would have failed even if he were the incumbent, his status as a former President necessarily made no difference to the court’s decision."

Said the Supreme Court, disposing of Trump v. Thompson with sublime efficiency. 

Justice Thomas would have granted what was an application for stay of mandate and injunction pending review.

Justice Kavanaugh wrote a statement that began:

"Number one: Anybody who listened to the speech — I did not say that they were going to be a George Wallace or a Bull Connor."

"I said we’re going to have a decision in history that is going to be marked just like it was then. You either voted on the side — that didn’t make you a George Wallace or didn’t make you a Bull Connor. But if you did not vote for the Voting Rights Act back then, you were voting with those who agreed with Connor, those who agreed with — with — And so — and I think Mitch did a real good job of making it sound like I was attacking them. If you’ve noticed, I haven’t attacked anybody publicly — any senator, any — any congressman publicly. And my disagreements with them have been made to them — communicated to them privately or in person with them. My desire still is — look, I underestimated one very important thing: I never thought that the Republicans — like, for example, I said — they got very upset — I said there are 16 members of the present United States Senate who voted to extend the Voting Rights Act. Now, they got very offended by that. That wasn’t an accusation; I was just stating a fact. What has changed? What happened? What happened? Why is there not a single Republican — not one? That’s not the Republican Party. ... So, that’s not an attack.... Look, I still contend — and I know you’ll have a right to judge me by this — I still contend that unless you can reach consensus in a democracy, you cannot sustain the democracy....  I believe we’re going through one of those inflection points in history that occurs every several generations...."

From the transcript of Biden's press conference. Biden was responding to a question about his campaign promise that his “whole soul” was dedicated to “bringing America together, uniting our people.” Instead of reaffirming that dedication, he found a new basis for dividing people — the misinterpretation of his Georgia speech. "Mitch did a real good job of making it sound like" he was attacking his opponents. He was attacking his opponents, and really harshly — yelling at people who don't support the current voting rights legislation.

By the way, I've been noticing that the supporters of the Voting Rights Act rarely if ever mention any specific provisions of the text. They say "voting rights" but not which rights. I'll bet very few Americans have any idea what is in the bill, what rules states will actually need to follow if it is passed. The political discourse is woefully impoverished, abstractions and accusations of nefariousness.

"Countering acts of racism is a necessary and noble cause... but the new ‘cancel culture’ has turned it into reverse discrimination, that is, reverse racism."

"The obsessive emphasis on race is further dividing people, when the real fighters for civil rights dreamed precisely about erasing differences and refusing to divide people by skin color.... Incidentally... I think this should remind you of something that is happening. And we see what is happening in the Western countries. It is with puzzlement that we see the practices Russia used to have and that we left behind."

Said Vladimir Putin, making the news last October (in the Boston Herald), but I'm thinking about them this morning because yesterday — prompted by YouTube's algorithm — we watched this new Jordan Peterson video:

The top story in the Wisconsin State Journal: "Wisconsin athletic department condemns fan’s actions at Tuesday’s men’s basketball game."

"The fan was seated across the court from the UW bench and adjacent to the Northwestern student section. A video was posted on social media of him standing up flipping off the student section then making a racist gesture." 

I wondered what racist gesture? The article does not say, but there was a link to the video, and it wasn't what I'd pictured. The fan got ejected from the game, so I'm not sure why this is front-page news. Is it to decry racism or to stimulate the belief that racism is raging in America today?

"I am hoping that Vladimir Putin understands that he is — short of a full-blown nuclear war, he’s not in a very good position to dominate the world."

Did Biden inadvertently — obliquely — advise Putin to use nuclear weapons? 

From the transcript

I’m very concerned that this could end up being — look, the only war that’s worse than one that’s intended is one that’s unintended. And what I’m concerned about is this could get out of hand — very easily get out of hand because of what you said: the borders of the — of Ukraine and what Russia may or may not do. I am hoping that Vladimir Putin understands that he is — short of a full-blown nuclear war, he’s not in a very good position to dominate the world. And so, I don’t think he thinks that, but it is a concern. And that’s why we have to be very careful about how we move forward and make it clear to him that there are prices to pay that could, in fact, cost his country an awful lot. But I — of course, you have to be concerned when you have, you know, a nuclear power invade — this has — if he invades — it hasn’t happened since World War Two. This will be the most consequential thing that’s happened in the world, in terms of war and peace, since World War Two.

What hasn't happened since World War II? That a nuclear power has invaded? (Is that true, and, if it's true, how did you have to interpret "invade" to get it to be true?) Or was he saying the thing that hasn't happened since WWII is the use of nuclear weapons? 

Is this to be another day with no sunrise pictures?

 Well, yeah:

I don't even need to refer to the "feels like" number to see that I'm not going out. In fact, I'm trying avert my eyes. Once you decide you're not going out, the cold means nothing. In fact, it gives ease to a day of indoorsiness. You never have to think I should go out... I need to throw myself out of the house.... You just stay in. It's nice. In the old days, when I had to go to work, it didn't matter how cold it was, I had to step up to the challenge, and I did, often walking the 25-minute walk from my house to the law school. It's not really that hard. The main thing is to wrap a scarf around your lower face so the air you breathe doesn't ice up inside your nose.

"When Polka Dots Signal Both Optimism and Disquiet/The motif has long been associated with a certain brand of American cheeriness but, as its recent ubiquity attests, is most visible during times of turbulence."

A headline in T, the NYT Style Magazine, for an article by Nick Haramis.

The history of polka dots. This is the article I want to read. I feel some pressure to write about Biden's 2-hour news conference yesterday, which I watched, but I'm loath to blog it without a complete transcript. I have seen the "5 takeaways" pieces and the "utter disaster!!!" stuff, and it's propaganda on top of propaganda. Until I find a transcript, I'm holding off, I'm in the ellipsis... and therefore: polka dots!

Haramis writes delightfully:

"Given to drama in his personal style (he favored capes, gloves and regal headpieces), his pronouncements ('My eyes are starving for beauty') and the work he adored, he cultivated an air of hauteur...."

"Mr. Talley was a fixture at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where, according to the church’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III.... Mr. Talley, who was openly gay, lived alone and had little semblance of a romantic life... It was through [Vogue editor Diana] Vreeland... that he entered the magazine world, and... met [Andy] Warhol. 'He was constantly trying to grab my crotch,' Mr. Talley later told The New York Times. 'It was not a Harvey Weinstein moment. Andy was a charming person because he saw the world through the kaleidoscope of a child. Everything was 'gee golly wow."'... For [Talley], fashion was both inspiration and disguise, camouflage against the racist barbs he experienced, such as being referred to as 'Queen Kong.'... There were 'many in that industry who really did love André for his talent,' Mr. Butts said. It was also the case, he added, that 'there were others who exploited his talent and used it to their advantage,' who 'never really gave him respect as a man and were condescending.'"

From "André Leon Talley, Editor and Fashion Industry Force, Dies at 73/Called 'a creative genius,' he was the rare Black editor at the top of a field that was mostly white and notoriously elitist" (NYT).

January 19, 2022

Here's a place where you can talk about whatever you want.

Have at it.

"I had a hunch that old songs were taking over music streaming platforms—but even I was shocked when I saw the most recent numbers."

"According to MRC Data, old songs now represent 70% of the US music market.... The new music market is actually shrinking.... [T]he 200 most popular tracks now account for less than 5% of total streams. It was twice that rate just three years ago.... [T]he current list of most downloaded tracks on iTunes is filled with the names of bands from the last century, such as Creedence Clearwater and The Police. I saw it myself last week at a retail store, where the youngster at the cash register was singing along with Sting on 'Message in a Bottle' (a hit from 1979) as it blasted on the radio. A few days earlier, I had a similar experience at a local diner, where the entire staff was under thirty but every song more than forty years old. I asked my server: 'Why are you playing this old music?'

"Reporting that Justice Sotomayor asked Justice Gorsuch to wear a mask surprised us. It is false. While we may sometimes disagree about the law, we are warm colleagues and friends."

 A statement from Sotomayor and Gorsuch, tweeted by the NYT reporter Adam Liptak.

Also tweeted by Liptak, a statement from Chief Justice Roberts: “I did not request Justice Gorsuch or any other Justice to wear a mask on the bench.”

Here's Liptak's article at the NYT, giving the background: 

Comparing 3 states based on how they billed us for skipping the toll booths on a recent trip to NYC.

Pennsylvania — charged $0 and advised that we'll have to pay next time.

New York — required to pay the toll amount ($16).

New Jersey — must pay the toll amount — $3.95 and $9.85 — plus a $50 administrative fee — with the amounts billed separately and the administrative fee charged twice. That's $100 extra on top of $13.80 in tolls.

NOTE: There was no option to stop and pay the toll. There was no one in the booth, presumably because of Covid.

What's the last thing you woke up from a dream yelling?

For me — and this happened last night — it was: "There's a reason there's a rule against jumping on the furniture."

I even said it twice. It was, apparently, an important revelation in the world of a dream of which I have no memory.

"Trump got his ass kicked in these debates, so they want to change the rules. It’s like a football team that can’t pass, so they want to make it illegal to pass."

Said Stuart Stevens, "who was Mitt Romney’s chief strategist in 2012 and who worked against Trump’s reelection in 2020," quoted in "Trump blows a hole in 2024 presidential debates/The RNC's move stamps former president’s imprint on future debates" (Politico). 

What is the rule change that is the equivalent of outlawing passing in football? What was Trump so bad at that it corresponds to "a football team that can’t pass"? 

What Trump opposed was the use of the Commission on Presidential Debates, which he accuses of bias, to set up the debates, so I think the analogy should be something more like a football team that believes the referees systematically favor their opponents.

"Sixty-one years after its publication, White’s siren song of 'a heroic senator defeating an unscrupulous partisan' has lost none of its seductive power, Gellman believes..."

"... esteemed historians remain in its thrall and in Kennedy’s camp. Taylor Branch, Robert Dallek, David Greenberg, Jill Lepore, Fredrik Logevall — apologists and idolaters all, in the author’s view.... Nixon has always had his defenders (including, not least, Nixon himself) and Kennedy his detractors.... Gellman adds nothing here but fresh outrage.... But the white whale here is proof of a stolen election. This book does not provide it. The case it puts forward is circumstantial —

"What stands in front of us, what could be weeks away, is the first peer-on-peer, industrialised, digitised, top-tier army against top-tier army war that’s been on this continent for generations."

"Tens of thousands of people could die. This is not something that people in Moscow should believe to be bloodless. This is not something that the rest of the world should stand by and ignore. It’s right that all diplomatic avenues are being exhausted, I just hope that as we’re on the brink, people in Moscow start to reflect that thousands of people are going to die and that is not something that anybody should be remotely relaxed about."

Said James Heappey, the U.K. armed forces minister, quoted in "Britain fears tens of thousands dead if Russia invades Ukraine/Diplomats told to prepare for ‘crisis mode’ as UK sends thousands of anti-tank missiles" (London Times). 

Note that Heappey was trying to strike fear into the Russians to deter them, but the headline writers put the fear in the British, who, like the Americans, are not even considering fighting for Ukraine. 

Heappey told Times Radio it was not “remotely realistic” that British troops would engage in combat with the Russian military if there was an invasion, but he said that the Ukrainians were “ready to fight for every inch of their country.” He revealed that Britain had given thousands of light anti-tank missiles to Ukraine for use in the event of an invasion....

If you search the front page over at the NYT, you can find an article about the U.S. response to the Russians. It's way down, under things about the possible illegality of Donald Trump's business practices, a very old French clown, whether it's better to exercise in the morning or the evening, the distribution of free N95 masks, and whether the presidential election was stolen... in 1960.

The NYT article is "Blinken Will Meet With Russia as U.S. Pushes for More Diplomacy/Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will meet with Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia in Geneva on Friday as the United States warns that Russia could soon attack Ukraine." 

"I believe that nothing living can avoid the political today. The refusal is also politics; one thereby advances the politics of the evil cause."

Wrote Thomas Mann (to Hermann Hesse) in 1945, quoted in "Thomas Mann’s Brush with Darkness/How the German novelist’s tormented conservative manifesto led to his later modernist masterpieces" (The New Yorker). 

The author of the article, Alex Ross, continues:

If artists lose themselves in fantasies of independence, they become the tool of malefactors, who prefer to keep art apart from politics so that the work of oppression can continue undisturbed. So Mann wrote in an afterword to a 1937 book about the Spanish Civil War, adding that the poet who forswears politics is a “spiritually lost man.”... 
[During] the time that the novelist spent at [Princeton U]niversity between 1938 and 1941... Mann called for “social self-discipline under the ideal of freedom”—a political philosophy that doubles as a personal one. He also said, “Let me tell you the whole truth: if ever Fascism should come to America, it will come in the name of ‘freedom.’ ”

That's a great quote — "if ever Fascism should come to America, it will come in the name of 'freedom'" — and I googled it to see if today's anti-freedom leftists had used it against conservatives. 

Looking for Mann, I got Ronald Reagan: "If fascism ever comes to America, it will come in the name of liberalism." 

But it would be a mistake to think Reagan nicked it from Mann and that Mann was the originator of the "if fascism comes to America" clause. In the 1935 Sinclair Lewis book, “It Can’t Happen Here,” there's: “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying the cross.” 

You get the picture. There's a lot of If fascism ever comes to America, it will look like my opponents.

The "conservative manifesto" referred to in the New Yorker article title is "Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man." That book was recently reissued — here — and Ross is displeased by the new introduction, which he says "trivializes" Mann, putting him at "the level of an op-ed columnist":

January 18, 2022

At the Snow Dog Café...

... you can write about anything you like.

"It is now indisputable, and almost undisputed, that the year and a quarter of virtual school imposed devastating consequences on the students who endured it."

"Studies have found that virtual school left students nearly half a year behind pace, on average, with the learning loss falling disproportionately on low-income, Latino, and Black students. Perhaps a million students functionally dropped out of school altogether. The social isolation imposed on kids caused a mental health 'state of emergency,' according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The damage to a generation of children’s social development and educational attainment, and particularly to the social mobility prospects of its most marginalized members, will be irrecoverable. It is nearly as clear that these measures did little to contain the pandemic... Progressives were carried along by two predominant impulses. One was a zero-COVID policy that refused to weigh the trade-off of any measure that could even plausibly claim to suppress the pandemic. The other was deference to teachers unions, who were organizing to keep schools closed. Those strands combined into a refusal to acknowledge the scale or importance of losing in-person learning with a moralistic insistence that anybody who disagreed was callous about death or motivated by greed.... 'Parents who advocated for school reopening were repeatedly demonized on social media as racist and mischaracterized as Trump supporters.'...  Most progressives [now]... just want to quietly move on without anybody admitting anybody did anything wrong."

Writes Jonathan Chait in "School Closures Were a Catastrophic Error. Progressives Still Haven’t Reckoned With It. Sometimes you need to own up to an error so it’s not repeated" (NY Magazine).

"A 2013 video of a woman who chose to give birth in a stream in Australia, without medical support of any kind, has received 90 million views on YouTube."

"Parents magazine described this as birth 'in a truly organic fashion—no pain relief, no doctors, no hospital … just a woman, a stream, and the miracle of life.' A far cry from feminism’s past, this treatment glamorized one woman’s clearly exceptional story, setting it up as a sort of Whole Foods ideal for all.... Recording your experience of birth is at once a feminist act and now potentially one intended for mass consumption via a Reddit forum or blog. Writing, and even sharing, your birth story is also now commodified as one of a number of things you 'should' do as a successful new parent, like having a baby shower or assembling a baby book.... Diverse, honest accounts of birth on the one hand and the imperative to tell your story the right way—perhaps even to birth the right way—on the other make for awkward companions. Together they are products of an era in which feminist progress sits alongside new modes of packaging and commodifying our intimate lives for public consumption. The birth story, like feminism, has reached an uncomfortable phase in its history. Now, as feminists, our task is to free the birth story from the demands of crafting a successful personal brand, and find a way to return it to its highest purpose: integrating an intense and singular experience into the story you tell yourself about your life, and connecting all of that with the experiences of others."

From "How the Internet Ruined the Birth Story/A practice with feminist roots has become branding, like everything else" by Sarah Stoller (Slate).

I think the point she's trying to make is that on the internet, women glamorize childbirth, and it's crowding out feminist critique. And it's not just childbirth. It's everything about the lives of women. Too many of us are using our access to social media to try to look cool and beautiful and virtuous, and it's ruined the pursuit of feminist goals.