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.

"To start, some people were given milkshakes, and everyone was asked to taste and rate cookies, cakes or nuts. After filling up on a milkshake..."

"... most of the testers ate less. But the dieters in the group did the opposite. If they had the shake first, they actually ate more during the taste test. It appeared that because they had 'blown' their diet anyway, they decided they might as well just eat more food.... The researchers called this cycle of dieting, breaking the diet and then overeating the 'what-the-hell' effect." 

From "Try Intuitive Eating to Break the Diet Cycle/Today’s Eat Well Challenge will help you avoid the 'what-the-hell' effect and tune into your body instead" (NYT). 

"Intuitive Eating" is reverse-engineered from the "what-the-hell effect." Step 1 is to convince yourself that this isn't a diet and you are completely disconnected from the "diet culture." Step 2 is to observe your patterns of hunger attentively. Step 3 is to very attentively observe your relationship to all the various foods. How do you really feel? 

I'm putting all this in my own words, so let me add, in my own words, that this sounds soooo boring. I look ahead to see how many more steps, and there are 10! 

Let me try to compress the next 7 steps into as few words as possible — damn the steps format: Eat mindfully. Be kind to yourself. Enjoy life in your body.

"Puberty blockers and hormone therapy, the two treatments primarily given to minors, are most effective around the ages of 8 to 14, as they can prevent the need for future surgeries in adulthood..."

"... for example, a transgender boy who took puberty blockers might not need a mastectomy later. There are risks to the drug therapies, including slowed bone growth and fertility loss, but evidence suggests that denying the care to adolescents who need it raises the risk of depression and suicide. The push to outlaw such care altogether gained momentum last year as Republicans across the country adopted the issue.... A week before the [Arkansas] law was to go into effect, however, it was temporarily blocked by a federal judge in response to the A.C.L.U.’s legal challenge. The trial is set for July. Transgender adolescents and their families are now living with uncertainty. 'It’s pretty excruciating as a parent to be told by the state that it will become illegal to give your child what she needs to exist,' Jasmine Banks said. Zara added, 'It’s not, like, other people’s decision who I am and what I’m not.'" 


"Maybe Democratic voters could hate Republicans if the media, including the Post and Waldman, were not always pointing the finger at 'Democrats' for not passing the things that people want."

"All Republican politician[s] are united in blocking any constructive things proposed by Democrats, and of course they are joined by Manchin and Sinema. Those people, not Biden or the majority of Democratic legislators, are why the program is not advancing. What if the Post and other papers ran true stories about how Republicans are preventing anything from getting done and encouraging Trumpism, instead of stories and columns about Democrats failing to remake the government without a real majority in the Senate?"

That's the top-rated comment on "Opinion: Democrats are being dragged down by their discontent" by Paul Waldman in The Washington Post.

Isn't that amazing — though, paradoxically, not surprising — that a WaPo reader perceives the newspaper as biased against Democrats and in need of a strong correction toward blaming Republicans? 

Only "true stories" are requested, so I presume the commenter feels centered on principles of good journalism.

The saddest part of the comment is the beginning: "Maybe Democratic voters could hate Republicans...." That seems to mean that the goal is hate. The Post needs to stop interfering with the flow of hatred. The commenter thinks that Democrats have a capacity for hate, but it's underdeveloped — underfed by The Washington Post.

In Norway, a man who murdered 77 people — who was sentenced to only 21 years — is seeking release after 10 years in prison.

You may remember Anders Behring Breivik, who hunted down children at a Labor Party summer camp. The sentence was 21 years because that was the maximum permitted, though the judge was able to add a provision for "preventive detention," based on his future danger to society. But, technically, he's eligible for parole, and he's taking advantage of this access back into the public eye.

WaPo reports that it is "unlikely that he will ever be released." His presentation to the court reflects an awareness of that: His lawyer says he's "not expected to show remorse," and he's having a "neo-Nazi leader" testifying for him. And if he sticks to his past courtroom behavior — as seen in his litigation over his prison conditions ("isolation in a three-room cell — equipped with video games, a DVD player, a typewriter, books, newspapers and exercise equipment") — he'll give a Nazi salute.

"My sense is that a law or regulation is at best an opening bid. Is it binding, legally or morally? Maybe..."

"... but the presumption should be neutral at best, or, realistically, highly skeptical. After all, laws and regulations are the products of legislators and bureaucrats, who are presumptively corrupt and dishonest. And everybody know that, really."

Somin's piece is at Reason. Excerpt:

"The British man shot dead in the Texas synagogue siege was investigated by MI5 in late 2020, Whitehall sources confirmed to The Times."

"Malik Faisal Akram, 44, was the subject of a 'short lead investigation' for at least four weeks.... The authorities were already facing questions about why Akram was able to travel to the US, where he purchased a handgun, given he had a criminal record for offences including violence... Akram, from Blackburn, who once ranted about the September 11 attacks, was part of MI5’s pool of 40,000 closed subjects of interest.... The case was closed before it progressed to a full-blown inquiry involving intrusive techniques such as eavesdropping.... When he travelled to the US in late December, Akram was not on the Home Office warnings index, the watchlist that allows police at airports to intercept would-be passengers of concern. Sources said that it would be 'disproportionate' for someone assessed as being no threat to be on the list."

I'm sure you've read elsewhere that the rabbi engineered the escape — which involved throwing a chair at the armed hostage-taker. I like this justifiably proud statement by the rabbi, Jeffrey Cohen: "We escaped. We weren’t released or freed." 

"So bleak. We had a few tornadoes come by this way over the weekend, and the sky looked happier than that."

Says a commenter, Rt41Rebel, looking at yesterday's sunrise photographs. The cloud conditions at sunrise are crucial to my sunrise photography, but they can give a false impression of what will happen later in the day. We had a lovely hike in Blue Mound State Park in the early afternoon, and there was a nice — not excessive — infusion of sunlight. 

Meade photographed me climbing the winding trail toward the end of a 4-mile hike:

Notice the slashes of sunlight:


"Did these work for anyone?"

"At oral argument, Justice Elena Kagan, one of the court's best questioners, sometimes... just shuts down... Still, her anger is often palpable, the color literally draining from her face. "

"And Justice Stephen Breyer on occasion just holds his head.... There isn't a lot of love lost among the court's six conservatives either.... If you watch carefully, you can see conservative eyes rolling from time to time.... [M]any of the conservatives are vying for the position of intellectual leader of the conservative majority, while the chief justice privately worries about going too far too fast. There are, in addition, some long and perhaps not so buried resentments among the conservatives. Alito on occasion barely conceals his disdain for Roberts.... In recent decades, the court has built its legitimacy on a certain degree of moderation — giving the left some of what it wanted and the right some of what it wanted. The left got gay rights and gay marriage, and some limits on presidential power exercised in the name of national security. And the right got expanded religious liberty and expanded free speech, which brought with it expanded corporate spending in elections.... But... the court's conservatives detest each other in the same way that the justices did in the 1940s. Back then, they couldn't agree on anything because, as [Noah] Feldman notes, 'they hated each other.' and even though they might have been able to to reach a consensus, they didn't 'because the hatred was so deep.' To cite just one example of how bad it was, Justice Felix Frankfurter called Justice William O. Douglas 'one of the completely evil men I have ever met.' And Douglas referred to the Austrian-born Frankfurter, who was Jewish, as 'Der Führer' and that was during World War ll."

The "scorpion" quote refers to "9 scorpions in a bottle," a famous phrase that Totenberg doesn't give a source, perhaps because it's so famous, but perhaps because the usual attribution — to Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. — seems incorrect. Noah Feldman's book "Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR's Great Supreme Court Justices Paperback" begins with the quote "The Supreme Court is nine scorpions in a bottle," attributed to Alexander Bickel, law clerk to Justice Felix Frankfurter, 1952–53, and drops this footnote:

January 17, 2022

Sunrise — 7:24, 7:29.



Write about whatever you like in the comments.

A deer cannot know how impressed we all are.

"Someone told me — it might have been you — that Harris is warm and funny in person. But she’s a lousy politician..."

"... and it showed when she flamed out of the Democratic primary before the Iowa caucus. Fixing the border is not mission impossible. It requires a mix of tough-minded security provisions of the sort past Democratic administrations were willing to put into place; ambitious legislative proposals to create broader avenues for legal immigration; a willingness to accept 'Remain in Mexico' as an interim policy provided we help the Mexican government ensure humane conditions for migrants; and long-term security and economic assistance for troubled Latin American states."

Said Bret Stephens to Gail Collins, in "Welcome to the ‘Well, Now What?’ Stage of the Story" (NYT).

Collins responds: "We could have an argument about some of your details, but it seems sort of silly to pick a fight over the administration’s position on Mexico when there doesn’t always seem to be one."

Silly? Why is that silly?! I'd say it's desperately serious, and it's ridiculous to allow the absence of a position to avoid the question whether it's possible to take a good position. 

Collins and Stephens do seem to agree that the Democrats need a 2024 candidate who is not Biden and not Harris. That is, Stephens excludes Biden and Harris, and Collins proceeds directly to sorting through the possible candidates. She names Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg. She says when she tried to remember the name Buttigieg, her brain served up the name Peter Bogdanovich. Stephens says his brain did a similar thing: He wanted to say Gina Raimondo, but his first grope for the name got him to Gina Lollobrigida.


There's some old-school politics for you.

"It may seem sweet that your new mate wants to spend all of their time with you. But more often, it’s a red flag..."

"The person may be a narcissist trying to isolate you from the other connections in your life as a way of exerting control....  [I]n cases of love bombing, attention flows in a single direction: One person tries to become the other’s whole world. Dr. Raghavan said that people who have been love bombed often feel as though they’ve lost their sense of self, which can take a long time to rebuild. 'You lose the sense of who you are because little things are being managed for you and these little things can be anything from how you dress to how you present yourself... But it can also be the kind of jokes you’re allowed to tell in public or the kind of woman that he wants you to be.'"

The illustration is a whole bunch of hearts, so it's safe to say the season of Valentine's Day articles is upon us. Like Thanksgiving — with its articles about the difficulties of sitting through a dinner with your family — Valentine's Day articles these days are probably going to be negative. You think that's love? Think again. You think you want love? No, you don't.

"Republican policies represent a nosedive for our democracy.... And Democratic policies represent a managed decline.... The status quo is unsustainable... There is too much human despair out there."

Said Marianne Williamson, quoted "Marianne Williamson: A Politico or Apolitical?/The outsider from the 2020 presidential race ponders what’s next" (NYT).
In some ways, Ms. Williamson is like a Rorschach test: Many thrill to her message, while others doubt her sincerity and believe she is feeding into the speculation about a second presidential run only in order to linger on the stage. 

The night Mr. Trump was elected, Ms. Williamson was speaking at the Marble Collegiate Church in New York, as she did every Tuesday. A childhood friend, Geri Roper, was in the audience. Afterward, “sad and shocked,” the two women drank Lillet and Perrier cocktails at the bar at the NoMad Hotel, Ms. Roper recalled. “You should run for president,” Ms. Roper told her friend....

Asked again, this week, if she was ready to announce that she intends to run for president, she just laughed and declined to answer. Later she sent a text. “The media is always interested in the horse race, but to me that’s not what matters most,” it read. “What matters most is not just the who but the what....”

Not just the who but the what — a great slogan. Of course, the NYT writer (Casey Schwartz), has the sense to ask, what?! And, of course, she has no idea what.

"What is lacking... is the sense of community that the North – for all its disadvantages – had given them, particularly among people from rural areas who struggle to cope with the anonymity of life in a megalopolis like Seoul."

According to Sokeel Park, South Korea country director of Liberty in North Korea, which helps defectors.

"Thieves are pilfering railroad cars in a crime that harks back to the days of horseback-riding bandits..."

"... but is fueled by a host of modern realities, including the rise of e-commerce and Southern California’s role as a hub for the movement of goods.... [Adrian Guerrero, a director of public affairs for Union Pacific] estimates that about 90 cargo containers a day are compromised, sometimes by an organized group that has halted trains and recruited people living on the street to ransack the containers.... Along the tracks Saturday, a couple who said they showed up after seeing an Instagram post scanned the crush of abandoned cartons looking for something valuable. An Xbox package had caught their eye. Another man who had been waiting for a bus stopped to rummage through the debris. He found some car speakers he figured he could sell for $200 to make up for the hours he missed at work that day...."

January 16, 2022

Sunrise — 7:20.


It was too cold for a full-scale sunrise run this morning, but I bundled up for a short walk to a vantage point.

I liked the view out over the frost-coated cattails...


The extra steam from the University power plant did the diffusion work normally performed by clouds...


You can see all the clear sky...


Meade was waiting for me in the truck, and he took this shot as the sun broke through...

The younger brother is victorious.

"There was an attempt... to lock his brother outside..."

"I’m not what people assume that I am. I love the fact that I’m different, and maybe that makes me scary to some, but I don’t know, I’m not this gun-toting, right-wing extremist that they all think I am."

Sova was reminded that she was, quite literally, toting a gun at that moment, with a pistol strapped to her hip. 

She laughed. “But I’m not waving it around, you know what I mean,” she said. “This is a tool. It is to be an equalizer in any bad situation. I’m not here to intimidate people.”...

"The [Board of Regents] posted 118 pages of those emails on the university website... In one email exchange... the employee said that her 'heart hurts,' and Dr. Schlissel replied, 'i know. mine too.... I still wish I were strong enough to find a way....'"

"[I]n November, Dr. Schlissel wrote to the subordinate that he was disappointed that he might not be sitting next to her at a University of Michigan basketball game. He wrote, 'the only reason I agreed to go was to go with you.' The emails used 'inappropriate tone and inappropriate language,' the letter from the Board of Regents said, and showed that Dr. Schlissel had used official business to carry out the relationship. Dr. Schlissel’s conduct was 'particularly egregious' because he had taken a public position against sexual harassment, the board said. After a provost, Martin Philbert, was accused of sexual misconduct, Dr. Schlissel had sent a letter in August 2020 to the university saying that 'the highest priority' was to make the university 'safe for all,' the Board of Regents’ letter noted. Mr. Philbert left the school."

From "University of Michigan Fires Its President Over Inappropriate Relationship/Mark Schlissel’s contract was terminated immediately for interactions with a subordinate, the Board of Regents said" (NYT).

Humiliating exposure —the banal words of sexual desire, the Philbert hypocrisy, the revelation of not caring about basketball.... 

"The Texas Department of Public Safety said the man had demanded to see his 'sister,' who may not actually be related to him and who is currently in U.S. federal custody..."

"... for 'terroristic events' in Afghanistan. 'The man claims he and his sister will be going to Jannah (Muslim belief of heaven) after he sees her,' the department said in a statement earlier on Saturday. The congregation had been holding a service... being live streamed on its Facebook page when... a man could be heard shouting about dying and not liking police officers... Many Jews expressed exhaustion on Saturday at the security concerns surrounding practicing their faith at a time when antisemitism comes from many sources, including white supremacists and Islamic extremists.... 'This is Jewish life in 2022... If you attend religious services without armed guards at the entrance and without fear of attack... you do not experience religious life as American Jews do.'"

"I’m just like, ‘Wow, really? That’s where people’s heads are at, that the most important thing is being thin or young?'"

Said the actress Melanie Lynskey, describing her response when some unnamed production person asked her, "What do you plan to do? I’m sure the producers will get you a trainer. They’d love to help you with this."

She says:  "It was really important to me for [the character she plays] to not ever comment on my body, to not have me putting a dress on and being like, 'I wish I looked a bit better.' I did find it important that this character is just comfortable and sexual and not thinking or talking about it, because I want women to be able to to watch it and be like, 'Wow, she looks like me and nobody’s saying she’s the fat one.' That representation is important."

Apparently, the actor who plays her boyfriend on the show is considered better looking than she is, and some people might say — or worry about other people saying — why is he with her? By the way Melanie Lynskey is in the movie "Don't Look Up," playing the role of the wife of the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio. She was the most believable character in the movie, really seeming like an actual person. In that movie, some characters were cartoons and some were naturalistic. 

That can be a problem. Some movies and TV shows have idealized faces, beyond the realm of ordinary people. Other shows look more real. It might be a problem to mix these 2 concepts, but it might work to deliberately pair a beautiful man with an ordinary looking woman, and not just because it's so often been a beautiful woman with an ordinary man and some payback is in order. It can work because the women in the audience want to identify with the female character and enjoy a romantic fantasy. 

"When, in 1978, Dr. Scott first injected the powerful paralytic Clostridium botulinum into the eye muscles of a patient who had undergone retinal detachment surgery..."

"... that had left his eye pulled to one side, he didn’t know who was more nervous, himself or the patient.... But the procedure succeeded, and Dr. Scott would go on to refine one of the world’s deadliest poisons into a life-altering treatment — he called it Oculinum — for those who suffered from conditions like strabismus, a misalignment of the eyes. Doctors also began using it to treat migraines and jaw-clenching, among other ailments, and as they did so many of their delighted patients noticed a curious byproduct: The toxin’s ability to paralyze targeted facial muscles smoothed the lines around them, though its effects wore off after a few months...."

From "Alan Scott, Doctor Behind the Medical Use of Botox, Dies at 89/An ophthalmologist and researcher, he discovered a drug that treated serious eye conditions. It also smoothed wrinkles — and an alternative industry was born" (NYT).

"Trump has had a remarkable 14 months. Most losing presidential candidates are forced into quiet retirement by their parties."

"Trump has bucked the trend, only tightening his grip on the GOP in the wake of his defeat. He has convinced Republican candidates all over the country—including those on stage tonight—to repeat his election lies, and convinced his rank-and-file supporters to treat those falsehoods as holy writ. By this point, those lies have been circulating for what feels like forever. But at tonight's rally, as Trump’s fans called for the arrests of poll workers and the reinstatement of the rightful president, I got the sense that this might be just the beginning."

From "Trump Soft-Launches His 2024 Campaign/The former president’s message at his Arizona rally was as clear as it was dishonest: He didn’t lose to Joe Biden in 2020, and he’ll spend the next year working to elect Republicans who agree" — by Elaine Godfrey (in The Atlantic).

Delusions all around. 

Urban dreams.

ADDED: Click on the first image to see the full extent of the proposed add-on to the island of Manhattan. Why would you build vast new land vulnerable to the rising sea levels you've got to believe are coming? From the article: