February 26, 2022

Here's a place...

 ... where you can talk about whatever you want.

"Under new chief Chris Licht, CNN will dial down the prime-time partisanship and double down on the network's news-gathering muscle..."

 Axios reports. 

Ratings are secondary to credibility, in the view of Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, who's taking over CNN.... Zaslav, at the urging of mentor John Malone, is likely to push CNN back to hard news, and away from red-hot liberal opining....

Licht was CBS' EVP of Special Programming, and, we're told he "succeeded with three very different programs" — "Late Night with Stephen Colbert," "CBS This Morning" and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe." None of that seems like hard news and the avoidance of  red-hot liberal opining, but I hope they do manage to rebuild CNN as hard news.

"The minute they hand you that vaccine passport, every right that you have is transformed into a privilege contingent upon your obedience to arbitrary government dictates. It will make you a slave."

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said, quoted in "A Kennedy’s Crusade Against Covid Vaccines Anguishes Family and Friends/Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has risen to become a major figure in the vaccine resistance movement. Those close to him say it’s 'heartbreaking'" (NYT). 

Five of his eight surviving siblings — two of his brothers have died — have publicly rebuked him over the past two years for his campaign against vaccines....

100 years ago today, the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the 19th Amendment.

The case was Leser v. Garnett, 258 U.S. 130, with Justice Brandeis writing for the Court:

On October 12, 1920, Cecilia Street Waters and Mary D. Randolph, citizens of Maryland, applied for and were granted registration as qualified voters in Baltimore City. To have their names stricken from the list Oscar Leser and others brought this suit in the court of common pleas. The only ground of disqualification alleged was that the applicants for registration were women, whereas the Constitution of Maryland limits the suffrage to men.

"In the end, Biden went with the safe choice. That might sound like an odd thing to say, considering that [Ketanji Brown] Jackson is poised to become the first Black woman on the Supreme Court..."

"But she’s also an insider — a former clerk for Stephen Breyer, the justice she would replace, and a product of [Harvard Law School]. Jackson has already been confirmed by the Senate three times, including for her current seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. That court is often a feeder institution for the Supreme Court, in part because it deals mainly with arcane matters of administrative law, rather than the political kindling that tends to dominate nomination fights — abortion, guns, gender, freedom of speech, religion. Senators and their aides have combed through reams of pages of Jackson’s judicial record — including the nearly 600 opinions that she wrote as a district court judge... [T]he coming battle over her nomination will resemble what fans of professional wrestling call 'kayfabe.' As the sociologist Nick Rogers said of the term in a guest opinion essay back in 2017, 'We’ll present you something clearly fake under the insistence that it’s real, and you will experience genuine emotion. Neither party acknowledges the bargain, or else the magic is ruined.'"

From "Biden Made a Historic Supreme Court Pick. What Now? Nominating the first Black woman is both bold and politically savvy, Democrats told us. Republicans are divided over how much of a fight to put up" by Blake Hounshell and Leah Askarinam (NYT).

Here's the 2017 Nick Rogers essay, "How Wrestling Explains Alex Jones and Donald Trump." Rogers is a lawyer/sociologist. Excerpt:

"I was painting less and less, fearing that if I got going and found it difficult to stop, I might end up like Van Gogh, a troubled artist with a room crammed full of pictures."

"Plus, I resented having to stretch a canvas over a frame, and I never liked the smell of oils and turpentine. I had lost patience with painting... In the mid-1980s, the art world was still wallowing in German neo-expressionism—large paintings with raw, overdramatic brushwork—whereas I was drawn toward Dada’s countercultural tendencies... It was at this point that I put on my first solo exhibition, Old Shoes, Safe Sex... One solitary review in Artspeak described it as 'such a neo-Dadaist knockout... Duchamp would have enjoyed these tributes....'... Around this same time, a couple of pictures of mine were part of a group exhibition in the East Village. When the show closed, rather than take the pictures home with me, I just chucked them into a dumpster. Dumpsters are everywhere in the streets of New York City, and you could probably find a number of masterpieces in them. I must have moved about ten times during my years in New York, and artworks were the first things I threw away. I had pride in these works, of course, but once I’d finished them, my friendship with them had ended. I didn’t owe them and they didn’t owe me, and I would have been more embarrassed to see them again than I would have been to run into an old lover."

From "1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows" by Ai Weiwei. 

As someone who studied painting and made a lot of paintings, I completely identify with the line "I resented having to stretch a canvas over a frame," the dread of yourself in the future in a room crammed with your own unloved pictures, and the desire to trash them all quickly, and thank God for dumpsters.

ADDED: It's interesting that he wrote "I didn’t owe them and they didn’t owe me" and not "I didn’t own them and they didn’t own me." That is, he wrote something that was translated that way. Anyway, it's about relationships, not property.

"By claiming that the aim of the invasion is to 'denazify' Ukraine, Putin appeals to the myths of contemporary eastern European antisemitism – that a global cabal of Jews were (and are) the real agents of violence against Russian Christians..."

"... and the real victims of the Nazis were not the Jews, but rather this group. Russian Christians are targets of a conspiracy by a global elite, who, using the vocabulary of liberal democracy and human rights, attack the Christian faith and the Russian nation. Putin’s propaganda is not aimed at an obviously skeptical west, but rather appeals domestically to this strain of Christian nationalism.... The attack on liberal democracy in the west comes from a global fascist movement, whose center is Christian nationalism. It will be hard to disentangle this movement from antisemitism (albeit a version of antisemitism that allies with forces pushing for a Jewish nationalist state in Israel). Unsurprisingly, proponents of the view that a Christian nation needs protection and defense against liberalism, 'globalism' and their supposed decadence, will be marshaled to their most violent actions when the faces of free, secular, tolerant liberal democracy prominently include Jewish ones."

From "The antisemitism animating Putin’s claim to ‘denazify’ Ukraine/The Russian leader’s pretext for invasion recasts Ukraine’s Jewish president as a Nazi and Russian Christians as true victims of the Holocaust" by Jason Stanley (The Guardian). Stanley, a Yale philosophy professor, is the author of "How Fascism Works."

ADDED: Also in The Guardian, there's "'It’s not rational': Putin’s bizarre speech wrecks his once pragmatic image/Analysis: President makes appeal to Ukraine’s military to abandon its ‘drug-addicted, neo-Nazi’ leaders," in which Andrew Roth describes the speech Putin gave on Friday:

"Ukrainian forces are holding on to their capital even after hours of overnight street fighting that included explosions and bursts of gunfire...."

"Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the fate of the nation was 'being decided right now,' and at daybreak, he posted a video of himself, unshaven, on the capital’s streets — proof of his apparent commitment to remain in Kyiv, even as Western officials warn about the possibility of his being captured or killed.... While some Ukrainians have picked up arms and created improvised weaponry, more than 50,000 others have fled, and 100,000 have been internally displaced. Ukraine has accused Russia of targeting civilian infrastructure, which the Kremlin denies...."

WaPo reports.

"But nobody tops Joy Behar for... making the whole thing — the destruction of property, the loss of life and of hope — all about her."

"'The View' co-host said on her show Thursday that she was 'scared' about how the strife in Ukraine might affect Western Europe, specifically Italy, where she planned to take a vacation this summer, long-delayed by things including the COVID-19 pandemic. 'You know, you plan a trip. You want to go there. I want to go to Italy for four years and I haven’t been able to make it because of the pandemic,' she said."

From "Clueless, narcissistic celebs need to shut up about Ukraine" by Andrea Peyser (NY Post), where I also found out about this monstrosity:


February 25, 2022

Late afternoon, the day after the snow.


Talk about anything you want. 

And here's the picture Meade took of me: 


"The same qualities that made her music radical in the fifties also make her work sound antiquated now: a Black woman animated the horror..."

"... and emotional intensity in American labor songs by projecting them like a European opera singer.... Odetta was the secret-agent contralto, amplifying a history of pain others were using for sing-alongs.... If 'Blade Runner' and 'Seinfeld' were early manifestations of the twenty-first century, Odetta was the last glowing ember of the nineteenth century, a performer who made her name on the stage with a voice that could reach the cheap seats and the town square, too. Bob Dylan’s early records are omnipresent, whereas Odetta’s are not. Certainly a matrix of biases helped bring about this outcome, most of them unfair. But at least one deals with the character of her singing itself. Her 1957 album 'At the Gate of Horn' is recorded well, and Odetta’s vocal quality is as heavy and shiny as gold. She did not let go of her opera willingly. Until the seventies, when she began to loosen her vocals, Odetta rarely missed a chance to use her chest voice, extend a note, and twist it with vibrato."

From "How Odetta Revolutionized Folk Music/She animated the horror and emotional intensity in American labor songs by projecting them like a European opera singer" by Sasha Frere-Jones (The New Yorker).

"Breathe.... Get moving.... Nourish yourself.... Stay connected.... Or sign off...."

= "5 ways to cope with the stressful news cycle" (NPR).

Does that help?!

It seems lame. Yes. But, really, do you think, when you are watching the news from Ukraine, you are somehow helping? Do you think have a duty to rubberneck, to pay attention, to cry tears from afar, to construct arguments blaming the other side [Biden/Trump] for doing/not doing things that wouldn't have made a difference? What are you doing?

"Biden Picks Ketanji Brown Jackson for Supreme Court."

 The NYT reports.

The official announcement from the White House is out. “President Biden sought a candidate with exceptional credentials, unimpeachable character, and unwavering dedication to the rule of law. He also sought a nominee — much like Justice Breyer — who is wise, pragmatic, and has a deep understanding of the Constitution as an enduring charter of liberty,” the White House says in its statement.

ADDED: WaPo greets the announcement with this sad headline: "Democrats hope Sen. Luján makes a quick recovery from stroke with vote on Supreme Court nominee looming." 

Do the Democrats need every single Democratic Senator? No confidence that surely at least one Republican will cross over?

Jackson received three Republican votes — Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) — when she was confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last year. But Graham, citing the reports on Jackson, tweeted Friday that her expected nomination shows that Biden has been won over by the “radical Left,” signaling he could reverse course on a Supreme Court nomination vote.

What is the evidence that Jackson is "won over by the 'radical Left'"? I'm sure my question will be answered ad nauseam.

"In Tawada’s dreamlike travelogue 'Where Europe Begins'... a young Japanese woman travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway tries to identify where, exactly, one continent shades into another..."

"... but none of the passengers can agree. Gradually, she descends into a trance brought on by reading Tungus and Samoyed fairy tales, which cut across the journey like a polar wind. The woman learns from an atlas that Japan is, tectonically, a 'child of Siberia that had turned on its mother and was now swimming alone in the Pacific . . . a seahorse, which in Japanese is called Tatsu-no-otoshigo—the lost child of the dragon.' She begins to dread the finality of arrival."

From "The Novelist Yoko Tawada Conjures a World Between Languages/Writing in Japanese and German, Tawada explores borderlands in which people and words have lost their moorings" (The New Yorker).

"My friends, I think, were afraid, now that I am old, that I am at risk of some dire breach of political etiquette by feebleness of mind or some fit of ill-advised candor."

"They are asking me to lay aside my old effort to tell the truth, as it is given to me by my own knowledge and judgment, in order to take up another art, which is that of public relations."

Says Wendell Berry, quoted in "Wendell Berry’s Advice for a Cataclysmic Age/Sixty years after renouncing modernity, the writer is still contemplating a better way forward" by Dorothy Wickenden in The New Yorker. 

Berry's wife Tanya said "It’s too late for it to ruin your whole life." (He's 87.)

He was talking about his forthcoming book, "The Need to Be Whole," which some of his friends "urged him to abandon." It it, "he argues that the problem of race is inextricable from the violent abuse of our natural resources, and that 'white people’s part in slavery and all the other outcomes of race prejudice, so damaging to its victims,' has also been 'gravely damaging to white people.'"

Words of the morning: "irredentism" and "revanchism."

At Meadhouse this morning, one of us was looking up "revanchism" just as the other was looking up "irredentism." Do you know the difference?

From the Wikipedia article "Irredentism":

Irredentism is a political and popular movement whose members claim (usually on behalf of their nation), and seek to occupy, territory which they consider "lost" (or "unredeemed"), based on history or legend.[1][2] The scope of this definition is occasionally subject to terminological disputes about underlying claims of expansionism, owing to lack of clarity on the historical bounds of putative nations or peoples.

This term also often refers to revanchism but the difference between these two terms is, according to Merriam-Webster, that the word "irredentism" means the reunion of politically or ethnically displaced territory, along with a population having the same national identity. On the other hand, "revanchism" evolved from the French word "revanche" which means revenge. In the political realm, "revanchism" refers to such a theory that intends to seek revenge for a lost territory.

There's this illustration, with the caption, "An 1887 painting depicting schoolchildren in France being taught about the province of Alsace-Lorraine, which was lost in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War and which is depicted by black coloring on a map of France":

"President Biden said the right things. The expected things.... But what words, really, could be equal to this moment, to this day..."

"... when Europe faces what may be the most dangerous and consequential war on the continent since the Second World War? As Biden spoke, Ukraine was fighting—alone—against overwhelming military odds. There was a pitched battle in the nuclear hellscape that the Soviet Union left behind in Chernobyl. In Kyiv, air-raid sirens sounded for what must have been the first time since the Second World War, and a military official warned that the Russians’ goal was to quickly encircle the capital and decapitate the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky.... In his appearance Thursday afternoon, Biden said he believed that Putin would 'test the resolve of the West to see if we stay together,' and vowed, 'we will.' But ... [i]n the weeks leading up to the invasion, officials had pledged retaliatory measures, including possibly cutting Russia off from the swift international banking system, but Reuters reported that Europeans were still refusing to take this step, even with Kyiv now under attack. When he appeared to announce sanctions, Biden confirmed that the Europeans had in fact balked. 'That’s not the position that the rest of Europe wishes to take,' he said. Plenty of other measures have been left untaken, as well, including sanctioning Putin himself, which Biden said he was considering. What, exactly, is the President waiting for? He did not say. The historical record will show that Biden had strong words after the invasion, and also that this confrontation with Russia was the last thing he wanted his Presidency to be about...."

From "In Washington, a Ukraine Tragedy Foretold/But what can Biden really do to stop Putin?" by Susan B. Glasser (The New Yorker).

"Approximately 69% of Russians now approve of Putin, compared to the 61% who approved of him in August 2021..."

"... according to Russian polling agency the Levada Center. And 29% of Russians disapprove of Putin, down from 37% in August 2021. The polling group is the leading independent sociological research organization in Russia and is widely respected by many scholars, including myself.... The Russian public largely believes that the Kremlin is defending Russia by standing up to the West. Putin has enjoyed relatively high approval ratings since he first became president in May 2000. His popularity averaged 79% in his first 20 years in office. Some political scientists attribute this trend to 'Putin’s personal charisma and public image' and Russians’ preference for a 'strong ruler.' Other experts argue that Putin’s approval ratings are actually related to Russians’ indifference and symbolic trust in political leaders.... The popular narrative is that Russia is a besieged fortress, constantly fending off Western attacks. Half of Russians blame the current crisis on the U.S. and NATO, while 16% think Ukraine is the aggressor. Just 4% believe Russia is responsible.... Polls conducted since the annexation of Crimea in 2014 consistently show that most Russians support the independence of the two self-declared republics in the Donbas. But they do not see them becoming a part of the Russian Federation...."

From "Putin’s public approval is soaring during the Russia-Ukraine crisis, but it’s unlikely to last" at The Conversation. That's by Arik Burakovsky, Assistant Director, Russia and Eurasia Program, The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.

"The U.S. could have refused to elucidate its security commitments to Ukraine, much as it has done vis-à-vis Taiwan for decades. The implicit threat of U.S. and NATO intervention..."

"... would have forced Putin to contend with the risks of further escalation. Instead, Biden granted Putin a free hand. The U.S. also refused to provide advanced weapon systems to Ukraine.... And for those who might argue that Russia would have preempted the shipment of weaponry by invading, I would contend that if invasion was already the predicted outcome, what was there to lose? All the while, the Biden administration failed to pair diplomatic overtures with sufficiently powerful, credible military pressure, perhaps over fears of a bilateral conflict with Russia. These fears were misplaced. I can say from my significant experience dealing with the highest levels of Russia’s military leadership that it has no interest in a bilateral confrontation with the U.S. Russian leaders have zero desire for nuclear war, and they understand that they would inevitably lose in a conventional war. However, Russia excels at compelling the U.S. to self-deter.... Over and over, the president’s longtime senior advisers seem to have recommended narrow, low-risk policy options, and these backfired."

From  "America Could Have Done So Much More to Protect Ukraine/The paths to deterrence were not taken" in The Atlantic.

That's by Alexander Vindman. Remember him?

February 24, 2022

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"After several home invasions by the Red Guards, Father decided to burn all his books, and I was his helper."

"We stacked the books up next to a bonfire, and one by one I tore out the pages and tossed them into the fire. Like drowning ghosts, they writhed in the heat and were swallowed by flames. At the moment they turned to ash, a strange force took hold of me. From then on, that force would gradually extend its command of my body and mind, until it matured into a form that even the strongest enemy would find intimidating. It was a commitment to reason, to a sense of beauty—these things are unbending, uncompromising, and any effort to suppress them is bound to provoke resistance.

The chair of the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry was suspended for tweeting "Whether a work of art or freak of nature she’s a beautiful sight to behold."

The NYT reports, on the plight of Jeffrey Lieberman, one of the most prominent psychiatrists in the country.

He was commenting on this tweet:

He was suspended even though he apologized, called his tweet "racist and sexist," and said he was “deeply ashamed” of his “prejudices and stereotypical assumptions." He even said:

“An apology from me to the Black community, to women, and to all of you is not enough. I’ve hurt many, and I am beginning to understand the work ahead to make needed personal changes and over time to regain your trust.” 

The basis for the outrage seems to have to do with displaying idea that it's amazing that a person could be very dark. It seems obvious that he thought that because he was giving a compliment, that it was uplifting to stress the model's darkness (which she herself and the photographer are stressing). But he's essentially saying that he loves how weird it is, and that's alienating and otherizing. 

But it is very hard to think about the problem apart from the harshness of the punishment. That's almost completely distracting. The lesson taught is nothing sophisticated about cross-racial understanding, but something closer to: never never never comment on anyone's skin color.

The "legally blind" 65-year-old woman who mountain bikes "along knifelike cliff edges where one false move would mean a 2,000-foot fall."

Profiled in the NYT, here: "At 65 and Legally Blind, ‘Sister Shred’ Has Never Met a Slope She Wouldn’t Ride/Kris Nordberg still loves rolling through rock gardens and shredding powder on her ski bike — sometimes, in a nun costume." 

She has pseudoxanthoma elasticum, a progressive genetic disorder, and "riding with her head turned to the side, she can use her peripheral vision to make out people ahead of her on the trail and shapes and colors."

When she encounters a particularly tricky section of a trail — for instance, a rock staircase with jagged boulders that could snag a front wheel and send a rider over a bike’s handlebars — she sometimes asks strangers for guidance. She carries a bright orange strap and politely asks other riders if they could use it to mark the path of least resistance.

"My wife begins with the same optimized word everyday. I change mine up daily. I don’t know how long I can stay married to such a person."

That's the top-rated comment at "When It Comes to Wordle Strategies, It’s Personal/Aficionados of the deceptively simple word game, including Monica Lewinsky and J. Smith-Cameron, weigh in with their opening gambits" (NYT). 

By the way, who cares about Monica Lewinsky playing Wordle?

ADDED: Meade texts:

"The New York Times has endorsed the notion that JK Rowling’s supposedly retrograde bio-essentialism is not merely unfashionable – it makes her very existence regrettable."

"A commercial for the NYT, which appeared online and in public spaces last week, features a subscriber called Lianna listing a few of her favourite things. Rather than raindrops on roses and warm woollen mittens, she mentions ‘Breaking the Binary’ and ‘Heritage in Rich Hues.’And then, shortly after, she is seen in a field, wearing a sort of wizard’s cape and flourishing a wand, ‘Imagining Harry Potter Without its Creator.’... Of course, ‘Imagining Harry Potter Without its Creator’ might just be a harmless intellectual or a creative exercise, like imagining a nose that goes missing from a man’s face and is later found to have surpassed him in rank in the Russian civil service. Or a pair of trousers that goes on holiday without any legs in. The absurdity might be the point. But I don’t think it is. This has been going on for some time, and various attempts to cancel the woman who famously lost billionaire status only because she gave too much of her money away have pinged gratifyingly off the force field of her not giving a fuck...."

From "The erasure of JK Rowling/Harry Potter would not exist without her talents. It’s demented to pretend otherwise" by Simon Evans (Spiked)(internal links added).

Here's the NYT ad:

"A group of US truckers embarked in a convoy of vehicles on Wednesday on a 2,500 mile cross-country trip from Barstow, California to Washington DC to protest against coronavirus restrictions."

"The group, which is calling itself the 'people’s convoy,' is one of several starting from different parts of the country and due to start arriving in the US capital at various points through to late next week – all inspired by the demonstrations that recently paralyzed Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, for weeks....  Some of the trucker groups are scheduled to arrive in time for Joe Biden’s State of the Union address next Tuesday, 1 March.... The Pentagon said on Tuesday it had approved 400 national guard troops from the District of Columbia, who would not carry weapons, to help at traffic posts from this Saturday through 7 March. About 50 large tactical vehicles were also approved to be placed at traffic posts. In addition, up to 300 national guard troops from outside of Washington were approved to come to the city to assist at traffic posts if needed. Brian Brase, a truck driver who is one of the organizers, said that, regardless of where the trucks stop, 'we’re not going anywhere' until the group’s demands are met.... We plan to stay a while and hope they don’t escalate it the way Trudeau did with his disgusting government overreach'... Organisers bill the convoy as non-partisan, trucker-led, and supported by a wide range of ethnic minorities and religious faiths. However, as in Canada, significant elements of the protest appeared to attract a rightwing crowd...."

From "US trucker convoy gathers for cross-country trip to protest Covid rules/Group calling itself the ‘people’s convoy’ is one of several due to arrive in capital, similar to the demonstrations in Ottawa" (The Guardian).

"In the late 1980s, when [Rick Doblin] wanted to do research on the effects of psychotherapy with MDMA... 'no one would let me... I realised that politics was in the way of science. So I decided to study politics.'"

"He enrolled in the Kennedy School of Government, at Harvard, and he founded the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies to lobby for and ultimately to fund clinical research into psychedelics... Though possession of psychedelic drugs outside a research setting is still an offence under federal law, the Food and Drug Administration has recognised breakthroughs in the therapeutic use of MDMA for PTSD in 2017 and of psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression. An effective campaign for political reform has been led, in particular, by American military veterans who have championed the use of MDMA for PTSD; an unexpected reversal from the days when psychedelics became part of the protest movement against the Vietnam War. Part of the legal backlash against the drugs had a much broader target than just Leary and Alpert, said Mason Marks, leader of the Project on Psychedelics Law and Regulation at Harvard Law School. 'President Nixon wanted to shut down voices that opposed his political agenda.'"

From "Harvard takes a new trip into the world of psychedelic drugs/Six decades after Timothy Leary’s controversial experiments on his willing students, scientists are taking a more sober approach, writes Will Pavia" (London Times).

Why don't we see more of Secretary of State Antony Blinken?

His fleeting expression at 0:40 would be hilarious if the situation were not so dire: 


And that "humphf" at 0:56.

When in doubt, say "swift and severe."

Putin says his goal is the "demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine" — defending "civilians, including citizens of the Russian Federation" from "persecution and genocide by the Kyiv regime."

According to "Putin announces a ‘military operation’ in Ukraine as the U.N. Security Council pleads with him to pull back" (NYT). 

Mr. Putin cast his operation both as an attack on “Nazis” in Ukraine, as well as rejection of the American-led world order. Ukraine’s aspiration to join NATO, he said, represented a dire threat to Russia. He evoked the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 and the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 to make it clear that he viewed the West as morally bankrupt.

“For 30 years, we deliberately and patiently tried to reach agreement with the NATO countries on equal and indivisible security in Europe,” Mr. Putin said. But Russia was met, he said, with “cynical lies” and “blackmail” on the part of the West. The American-led West, he said, represented an “empire of lies.” ...

“You and I know that our strength lies in fairness and truth, which is on our side,” Mr. Putin said [addressing the Russian people]. “And if this is so, then it is hard not to agree that it is strength and readiness to fight that are the foundation for independence and sovereignty.” 

I don't think Biden has responded to the charge of Nazism, militarization, genocide, and persecution. He simply blames Putin for choosing to go to war and notes that war brings "death and destruction." That works as an argument against ever fighting a war — including a war against genuine Nazism, militarization, genocide, and persecution. 

I would like to hear a strong, clear statement detailing what's wrong with Putin's justification of his war. I would like something more erudite and fact-based than saying it was "bizarrely" asserted. From Biden's February 23rd speech:

Yesterday Vladimir Putin... bizarrely asserted that [two] regions are no longer part of Ukraine and they’re sovereign territory... Who in the Lord’s name does Putin think gives him the right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belong to his neighbors?

I'd like to hear Biden address Putin's reasons, which sound like the kind of reasons American leaders give when they invade other countries. Where's the sophistication that was supposed to come with the ousting of Trump? I can do without rhetorical questions involving "the Lord."

February 23, 2022

At Grennie's Café...


... you can bark about whatever you like.

"The two prosecutors leading the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation into former President Donald J. Trump and his business practices abruptly resigned on Wednesday…"

"... amid a monthlong pause in their presentation of evidence to a grand jury, according to people with knowledge of the matter, throwing the future of the high-stakes inquiry into serious doubt. The prosecutors, Carey R. Dunne and Mark F. Pomerantz, submitted their resignations after the new Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, indicated to them that he had doubts about moving forward with a case against Mr. Trump, the people said. Mr. Pomerantz confirmed in a brief interview that he had resigned, but declined to elaborate. Mr. Dunne declined to comment."

"The Olympics brand is really struggling. A lot of people don’t feel that emotional connection anymore... Audiences watch the Olympics for the stories."

"They need that superhero story, that star quality. They don’t really see the Olympics as a true sporting event, but rather as something more personal."

Said Tang Tang, a media professor at Kent State University who has studied the Olympics, quoted in "Beijing Olympic Ratings Were the Worst of Any Winter Games/NBCUniversal’s coverage had 11.4 million viewers per night on average, compared with 19.8 million for the Pyeongchang Games in 2018" (NYT).

"Fur coat? It is said that nobody wants fur these days, but animals do. Rehabilitators, like those at Sacred Friends, in Norfolk, Virginia, cut up old coats and..."

"... use the scraps as little capes and stoles to keep sick animals warm... peta wants your pelts, too. The organization donates them to the homeless ('the only humans with any excuse to wear fur,' according to its Web site), and lately it has shipped fur garments to Afghanistan and Iraq for use by refugees.... Your old bras are welcomed with open arms at the Bra Recyclers, a Phoenix-based enterprise that has sent more than four million bras to homeless shelters, schools, foster programs, and other nonprofits all over the world. As Elaine Birks-Mitchell, the founder of the Bra Recyclers, explained to me over Zoom, bras are not just about fashion. For girls in developing countries, they make it possible to play sports and attend school without embarrassment."

From "A Guide to Getting Rid of Almost Everything/Once you’ve thanked and said goodbye to the items that do not spark joy, what can you do with them?" by Patricia Marx (The New Yorker).

"Since Father’s vision was deteriorating, he had started to use a magnifying glass for reading. Once, before a sentencing rally..."

"... a security officer burst in, grabbed the magnifying glass, and then climbed a ladder up onto the roof of the auditorium, where, peering through the glass, he scanned the horizon for any sign of hostile activity, such as a pending attack by some rival militant faction. That image of a man trying to use a magnifying glass as a telescope has always stayed in my mind as an example of the ignorance and folly of the Cultural Revolution years."

From "1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows" by Ai Weiwei.

"But we were pulling... out with very great strength.... we would have gotten out with tremendous strength and dignity and power and respect. Instead, we look like we surrendered.... We were gonna pull out with great strength...."

Said Donald Trump on the Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show — audio and transcript, here.

Full quote: "After 21 years, I wanted out of Afghanistan. We were gonna be out. I got it down to 2,000 we were getting ready to pull them out, but we were pulling them out with very great strength. We were gonna keep Bagram, not because of Afghanistan. We spent billions building this base, has the biggest and longest runways in the world, and it’s one hour away from where China makes its nuclear weapons. So I was keeping that and keeping it in full force. But I was getting out of Afghanistan, and we would have gotten out with tremendous strength and dignity and power and respect. Instead, we look like we surrendered.... We were gonna pull out with great strength, we were gonna keep Bagram, and we were pulling out of other locations, too, where there’s no reason for us to be there. They hate us. We don’t particularly like them...."

He wasn't President at the time, so he doesn't have to compare his abstraction to what happened in the real world, and that's the great consolation of losing an election. You keep your dreams. You have the humiliation of being the loser, but in that world that might have been, you can be anything you want. You can surrender the most profound and beautiful surrender in the history of the universe — so strong, so dignified

Who's to say it wouldn't have been so? Who can know what would have happened at the Bagram Airbase we did not keep?

President Trump's composite characters.

A few days ago, I was blogging about composite characters, here. Axios was telling us that some Democrats thought they need "a unifying Republican foil not named Donald Trump," and Senator Mazie Hirono was quoted saying, "I wish that we could just find one face that we could point to, such as with Donald Trump... maybe a composite." 

That got me talking about the phenomenon of the composite character, and I ended with: "How many Republicans would you have to merge into a composite character as useful to demonize as Donald Trump?" 

So I was delighted to see that Trump, in his performance on the Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show — audio and transcript, here — used the idea of the composite character twice. Not that I think Trump reads my blog. That would be weird. And maybe annoying. I just like the thematic resonance. 

Here are Trump's 2 composites. First:

"I don’t think our country has ever been so low. You can take the five worst presidents in the history of our country and put ’em together; I don’t think they’ve done the damage that this administration has done." 


"I hope [Biden] does great for the country. I think it’s too late because I don’t think he can do great for the country. There’s been so much damage done that I think if he turned out to be George Washington and Abraham Lincoln combined, I think the net result is so bad, I just don’t think he can do it." 

For the composite Best President, Trump used just 2, and they're the 2 people always cited as first and second. The order varies, but they're first and second. 

For the composite Worst President, he only states the idea in the abstract, perhaps because he knows that he himself is on many of the Worst President, lists. But maybe — if he'd planned ahead — he'd have named the 5 that The Heritage Foundation names: Lyndon Johnson,  Jimmy Carter, Woodrow Wilson, James Buchanan, and Warren G. Harding.

I'm picturing something hydra-headed, like this:

Did Trump side with Putin when he said "This is genius.... How smart is that?... Here’s a guy who’s very savvy... You gotta say that’s pretty savvy"?

On yesterday's Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show — audio and transcript, here — here's the part where Trump credits Putin with genius (which his antagonists predictably take to mean that he's siding with Putin!):

I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, “This is genius.” Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine. Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful. So, Putin is now saying, “It’s independent,” a large section of Ukraine. I said, “How smart is that?” And he’s gonna go in and be a peacekeeper. That’s strongest peace force… They’re gonna keep peace all right.

That's criticizing Putin, but you've got to understand that it's sarcasm when he says, "They’re gonna keep peace all right."

It's not siding with the enemy to say the enemy is very smart. And it's so obvious that Trump's enemies would fault him for recognizing Putin's brilliance that I'm tempted to credit Trump with intending to trigger that faultfinding. 

"When you were asked, 'What's the biggest geopolitical threat facing America,' you said 'Russia.' Not al Qaeda; you said Russia. And, the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back, because the Cold War's been over for 20 years."

Said Barack Obama, in the third presidential debate in 2012, quoted by Chris Cillizza in "It's time to admit it: Mitt Romney was right about Russia" (CNN). 

So many people took the cue and laughed at Romney, who had been focusing attention on what Obama had said to then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev earlier that year: "This is my last election. And after my election, I have more flexibility." 

Obama's joke — "the 1980s are now calling..." — overshadowed Romney's statement, which was: "Russia is not a friendly character on the world stage. And for this President to be looking for greater flexibility, where he doesn't have to answer to the American people in his relations with Russia, is very, very troubling, very alarming." 

Now, Cillizza says: "What looked like a major flub during the 2012 campaign -- and was used as a political cudgel by Obama -- now looks very, very different. It should serve as a reminder that history is not written in the moment -- and that what something looks like in that moment is not a guarantee of what it will always look like."

How about telling us what you actually said at the time? Because you, Chris Cillizza, were part of the "political cudgel" that — passive voice — "was used." You had the ability at the time to be more than semi-conscious, and as a writer at The Washington Post, you had a responsibility to do more than cheer-lead for Obama, something more than glance "in the moment" and say "what something looks like." 

It was time at the time to say who was right and wrong! And here's what you said at the time:


Oh, the superciliousness of "methinks"! It looks so awful now — that supercillizziousness...

Here's The Week celebrating Obama and Cillizza's wit at the time:

4. The '80s called....

After Obama noted that, earlier this year, Romney had called Russia, not Al Qaeda, our greatest geopolitical threat, the president unleashed his other zinger of the night: "The 1980's are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back — because the Cold War has been over for 20 years. But governor, when it comes to our foreign policy, you seem to want to import the foreign policies of the 1980s, just like the social policy of the 1950s, and the economic policies of the 1920s." Boom, "that '1980s called' line was the best line of the 3 debates methinks," tweeted The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza.

Yeah, "boom" yourself. I'm sure the zinger amused Putin.

February 22, 2022

At the Melancholy Café...

... you can brood about whatever you like.


The image is the painting "Melancholy," by Edvard Munch. Forgive me for using my "Scream" tag, but I don't like tag proliferation, and it's the Edvard Munch tag that I already have. If Munch becomes more important, it will be like the way I used my "Apprentice" tag for all things Donald Trump until I reached a tipping point.

"In a hypothetical 2024 match up, former President Donald Trump is at 48% and President Biden is at 44%..."

"... a two point change from November where Trump was ahead 45% to 43%. Both poll results are within the polls margin of error."

A new report from Emerson College Polling.

"President Biden is frequently late for big speeches and today is no exception. White House officials initially said he would speak at 2 p.m."

"... about the crisis in Ukraine, but later sent out an update to the schedule that moved the speech to 1 p.m. By 1:40 p.m., reporters had yet to be called to the East Room for the remarks."

An update from the NYT, published 8 minutes ago.

ADDED: Here's the live feed from the White House, where we await the President's appearance:

"There are pets on raw-food diets, gluten-free diets, grain-free diets, vegan and vegetarian diets. There are pets that munch on treats flavored like a turmeric latte or made with CBD..."

"... pets that never skip a probiotic or vitamin C supplement. Some owners whip up special menus at home, while others shop for the growing number of products tailored to these diets.... As human birthrates have steadily declined in the United States, many people have come to think of pet ownership as a kind of parenthood. 'It is a flex to say, "My dog eats as well as a human,"' said Sean MacDonald, 30, a Toronto chef who prepares elaborate meals of primarily raw food for his chocolate Labrador, Hazelnut, on his TikTok account.... [Meanwhile, American Kennel Club exec says] 'Dogs will eat anything you put in front of them, but it is not necessarily in their best interests.'"

From "The Diet Worked For Them. Now Their Pets Are on It. Paleo, vegan, gluten-free: Owners are putting animals on human regimens and fueling a huge pet-wellness industry. But some health experts are concerned" (NYT).

From the comments: "We fed our pugs home cooked chicken, brown rice and sweet potato for years. They were always having stomach issues, making messes in the house, gassy. The vet finally put her foot down, and we switched to kibble. No more digestive problems, or surprises on the floor. I don’t eat kibble myself, however." 

So the question is what's in the human's best interest, right?

"In a case that hinged on proving the defendants’ state of mind, prosecutors argued that the men’s prejudice helped explain why they erroneously viewed Arbery, 25, as a potential criminal..."

"... when they cut him off in pickup trucks and threatened him with guns in a Georgia neighborhood on Feb. 23, 2020. The government presented evidence from 20 witnesses, many of whom testified about racially derogatory text messages, social media posts and remarks from the three men in which they disparaged Black people. 'All three defendants told you loud and clear, in their own words, how they feel about African Americans,' prosecutor Tara Lyons told the jury, made up of eight White people, three Black people and one Hispanic person. 'Yes, race, racism, racial discrimination — those can all be very difficult topics to discuss. But the facts of this case are not difficult.'... The McMichaels and Bryan were convicted on state murder charges in November 2021 after a trial in which prosecutors did not make race a central focus of their case.... Under sentencing guidelines, in the absence of a plea deal, the men are expected to serve their sentences in state prison...."

From "Killers of Ahmaud Arbery found guilty of federal hate-crimes charges" (WaPo). There was no plea deal because the Arbery family objected to it.

Language proficiency — beautiful!

"Wisconsin GOP Suicide Watch/Fantasies about undoing 2020 will help re-elect Gov. Tony Evers."

That headline — for a piece by The Editorial Board of The Wall Street Journal — caught my eye.

Donald Trump’s delusions about the 2020 election are the gift that keeps on giving—to Democrats.

"When it comes to distant and adversarial countries, we are taught to recognize tyranny through the use of telltale tactics of repression...."

"But when these weapons are wielded by Western governments, the precise opposite framework is imposed: describing them as despotic is no longer obligatory but virtually prohibited. That tyranny exists only in Western adversaries but never in the West itself is treated as a permanent axiom of international affairs, as if Western democracies are divinely shielded from the temptations of genuine repression. Indeed, to suggest that a Western democracy has descended to the same level of authoritarian repression as the West's official enemies is to assert a proposition deemed intrinsically absurd or even vaguely treasonous. The implicit guarantor of this comforting framework is democracy. Western countries, according to this mythology, can never be as repressive as their enemies because Western governments are at least elected democratically. The implicit guarantor of this comforting framework is democracy. Western countries, according to this mythology,

"The West might not always like what President Putin has to say, but even his critics would admit that he usually says it well. Yet yesterday..."

"... as he told the nation that Russia was recognising the independence of two Kremlin-backed breakaway republics in eastern Ukraine, his rhetorical skills seemed to desert him. In a rambling speech that lasted almost an hour, the Russian leader veered off into an often bizarre history lesson. 'Modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia, more precisely, Bolshevik, communist Russia,' Putin said, adding that Vladimir Lenin was the 'author and architect' of Ukraine. He spoke about Ukraine’s policy of removing Soviet-era statues and renaming towns named after Communist officials, saying: 'You want de-communisation? ... don’t stop halfway. We’re willing to show Ukraine what real de-communisation means for it.'... Sergey Naryshkin, head of the SVR foreign intelligence service, stammered through an exchange with the president, at one point slipping up and saying that they should be annexed by Russia. 'We’re not talking about that, we are not discussing that,' Putin said, with a smile and a shake of the head."

The London Times reports.

When it comes to garbled speech about Ukraine, the U.S.A. is making even less sense: "Kamala Harris slammed for ‘word salad’ response to Ukraine-Russia questions" (NY Post). 

“I mean, listen, guys, we’re talking about the potential for war in Europe,” Harris said at one point Sunday in response to a question about how the Biden administration saw the situation’s “endgame” playing out. “I mean, let’s really take a moment to understand the significance of what we’re talking about,” the veep went on. “It’s been over 70 years. And through those 70 years … there has been peace and security. We are talking about the real possibility of war in Europe.”

One can imagine Putin smiling and shaking his head.

"'Free IVF' as China tries to reverse declining birthrate."

Headline at the London Times. 

"Republicans have been clamoring for Biden to close gaps in the wall that have become busy crossing points for migrants and smugglers."

"In some locations those spaces are a few feet across, but they’re far wider in others, and it’s unclear what the Biden administration will consider closing a gap vs. building new barriers.... Looming over Biden’s repair plan is the possibility Trump could run for office again, whipping up crowds with chants of 'Finish the Wall!' and promises to bring back the bulldozers. Trump built 450 miles of new barriers during his term but had plans for at least 250 more.... In the scramble to build as quickly as possible before Biden took office, construction crews in several areas of southern Arizona skipped over locations that required additional engineering or custom wall panels.... One span of the barrier east of Sasabe, Ariz., has two dozen gaps in the wall and other segments with misshapen, temporary panels welded to the structure like patches. Myles Traphagen, a conservation biologist who has mapped and documented the impact of border wall construction using motion-activated wildlife cameras,

February 21, 2022

At the Sunrise Café...

IMG_9237 2 

... keep your spirits up.

"Searching for a strategy to avoid a 2022 midterm disaster, advisers to President Biden have discussed elevating a unifying Republican foil not named Donald Trump...."

"Biden confidants worry that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is too unknown, that Biden won't demonize Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell because of their longstanding and collegial relationship and that elevating Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis could backfire.... [S]ome Biden advisers are reluctant to contest every midterm race on DeSantis' signature issue — COVID-19 — because the Biden administration's approaches on vaccine and mask mandates may be a political liability with some swing voters.... [T]here's close to a consensus that Democrats can't hold Congress by focusing on Trump.... Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) told Axios: 'I wish that we could just find one face that we could point to, such as with Donald Trump... maybe a composite.'"

Axios analyzes.

Here's the TV Tropes article on "composite characters." 

Certain media, including Real Life, tend to have the time and space to utilize Loads and Loads of Characters, a large number of individuals with significant and/or necessary contributions to the storyline. But in an adaptation it can be difficult to offer adequate time and space.... A solution is to invoke artistic license and compress two or more such figures into a single character with traits drawn from all of them.... Instead of having three different smart guys on the team divided up into distinct fields, you make one of them an Omnidisciplinary Scientist and discard the others....

I don't know how well that will transfer into political discourse, but here's something about "Dilbert":

Dilbert revived LOUD HOWARD, a character who'd proved quite popular with readers of the strip but who the author thought was too flat to make much use of. To make him more interesting, the show merged him with Nervous Ted and had him shout constantly about trivial worries. 

How many Republicans would you have to merge into a composite character as useful to demonize as Donald Trump?

"And though there were pockets of sympathy for the protesters’ frustration with pandemic rules, the bulk of Canadians resented their tactics and wanted them to go home..."

"... surveys show. In Ottawa, residents were angry that the authorities took so long to act. 'This thing was a truly fringe movement that got lucky, in my view, in terms of failures of policing,' [said Wesley Wark, a senior fellow at the Center for International Governance Innovation, a Canadian public policy group]. 'I think this has been an extraordinary moment and flash in the pan.' There were elements of right wing extremism tied to the protests around the country, where Confederate, QAnon and Trump flags had cropped up. Conspiracy theorists could be found milling about Parliament, too: people who believed big Pharma created the coronavirus in order to make money on vaccines or that QR codes allow the government to police our thoughts. But the protests drew in thousands of people on some weekends, many of them just frustrated Canadians who didn’t want to be forced to get a vaccine or were just fed up with the pandemic and its restrictions.... In interviews, trucker after trucker said this was his or her first protest...."

From "After Trucker Protest, Canada Grapples With a Question: Was It a Blip, or Something Bigger?/The demonstrators were passionate, organized and supported financially, but such spontaneous movements often have a tough time converting their energy into real change" (NYT).

"Remember, the Emirate had not promised you the provision of food. The Emirate has kept its promises. It is God who has promised his creatures the provision of food."

Said Mullah Muhammad Hassan, the head of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, quoted in "If Joe Biden Doesn’t Change Course, This Will Be His Worst Failure" (NYT). 

95% of the people "don't have enough to eat" and "nearly 9 million are at risk of starvation." That's because there's a drought, the Taliban aren't really trying to manage the economy, and:

The Afghan economy was built around our support. Roughly 45 percent of the G.D.P. and 75 percent of government spending was foreign aid. When we abruptly cut off that cash, we sent it into a tailspin. Then we went further. We froze more than $9 billion that belonged to the Afghan government — the vast majority of its foreign reserves.

"I thought a lot about the implications of photographing women, many of whom are still teenagers, figure skating in revealing costumes...."

"Nicole Schott, 25, of Germany, wore a costume with a massive cutout on one side of her waist. As she turned into a backbend while spinning on one skate, I snapped a few frames of how far she was bending. The shadows on her neck and along her stomach, to me, showed the amount of torque the athletes’ bodies endure and the strength it takes to accomplish these tricks."

From "Our Photographers’ Favorite Olympic Images/Times photographers sought to capture every aspect of the Olympic Games in Beijing. These pictures were special to them" (NYT).

Is there something creepy about fixating on the details of the bodies of very young women? The photograph frames the torso and excludes the face, the arms, and the legs — that is, most of what you usually look at when watching a figure skater.

Do you feel differently about that quote when you know that the photographer who wrote that is female? Does it matter that the skater herself chose — or her people chose for her — to wear "a massive cutout on one side of her waist"? Does a cutout say I want you to look right here, dictating fixating?

ADDED: Do you immunize yourself by thinking about it a lot — or by saying you thought about it a lot? Or does the thinking add to the creepiness? And what did you think? This particular photographer, a woman, says "I thought a lot about the implications of photographing women" within what I assume she expected us to imagine was a properly feminist framework.

"The residents are quick to point out that Hank is gentle and sweet. When he breaks into a home, he is far more interested in the food..."

"... than any people who may be inside, Ms. Bryant said. 'He just sits there and eats,' she said. 'He doesn’t attack them. He doesn’t growl. He doesn’t make rude faces.'"

From "Hank the Tank, a 500-Pound Bear, Ransacks a California Community/Paintballs, bean bags, sirens and Tasers cannot keep the 'exceptionally large bear' from seeking leftover pizza and other food. Officials say he has broken into at least 28 homes since July'" (NYT).

"But as millions of jobs that require steel-toed boots and well-built overalls have moved overseas, younger workers are largely averse to traditional trades, leaving these types of jobs unfilled."

"Carhartt, meanwhile, has adapted to these new dynamics. Its stores often pop up in urban and suburban areas. Just as Patagonia sells rock-climbing jackets to bankers, Carhartt now sells logging pants to baristas. And while these new customers endure jokes and memes mocking their clean-cut personas, the politics of wearing (or not wearing) Carhartt seem to be more muddled. Heated dialogue recently erupted after the company decided to enforce President Biden’s vaccine mandate despite a Supreme Court ruling that it was unconstitutional. The move spurred conservative talk of a boycott, while arousing liberal defenders. Somehow, though, Carhartt has succeeded in appealing to its blue-collar emblems, like Sarah Palin, while appealing to new fans, like Barack Obama.... It may be true that the brand’s newfound popularity in coastal cities, like New York, where I live now, is a form of cultural appropriation, one that surely sands down the struggles of blue-collar life. But the proliferation of these clothes among new types of workers may also reflect the country’s growing sense of precarity, and also solidarity, around labor. I still feel a twinge of impostor syndrome in Carhartt garments, a sentiment echoed by others I spoke to. But I now see the clothes as representative of where I grew up, my friends and my hard, if often nonphysical, work."

From "When the Heart Belongs to Carhartt/A beloved store in a small hometown closes, but the residents still need their work wear" by Jasper Craven (NYT).

"President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed 'in principle' to meet, U.S. and French officials said..."

"... even as troops continue to gather near the Ukraine border, suggesting the window for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis is closing. While Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday there are not yet 'concrete plans' for a Russia-U.S. summit, he added that dialogue among ministers would continue and 'it is possible if the heads of states consider it expedient. A decision can be made at any moment.' The summit was proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron during separate calls with Biden and Putin on Sunday. Officials in Paris and Washington said the talks would go ahead only if Moscow doesn’t attack...."

The Washington Post reports.

Macy Gray performed a sweet, subtle version of the National Anthem at the NBA All-Star Game, so the story should not be...


... that LeBron James was laughing and might have been laughing at her.

Put the focus where it belongs, or put it somewhere uplifting — such as on Gray's beautiful, feathered overcoat.

"Norway, with a population of just five million, is executing its quadrennial triumph over the rest of the world...."

"For Norway, everything changed after the 1988 Calgary Games, where it won just five medals, none of them gold. That was an unacceptable outcome.... Norway, which had quickly transformed from a middling economy built around fishing and farming into a petroleum-rich nation, started plowing money into Olympiatoppen, the organization that oversees elite Olympic sports. It also doubled down on its commitments under its Children’s Right in Sports document, which guarantees and encourages every child in the country access to high-quality opportunities in athletics, with a focus on participation and socialization rather than hard-core competition. Norway’s well-funded local sports clubs, which exist in nearly every neighborhood and village, do not hold championships until the children reach age 13.... 'There just seems to be a lot more emphasis on including everybody,' said Atle McGrath, a 21-year-old Norwegian Alpine skier whose father, Felix, competed in Alpine for the United States at the 1988 Olympics... Jim Stray-Gundersen, a former surgeon and physiologist who is the sports science adviser to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, lived in Norway, where his father grew up, for five years while working as a scientist with Norway’s Olympic athletes. He said a priority of the country is to build a culture of health and regular exercise, and its competitive prowess flows from that. 'It’s how you produce psychological satisfaction, healthy life habits, and stellar athletes over time, and it’s very much in contrast to how we do it and don’t do it in the U.S.,' he said."

From "It’s Norway’s Games Again. What’s Its Secret?/Norway won its record 15th gold medal on Friday, the kind of success that has drawn experts from other countries trying figure out how the tiny nation keeps doing it" (NYT).

Here's the final medal count. Norway finished with 16 gold medals, twice that of the U.S.A. Germany won the second most gold medals — 12 — but Germany has a population of 83 million. 

Notice that what produced a lot of medals also seems to be great for everyone's health and well-being.

February 20, 2022

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.


Challengingly tiny Tokyo apartments (loved by 2 architecture students).

I scrolled through TikTok (so you don't have to), and I've selected exactly 3 items.

1. A little boy is dressed in a miniature version of the outfit his father wears every week and the father reacts. Possibly a set up, but how about we say it's not?

2. A dramatic reading of an obituary written by a bot (actually it's a page from the book "I Forced a Bot to Write This Book: A.I. Meets B.S.," written by the humorist Keaton Patti). 

3. A man explains how "uncut gems" — which is about the way one actress pronounced 2 words — went viral and got oversaturated within a week, and he goes from distanced and rational to hopelessly infected within the space of 3 minutes.

"Ai Weiwei recounts how his father naively argued with Mao that literature and art cannot be 'a gramophone or a loudspeaker for politics' but must instead find 'expression in their truthfulness.'"

"Unfortunately he had no way of knowing that Mao was just then readying a major political 'rectification campaign (整风运动)' against 'incorrect thought (错误思想)' that would make self-expression among Communist intelligentsia as taboo in the arts as in politics. In fact, Mao’s 1942 treatise, The Yan’an Forums on Literature and Art, which formed the basis for this movement, has guided the party’s quest for ideological unity ever since its publication. Under its shadow, writes Ai Weiwei, 'everyone sank into an ideological swamp of "criticism" and "self-criticism"' in which the bourgeois tendencies of his father’s art marked him indelibly as being politically unreliable.... Then, like half a million other intellectuals, he was 'sent down (下放)' to the Great Northern Wilderness (北大荒)....

"[A]n 1885 anti-vaccine banner that read 'Pure blood and no adulteration'; and activists who asserted that vaccination was 'pollution of our veins.'..."

"The association of 'pure,' 'natural' and 'good' would have made perfect sense at the time, since natural goodness and unnatural evil were standard in popular discussions of health. In his immensely popular 1867 book 'The Philosophy of Eating,' homeopath Albert J. Bellows blamed all illness on impurity and in a chapter titled 'Impure Blood' explained how good health depended on 'natural food' and 'pure water.' Illness was the result of 'unnatural drugs or medicine.' The same associations remained powerful in the mid-20th century, when opponents of water fluoridation complained about unnatural adulteration of what should be pure. Their position — described by social scientists at the time as 'naturalist syndrome' — was so mainstream that Stanley Kubrick skewered it in his classic 'Dr. Strangelove,' wherein the lunatic Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper bemoans how fluoride corrupts the 'pure blood of pure Americans.'"

 From "How the phrase ‘natural immunity’ misleads us about real risks and dangers/Antibodies to the coronavirus are not better just because they are ‘natural'" (WaPo, September 29, 2021). 

That's written by Alan Levinovitz, an associate professor of religious studies at James Madison University and the author of "Natural: How Faith in Nature's Goodness Leads to Harmful Fads, Unjust Laws, and Flawed Science."

"We appreciate any help, but everyone should understand that these are not charitable contributions that Ukraine should ask for or remind of."

"These are not noble gestures for which Ukraine should bow low. This is your contribution to the security of Europe and the world. Where Ukraine has been a reliable shield for eight years. And for eight years it has been rebuffing one of the world’s biggest armies. Which stands along our borders, not the borders of the EU.... And I hope no one thinks of Ukraine as a convenient and eternal buffer zone between the West and Russia. This will never happen. Nobody will allow that. Otherwise – who’s next? Will NATO countries have to defend each other?... I thank all the states that supported Ukraine today. In words, in declarations, in concrete help. Those who are on our side today. On the side of truth and international law. I’m not calling you by name – I don’t want some other countries to be ashamed. But this is their business, this is their karma."

Said Volodymyr Zelenskiy, quoted in "Ukrainian President Makes Historic Speech in Munich (English Translation)" (Kyiv Post).

"Exhausted, confused, isolated and depressed Americans are not buying the Democratic line that things are better than they look."

Writes Maureen Dowd, in "Can Dems Dodge Doomsday?" (NYT). Focused on helping the Democratic Party in the next election, she looks to 3 Democratic Party strategists — James Carville, David Axelrod, and Stan Greenberg.

Biden’s advisers are urging him just to sell harder and people will get it. Axelrod disagrees: “You cannot persuade people if their lived experience is telling them something different. We’ve been through hell in America and around the world.”...

Carville [says Democrats] should work not to seem like an “urban, coastal, arrogant party”... “People don’t like you.”...

... Greenberg warned Democrats not to use Obama.... “Obama did not give voice to the hurt and anger that working class voters were feeling,” Greenberg wrote.... Fretting about the threat of Trumpism, given that the Democrats are bleeding working-class voters, including Black and Hispanic ones, he told me, “If they don’t listen this time, we’re going to end up with fascism, dammit.”

To sum up. Axelrod says: empathize with the people. Carville says: stop being so damned dislikeable. Greenberg says: do class politics, not race politics.

ADDED: I'm reading the comments over there and it's overflowing with denial: Stop trashing Biden! I'm tired of attacks on Democrats! 

One comment with over 1400 up votes ends with the poorly thought-out line: "D to go forward; R for reverse....over an endless series of catastrophic cliffs." Don't go forward over even one catastrophic cliff, because that will be the end of it all, and what lies beyond is irrelevant. If the endless cliffs are behind us, so that going in reverse would take us over them, how did we get here in the first place?

Do you visualize history as a landscape? Do you think of the government as a car driving over that landscape? Does that car have an automatic transmission? When I get in my car, I don't see a "D"...