March 19, 2022

At the Last Day of Winter Café...


... you can write about whatever you want.

Did you realize tomorrow is the first day of spring?

Testing out the camper in the heartland.

"Three Russian cosmonauts arrived at the International Space Station last night in flight suits made in the yellow and blue of the Ukrainian flag, in what appeared to be a daring statement against the war."

"Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for a six-month stay aboard the orbiting laboratory yesterday, joining the crew of two Russians, four Americans and one German. In an extraordinary move, the three new arrivals emerged from their Soyuz capsule after docking with the space station wearing bright yellow jumpsuits with blue stripes, instead of the standard-issue blue uniform. " 

The London Times reports.

"We just went out with our friend to walk the dog, and you’re wearing a mask, everyone’s wearing a mask. The dog is the only one who’s completely alive!"

"He’s living the dog’s life. The rest of us are afraid to die, and afraid to kill, so we’re masked up and we’re injected, and so forth. It’s the most challenging time of this life cycle for us. We didn’t have a world war or a depression, the things our ancestors had. This is the hand we got dealt and if you fold, you can’t win."

Said Bill Murray, quoted in "Bill Murray: ‘We are afraid to die and afraid to kill’/The comedy great sits down with classical cellist Jan Vogler and talks to Kevin EG Perry about the pandemic being this generation’s ‘most challenging time’, his cure for depression and shooting a majestic concert movie at the Acropolis of Athens" (Independent).


"I remember my friend Hunter Thompson..."

Ah, the other Hunter. 

"Like, there's two old white dudes... the latter of whom I've *never* heard of...."

I want to quote something written by Christopher Adams, "Court Jester of CrossWorld," guest-blogging this morning at Rex Parker Does the New York Times Crossword Puzzle, but I've got to put it after the jump because it reveals answers — who are these old white dudes? — that you won't want to know if you've not yet completed the Saturday puzzle and you care about it.

I don't know how old Adams is, but it's the usual stance over there, guest-blogger or no, to disparage the puzzle for skewing to the knowledge base of the old. Anyway, here's a (long!) sentence that focuses on the long answers in the middle of the puzzle:

"I'm getting so tired of this woke world."

I got there via the link in this Fox News tweet (which I saw because Caitlin Jenner is trending on Twitter):


"The Limestone mine operates day and night, growing louder at night and on weekends when bitcoin’s electricity-hungry computers can take advantage of down time and lower prices on the electricity grid and ramp up their algorithmic-solving power...."

"Appalachia, with its cheap electricity from coal, natural gas and hydro, was already attractive to bitcoin miners when China, which dominated world production, cracked down on such operations last summer, worried about the volatility of digital currencies.... [R]esidents in areas that initially welcomed crypto mining are now experiencing buyer’s remorse.... Craig Ponder, pastor at the New Salem Baptist Church... compared the noise to the jet engines he heard while serving in the military. He said that the noise can make it difficult for congregants to chat with each other in the parking lot after services.... 'In a rural environment, you have a very low ambient noise level anyway, so you walk outside and a creek is gurgling, birds are chirping, but there is not a lot of man-made noise. Once you take some of these bitcoin mining facilities, the noise carries, there is nothing to hide it or mask it,' [said a sound mitigation expert].... 'This is an industry that is on fire now, and a lot of people may not have known the noise the machines make; there are a lot of inexperienced people coming into the industry, and they are causing issues,' said [John Warren, the chief executive of GEM Mining, which owns 32,000 bitcoin miners]."

From "An Appalachian town was told a bitcoin mine would bring an economic boom. It got noise pollution and an eyesore. Supporters of the crypto plant promised an expanded tax base and job creation. What residents say they got was the constant din from massive computers and equally massive cooling fans" (WaPo).

This article is mainly about how noisy the "mine" is. There's a bit about how bad it looks — "like a German POW camp," according to a commissioner who regrets voting for it. I don't know why an article that's so negative about a business doesn't mention climate change. I mean, I can easily find other articles on this subject, but isn't global warming routinely shoehorned into news articles? It's strange to see it bypassed here. Did I miss a reference? 

Anyway, the noise problem is very sad, and the climate change issue is well represented in the comments section over there. Example: "And the environmental costs are astounding. I can't believe we're getting into this kind of thing when we're trying to cut back our environmental footprint. Crypto is a climate change villain, without offering anything back."

It looks as though Elon Musk responded — almost instantly — to a plea for help from Ukraine.

"When war broke out in Ukraine, the country faced threats of Russian cyberattacks and shelling that had the potential to take down the Internet, making it necessary to develop a backup plan. So the country’s minister of digital transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, tweeted a direct plea to Musk urging him to send help. Musk replied just hours later: 'Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.' Ukraine has already received thousands of antennas from Musk’s companies and European allies, which has proved 'very effective,' Fedorov said in an interview with The Washington Post Friday. 'The quality of the link is excellent,' Fedorov said through a translator, using a Starlink connection from an undisclosed location. 'We are using thousands, in the area of thousands, of terminals with new shipments arriving every other day."

From "Ukraine has already received thousands of antennas from Musk’s companies and European allies, which has proved 'very effective,' Fedorov said in an interview with The Washington Post Friday.... " (WaPo). 

Here's that Musk signal Federov sent out:

Federov tweeted at 6:06 AM — my time, in the Central Zone. I had to open a separate page for Musk to find out the precise time when he responded that he had made Starlink active in Ukraine. You can see, below, that it was 4:33 PM. I've chosen to display it along with the first response Twitter shows after that, something by one Emily Schooley that went up a few minutes later:

I'm keeping her in this post because I mean to celebrate Musk, and I think his superhero status is heightened by his encounter with a comic-book-style antagonist:

But let me add one more thing and knock this story down to earth. From the WaPo article:

Even before Fedorov tweeted at Musk for help, SpaceX was working on a way to get Starlink to Ukraine. President and COO Gwynne Shotwell said... that the company had been working for several weeks to get regulatory approval to allow the satellites to communicate in Ukraine. "But then they tweeted," she said, according to SpaceNews. "There’s our permission." 

It's not as though Fedorov cried out from his war zone, and Elon Musk suddenly paid attention and then delivered results the same day. The company had been working on this for weeks and the problem was getting regulatory approval. Somebody got the idea that a tweet from Federov could work as the needed approval, and, after that, Federov produced the red-tape-cutting tweet. That's how it looks to me.

March 18, 2022

At the Rainy Day Café...

 ... you can talk about whatever you want.

No sunrise run this morning. Too rainy! But, here, I'll give you this oddball extra from yesterday:


"Russian forces are static when night falls... with their fear of Ukrainian shelling forcing them to hide their tanks in villages between houses..."

"... knowing that conventional artillery cannot risk hitting civilians. But immobile convoys are the prime targets of Aerorozvidka, which has 50 squads of expert drone pilots.... 'In the night it’s impossible to see our drones.... We look specifically for the most valuable truck in the convoy and then we hit it precisely and we can do it really well with very low collateral damage — even in the villages it’s possible. You can get much closer at night.'...Because of power cuts and internet connection problems in parts of Ukraine as a result of Russian attacks, Aerorozvidka has turned to... Starlink, a system donated by Elon Musk that uses satellites in a low orbit...."

From "Specialist Ukrainian drone unit picks off invading Russian forces as they sleep" (London Times).

"It’s not until the 24th paragraph that the story mentions e-mails involving Hunter Biden and his associates in those deals..."

"... followed by these two sentences: 'Those emails were obtained by The New York Times from a cache of files that appears to have come from a laptop abandoned by Mr. Biden in a Delaware repair shop. The email and others in the cache were authenticated by people familiar with them and with the investigation.' Heart be still. It took the Gray Lady nearly 17 months to grudgingly concede even a fraction of what New York Post readers learned in October 2020. Of course, Times readers would have learned all that too if their paper was still in the news business instead of being a running dog for Democrats...."

Writes Michael Goodwin in "The New York Times hates to say The Post told you so" (NY Post).

MEANWHILE: "It’s sad, because the baby looks like him, with blond hair," said the lawyer for Lunden Roberts, quoted in "Lawyer for mother of Hunter Biden’s child says he expects president’s son to be indicted" (NY Post).

"Many on the left refuse to acknowledge that cancel culture exists at all, believing that those who complain about it are offering cover for bigots to peddle hate speech."

"Many on the right, for all their braying about cancel culture, have embraced an even more extreme version of censoriousness as a bulwark against a rapidly changing society, with laws that would ban books, stifle teachers and discourage open discussion in classrooms.... However you define cancel culture, Americans know it exists, and feel its burden. In a new national poll commissioned by Times Opinion and Siena College, only 34 percent of Americans said they believed that all Americans enjoyed freedom of speech completely. The poll found that 84 percent of adults said it is a 'very serious' or 'somewhat serious' problem that some Americans do not speak freely in everyday situations because of fear of retaliation or harsh criticism.... 'There’s a crisis around the freedom of speech now because many people don’t understand it, they weren’t taught what it means and why it matters,' said Suzanne Nossel, the chief executive of PEN America, a free speech organization.... This editorial board plans to identify a wide range of threats to freedom of speech in the coming months, and to offer possible solutions... Free speech demands a greater willingness to engage with ideas we dislike and a greater self-restraint in the face of words that challenge and even unsettle us...."

From "America Has a Free Speech Problem" by the New York Times Editorial Board.

Okay, good start. I will continue to keep track of what the NYT is doing in relation to freedom of speech. I'll just note here that if Americans haven't been "taught what it means and why it matters," the NYT bears some responsibility. It's not a neutral observer of the culture, but a very active participant.

"[Lia] Thomas and her rise... forced the typically plodding N.C.A.A. to grapple more quickly with a subject that scientists are still examining and its consequences for sports competitions."

"Comprehensive research in athletes is still lacking, but early studies suggest that suppressing testosterone in transgender women decreases muscle mass and hemoglobin levels, reducing how much oxygen can be carried through the bloodstream. Most of the changes occur within the first year of hormone suppression, but transgender women may still have more muscle mass than their cisgender peers even after three years. As some insist that no amount of testosterone suppression can undo the physiological changes linked to male puberty, like taller height and larger hands and feet, others dispute that transgender women have a built-in advantage and have argued that inclusion should outweigh competition."

From "Lia Thomas Wins an N.C.A.A. Swimming Title/With her victory in Atlanta, Thomas, who competes for the University of Pennsylvania, became the first openly transgender woman to win an N.C.A.A. swimming championship" (NYT).

Here's the ESPN coverage: "Amid protests, Penn swimmer Lia Thomas becomes first known transgender athlete to win Division I national championship." 

"[J.D.] Vance went on Steve Bannon’s War Room and said 'I gotta be honest with you, I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or another' during a clumsy attempt..."

"... to show that his real priority is the U.S.-Mexico border and stopping shipments of fentanyl. He then kind of, sort of, walked back his statements a few days later. But then he cashed in one of infinite invitations to go on Tucker Carlson’s show to un-walk back the walk-back. The banner on his campaign webpage features the following fundraising appeal: 'Secure our Southern Border and NOT Ukraine’s Border! Stand with Tucker Carlson and JD Vance.' In other words: J.D. Vance is gonna J.D. Vance. It’s what he does."

From "J.D. Vance Gets Canceled/Can’t a Republican Senate candidate make one little crack about not caring about Ukraine?" (The Bulwark).

ADDED: Vance went to Yale Law School. He wrote that highly acclaimed memoir. Then why does he come across as so dumb when he's doing politics? I have a theory that I came up with to try to understand some of the really dumb things Laurence Tribe tweets. It's that a person who is too far above the normal range has trouble thinking of how to speak to people of normal intelligence, that is, the people he needs to reach in order to be successful in politics. He knows they're significantly less intelligent than he is, and he adopts a style that he imagines to be at their level. But he's goes too far. He knows other people are — comparatively — dumb, but he overshoots the mark. Those whose intelligence is just modestly above average are shooting from a closer range and can hit the target more accurately. That's very annoying to the truly superior folks. That's why — I think — Trump drove Tribe absolutely stark raving mad. And stark raving madness doesn't improve your aim!

"St. Patrick’s Day turned into St. Peter’s Day."

A nice first line by the NYT sportswriter Adam Zagoria, in "N.C.A.A. Men’s Tournament: No. 2 Seed Kentucky Downed By St. Peter’s/St. Peter’s, a No. 15 seed from Jersey City, N.J., toppled one of the most popular national title picks in the Kentucky Wildcats."

The St. Peter's team is called the Peacocks. I like teams to be named after animals, and it's always fun to imagine the actual animals fighting — in this case, peacocks against wildcats. Ha ha. 

I liked this:

St. Peter’s guard Doug Edert hit a floater that rolled around the rim before dropping in to tie the game at 71 and send it to overtime.

[Peacocks Coach Shaheen] Holloway was asked after the game: “Did you ever get nervous?”

“Nah — for what?” he said. “It’s basketball.”

"Henry Hoeft, a 28-year-old former U.S. Army infantryman and steelworker from a small town outside Columbus, Ohio, was compelled earlier this month to leave his young son to fight in Ukraine..."

"... where his father’s family has its roots. After fundraising online and saying his good-byes, Hoeft packed up some of the combat gear he used sporadically in recent years as a member of the boogaloo boys — the extremist, anti-government militia that rose to notoriety in 2020 — and took the route that has become common for the thousands of ex-military types attracted to the newly established Ukrainian foreign legion...."

I'm reading "The Beefing Boogaloo Boys of Ukraine" (Intelligencer). 

Here's Hoeft's beef:

Non-potato the size of a large potato.

I'm reading "It Could’ve Been the World’s Largest Potato, if Only It Were a Potato/A couple in New Zealand found a giant growth in their garden, named it Doug and applied to Guinness World Records. Then the results of a DNA analysis came in" (NYT).

Remember the good old days, when we dreamed that "Doug" was a potato? I blogged it last November, here: "We unearthed this hunk of tuber, and we thought to ourselves, ‘what is this? Was it some sort of a strange fungal growth?'" 

From the new article: 

Chris Claridge, a horticulturist and the chief executive of the industry group Potatoes New Zealand, which assisted in the DNA testing, described the growth as a kind of scar tissue on a wound, similar to the lumps sometimes seen on trees after a branch is removed.

“It could have had an infection, it could have had a disease, it could have just formed and grown as an accident of nature,” he said. “But it’s not even the same family as the potato.”

In the words of Doug's gardener: “How could a bloody gourd get in my garden?” 

"The professor, David Berkovitz, who teaches business law... filed a lawsuit against an unnamed group of his students... to force the website, Course Hero, to identify those who uploaded the exams...."

"If successful, Professor Berkovitz plans to turn over the names to Chapman’s honor board.... Because Chapman’s business school requires grading on a curve, Professor Berkovitz is worried that students who cheated may have unfairly caused their classmates who played by the rules to receive grades lower down on the curve.... Course Hero, which is not named as a defendant in the suit, said it would comply with a subpoena...."

From "Hoping to Identify Cheaters, a Professor Sues His Own Students/David Berkovitz, who teaches business law at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., sued an unnamed group of his students — identified only as 'Does' — after he discovered that his midterm and final exams had been uploaded to a popular website" (NYT).

March 17, 2022

Excellent presentation by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

ADDED: You can read the transcript here. Excerpt:

[My father] didn’t like Russians, because of his experience in the Second World War, when he was injured in Leningrad. (The Nazi army that he was part of did vicious harm to that great city and to its brave people.)...

When my father arrived in Leningrad, he was all pumped up on the lies of his government. When he left Leningrad, he was broken physically and mentally. He spent the rest of his life in pain: pain from a broken back, pain from the shrapnel that always reminded him of those terrible years, pain from the guilt that he felt.

Russian soldiers already know much of this truth. You’ve seen it with your own eyes. I don’t want you to be broken like my father. This is not a war to defend Russia like your grandfathers and your great-grandfathers fought....

Sunrise — 7:09, 7:14, 7:27.




... write about whatever you want in the comments.

"Daily Beast contributing editor Craig Copetas says he’s been told that Putin has people tasting his food before he eats it and that last month, he replaced his entire personal staff of 1,000 people."

"'Laundresses, secretaries, cooks — to a whole new group of people. The assessment from the intelligence community is that he's scared,' Copetas said. Copetas says that the preferred method of assassination in Russia is poison..."

Inside Edition reports.

Here's a WaPo article from 2020, "Why poison is the weapon of choice in Putin’s Russia":

"The prediction of bald, featureless black holes has been nicknamed the 'no-hair theorem' since the 1970s."

"[Xavier] Calmet and his collaborators think the black hole is more complex – or hairy. As matter collapses into a black hole, they suggest, it leaves a faint imprint in its gravitational field. This imprint is referred to as 'quantum hair' and, the authors say, would provide the mechanism by which information is preserved during the collapse of a black hole.... There is no obvious way to test the theory through astronomical observations – the gravitational fluctuations would be too tiny to be measurable.... 'It’s going to take some time for people to fully accept this. The paradox has been around for a long time and you’ve got very famous people all over the world who’ve been working on this for years.'"

From "'Quantum hair' could resolve Hawking’s black hole paradox, say scientists/New mathematical formulation means huge paradigm shift in physics would not be necessary" (The Guardian).

"Kanye West suspended from Instagram after slur against Trevor Noah" — but only for 1 day.

What's 1 day?! It's hard to see this as news, but it's in The Guardian, and I was curious what sort of slur did West use?
Noah had criticised West while presenting The Daily Show, saying of West’s numerous recent posts about ex-wife Kim Kardashian: “What she’s going through is terrifying to watch … What we’re seeing is one of the most powerful, one of the richest women in the world, unable to get her ex to stop texting her, to stop chasing after her, to stop harassing her.” 
West responded by rewriting the lyrics of Kumbaya to “koon baya my lord”, a twist on a word used by some to describe a Black person who rejects or undermines their own ethnicity. 

I don't think The Guardian is explaining the offensive term correctly. Compare this essay from the Jim Crow Museum

But I think you can tell that West was arguing that Noah's advice — to adopt a peaceful nonthreatening demeanor — is racist. Noah himself is black, and West is mocking him for being black while telling a black man not to manifest anger.

"This $1.775 million Washington, DC home has an 'Actual theater set piece" built into the living room wall as well as a bathroom made from poured concrete."

(You have to click on the tiny arrow in the middle of the right side of the photo to see the other photos, which are absurd. The first photo makes the place look great!)

Asked if Putin is a war criminal, Biden gives a strong solid "no" and walks away. Then he comes back and says, with equal emphasis, "I think he is a war criminal."


I saw that at The Washington Post, at "Biden calls Putin a ‘war criminal’/The comment seemed off the cuff and came on a day driven by a forceful speech to Congress by Volodymyr Zelensky.

The headline doesn't mention that he first said "no," then seems to have thought better of it and came back to change his answer. If anything was "off the cuff," it was the "no." Coming back to say, strongly, "I think he is a war criminal" does not deserve to be called "off the cuff." "Off the cuff" seems like an effort after the fact to minimize the statement.

Squirreled away near the bottom of the WaPo article:

"If you actually enact permanent daylight saving time, it will exit the realm of daydreaming about how the sun is nice and turn into actually forcing Americans to drag themselves and their children out of bed in the dark..."

"... for much more of the winter. Once you have inflicted this upon them, they will think deeply about the issue. They’ll hate it (and possibly hate you) and they’ll demand a reversal, as... they sought and promptly received the last time we tried this. Even autocratic governments can’t withstand the wrath of a public that’s sure to hate permanent DST. Vladimir Putin and his sometime minion Dmitry Medvedev were able to impose [it]... on Russia for about three years, from 2011 to 2014.... But even Putin repealed this change under pressure from a groggy public that was sick of getting up in the fucking dark, changing instead to permanent standard time.... [Some argue] that people can adjust their schedules if they don’t like getting up in the dark. School or work could start later in the winter.... But do you realize you are just inventing a shittier version of DST, where the clock changes happen not all at once but at sporadic times? So your work might shift its start time by half an hour three weeks after your kid’s school shifts by an hour.... Finally, I want to address the nerds who claim that 'science' means we should have the same time all year.... First of all, what the 'experts' say is we should have permanent standard time (with stupid, useless sunrises at 4:24am in New York in June)...."

Write Josh Barro and Sara Fay in "Actually, Changing the Clocks Is Good..."  (Very Serious).

And in WaPo: "Sleep experts say Senate has it wrong: Standard time, not daylight saving, should be permanent." So who are these "sleep experts" and how much do they know about clock policy (as opposed to "circadian rhythms")? There is something called the American Academy of Sleep Medicine....

Its reasoning, in part, is that standard time is more closely associated with humans’ intrinsic circadian rhythm, and that disrupting that rhythm, as happens with daylight saving time, has been associated with increased risks of obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease and depression....

The AASM position was supported by "more than a dozen other organizations, including the National Safety Council and the National Parent Teacher Association." Based on what? Apparently, it's just the idea that if there's more light in the evening there will be less crime!

March 16, 2022

Sunrise — 7:02, 7:19.



And... those lovely mated-for-life cranes were breakfasting... 


... she, picking through the lakeside selections... he, keeping husbandly watch.

Talk about whatever you like in the comments.

"In 36 days of fighting on Iwo Jima during World War II, nearly 7,000 Marines were killed. Now, 20 days after President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia invaded Ukraine, his military has already lost more soldiers..."

"... according to American intelligence estimates. The conservative side of the estimate, at more than 7,000 Russian troop deaths, is greater than the number of American troops killed over 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. It is a staggering number amassed in just three weeks of fighting, American officials say, with implications for the combat effectiveness of Russian units, including soldiers in tank formations. Pentagon officials say a 10 percent casualty rate, including dead and wounded, for a single unit renders it unable to carry out combat-related tasks.... 'Losses like this affect morale and unit cohesion, especially since these soldiers don’t understand why they’re fighting,' said Evelyn Farkas, the top Pentagon official for Russia and Ukraine during the Obama administration... 'It is stunning, and the Russians haven’t even gotten to the worst of it, when they hit urban combat in the cities,' [said] Representative Jason Crow, Democrat of Colorado...."

 From "As Russian Troop Deaths Climb, Morale Becomes an Issue, Officials Say/More than 7,000 Russian troops have been killed in less than three weeks of fighting, according to conservative U.S. estimates" (NYT).

"The tone of the Republican questioning of the public defenders [nominated as federal judges] has alarmed Democrats and..."

"... has them bracing for tense moments during Judge [Ketanji Brown] Jackson’s hearings. Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has argued that Republicans aim some of their harshest fire at 'assertive women of color' to suggest they are 'soft on crime.' Democrats contend that these attacks are tied to a central element of Republicans’ midterm campaign strategy, which is to blame Democrats for an increase in crime by portraying them as unwilling to punish lawlessness and hostile to law enforcement.... Republicans deny that they are trying to bar an entire category of potential judges. [Senator Tom] Cotton said he did not believe that criminal defense work was disqualifying, but that it was only appropriate to judge nominees by the cases they had accepted.... As for Judge Jackson, Mr. Cotton pressed her during her appeals court hearing last year on her work for terror detainees whom she was appointed to represent, though she continued to challenge Bush-era detention polices after she entered private practice."

From "As Jackson Faces Senators, Her Criminal Defense Record Is a Target/Republicans have vilified Biden’s judicial nominees who have represented criminal suspects. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, for the Supreme Court, is the most prominent" (NYT).

"It's kind of what you hope happens with your kid, that your voice gets in their head and helps guide them through difficult stuff..."

"... but you know, a metaphorical voice in the head that eventually it becomes their own voice as they develop into their own people. Neeah had come to rely on a literal voice and just her mom's presence. Neeah heard from her mom so much during the day, through the cameras or on FaceTime, she missed knowing what her mom was up to at any given moment. She says it's actually what she missed most — tracking her mom's day in parallel with her school day. It felt scary to lose that."

From an excellent episode of "This American Life," "School's Out Forever," about the troubles some children are having readjusting to in-person school after all the time they spent out of school during the pandemic. 

At the age of 9, Neeah spent the day home alone, trying to do her schoolwork via computer; and her mother went to work, but kept a camera on the child at all times, and spoke to her often, telling her what to do and what not to do. The child got so used to the constant surveillance and maternal orders that she found it disturbing to go without it.

Here's Neeah's description of how she felt, going back to school: "Yeah, in the snap of a finger, I'm like, oh, crap. And my mom's not going to be here to be — like, be here to watch over me, tell me to focus. Like, how am I going to do this? How am I going to do that without her telling me what to do? And that's when I started getting these panic attacks."

"... he apparently has no core beliefs other than the unshakable conviction that he should sit in the Oval Office."

So said somebody about Ron DeSantis — I'm reading that in some unedifying NYT essay — but I just wanted to say: Isn't that an apt description of everyone who's won the presidency in the last 60 years?

"President Putin said today that Russia was ready to discuss Ukraine’s neutral status in talks to end the conflict there as he lashed out at the West for trying to 'cancel' his country."

"He claimed that Russia had no option but to invade Ukraine and accused Western countries of wishing to 'continue the bloodshed' by supplying weapons to the Kyiv government. But he said Russia would consider 'the neutral status of Ukraine, its demilitarisation, and its denazification' in negotiations to end the conflict."

The London Times reports.

Sunrise — 7:16.


10 years ago today I was happiness-blogging.

These are 15 consecutive posts put up on March 16, 2012:

1. "There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy."

2. "Happy people rarely correct their faults — they consider themselves vindicated, since fortune endorses their evil ways."

3. "Psychologist Martin Seligman provides the acronym PERMA to summarize Positive Psychology's correlational findings: humans seem happiest when they have...."

4. "The Happiness Bank." 

"Making the SAT and ACT Optional Is the Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations."

Writes John McWhorter (in the NYT)(adopting a term — "the soft bigotry of low expectations" — that originated with George W. Bush)
I would prefer that we address the value of the tests... after first showing that these minority students... can take standardized tests and do just as well, in the aggregate, as white and Asian American students.... To some, that take may seem backward. But I think of it as progressive, and as a demonstration, I ask the reader to consider: What happened to the idea of “tokenism”?

"The cannabis industry, designed in part to help communities upended by the war on drugs, is being threatened by theft, racism and a market that is stacked against small operators."

That's the puzzling subheadline for "Oakland Cannabis Sellers, Once Full of Hope, Face a Harsh Reality" (NYT). The "industry" was somehow "designed... to help communities"? And then — who could have imagined? — it didn't turn out to be so helpful.

I haven't read the article yet, but I really wonder who produced this "design" and whether anyone really believed it would "help communities upended by the war on drugs." If there's systemic racism, why would the new design avoid racism?

Okay, now I have read it. Here's my excerpt, cutting all the personal stories and homing in on the stark and utterly predictable problems — robbery, banking, insurance, and taxes:

"Russia is a very individualistic society, in which people, to quote the cultural historian Andrei Zorin, live with a 'Leave me alone' mind-set."

"We like to isolate ourselves from one another, from the state, from the world. This allowed many of us to build vibrant, hopeful, energetic lives against a grim backdrop of arrests and prison. But in the process, we became insular and lost sight of everyone else’s interests. We must now put aside our individual concerns and accept our common responsibility for the war. Such an act is, first and foremost, a moral necessity. But it could also be the first step toward a new Russian nation — a nation that could talk to the world in a language other than wars and threats, a nation that others will learn not to fear. It is toward creating this Russia that we, outcast and exiled and persecuted, should bend our efforts."

Writes Ilia Krasilshchik, in "Russians Must Accept the Truth. We Failed" (NYT). Krasilschchik is "the former publisher of Meduza, an independent news outlet."

"Nurses in Kyiv are looking after 21 newborn babies in a makeshift basement clinic because the fighting has made it impossible for their parents to reach them."

"The children were all born to surrogates and staff say it is unclear when their parents will be able to collect them."

The London Times reports.

There are many ways you might become separated from your children in wartime, but these are newborns who were never united with their parents in the first place.

The basement shelter is owned by the BioTexCom fertility clinic.

"You will return from the Chechen Republic a completely different person Elona, that is, Elon."

Said the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, quoted in "Chechen leader advises ‘effeminate’ Elon Musk not to fight Vladimir Putin" (NY Post).

On Monday, Musk pitched a bizarre offer to fight the Russian president to settle the war in Ukraine. “Elon Musk, a word of advice. Don’t measure your strength against that of Putin’s. You are in two completely different leagues,” Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov wrote in a lengthy and sarcastic Telegram post. After dubbing Musk “effeminate,” Kadyrov suggested that the Tesla founder train at the Russian Special Forces University, Akhmat Fight Club and the Chechen State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company to prep for the hypothetical match.

If we're just playing "Quién es más macho?", let's take a look at  Ramzan Kadyrov:

If we're just making Hans-and-Franz-level jokes about names — Elon becomes Elona — then Kadyrov needs to worry that he'll become Ladyrov. Ma'am-zam Ladyrov.

But here in America, we show complete respect for erstwhile men taking on a feminine identity, so the Chechan leader is completely out of touch with American culture and how to insult us. 

By the way, Hans and Franz goes back to the late 80s/early 90s — it was mocking concern about masculinity more than a quarter century ago — and Hans and Franz itself is way out date. 

"Quién es más macho?" was a brilliant SNL sketch on a 1979 episode, with Bill Murray running a quiz show where the contestants were Gilda Radner and Ricky Nelson. That was 6 years before Ricky died and a decade before Gilda died. "Who is more macho?" was a joke 40 years ago.

"Mr. Zelensky invokes Martin Luther King Jr. in saying 'I have a dream," and then saying 'I have a need' to protect the sky, as he presses Congress for a no-fly zone."

 The NYT is live-chatting Zelensky's address to Congress, which is in progress now.

"President Zelensky is layering in American touchstones in his address: Mount Rushmore to discuss shared values, Pearl Harbor and 9/11 to recall shared threats."

UPDATE: He asks us to watch a video. The video evokes great empathy. It's hard for me to imagine anyone watching and not weeping. After the video, Zelensky speaks in English. I transcribed this line: "I see no sense in life if it cannot stop the deaths."

March 15, 2022

Sunrise — 7:29, 7:47.



What a soft sunrise this morning!

Write about anything you want in the comments.

If Marco Rubio doesn't know why we do something... well, then, abolish it.

"After losing an hour of sleep over the weekend, members of the United States Senate returned to the Capitol this week a bit groggy and in a mood to put an end to all this frustrating clock-changing. So on Tuesday, with almost no warning and no debate, the Senate unanimously passed legislation... making daylight saving time permanent.... Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, rose on the Senate floor on Tuesday to speak in favor of his bill, called the Sunshine Protection Act.... 'One has to ask themselves after a while: Why do we keep doing it?' Mr. Rubio said, adding, 'The majority of the American people’s preference is just to stop the back-and-forth changing.'"

I'm reading "A Groggy Senate Approves Making Daylight Saving Time Permanent/Legislation that passed unanimously would end the practice of setting clocks back one hour in the fall. Its prospects were uncertain in the House" (NYT).

There are times when I suspect that no politician is a true conservative. Rubio doesn't know why things are the way they are and he can see one advantage to a change, and therefore a long-established practice can be abolished. The full Senate, unanimously, votes on the spot to make the change. No debate. Look, we accomplished something seems to be the babyish idea.

At least this bill must get by the House, and we'll have a scrap of time to peruse articles like "The US Tried Permanent Daylight Saving Time in the ’70s. People Hated It" which The Washingtonian rushed into press today. Hint: It killed kids!!

"You don’t like that kind of beauty?"/"Good grief, what’s likeable in such snakiness?... In our true Russian understanding concerning a woman’s build..."

"... we keep to a type of our own, which we find much more suitable than modern-day frivolity. We don’t appreciate spindliness, true; we prefer that a woman stand not on long legs, but on sturdy ones, so that she doesn’t get tangled up, but rolls about everywhere like a ball and makes it, where a spindly-legged one will run and trip. We also don’t appreciate snaky thinness, but require that a woman be on the stout side, ample, because, though it’s not so elegant, it points to maternity in them. The brow of our real, pure Russian woman’s breed is more plump, more meaty, but then in that soft brow there’s more gaiety, more welcome. The same for the nose: ours have noses that aren’t hooked, but more like little pips, but this little pip itself, like it or not, is much more affable in family life than a dry, proud nose. But the eyebrows especially, the eyebrows open up the look of the face, and therefore it’s necessary that a woman’s eyebrows not scowl, but be opened out, archlike, for a man finds it more inviting to talk with such a woman, and she makes a different, more welcoming impression on everybody coming to the house. But modern taste, naturally, has abandoned this good type and approves of airy ephemerality in the female sex, only that’s completely useless.”

From "The Sealed Angel," an 1873 story by Nikolai Leskov, collected in "The Enchanted Wanderer." That's a character speaking, not the author's attitude.

That passage amused me, as I was listening to the audiobook and hiking in the mud in the Arb today. The story isn't much about women though, but about the Old Believers and their icons. Yesterday, I read the first story in the collection, "The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk."

My reading these stories has nothing to do with the woes unleashed by Russia in the world today. It is a consequence of reading Larry McMurtry's book "Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen: Reflections on Sixty and Beyond" (which I mentioned a few days ago, here). That book begins: 

Sunrise with sandhill cranes — 7:13.



"I apologize for myself, for my squad to every home, to every street, to every citizen of Ukraine, to the elderly, to women, to children for our invasion of these lands."

"I gravely apologize for our treacherous invasion. To the generalship of our military units, I would like to say one thing — that they’ve acted cowardly, that they acted traitorously to us. I would like to say to all regiments of the Russian army: Lay down your arms. And Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, stop further combat actions. Stop bombings, stop sending soldiers here to kill civilians, to perform airstrikes."

Said Galkin Sergey Alekseevich, 34, quoted in "Captured Russian troops sob, apologize for invasion of Ukraine in TV interviews" (NY Post).

Surveillance paranoia.

I was just looking at this (at Yelp) (and moving it into a text and writing a little about it):


And then, reading the NYT — "There Are Almost Too Many Things to Worry About" — I got this ad served up:

That's just the photo. There was also text. I've stripped that out. An ad for some fish delivery company.

But, so, first, I'm paranoid. Did they have me pegged as a person who likes food on a metal tray with a layer of brown parchment? Second, I'm amused, because the food is so absurdly different. Third, I'll be okay, because if there is surveillance, it's so misguided, so dumb. And yet, maybe that's exactly what's scary. The AI thinks it knows, but it's so wrong.

By the way, the second photo — the one that seems to want to model the orderly, well-run life — is the one with the paper on the tray at an angle, and the fish overlapping fish. I think that is disorderly. It's an insane amount of disorder within that effortful order. I feel much more at ease with the mild disorder of the overflowing baked beans in Photo #1.

Anyway... as they say in the NYT... there are almost too many things to worry about.

"Let’s say Putin realizes he’s in deep trouble. Russia has become a pariah state. His reputation, not great to begin with, is blackened."

"And if he achieves nothing, he faces the risk of being overthrown by his own security and military elites. He may feel, then, that he has little to lose by fighting on. Things can’t get much worse for him than they already are. And if he somehow manages to succeed, things might get much better for him. Gambling for resurrection can be a rational behavior. But it’s the rational behavior of a man who has become desperate and will try almost anything to save his skin."

 From "Here Are Three Reasons Putin Might Fight On" by Peter Coy (NYT). The 3 reasons are: 1. sunk cost fallacy, 2. golden spike theory, and 3. (discussed in the quote above) gambling for resurrection.

Dolly Parton does not want to be considered for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame until she's put out a rock and roll album.

She's not saying that out of nowhere. They actually put her as a nominee on the ballot this year. For so many reasons, she was wise to withdraw the way she did. To lose the vote isn't good, and to win would draw intense criticism. I'm sure there was criticism just for the nomination. It's better to take that criticism and make it her own. It's not criticism at all anymore, but a recognition that country music is not rock music. 

And this way, she really could put out an album designated rock and get lots of new attention for that.

The Hall is voracious. It needs new inductees every year, and sometimes it looks rather desperate. By reaching into other music categories — designated the "roots" of rock — it can get some giant icons. It's nice to see a firm rejection of that grasping.

ADDED: She specified album. But as Andrew noted in the comments, there's this:

"Those raised by professional-class parents... do not experience much in the way of an educational advantage from being religious. In some ways..."

"... religion even constrains teenagers’ educational opportunities (especially girls’) by shaping their academic ambitions after graduation; they are less likely to consider a selective college as they prioritize life goals such as parenthood, altruism and service to God rather than a prestigious career. However, teenage boys from working-class families, regardless of race, who were regularly involved in their church and strongly believed in God were twice as likely to earn bachelor’s degrees as moderately religious or nonreligious boys.... When [the] elites criticize religion, they often do so on the grounds that faith (in their eyes) is irrational and not evidence-based. But one can agree with the liberal critique of conservatism’s moral and political goals while still acknowledging that religion orders the lives of millions of Americans — and that it might offer social benefits...."

From "How Religious Faith Can Shape Success in School" (NYT). 

The article is by Ilana M. Horwitz, "an assistant professor of Jewish studies and sociology at Tulane University and the author of 'God, Grades, and Graduation.'" Focusing on Christian denominations , she "followed the lives of 3,290 teenagers from 2003 to 2012 using survey and interview data from the National Study of Youth and Religion, and then linking those data to the National Student Clearinghouse in 2016."

Talking to NYT readers — the highly educated, professional/managerial people — Horwitz seems to be saying: Don't be so dismissive of religion, because it may be the best substitute for the privilege that benefits you. Religion is practical. Not for you, of course, because you don't have the need. But for the others.

Doesn't that sound more elitist than looking down on religion?

Speaking of wanting to do things that work, it's not practical to disparage religious people... at least when the cameras are running.


ADDED: You may sacrifice educational and career opportunities if you prioritize parenthood, altruism, and service to God, but you may sacrifice parenthood, altruism, and service to God, if you prioritize educational and career opportunities. 

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

March 14, 2022

At the Monday Night Café...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Stop the war/Don’t believe propaganda/They’re lying to you."

ADDED: "The English-language content of [Marina] Ovsyannikova’s poster reflected how some Russians are keen to show that the war against Ukraine is not being fought in their name. Despondent over their country’s future and afraid of possible conscription and closed borders, tens of thousands of Russians have fled to Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Central Asia and Europe since the Russian invasion began." 

From "A protester storms a live broadcast on Russia’s most-watched news show, yelling, ‘Stop the war!’" (NYT).

"These schools did less to contain covid. Their students flourished."

An article in WaPo by Perry Stein.

Officials relied on a state constitution that gives school boards complete control over their schools. “We wanted it to be as normal as possible, and children wearing masks is not normal,” said Chris Taylor, president of the Lewis-Palmer school board. “The focus of the board was to give parents as much choice as possible — and children could wear masks if they wanted.”...

From the top-rated comment: "This article should be retracted. It is so misleading that Fox News would be proud to publish it."

"He came to office, it seems, on a platform of little else except his clowning.... Once, when called a clown, Zelensky did not argue, but..."

"...  posted a video on Instagram of his own face with a big red nose upon it. The refusal to act like a grownup infuriated Zelensky’s opponents as much as Groucho Marx infuriated his political opponents in Fredonia, in 'Duck Soup,' with his unseriousness.... [W]atching Zelensky now, one does not think, Oh, wow, he once was a comedian! One thinks, This is what a comedian looks like in power.... The one willing to degrade oneself knowingly, as a clown does, is the one afterward most able to act with dignity.... In interviews with the French philosopher and writer Bernard-Henri Lévy in 2019, Zelensky made it clear that he was quite aware of the interconnection between his place as a clown and his role as a leader. When Lévy asked him if he could make even Vladimir Putin laugh 'just as he had made all Russians laugh,' Zelensky insisted that he could. Though, he then added, 'This man does not see; he has eyes, but does not see; or, if he does look, it’s with an icy stare, devoid of all expression.... Laughter is a weapon that is fatal to men of marble'...."

Writes Adam Gopnik in "Volodymyr Zelensky’s Comedic Courage/The Ukrainian leader shows how wit and mockery can undermine brutal authority" (The New Yorker).

From the Wikipedia article "Death from laughter":

"Yes, the absorption of Ukraine into Russia would be a human tragedy and geopolitical nightmare. But..."

"... a shooting war between NATO and Russia would constitute an existential crisis that some large segment of the planet might not survive. This might mean pressuring Zelensky to accept a negotiated solution that is patently unjust — if it’s even possible. No one wants to say it now, but America would sooner see Ukraine cede some territory than risk all-out war.... The most likely scenario involves Putin unleashing savagery on the country to possess it, and it ends with Ukraine leveled, Zelensky dead and Russian troops on the Polish border. You’d have to think a negotiated alternative that leaves Ukraine partly intact, if that window opens, would be preferable.... [Biden's] job, in the best case, will be to make a negotiated outcome palatable abroad and at home.... Republicans will scream that Biden is the new Neville Chamberlain, while internationalists in the president’s party will complain that he walked away from human rights.... [I]n a showdown between nuclear powers, that’s what leadership is."

Writes Matt Bai, in "Our cause in Ukraine is inspiring. It probably won’t stay that way" (WaPo).

"A fully off-grid system in California can run from $35,000 to $100,000, according to installers. At the low end, such systems cost roughly as much as an entry-level Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck...."

"Lithium-ion batteries weighing as little as 30 pounds, requiring minimal maintenance and costing $10,000 to $20,000 have replaced banks of lead acid batteries that used to cost tens of thousands of dollars, could weigh thousands of pounds and needed regular upkeep.... Off-grid systems are particularly attractive to people building new homes. That’s because installing a 125- to 300-foot overhead power line to a new home costs about $20,000, according to the California Public Utilities Commission. In places where lines have to be buried, installation runs about $78,000 for 100 feet.... [E]lectric cars may soon [serve as the battery for the system, but the ones] available now aren’t designed to send power to homes. But newer models like the Ford F-150 Lightning and the Hyundai Ioniq 5 will have that ability, said Bill Powers, a San Diego engineer who plans to go off the grid with the help of an electric car. 'The Holy Grail to me now is in electric vehicles.'"

I'm reading "Frustrated With Utilities, Some Californians Are Leaving the Grid/Citing more blackouts, wildfires and higher electricity rates, a growing number of homeowners are choosing to build homes that run entirely on solar panels and batteries" (NYT).

My excerpt combines text at the beginning of the article and the end. I've skipped all the stories about particular individuals in part because they had nothing to do with American-made trucks, and I thought it was interesting that a Chevrolet Silverado and a Ford F-150 popped up in this article. 

March 13, 2022

Sunrise — 7:10.



Talk about whatever you want in the comments.

"This week, Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta Platforms — the parent company of Facebook and Instagram — decided that people could temporarily use those platforms to call for the deaths of other people."

"Not anyone or anywhere, to be clear: Users are only allowed to call for the killing of Russian soldiers, Russian president Vladimir Putin, and his Belarusian counterpart, Aleksander Lukashenko, and only in specific ways related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.... The specifics here are important, because Meta is walking an absurdly fine line with these new exceptions to its hate-speech policy. According to internal Meta documents obtained by Reuters, calls to assassinate Putin and Lukashenko will be taken down if they have 'two indicators of credibility, such as the location or method' of the assassination, or additionally target other people. The new policies only apply to users in Ukraine, Russia, and other neighboring countries. General statements of violence against the Russian people, or that indicate Russophobia, will also be taken down.... In response to the policies, Russia on Friday moved to label Meta an 'extremist organization' and open a criminal investigation into the company, as well as ban Instagram.... ... Zuckerberg is not only abandoning any pretense that Russia will ever allow them to do business there again, but openly inviting questions about why other leaders or military forces are protected from threats, as well as what other wars the company will or will not deem worthy of intervention...."

From "Facebook Is Now Allowing Itself to Be Weaponized" (Intelligencer).


"As women’s rights have grown in popularity and awareness in South Korea, backlash against feminism has also expanded."

"[President elect Yoon Suk-yeol] was notoriously at the forefront of this trend, catering to a swing bloc of young male voters that his right-wing party, People Power, identified as 'anti-feminist.' Under the umbrella of youth strategy, he created buzz and influence by targeting this loud, aggressive subgroup.... After a catastrophic loss in the 2017 elections — following the impeachment and imprisonment of President Park Geun-hye — the conservative party (then the Liberty Korea Party) desperately needed new strategies, especially to expand to a younger base. Merging with others to start People Power, it found one of its answers, unfortunately, in misogyny.... Yoon’s platform includes stronger penalties against false complaints of sexual crimes — though these constitute a negligible fraction of cases — and abolishing the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. The ministry, founded in 2001, supports and funds various women’s programs, including for oft-stigmatized single mothers, survivors of sex crimes, female laborers and migrant women. The ministry also champions broadening the legal definition of family.... 'I have never tried to divide genders,' Yoon said after his win. 'I’ve been misunderstood and attacked throughout the race; what reason do I have to divide men and women?'"

From "How South Korea’s ‘anti-feminist’ election fueled a gender war" (WaPo).


"From 2015 to 2021, my private conversations were some of the best I’ve ever had. Taboo subjects have always been delectable..."

"... but suddenly we were living in a time when so much that was once considered fair game for discussion (education, biological differences, the benefits of policing) had become dangerous.... The #MeToo movement, which felt like a necessary corrective when it began, was starting to feel like an arrow pointed at our own agency. I couldn’t always tell the difference between activism and protectionism, valid critique and frivolous complaint. The notion that men were the ones who needed to change—not a bad idea, in my opinion—had a stubborn way of relinquishing women from the burden of their own choices and behavior. And though the area of expertise I’d staked out as a writer was the complications of women’s independence and the nuances of sex.... What was I, a rape apologist? A bigot? Some kind of moral monster?.... The unsavory truth is that I sympathized with many of these men.... But being sympathetic to these fallen creatures—a trait instilled by literature, my mother, and Oprah—had been declared a sin.... So this is my resolution as I trudge from this dark place: to speak out more.... Not because anyone asked for it, but because this is the career I’ve chosen, and if I’m not doing that, then what are we doing here?"

From "The Things I’m Afraid to Write About/Fear of professional exile has kept me from taking on certain topics. What gets lost when a writer mutes herself?" by Sarah Hepola (The Atlantic). 

This makes me want to repeat something I quoted in the first post of the day: "The novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recently predicted that the novels of the next 10 to 15 years 'will be awful … Art has to be able to go to a place that’s messy, a place that’s uncomfortable'..."


"Several people said they felt whipsawed as Democratic mayors and governors who once championed safety measures as a public good and emblem of civic virtue now seemed ready to turn the page..."

"... on a pandemic that, while easing, is still killing more than 1,000 people every day across the United States.... 'It feels like we’ve truly been left to die,' said Elizabeth Kestrel Rogers, a writer in Mountain View, Calif., with cystic fibrosis. 'It seems too much too soon, like people are giving up because they can’t be bothered anymore.'... 'We just haven’t learned,' Dr. David Goldberg, 32, an internal medicine physician, said as he and his wife took their 1-year-old daughter, Isabel, for a walk through their neighborhood in Richmond, Va. Parents of children younger than 5, who are not eligible to be vaccinated.... He said he was standing in line at a grocery store recently when a man next to him complained that he did not feel well. 'I was like, Dude, what are you doing?' Dr. Goldberg said. 'I feel for parents who are just waiting. They feel left behind. Kids can get sick and they can die.'"

From "After 2 Years of Pandemic Life, Turn Toward Normalcy Is a Shake-Up/As the Omicron variant recedes, cities and states with the longest mask and vaccine mandates are rapidly lifting them. The abrupt shift has unsettled the most vigilant Americans" (NYT).


"I’m sorry, he was being a little bit of a B-I-T-C-H. He’s not a cowboy; he’s an actor. The West is a mythic space and there’s a lot of room on the range. I think it’s a little bit sexist."

Said Jane Campion, quoted in "Jane Campion Says Sam Elliott is ‘Being a B-I-T-C-H’ With Slam Against ‘The Power of the Dog’" (Variety). 

Here's my post from 10 days ago about what Sam Elliott said: "What the fuck does this woman—she’s a brilliant director by the way, I love her work, previous work—but what the fuck does this woman from down there, New Zealand, know about the American west?" 


"The octogenerian suspect in a grisly Brooklyn murder shopped at a 99 Cent store with her victim’s dismembered leg tucked away in her electric wheelchair, police said Friday...."

"The leg of victim Susan Leyden – cut off from the knee down – was captured on surveillance video when her accused killer Harvey Marcelin stood up from the wheelchair while inside the store... Marcelin... also went by Marcelin Harvey... Marcelin, an 83-year-old transgender woman, was arrested March 4.... Leyden lived for eight months at the Stonewall House development for elderly LGBTQ people and was an active supporter of LGBTQ causes, police said. Marcelin, who is 6 feet tall and weights 125 pounds, had known Leyden for at least two years after meeting on social media...."

Yahoo News reports.


"I just had a chance to meet with the ambassador from the EU. We talked about the fact that you’re seeing the continued rise of authoritarians and thugs across the world. And we have our own, right here, in the state of Texas."

Said Beto O'Rourke, quoted in "O’Rourke calls Abbott a 'thug' and an 'authoritarian' who’s 'got his own oligarch here in the state of Texas'/The Democratic nominee for governor slammed the Republican incumbent in harsh terms, presaging a bitter lead-up to an election nearly eight months away" (The Texas Tribune).

Now, I think O'Rourke is utterly unqualified to hold serious power, because he seems to have had the delusion that he could aggressively assert that Abbott is part of the "rise of authoritarians and thugs across the world" without needing to back up his statement with any fact or argument. And this was not a casual, unguarded remark. He was sitting — "in a crowded hall at the South by Southwest festival" — doing an interview with Evan Smith, the CEO and co-founder of The Texas Tribune.

Of course, Smith pushed for more: "Greg Abbott is a thug in your mind?"

O’Rourke repeated the charge — "He’s a thug, he’s an authoritarian" — even as he knew he had no argument to make. He proceeded — as he put it — to "make the case." He went on about Abbott's failure to "keep the lights on in the energy capital of the planet last February." That may be a basis for criticizing Abbott, but it doesn't make him a thug and an authoritarian.

O'Rourke then switched to the subject of voting: “You think this stuff only exists in Russia or in other parts of the world? It’s happening right here.... You think they rig elections in other parts of the planet? It is the toughest state in the nation in which to vote, right here.” It's tough to vote, so the election is "rigged," and that — what? — makes Abbot like Putin? 

The most thuggish thing here is Beto's own asserting that the election is rigged. It's Trumpian.


"The truth requires a grounding in historical facts, but facts are quickly forgotten without meaning and context."

"The Stanford History Education Group, a research organization, has developed a curriculum called 'Reading Like a Historian,' which assembles material from various chapters of American history and poses a thematic question for students to answer. For example, to answer the question of what John Brown was trying to do when he raided Harpers Ferry in 1859, they read several accounts, including one by Brown’s son, an excerpt from the autobiography of Frederick Douglass, and a speech and letter from Brown himself. The goal isn’t just to teach students the origins of the Civil War, but to give them the ability to read closely, think critically, evaluate sources, corroborate accounts, and back up their claims with evidence from original documents.... Finally, let’s give children a chance to read books—good books. It’s a strange feature of all the recent pedagogical innovations that they’ve resulted in the gradual disappearance of literature from many classrooms.... The best way to interest young people in literature is to have them read good literature, and not just books that focus with grim piety on the contemporary social and psychological problems of teenagers.... The culture wars, with their atmosphere of resentment, fear, and petty faultfinding, are hostile to the writing and reading of literature. The novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie recently predicted that the novels of the next 10 to 15 years 'will be awful … Art has to be able to go to a place that’s messy, a place that’s uncomfortable'..."

Writes George Packer, in "The Grown-Ups Are Losing It/We’ve turned schools into battlefields, and our kids are the casualties" (The Atlantic).