Wednesday, March 31, 2021

"There’s some precedent for a company trying a 'fake news' joke. In 2018, the food chain IHOP briefly tried to convince consumer it was exchanging the 'P' in its name to 'B,' trading pancakes for burgers."

"[Volkswagen spokesman Mark] Gillies, after presenting the false information the day before, came clean on Tuesday... '[W]e didn’t mean to mislead anyone. The whole thing is just a marketing action to get people talking' about its new car model." 

From "An unwelcome prank: Volkswagen purposely hoodwinks reporters" (AP).

VW must have thought that it's so clearly not true that the longstanding brand name Volkswagen of America would be changed to "Voltswagen of America" that it would work as an Onion-style headline, funnier because it looks like real news. 

But the Associated Press, USA Today, CNBC, and the Washington Post all took it seriously and reported it as news. And some of them are now acting outraged. E.g.: "This was not a joke. It was deception. In case you haven’t noticed, we have a misinformation problem in this country. Now you’re part of it. Why should anyone trust you again?"

"It's March 2021, and I'm looking back on this comments thread about drawings from Van Gogh Museum. It's so weird to see the one commenter breaking in..."

"... with the emergency news that Peter Jennings has died and I must get right on it," I write in the comments to a post I put in 2005

We were talking about a post that had my ink drawings of Van Gogh and of a museum guard yelling at a baby who'd sat down on the ledge that is there to keep people from standing to close to the paintings, and of the baby muttering "Bummer, bummer, bummer." 

I thought that was pretty amusing, but the commenter was all: "Ann, if you're still up, Peter Jennings' death was just announced 15 mins ago. I have a link in my blog, but so far, only lgf have the story. Since you're doing Glenn's blog this week, it seems you're going to be doing extra-duty on the obit watch -- they'll start to pour any second."

The notion that I'm here to hop to it when there's breaking news... it was absurd then and it's absurd now. Everyone knew Peter Jennings was dying. It was one of those death-watch situations. And yet it seemed important to some people to burst in and be first! when the dying man is actually dead. Why?!

"Two days ago, I decided to stop doing the dishes. I make all the dinners and I am tired of having to do all the cleaning too. SINCE THEN..."

"... this pile has appeared and at some point they are going to run out of spoons and cups and plates. Who will blink first? Not me."

Tweeted Miss Potkin, with lots of photos (keep scrolling). 

Via Metafilter, where somebody says "So it’s like Wages for Housework, except you get Twitter faves instead of wages, and instead of a deep feminist critique of capitalism, you get a resentful critique of your shitty family?"

"At this point we’re missing our tourists again. But I think there was a moment of really big joy in getting our city back."

Said the owner of an Amsterdam restaurant, quoted in "In Empty Amsterdam, Reconsidering Tourism/Before Covid-19, the city was packed with visitors. Now efforts to rein in the expected post-pandemic crowds are ramping up, but not without controversy" (NYT). 

In 2019, a record-breaking 21.7 million people visited Amsterdam, a city with a population of about 870,000.... On a typical Saturday night before the pandemic, the district, known as De Wallen, would have been heaving with young men going from bar to bar — perhaps stepping into sex shops or coffee shops or eyeing scantily clad prostitutes posing in their windows.

Several Amsterdammers interviewed for this story said that they would never consider visiting the neighborhood at such a time because of the rowdy, crowded scene. “The public space is dominated by facilities that are almost all redolent of sex, drugs and drink,” Ms. Halsema wrote of the historic city center in an official letter to the city council in July 2019....

[One proposed solution is] the relocation of sex workers to a “prostitution hotel” elsewhere in the city... Another headline-grabbing proposal... would make it illegal for visitors to buy cannabis in Amsterdam’s coffee shops, which are concentrated in the Red Light District and which have long been popular with tourists...

A tourism “monoculture” has [pushed out] residents... Businesses and services that used to cater to locals — high-quality bakeries, butcher shops, and the like — have been replaced by trinket shops, ice-cream parlors and “Nutella shops,” which serve takeaway waffles and other treats smeared in the hazelnut spread, mainly to tourists. Meanwhile, rising housing prices — due, in part, to the rise of Airbnb and other vacation rental platforms — have made the city center unaffordable for many locals.

I went to Amsterdam, solo, in 1993. I was interested in the art, and I had my pen and notebook. I never set foot in a marijuana coffee shop, and I tried to move quickly past the sleazier things, but I did stop to record some of the sleaziness:

Amsterdam Notebook.

Amsterdam Notebook. 

The fabulous aesthetic pleasures of the historical city with its grand museums was undermined by some awful, ugly junk even back then, nearly 30 years ago, so it is hard for me to imagine what the residents are complaining about today, which is the crowds and worsening conditions of the last few years.

"Unlike so many Hollywood roles, the sexuality at the core of hers wasn’t cute or passive or submissive."

"It was challenging, confrontational, defiant; she stared into the camera with those remarkable eyes, almost daring us to return her gaze. The parts became increasingly transgressive: in The Night Porter, Rampling has a sadomasochistic relationship with her Nazi torturer; in ’Tis Pity She’s A Whore she has an incestuous affair with her brother; and in Max Mon Amour, she cheats on her diplomat husband with a chimpanzee. 'Ah, the ape – I love it,' she says affectionately.... Rampling says she simply wasn’t interested in Hollywood. 'Let’s use a nice old English expression: it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I wanted to go into the auteur and European world of the semi-darkness.'"

 From "Charlotte Rampling: ‘I am prickly. People who are prickly can’t be hurt any more’ She’s best known for her dark, difficult roles, and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. The actor talks about swinging in the 60s, family tragedy – and why she’s still got It" (The Guardian). 

Rampling is 75, and she's still doing movies. She's been in so many things over the years, beginning with the uncredited role of Girl at Disco in "A Hard Day's Night." I haven't seen many of them at all. Avoided "The Night Porter," which was a big deal in its time (1974). I did see "Stardust Memories" (1980):

I looked up "Max Mon Amour," and I've got to say the poster is very nice:

From the reviews at Rotten Tomatoes (where it has a 22% rating): "Impossible to take seriously or as satire, this film is an embarrassment to humanity and our cousins in the jungle"/"A wry mix of King Kong and My Man Godfrey, it's a potent premise that somehow never catches fire."/"On the whole, it works as a witty, black comedy of manners that judiciously avoids the vulgarity inherent in the subject."

The Guardian says "the sexuality at the core of hers wasn’t cute or passive or submissive," but are we to take these movies — which she did not write or direct — as expressive of Rampling's sexual core? She got the roles she got. This seems like a good place to bring up Sharon Stone's new memoir. Here's an article about it in TNR, "Sharon Stone and the Fantasy of Female Domination/At the peak of her fame, she exuded total control on screen. According to her new memoir, a different story played out behind the scenes." 

A woman’s performance of power in public—the all-knowing sexual omnipotence built into the idea of Sharon Stone’s celebrity, you could say—has had little to no correlation, in her experience, with her day-to-day life.... As an adult, Stone saw the famous crotch-shot in Basic Instinct for the first time in “a room full of agents and lawyers, most of whom had nothing to do with the project.” All she had been told was, “We can’t see anything—I just need you to remove your panties, as the white is reflecting the light, so we know you have panties on.”...

In 2018, an interviewer asked Sharon Stone if she had any #MeToo stories, and she laughed long and bitterly....

"Why operate your business from an expensive midtown office when all you need is a smartphone and laptop, a tasteful backdrop for your video calls, and Amazon Prime?"

"Ask the same question on a societal level... why... pour billions into a staggeringly expensive system of urban infrastructure when all you need to keep the wheels of commerce turning is Zoom, Signal, and a reliable, super-fast wireless network…. After Covid, nothing defined 2020 more than an explosion of crime across urban America, even though there were far fewer people outdoors to victimize…. [A]re nightclubs as much of a draw when dating can be now conducted online?… Covid has [sped the] demise of retail stores…. [M]useums and concert halls [and] sports stadiums and arenas to theaters and neighborhood cinemas… are all under assault, [from Covid and from] streaming video and virtual events. Another potential threat to density is the green movement… The manufacture of density’s core ingredients, steel and cement, produces some 15 percent of the world’s carbon emissions…. The fates of major metropolises are hanging precariously as they grasp at untested policies predicated on borrowed stimulus dollars, short-term business bailouts, non-eviction mandates, and other spit-and-glue measures that are most likely unsustainable…. All these challenges will be made even greater as the politics of cities grow increasingly polarized." 

From "The Death of Density?/To survive and thrive, cities will have to overcome a number of formidable trends" by Richard Schwartz (who has "served in senior positions under 3 New York mayors).

I've compressed a lot, and I completely omitted the last paragraph — which calls for hope, hope for density. But the argument against density is so strong. You've got environmentalism counting in favor of the suburbs now. You've got all the new patterns of work and social life, all the speed and connection of the internet replacing the physical proximity maintained within a city. And you've got the crime in the city. And the politics, which will skew evermore to the left as people who want the benefits of nondensity — and want out of the ever-tightening grip of left politics — exercise their option to leave.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

At the Tuesday Night Café...

 ... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Grumpy old white dude assholes frantically trying to pivot to Professional White Ally, on the theory that this will make them money, aren’t making money."

"Tweedy party-at-the-Verso-loft n+1 leftists aren’t making money. 33 year olds who follow Tik Tok trends for a living and communicate in slang that’s fifteen years too young for them aren’t making money. Arrogant white nerdoliberals with Warby Parkers and Moleskine collections aren’t making money. Sports bloggers who provide sports news and commentary but with attitude aren’t making money. Softening khaki dads struggling to understand Bitcoin and intersectionality in an effort to survive their next inevitable layoff aren’t making money. Talented and unfulfilled women writers who have learned too late that women’s media is a ghetto they will struggle to escape for the rest of their careers aren’t making money. Aspiring young data scientists who labor over their spreadsheets for hours only to see others copy and past[e] their R graphs without attribution and receive 40x the pageviews aren’t making money. And you won’t either." 

From "If You Want to Make It As a Writer, For God's Sakes, Be Weird/you're in a market, so sell something other people aren't" by Freddie DeBoer (Substack).

"I only know that it has to do with women. I have a suspicion that someone is trying to recategorize my generosity to ex-girlfriends as something more untoward."

Said Matt Gaetz, quoted in "Matt Gaetz Is Said to Be Investigated Over Possible Sexual Relationship With a Girl, 17/In inquiry into the Florida congressman was opened in the final months of the Trump administration, people briefed on it said" (NYT).

UPDATE: Gaetz went on Tucker Carlson's show last night and made some elaborate counter-allegations. I found this hard to follow. He accuses the NYT of interfering with something. The word "extortion" comes up a lot, and after he leaves, Carlson — perhaps wanting to distance himself from the factual assertions — calls it "weird."


UPDATE 2: I received a press release from Gaetz in my email. It says: 

"Over the past several weeks, my family and I have been victims of an organized criminal extortion involving a former DOJ official seeking $25 million while threatening to smear my name. We have been cooperating with federal authorities in this matter and my father has even been wearing a wire at the FBI’s direction to catch these criminals. The planted leak to the New York Times tonight was intended to thwart that investigation. No part of the allegations against me are true, and the people pushing these lies are targets of the ongoing extortion investigation. I demand the DOJ immediately release the tapes, made at their direction, which implicate their former colleague in crimes against me based on false allegations."

On Carlson's show, he named the man he was accusing of an extortion scheme.

Major... minor... Biden's dog bites again.


ADDED: This is a new incident. Here's the CNN report: "Bidens' dog Major involved in another biting incident."

"Kipling Williams has studied the effects of the silent treatment for more than 36 years, meeting hundreds of victims and perpetrators in the process..."

"A grown woman whose father refused to speak with her for six months at a time as punishment throughout her life. 'Her father died during one of those dreaded periods... When she visited him at the hospital shortly before his death, he turned away from her and wouldn’t break his silence even to say goodbye.' A father who stopped talking to his teenage son and couldn’t start again, despite the harm he knew he was causing. 'The isolation made my son change from a happy, vibrant boy to a spineless jellyfish, and I knew I was the cause,' the father said to Williams. A wife whose husband severed communication with her early in their marriage. 'She endured four decades of silence that started with a minor disagreement and only ended when her husband died,' Williams said. Forty years of eating meals by herself, watching television by herself—40 years of being invisible. 'When I asked her why she stayed with him for all that time... she answered simply, "Because at least he kept a roof over my head."'" 

From "What You’re Saying When You Give Someone the Silent Treatment/Social ostracism has been a common punishment for millennia. But freezing someone out harms both the victim and the perpetrator" by Daryl Austin (The Atlantic)(paywall challenge to overcome).

WaPo Fact Checker gives Biden 4 Pinocchios for saying that the new Georgia voting law is "sick … deciding that you’re going to end voting at five o’clock when working people are just getting off work."

Glenn Kessler writes: 

On Election Day in Georgia, polling places are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and if you are in line by 7 p.m., you are allowed to cast your ballot. Nothing in the new law changes those rules.... 

So where would Biden get this perception that ordinary workers were getting the shaft because the state would “end voting at five o’clock"? We have one clue. The law used to say early “voting shall be conducted during normal business hours.” Experts said that generally means 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The new law makes it specific — “beginning at 9:00 AM and ending at 5:00 PM.”

Obviously, nearly everyone would read Biden's statement to refer to Election Day. The bit about early voting could have been used to cut Biden some slack and back off from the full 4-Pinocchio denouncement, but that would be wrong, because the new law didn't even cut back early voting. 

I'm glad to see Kessler giving 4 Pinocchios when deserved. Last month, I was critical of him for backing off to 3 and said: "Stop babying Biden! He's the damned President. If he needs to be babied, get him out of the presidency."

"Three burglars botched a jewellery heist when they were caught running from a neighbouring tweed shop covered in brick dust having set off the alarm on a safe by drilling through a cellar wall."

"The trio broke into the Cheltenham Tweed Company shop in the spa town’s promenade on January 9 and drilled their way through the dividing wall in the basement to get into the adjacent antiques and jewellery shop. Tim Burrows, for Newman said: 'They were all flummoxed by the safe. It was while they were trying to gain entry into the safe that the alarm went off.' Judge Ian Lawrie, QC, interjected: “They behaved like three buffoons with utter incompetence in carrying out this burglary.... Judge Lawrie told Rabjohns: 'You were a complete idiot to get involved in this burglary. You need to take greater care who you mix with in future.'"

That's from England, obviously. Lots of clues, and I didn't even include the part about the "spanner" in the "boot." Notice the spelling "jewellery." In America, we laugh at people who speak as if "jewelry" were spelled "jewellery."

From "‘Buffoon’ burglars sentenced for botched jewellery heist" (The London Times).

It's one thing to get caught committing a crime, quite another to have the judges all mocking you for how stupid you were to get caught. 

Running from a tweed shop covered in brick dust! 

Judge Lawrie: "I don’t think the three men visiting the clothing shop were really interested in adding tweed to their wardrobe when they went on a scouting mission in December."

"Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Monday that neither a gas tax nor a mileage tax would be part of President Joe Biden's sweeping infrastructure plan to be detailed on Wednesday."

 CNN reports. 

The absence of both taxes to fund the infrastructure proposal marks a shift from Buttigieg's comments Friday.

"I think that shows a lot of promise," Buttigieg said of the mileage tax. "If we believe in that so-called user pays principle, the idea that part of how we pay for roads is you pay based on how much you drive.... The gas tax used to be the obvious way to do it -- it's not anymore, so a so-called vehicle-miles-traveled tax or mileage tax, whatever you want to call it, could be a way to do it... [I]f there's a way to do it that doesn't increase the burden on the middle class, we can look at it, but if we do, we've got to recognize that's still not going to be the long-term answer."

That was last Friday, after which Buttigieg got "roasted" (according to The Week). The big problem with that "user pays principle" is that richer people live in the more close-in suburbs and have the benefit of a shorter commute, and the poorer people who must buy further-out real estate and put up with a longer commute would now be expected to pay more for their opposite-of-privilege.

Here's Buttigieg displaying absurd glibness embracing the principle and acting like he and that principle never met:

"These highly-qualified candidates reflect the President’s deeply-held conviction that the federal bench should reflect the full diversity of the American people – both in background and in professional experience..."

Says "President Biden Announces Intent to Nominate 11 Judicial Candidates" (White House press release). 

Quote attributed to Biden:

"This trailblazing slate of nominees draws from the very best and brightest minds of the American legal profession. Each is deeply qualified and prepared to deliver justice faithfully under our Constitution and impartially to the American people — and together they represent the broad diversity of background, experience, and perspective that makes our nation strong."

Who writes this stuff? You've got the "best and brightest" cliché (puffed up with "very"). You've got the silly mixed metaphor, "trailblazing slate." You've got the syrupy ideology  — "broad diversity... makes our nation strong."

Looking at the list, I see that 9 of the 11 are female.

Here's the NYT article: "Biden Names Diverse Nominees for the Federal Bench/The president’s first choices for district and appeals court openings reflected his campaign promise to choose judges from outside of traditional backgrounds."
Mr. Biden is not the first Democratic president to try to reshape the federal bench. When Mr. Obama was elected, his lawyers also considered appointing judges who did not have the traditional pedigrees of litigating experience at major law firms, graduating from top colleges, selection to elite clerkships and service as federal prosecutors.
But when Mr. Obama’s counsel’s office sent the names of public defenders or sole practitioners to the American Bar Association for the standard review before nomination, the group frequently objected. One person familiar with the effort said the Obama White House ran into what he called “endless difficulties” with the bar association, which would indicate privately that it intended to rate such candidates poorly. 
Late last year, during his transition, Mr. Biden agreed with advisers to end the tradition of Democratic presidents of submitting names to the bar association before nominating them. The association will be free to issue judgments on those nominees, but only after the president has already made his selections public. 
That could help Mr. Biden fill judicial vacancies more quickly, said several people familiar with the process. The president and his lawyers are keenly aware that Democratic control of the Senate may not last past the midterm elections in 2022, giving him a short window in which to make his mark on the judiciary....

ADDED: In my American experience, the phrase "The Best and The Brightest" has a dark, sarcastic edge.

"It’s more necessary than ever to find the empathetic experience of meeting another person, being in another culture, to smell it, to suffer it, to put up with the hardship and the nuisances of travel, all of that matters."

The pro-travel position, aspirationally articulated by Paul Theroux, quoted in "Would the Pandemic Stop Paul Theroux From Traveling? No. Of course not" (NYT). 

Nice photo of Theroux's workspace at the link. I'm a longtime fan of that genre of photography, and I declare this example worth a click. 

I'm also a longtime participant in the debate about whether to travel, and I'm more of a con than a pro. In that light, I'll say that Theroux sets a somewhat high bar for what you're supposed to be doing in this thing called travel — "empathetic experience," "being in, "smell it," "suffer it," "put up with the hardship." It's no pleasure trip. 

Another Theroux quote at the link: "You cannot be a grumpy traveler. You will not get anywhere. You’ll be killed, you’ll be insulted, you won’t be able to travel. So you need to get along with people. I think that I’m characterized as cantankerous perhaps because if you see things the way they are, and you just describe things the way they are, you can be accused of being unkind."

Monday, March 29, 2021

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom. We have so much to look forward to... but right now, I'm scared."

"We have come such a long way...just please hold on a little while longer. I so badly want to be done. I know you all so badly want to be done. We are just almost there, just not quite yet." 

Said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky:

Not long after that, as the NYT reports:

President Biden on Monday called on governors and mayors to maintain or reinstate mask-wearing orders, saying that because of “reckless behavior,” the coronavirus was again spreading fast, threatening the progress the nation has made so far against the pandemic. “People are letting up on precautions, which is a very bad thing,” he said. “We are giving up hard-fought, hard-won gains.”...

Asked if states should pause their reopening efforts, the president replied simply, “Yes.” He said that governors, mayors, local officials and businesses should demand mask-wearing, calling it a “patriotic duty” that is crucial to the nation’s fight against the virus.

"Here's how the full moon helped free the stuck ship Ever Given in the Suez Canal." explains.
"We were helped enormously by the strong falling tide we had this afternoon," Peter Berdowski, CEO of Boskalis, the salvage firm charged with freeing the Ever Given, told The Associated Press. "In effect, you have the forces of nature pushing hard with you, and they pushed harder than the two sea tugs could pull."

"The uproar over Michael Tomasky’s hiring at TNR underscores the extent to which any institution that isn’t explicitly right wing now faces enormous pressure to go 'woke.'"

"Tomasky is a through and through liberal but is being cast as a villain simply for not being further left." 

That's a tweet by Thomas Chatterton Williams, quoted in a Substack piece John Ganz titled "The Dumbest Tweet I Have Ever Seen/Not Really, but C'mon."

Ganz writes: 

Is there a political aspect to the disappointment with the situation at The New Republic? Certainly. Have some of the things written online about Michael Tomasky been uncharitable to him, not even giving him a chance before he gets started? Also, certainly. But the reality of the situation is not some grand ideological clash, the constant invocation of which is growing monotonous, to say the least. The fact is, first of all, people are worried about their jobs. It’s that simple. Some are having an emotional reaction, which might appear excessive, but it’s ultimately about their livelihoods, after all....

What was happening at TNR is exactly what anti-woke culture warriors say they miss in media and magazines: ideological and perspectival diversity.... [F]rom my perspective, the attitude in that Tweet is just an example of anti-intellectualism, a total lack of interest in the world, an unwillingness to care about or engage with anything but one’s pet issues, myopia, laziness, hopeless decadence and corruption of the mind etc. Whatever you want to call it, it’s just bullshit. I’m getting pretty tired of it.

"The Louvre museum in Paris said Friday it has put nearly half a million items from its collection online for the public to visit free of charge."

"As part of a major revamp of its online presence, the world's most-visited museum has created a new database of 482,000 items at collections."  

Yahoo reports.  

Here's the site.  

Here's the first thing I looked for:

I wanted to see that because I have a strong memory of drawing it (in person) and only remembered my drawing (blogged before, here): 

ADDED: Oh, no, wait. It's this one — an older, nakeder Voltaire. This is the "portrait absolument fidèle" that I drew:

"'There is no political or social cause in this courtroom,' Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer, Eric Nelson, says. He is trying..."

"... to focus the jury on the specifics of the evidence and steer them away from the wider issues of race and policing in America that the case symbolizes to the world outside the courtroom." 

From "Derek Chauvin Trial Live Updates: Lawyers Present Case in George Floyd Killing/The murder trial of the former police officer begins Monday in Minneapolis, 10 months after Mr. Floyd’s death set off protests across the nation" (NYT). 

The defense will try to argue that Mr. Floyd took a fatal amount of fentanyl, but now [the prosecutor, Jerry W.] Blackwell is saying that is not true, that he had built up a tolerance and was not exhibiting signs of overdose. “Mr Floyd had lived with his opioid addiction for years… he was struggling, he was not passing out.”... 

The prosecutor is trying to head off arguments from the defense that George Floyd’s size had anything to do with his death — “his size is no excuse,” he said. George Floyd was already more than six feet tall in middle school and he rapped under the name Big Floyd with popular DJs and rappers in Houston. 

Mr. Chauvin’s lawyer begins his opening arguments with the notion of “reasonable doubt.” He needs one juror to buy in to the idea that drugs killed Mr. Floyd, not Mr. Chauvin’s knee, to hang the jury and force a mistrial.

Here's a live feed of the trial:

"I was repulsed and even a little afraid (I could easily imagine that the homeowner belonged to a militia group) but also fascinated..."

"... perhaps because he plainly also wanted very much to connect, to declare himself, to put forth his vision as any storyteller would. It also seemed as though he wanted to make people laugh, or at least smile. Because, as the display evolved over time, it became clear that he wasn’t just putting up political signage; he was directing a subtly changing Kabuki entertainment for the neighborhood. Some days you’d go by and the white-guy doll would be wearing a scowling Trump mask; then he’d be himself again. Some days there’d be a huge Trump figure sitting in the driver’s seat of one of the vehicles out front; some days not. One day in the fall, an outer-space creature with glittering green eyes appeared beside the male doll, wearing a Trump 2020 hat; later, the alien returned from whence it came and was replaced by a benign Yoda type, who also supported Trump. A friend who stayed at our house while we were out of town for about a month told us that at one point she saw the male doll and the green-eyed alien embracing; she later said she wasn’t sure she really had seen this—which reminded me of my husband’s impression of the fist pulling back the flag. Something about the tableau actively engaged your imagination and made you think you saw things that weren’t there (or possibly were there, who knows—maybe the alien and the male doll did embrace). Which was, I guess, why I came to enjoy the tableau and to secretly root for its creator. Although the content expressed a political view that I didn’t share, the form was artistic, with art’s inherently apolitical ambiguity...."

From "A Trump Tableau/Politics and art in a Catskill front yard" by Mary Gaitskill (in The New Yorker).




"Stay home Patrick of Tennessee. We don’t need maga anti-vaxers spreading pestilence across our country. As a matter of fact, don’t even leave your trailer park."

"Board the doors shut and stay inside with your AR-15. I think all of these anti-vaxers should be required to have ‘do not resuscitate’ tattooed on their foreheads." 

Says the top-rated commenter on a Washington Post article, "‘Vaccine passports’ are on the way, but developing them won’t be easy/White House-led effort tries to corral more than a dozen initiatives." 

The commenter is responding to this: 

There is evidence vaccine passports could motivate skeptical Americans to get shots. Several vaccine-hesitant participants at a recent focus group of Trump voters led by pollster Frank Luntz suggested their desire to see family, go on vacation and resume other aspects of daily life outpaced fear of the shots, particularly if travel companies and others moved to require proof of vaccination....

Some attendees dissented and warned that requiring a credential would backfire. “I would change my travel plans,” said a man identified as Patrick of Tennessee.

Is the developing opinion that only troglodytes resist vaccine passports? Because I just noticed this:

Don't conflate resistance to vaccine passports with resistance to getting vaccinated. That's what I think the WaPo commenter did. Patrick of Tennessee objected to "requiring a credential," not to getting vaccinated.

ADDED: I think Wolf may be an anti-vaxxer, so her warning isn't scary.

SO: Let's look at the Guardian article she links to, "Give pause before you raise a glass to the prospect of a vaccine passport/The prime minister’s ‘papers for pints’ scheme is nothing less than a national ID card by stealth." 

Obviously, that's the UK, and in the U.S., the "passports" would probably be handled at the state level, like our other IDs. I can imagine the question of vaccine passports in the U.S. getting swirled up into the voter ID drama. Is getting an ID oppressive or something everyone should gladly, willingly do? 

From The Guardian: 

The UK has already toyed with national ID cards. It rejected them in 2010. As Theresa May, then home secretary, explained in 2010: “This isn’t just about cost savings, it’s actually about the principle, it’s about getting the balance right between national security and civil liberties, and that’s what the new coalition government is doing.”...

Already, the Conservatives have announced plans to introduce a bill to make photo ID mandatory from 2023 for all UK-wide and English elections....

Aha! It is already mixed up in the voter ID matter in the UK. 

[T]here would be no need to make photo ID mandatory at elections if people could simply use their “vaccine passport” – because, once we’ve built a system that links our identity to our health data and made this a condition of re-entering pubs, cinemas or concerts, or even our workplace, we could link it to other data too, public or private. This could be used by more than just pub landlords or election officials. The data on our vaccine passports could be used by the police, just as Singapore’s authorities admitted in January to using contact-tracing data.

All this – effectively, as I say, a stealth national ID card without the necessary debate – when we don’t even know if vaccine passports would help to solve our biggest problem: stopping the spread of the virus....

In January, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “We are not a papers-carrying country.” Yet, here we are, with the government reviewing plans to become just that. Only last month, the vaccine minister, Nadhim Zahawi, ruled out vaccine passports, arguing that they could be “discriminatory” since it is not compulsory for people to get the vaccine.

But some Americans (like the commenter at WaPo quoted above) are enthusiastic about discriminating against anti-vaxxers.

Israel, Estonia, Sweden and Denmark are all countries that have introduced, or plan to introduce, vaccine passports for domestic use. There is a key difference: all of them already have a national ID card system. If we are to follow their example, we would first need an evidence-based explanation as to how vaccine passports will help to stop the spread of the virus.... 

The pandemic has made armchair public health experts of us all, but we need to hear from the real ones to know which trade-offs are necessary, and which are not, as we move into whatever phase is coming next....

I don't think that public health experts can be the last word on "trade-offs," and I don't even know if they can be considered experts on vaccine passports. The issue is whether, given the level of immunity we've already built up, we should limit certain facilities to people who've had the vaccine and, if so, whether we need  them to prove their status with an official government document? 

And what are the collateral effects of this document? Are we concerned about government surveillance and losing our privacy? Are we collaterally enthused because the document could become the voter ID?

"But maybe what you need is... to give families more money and parental benefits and to give them a long economic expansion whose gains are widely shared."

"Call this the Joe Biden-baby-boom hypothesis, which we may be about to test: If you spend on family benefits and run the economy hot enough, maybe fertility rates will finally begin to float back up. This is the ideal scenario for pronatalist liberals, because it would mean more kids without more social conservatism. The second scenario for a fertility recovery, though, involves exactly that: a kind of neo-traditionalist turn, answering the socially liberal swing of the last two decades, that leads to people marrying earlier and having more kids for reasons of values rather than just economics.... [A] third possibility is that a deep fertility decline is more likely to end gradually, through a kind of slow selection process rather than abrupt conversion. By selection I mean that as fewer people have children, the ones who do have kids will be an increasingly distinctive population — not specifically conservative or religious, necessarily, but couples who will have written new scripts for romance, discovered new models for child rearing and burden-sharing, in a cultural and technological landscape that’s torn the older models up. So then the children and grandchildren of these trailblazers, inheriting both the new models for family formation and the world itself, would be the ones who drive some future baby boom."

From "How Does a Baby Bust End?/Three scenarios for a more fertile American future." by Ross Douthat (NYT).

From the comments at the NYT: "It should tell Mr. Douthat something that most of the top comments are from women. Guess what. Women, given any kind of agency at all--which includes education and the ability to support oneself--don't want to have hordes of kids. And if there is anything the planet doesn't need, it's more humans than existing sociopolitical forces are already grinding out. The real problem is to empower those women in oppressive, patriarchal, monotheistic cultures to have the economic, psychological, and political power to say NO more kids than they themselves want. Not to figure out how to con Caucasians (because that's Douthat's subtext) into having more."

"Though they circumcised their daughter, her parents were relatively liberal by the standards of the time and believed that all their children should be educated regardless of gender."

"When El Saadawi was ten they tried to marry her off in accordance with local custom, but her mother supported her when she resisted. El Saadawi allegedly deterred other suitors by smearing aubergine on her teeth to make them black.... After graduating in 1955 El Saadawi returned to her home village to work as a doctor, turning her experiences into a novel, Memoirs of a Woman Doctor. She also married her second husband, Rashad Bey, a lawyer, but swiftly divorced him when he proved too 'patriarchal.' He threw the manuscript of one of her novels out of the window, tore up her Medical Association card and once tried to throttle her.... El Saadawi’s anger was not just directed at Egypt, Islam and the Arab world. She was also a harsh critic of western hypocrisy, colonialism, militarism, capitalism and US support for Israel. She considered the Islamic veil to be a 'tool of oppression' but also condemned the make-up and clothes worn by women in the West. 'Women are pushed to be just bodies — either to be veiled under religion or to be veiled by make-up,' she said. 'They are told they shouldn’t face the world with their real face.'" 

From "Nawal El Saadawi obituary/Prolific Egyptian author and fearless campaigner for women’s rights who became the ‘Simone de Beauvoir of the Arab world’" (London Times).


"The cause of justice demands proprietariness about the meaning of 'reparations,' and we object to these kinds of piecemeal and misleading labels."

"True reparations only can come from a full-scale program of acknowledgment, redress and closure for a grievous injustice."

Write A. Kirsten Mullen and William A. Darity Jr. in "Evanston, Ill., approved ‘reparations.’ Except it isn’t reparations" (WaPo). The Evanston program only offers $25,000 grants for repairs or down payments on real estate.

The authors demonstrate their "proprietariness about the meaning of 'reparations'" by spelling out 4 necessary elements: 

1. Careful delineation of eligibility — including, necessarily, a requirement of an ancestor who was enslaved in the U.S., and self-identification as black on an official document for at least 12 years before the program starts.

2. Erasure of the black/white wealth gap. The authors think $14 trillion is needed.

3. Direct payments to individuals. Not programs like Evanston's, which centers on home ownership.

4. Paid by the federal government. Only the federal government has the kind of money that is demanded, so state and local government should be excluded from using the word "reparations."

Here's a good comment over there: "By describing 'true' reparations as only something that is both politically and practically unachievable, the authors reveal that they are more interested in maintaining the 'systemic racism' grievance industry then helping the country move past its issues with race."

By the way, I don't think I'd ever seen the word "proprietariness" before. It doesn't mean "propriety." The word is not in the OED, but I can see that the "-ness" ending is making a noun out of the adjective "proprietary," which means property-owning or relating to property. It's an unusual word. A google search on it is dominated by references to "male sexual proprietariness" (a man's sense of owning his wife's sexual and reproductive functions). I couldn't find 1 use of the word in the NYT archive, but I did find 6 uses in The Washington Post archive, including a piece from last October about reparations in California:

William Darity Jr., a Duke University economics professor and reparations expert, told the website Cal Matters that no single state could launch an action large enough to be called “reparations.” 

 “I have a sense of proprietariness about the use of the term reparations, because I think people should not be given the impression that the kinds of steps that are taken at the state or local level actually constitute a comprehensive or true reparations plan,” Darity said in Cal Matters. “Whatever California does perhaps could be called atonement, or it could be called a correction for past actions.”

"Reparations" is a brand. There is a claim of ownership over the word itself, and politicians attempting to use the brand for their programs will be pushed back by those who have this sense of proprietariness

Sunday, March 28, 2021

At the Sunday Night Café...

... you can talk about anything you like.

"... a 14-year-old Midwestern boy who suddenly began experiencing psychosis-like symptoms after being scratched by his cat."

I'm reading "‘Cat-scratch’ bacteria linked to schizophrenia, study says." 

“Historically, prior to psychiatric symptom onset, the boy was socially, athletically, and academically active, as evidenced by participation in national geography and history competitions, and a lead actor in a school play, winning an award in fencing and achieving excellent course grades,” a 2019 study by [Edward] Breitschwerdt reported about the boy, who was initially diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was once placed on a psychiatric hold for a week after saying he was an “evil, damned son of the devil,” according to a report at the time.... After receiving antibiotics to treat the infection, the boy made a “full” recovery.

The pathogen, Bartonella, is more commonly known as the cause of "cat-scratch" disease. That disease has symptoms like swelling and malaise. This newly reported link to schizophrenia is something else. 

Here's the new study.

"... simultaneously transforming into hyperventilating country club snots with sweaters tied around their necks in 1980s movies."

I don't know who "the Bruenigs" are, and I haven't paid too much attention to the metamorphosis of Yglesias, but I have been following the transformation of Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Sullivan, and these tweets strike a chord.

I've got to hypothesize that this has something to do with the financial incentives at Substack, where Yglesias, Greenwald, and Sullivan have relocated. Again, I have no idea about "the Bruenigs." 

It's possible that when Yglesias/Greenwald/Sullivan says something that jibes with conservative ideology, it gets massive linkage that translates to cold hard cash. Imagine trying to think with such static. 

Or do you have more of the Samuel Johnson view of it? "No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Maybe it's hard to imagine writing without feeling that your fingers tapping on the keyboard are printing money? It's the definition of professional.

I have no idea, really, what Yglesias/Greenwald/Sullivan are doing — what they consciously believe they are doing, what they want deep down, how they really lean politically, and whether they're authentic in their writing. I can only decide what sort of thing I want to read — what to invite into my head.

I like this TV show "Midnight Gospel."


Here's Duncan Trussell talking to Joe Rogan about it: 

"In the station, shadows pool in the basins of hundreds of concrete coffers lining the domed catacomb, as if each one holds something secret."

"Light scurries to corners and crevices, rises from below, casting your features as defamiliarized, haunting forms. Everyone looms. By the time you get down here, are you as raw as the concrete? As callous as a villain? As low as your basest instincts? Cackles ricochet off concrete. Sinister plots surface from the shadows.... Washington’s most notorious Brutalist building, the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover Building, has become a living lair, a symbol of surveillance and policing.... When seen from the corner of Ninth and E streets NW, the upper structure seems to hover atop the main building. This illusion makes the long narrow windows seem as far away as a lair atop a cliff. You couldn’t imagine how to get up to them — let alone who or what looks through them. The structure on top threatens to either take off for space or to crush the structure below. Viewed from Pennsylvania Avenue, the entire building crescendos to an angle, as if plowing toward the National Mall. The FBI building is defined by geometry so rigid that the winding wires of surveillance cameras look playful by comparison. But like the most interesting villains, it’s untamed. You don’t know what it will do next."

From "Brutalist buildings aren’t unlovable. You’re looking at them wrong" by Kelsey Ables (WaPo).

ADDED: Government isn't unlovable. You're just looking at it wrong

He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark mustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.

"After class, Doe approached Meriwether and 'demanded' that Meriwether 'refer to [Doe] as a woman' and use 'feminine titles and pronouns.'"

"This was the first time that Meriwether learned that Doe identified as a woman. So Meriwether paused before responding because his sincerely held religious beliefs prevented him from communicating messages about gender identity that he believes are false. He explained that he wasn’t sure if he could comply with Doe’s demands. Doe became hostile—circling around Meriwether at first, and then approaching him in a threatening manner: 'I guess this means I can call you a cu--.' Doe promised that Meriwether would be fired if he did not give in to Doe’s demands."

From Meriwether v. Hartop (6th Circuit, March 26, 2021), via "Professor who refused school order on transgender student’s pronouns wins in court" (NY Post). 

It was a motion to dismiss, so the facts stated above are the plaintiff's allegations, presumed true and with the inferences all going toward the plaintiff. The professor will be able to go forward with claims based on freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

"Opponents of trans girls’ participation in sports frame their fight in terms of the rights and opportunities of cis girls..."

"... they claim that trans girls, with their unfair advantage, will snag the medals and the college scholarships that rightfully belong to athletes who were assigned female at birth. But, as I listened to the Judiciary Committee hearing, it struck me that the opposition set up in the arguments was between cis-girl athletes on the one hand and a vast liberal conspiracy on the other. (The term 'gender ideology,' a favorite bugaboo of the global far-right movement, made an appearance, too—gender ideology is also apparently out to destroy girls’ sports.) Trans girls were not a part of this imaginary equation, and this was perhaps the most telling part of the hearing. Nor are trans boys ever mentioned in this conversation, perhaps because forcing trans boys to compete against girls, as has happened in Texas, where a trans-boy wrestler who had begun testosterone therapy handily beat female competitors, would expose the inconsistency of the argument from defenders of sex purity in sports. The goal of this campaign is not to protect cis-girl athletes as much as it is to make trans athletes disappear. This is a movement to exclude trans girls from community and opportunity. It is a movement driven by panic over the safety of women and children that reproduces earlier panics, like those over the presence of lesbians on women’s sports teams. And, just like earlier panics, this one is based on what passes for common sense but is in fact ignorance and hate."

From "The Movement to Exclude Trans Girls from Sports/The opposition is cast as one between cis-girl athletes on the one hand and a vast liberal conspiracy on the other" by Masha Gessen (The New Yorker).

1. The rhetorical move here is to characterize one's antagonists as bundles of emotion — hate and panic. Then, the idea is that we don't need to take their stated arguments seriously, because we know what they are really about and we certainly don't want to associate with such awful people. 

2. We're expected not to care about the field of women's sports, which has been specially cultivated over the years in the interest of equality in education. We're expected to feel bad about ourselves if we think that the medals and scholarships of women's sports "rightfully belong" to those who were "assigned female at birth."

3. "It is a movement driven by panic over the safety of women and children that reproduces earlier panics, like...." Like the Me Too movement? The safety of women and children is overwhelmingly important... except when they tell you that it is not.

4. I looked up the committee hearing because I wanted to see how the term "gender ideology" was used. Gessen tells us it's "a favorite bugaboo of the global far-right movement." There's this, from Abigail Shrier (author of "Irreversible Damage"): 

I have probably interviewed more transgender Americans than any person in this room. And I can honestly say that — excepting political activists — most do not want to obliterate women’s rights and safe spaces. Most would never think of stealing women’s scholarships by forcing young women into demoralizing contests with male bodies. But gender ideology, which is at the heart of this bill, is misogyny in progressive clothing. Gender ideology tells women and girls that they are not entitled to their fear or their sense of unfairness, as their protective spaces are eliminated. They must never object that sports is and has always been, a matter of biology, not identity. They mustn’t assert that we keep women’s protective spaces for biological women to ensure their physical safety, regardless of how they identify, because it isn’t our identities that are at risk, it’s our bodily integrity. Being a woman is a lifetime commitment. It entails profound blessings, but also physical vulnerabilities. For generations, women like the late Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, fought to create sex- based protections to make life safe and fair for women. If you vote to take away those rights, don’t pretend you’ve achieved a civil rights victory. In the name of inclusivity, you’ll have made life far less safe, far less fair, and far less inclusive for America’s women and girls.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

At The Saturday Night Cafe...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Black nerds unsettle the myth of a monolithic Blackness."

"In an American imagination that has historically stereotyped Black people as alternately ignorant and emotional or sexualized and cool, the nerd — smart and cerebral, unsexy and decidedly uncool — creates cognitive dissonance. Not only do Black nerds confound racist stereotypes, they also pierce the protective orthodoxy of Blackness passed down in the United States across generations. Under slavery and Jim Crow, Black people maintaining — or at least projecting — unity proved a necessary protective practice. Strength came in numbers, as did political influence and economic clout. What would happen if we all announced publicly that we were going to start doing our own human thing without regard to the group? Few considered it worth the risk to find out. But who in 2021 benefits from thinking of Black people as just one thing? Certainly not Black individuals, who, like all individuals, are complex amalgams of shifting affinities, of inherited and chosen identities. And certainly not Black nerds, whose very existence is often rendered invisible because they present an inconvenient complication to a straightforward story of Blackness in America..."

From "The Black Nerds Redefining the Culture/By pushing back against centuries-old stereotypes, a historically overlooked community is claiming space it was long denied" by Adam Bradley (NYT).

I learned the slang term: "blerd."

Elizabeth Warren tells a joke... tells the truth...

Via "Elizabeth Warren Wants To Break Up Amazon So It's 'Not Powerful Enough To Heckle Senators With Snotty Tweets'/She said the quiet part out loud" (Reason).

How much do powerful people enjoy their power? Ah! I have crushed my enemies!! How much of that sort of thing goes on in their head? 

I feel rather certain that they must get emotional thrills, because — unless they came into their power by birth — they have to go through so much struggle to get their power. I would never do it, and I know I don't get pleasure from exerting power. I have a distaste for it. I know these people who pursue it are emotionally different from me, and I wonder how does it feel? I'm saying this on the occasion of Elizabeth Warren's tweet because I'm certain that if I were a U.S. Senator — if somehow that awful role were foisted on me — and I thought of that wisecrack, I would never write it out and publish. 

But Warren thought it was good — openly triumphing at power. I think of this:

"I don’t like struggle sessions; I think critical race theory as it developed in the academy is intellectually rich, but some of the ways it’s been adapted by workplace diversity trainers..."

"... and education consultants seem risible.... The right-wing caricature of progressive public schools as pampered re-education camps is extremely far from my own family’s experience, but if any kids are being bullied and shamed for refusing to espouse social justice principles, even principles I agree with, that’s wrong. However, the claim that the right’s war on critical race theory doesn’t threaten academic freedom is also wrong. Consider what just happened in Idaho, where last week Boise State University suspended dozens of classes, online and in person, dealing with different aspects of diversity. This week, they were reinstated, but online only and 'asynchronously,' without any live discussions.... Some of the facts behind the class suspensions are unclear. In an email to the campus, university leaders described 'a series of concerns, culminating in allegations that a student or students have been humiliated and degraded in class on our campus for their beliefs and values.' An English professor at the university tweeted that the allegation concerned a taped Zoom discussion of white privilege that had been handed over to the Legislature, but so far it hasn’t emerged publicly. (The tweets have since been deleted.) It’s obviously impossible to evaluate the allegations without knowing what they are. If a student was humiliated, that’s serious and should be addressed. But it’s hard to see how whatever happened implicated 52 different classes, and the political pressure the university is under is undeniable."

Michelle Goldberg writes carefully in a column with the inflammatory headline "The Social Justice Purge at Idaho Colleges/Republican lawmakers try to cancel diversity programs" (NYT).

We can't "Consider what just happened in Idaho" unless we know just what happened, and Goldberg acknowledges that. She's also right that CRT has some intellectual value and that it shouldn't be foisted on people. 

Those who want to teach and learn about it should be free to pursue their intellectual interests, but even if they decide — in their freedom — that they believe it's something that they must compel others to believe, they don't have the right to act on that belief and apply coercion within a government institution. 

I don't know what, exactly, happened in Idaho, but seems as though the CRT believers adopted oppressive educational techniques, the legislature responded in an effort to protect students from coercion, the colleges took steps to follow the legislation, and the CRT believers now feel intimidated about pursuing their intellectual interests. Part of the problem, it seems to me, is that this is an intellectual field that entails deep beliefs about how other people think, critiques the freedom of others, and demands action to restructure their minds.

From the comments at the NYT: "The best proof that CRT is legitimate is the enraged reaction it engenders among white people." 

But here's the highest-rated comment (by a lot):

"The right likes to pretend that social justice-inflected academic disciplines are full of ideological commissars browbeating conservative students." 
Oh come on. I'm a center-left academic and it's as obvious as dirt that academic environments, including my RI university, are tilted against conservative perspectives, especially for students in the classroom, and that the problem has gotten intensely worse in the last few years. Surely MG must know this is not something "the right likes to pretend." It's a fact that is helping to drive social and political polarization, and that needs to be honestly reckoned with by people on the center/left, not pooh-poohed and dismissed.

And I like this comment, which is very straightforward:

The backlash was/is inevitable. Proponents of CRT and social justice inquisitors have overplayed their hand. I for one am happy to see the push back.

"I had a producer bring me to his office, where he had malted milk balls in a little milk-carton-type container under his arm with the spout open."

"He walked back and forth in his office with the balls falling out of the spout and rolling all over the wood floor as he explained to me why I should fuck my co-star so that we could have onscreen chemistry. Why, in his day, he made love to Ava Gardner onscreen and it was so sensational! Now just the creepy thought of him in the same room with Ava Gardner gave me pause. I watched the chocolate balls rolling around, thinking, You guys insisted on this actor when he couldn’t get one whole scene out in the test … Now you think if I fuck him, he will become a fine actor? Nobody’s that good in bed. I felt they could have just hired a co-star with talent, someone who could deliver a scene and remember his lines. I also felt they could fuck him themselves and leave me out of it. It was my job to act, and I said so. This was not a popular response. I was considered difficult."

From "Sharon Stone Says Producer Pressured Her to Sleep With Male Co-Star to Create 'Onscreen Chemistry'" (The Vulture).

Sharon Osbourne, cancelled at "The Talk."

It's a complicated story, so read the whole thing at "Sharon Osbourne Is Out at 'The Talk'" (Hollywood Reporter). I'll just excerpt some highlights, which I don't expect you to understand if you don't know the context.

From the statement by CBS: "As part of our review, we concluded that Sharon’s behavior toward her co-hosts during the March 10 episode did not align with our values for a respectful workplace."

From Hollywood Reporter: "The news came two weeks after the March 10 dustup, one that was followed by multiple allegations of racist comments from Osbourne being levied by former co-stars Leah Remini and Holly Robinson Peete.... After Robinson Peete... alleg[ed] Osbourne had referred to her as 'too ghetto,' Remini... claimed that Osbourne had made racist comments about former colleague (and Chinese American woman) Julie Chen, homophobic remarks about The Talk creator and then-moderator Sara Gilbert and made anti-Italian slurs toward Remini herself.... [Osbourne] gave interviews to both Variety and Entertainment Tonight, claiming that she had been 'set up' by the producers and was offered up as a 'sacrificial lamb.' Her publicist also issued a doozy of a statement, alluding to Remini and Robinson Peete's comments by noting 'The only thing worse than a disgruntled former employee is a disgruntled former talk show host.'"

Now, Osbourne is the "disgruntled former talk show host." So we'll see what else she has to say.

Friday, March 26, 2021

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"The woman... told officials she was swimming in a canal when she noticed a door and entered it. She said she eventually became lost..."

"... and ended up three miles away from where she first began, surviving on a can of ginger ale she discovered unopened along the way. Police are trying to determine if the woman was actually underground for three weeks. They say the health officials they have consulted believe it is more likely the woman was only in the sewer for two or three days. 'We don’t feel that there was any crime committed,' Ted White, a police spokesperson, said. 'But the biggest question is, is her story credible? Was she actually down there the whole time?'"

From "Naked woman rescued from Florida sewer after driver hears her screaming/Delray Beach fire rescue says woman sustained superficial injuries and had been reported missing three weeks earlier" (The Guardian).

Highway shark.

"Internet turns on Jensen Karp, ‘manipulative’ shrimp tail cereal man."

NY Post headline.

I don't have a tag for "crustaceans." I have "lobster" and "crabs," but I don't have "shrimp." That boxes me in tag-wise. It's not as though I haven't written about shrimp before

There's this, in 2018: 

I wanted to give this post a "crustaceans" tag, but I didn't want to create a new tag. So I started typing out the word in the place where I add my tags, and by the time I got to "crus-," there was only one tag the software was suggesting, and it wasn't "crustaceans," so that's it for the potential "crustaceans" tag. I'm not creating a new tag, because I don't want to bother with adding it retroactively, searching for crustaceans in the 14-year archive. Sometimes I do create new tags and do that work. For example, I did it yesterday with Kathleen Turner. But that was a matter of doing a search for "Kathleen Turner." "Crustaceans" would not be so easy. I'd have to look up which animals are crustaceans and search for them individually. And I already have separate tags for some of them — lobsters (with 41 posts!) and crabs (with 17 posts!). But I don't have a "shrimp" tag. And I've mentioned shimp quite a few times. Should I now create a "shrimp" tag and a "crawfish" tag? But today's post is only the second mention of crawfish in the history of the blog. The first was "Barack spent so much time by himself that it was like he was raised by wolves" (from 2010)....

So it's a recurring problem!

"This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle. I mean, this is gigantic..."

Said Joe Biden at his press conference yesterday. Transcript. He was talking about new legislation in some GOP-led state legislatures tightening up voting requirements.


What I’m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is. It’s sick. It’s sick. Deciding in some states that you cannot bring water to people standing in line waiting to vote, deciding that you’re going to end voting at five o’clock when working people are just getting off work, deciding that there will be no absentee ballots under the most rigid circumstances, it’s all designed, and I’m going to spend my time doing three things. One, trying to figure out how to pass the legislation passed by the House, number one, number two, educating the American public. The Republican voters I know find this despicable, Republican voters, the folks outside this White House. I’m not talking about the elected officials. I’m talking about voters. Voters. And so I’m convinced that we’ll be able to stop this because it is the most pernicious thing. This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle. I mean, this is gigantic what they’re trying to do and it cannot be sustained. I’m going to do everything in my power, along with my friends in the House and the Senate, to keep that from becoming the law.

By the way, he said he's "going to spend my time doing three things," then he ticked off "number one" and "number two," but he never listed the third thing. But he just kept rambling on, and he didn't have his fingers in the air to remind us that he was doing a list, so there was no Rick Perry "oops" moment. 


And, of course, the reporter (Yamiche Alcindor [formerly] of the NYT) did nothing to re-focus him on completing the list. But back to "Jim Eagle." I've seen some defense of this weird new character, upstaging the old Jim Crow. It's not hard to get what he was going for. If Jim Crow was bad, then Jim Eagle would be even worse. A crow is a bird, and an eagle is a bigger, more dangerous bird. But...

1. Is the new legislation even worse than Jim Crow laws? How could that be?

2. The eagle is the national bird, and Biden was standing in front of an image of an eagle, which we saw right behind his head as he was using the eagle as a symbol of evil:

3. The expression "Jim Crow" is not a reference to a bird, but a particular character

The origin of the phrase "Jim Crow" has often been attributed to "Jump Jim Crow",* a song-and-dance caricature of black people performed by white actor Thomas D. Rice in blackface, which first surfaced in 1828 and was used to satirize Andrew Jackson's populist policies. As a result of Rice's fame, "Jim Crow" by 1838 had become a pejorative expression meaning "Negro". When southern legislatures passed laws of racial segregation directed against black people at the end of the 19th century, these statutes became known as Jim Crow laws.

Click on the link to see how a black man was depicted on the sheet music to that song. "Jim Crow" is not a bird, but a man, depicted as inferior and contemptible, in what is overt racism. If a man were depicted in a way that called to mind an eagle, he would be a more powerful man — an admired man. Thus, to go from crow to eagle in this context is to put black people in a better position, not worse. Biden's word play is based on historical ignorance.

4. To do word play, you need to know what the thing you are playing on means. For example, earlier this morning, I blogged about the Washington Post Fact Checker, and we got to talking about the time last month when I fact-checked the Fact Checker. I wisecracked: "He's the Fact Checker, I'm the Fact Chess!" See? I'm proposing a new kind of word play where you deliberately misunderstand the word that you're playing upon. 

5. Voting rights are important and maybe humor isn't such a good idea here. I know I've just made a joke, and perhaps I should delete it, but if jokes here are to be self-censored, Biden ought to have resisted saying "Jim Eagle." In any case, it was a joke that was hard for some people to understand, and understanding it required us to come within his misunderstanding, with "Jim Crow" as a bird.

6. Since I blogged about Cliff Edwards yesterday, I want to end by saying that he — a white man — did the voice of the lead crow in the Disney movie "Dumbo," and here's the sequence "When I See an Elephant Fly," which you can watch for yourself to think about whether it's so racist it should be suppressed. Here's a Reddit discussion from a year ago, begun by somebody who thinks it's not so bad.


*If you click on the "Jump Jim Crow" link in #3, you get to this additional material: 

The origin of the name "Jim Crow" is obscure but may have evolved from the use of the pejorative "crow" to refer to black people in the 1730s. Jim may be derived from "Jimmy", an old cant term for a crow, which is based on a pun for the tool "crow" (crowbar). Before 1900, crowbars were called "crows" and a short crowbar was and still is called a "jimmy" ("jemmy" in British English), a typical burglar's tool. The folk concept of a dancing crow predates the Jump Jim Crow minstrelsy and has its origins in the old farmer's practice of soaking corn in whiskey and leaving it out for the crows. The crows eat the corn and become so drunk that they cannot fly, but wheel and jump helplessly near the ground, where the farmer can kill them with a club.

Reading the next 4 WaPo articles on Joe Biden's press conference.

Let me continue with the links I found in the top left corner of the front page of The Washington Post this morning (at around 6):


"Analysis: In news conference, Biden made some incorrect statements and claims lacking context." On the inside the headline is: "Fact-checking President Biden’s first news conference." 

Biden's claim that the U.S. has given far more vaccination shots is a distortion, because some other countries have given shots to a larger percentage of the population. Biden repeated a claim about GOP tax cuts that WaPo has already "often" given 2 Pinocchios. Biden claimed credit for school re-openings that were based on work done before he took office. Biden apparently completely made up the story of children at the border starving to death. Biden claimed that "the vast majority" of families caught trying cross the border are sent back, but only 41% are. Biden was wrong to claim that the surge at the border is the same as what happens every winter. Biden made the completely bizarre claim that the U.S. is 85th in the world in "infrastructure" (but he later corrected it to 13th). Biden misstated how much tax Fortune 500 companies pay.


"'The art of the possible': Biden lays out pragmatic vision for his presidency." 

"[Pragmatism explains] how he can describe some Republican policies as 'sick' and 'un-American' while not doing everything in his power to immediately stop them. He called the filibuster a racist relic of Jim Crow, while also insisting that he wasn’t ready to remove it entirely in the hopes there would be some compromise."


"Analysis: Takeaways from Biden’s first presidential news conference." Headline inside: "4 takeaways from Biden’s first news conference." 

"There wasn’t much truly groundbreaking news in the news conference.... Members of the media have been waiting a while to directly question this president.... There was also a distinct lack of deep questioning on the biggest current challenge facing our country and the world: the coronavirus threat. Other critiques of the questions were more overwrought.... These news conferences are difficult. Not every question is going to provide a ton of insight. And everyone thinks they can do better. But that doesn’t mean the media can’t actually do better." That's Aaron Blake.


"The many languages of Joe Biden: President switches between cryptic and casual conversation." 

This is a Robin Givhan column: "Biden, with an American flag pinned to his lapel, maintained a tone and volume that was both calm and reassuring as he spoke to a nation that remains skittish and uneasy. He only brought up his volume as a form of righteous indignation. He’d periodically move closer to the microphone and his eyes would get wide and his gaze fixed whenever he wanted to convey outrage."

ADDED: Robin Givhan's prose sounds like a description of the lead male character in a romance novel. It's quite humorous if you think about it that way.

Reading the Washington Post coverage of Biden's press conference.

There are 5 pieces lined up on the left side of the front page and more scattered about, so this is a big task. Let me get the blog started this morning with just the first headline:

"Biden prioritizes infrastructure and pandemic ahead of guns and immigration." 

On the inside, the headine makes Biden sound weaker: "Biden promises to tackle the nation’s crises, but says some may wait." Prioritizing specific issues sounds like what an active, skillful executive would do. The inside headline presents him as beset by everything and just letting us know he can't get to it all. 

The first paragraph tells us he regarded guns and immigration as "secondary." What was primary was coronavirus, infrastructure, and voting rights. 

I watched the conference, and it seemed to me that the reporters were most concerned about immigration, so WaPo is interpreting Biden's response to mean that he's minimizing the problem. 

Indeed, I remember him saying that people are just coming the way they have always come, and the surge is just because of the winter weather. The policy changes from Trump to Biden have nothing to do with it, Biden  said, so I guess there's not much value in doing anything differently from what he's currently doing, since the migrants come whatever you do. They have their own motivation, and conditions are so bad back home that they will face any adversity. In that light, we're just being cruel to put up obstructions.

In person, Biden didn't get much — or even any — push back from the press corps, and this article follows that mellow, forgiving approach. It's so absurdly different from the way the press treated Trump. There's not even the slightest pretense of making journalism seem like the same sort of thing we saw before. We're just supposed to glide along with them, greased by the mainly accurate understanding that Biden is a very different sort of person than Trump was. 

ADDED: Something is strangely missing from this WaPo piece: Immigration is a matter that Biden has handed over to Kamala Harris. That's a way of making it "secondary," but it's also a way to get things done. Here's what he said about the VP at the press conference — from the transcript:

Well, look, the idea that I’m going to say, which I would never do, if an unaccompanied child ends up at the border, we’re just going to let them starve to death and stay on the other side, no previous administrations did either, except Trump. I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to do it. That’s why I’ve asked the Vice President of United States yesterday to be the lead person on dealing with focusing on the fundamental reasons why people leave Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador in the first place. It’s because of earthquakes, floods. It’s because of lack of food. It’s because of gang violence. It’s because of a whole range of things, that when I was Vice President, had the same obligation to deal with unaccompanied children. I was able to get it slowed up significantly by working with the heads of state of those communities, to do things like, in one of the major cities, the reason people were leaving as they couldn’t walk to the street because their kids were getting beat up or shot or in gang violence.

He proceeds to talk about his own work getting street lighting installed in "those communities." He's given Harris the same job that he himself had when he was Vice President.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

A rare sighting! Biden does a press conference!

Or so we're told. Starting time is right this minute. Keep watching here: