Sunday, January 3, 2021

"The egregious ploy to reject electors may enhance the political ambition of some.... The congressional power to reject electors is reserved for the most extreme and unusual circumstances."

"These are far from it.... President Trump’s lawyers made their case before scores of courts; in every instance, they failed.... My fellow Senator Ted Cruz and the co-signers of his statement argue that rejection of electors or an election audit directed by Congress would restore trust in the election. Nonsense. This argument ignores the widely perceived reality that Congress is an overwhelmingly partisan body; the American people wisely place greater trust in the federal courts where judges serve for life. Members of Congress who would substitute their own partisan judgement for that of the courts do not enhance public trust, they imperil it...."

Meanwhile: "Vice President Pence... welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections and bring forward evidence before the Congress and the American people on January 6th."

And, from Ted Cruz: "I think everyone needs to calm down.... I think we need to tone down the rhetoric. This is already a volatile situation. It's like a tinderbox and throwing lit matches into it... That’s not helpful ... at a time when we’re pitted against each other. Just relax, and let’s do our jobs... We have a responsibility to follow the law."

"I feel alien from myself. It’s also kind of a loneliness in the world. Like a part of me is missing, as I can no longer smell and experience the emotions of everyday basic living."

Said one person quoted in "Some Covid Survivors Haunted by Loss of Smell and Taste/As the coronavirus claims more victims, a once-rare diagnosis is receiving new attention from scientists, who fear it may affect nutrition and mental health" (NYT).

"The Sixties set the stage, the players and the rhetorical range of cultural life. The counterculture became a co-culture, then..."

"... a co-opted culture and eventually a co-opting culture. Cool was absorbed by consumerism, and became a manufactured good, like the battle between liberals and conservatives, or fights between the sexes. The old ferocity and subversiveness was bought off, lobotomized and placed in a zoo. Over half a century, the quality of the animals on display declined. Lenny Bruce became Hannah Gadsby, Joan Baez became Taylor Swift and Malcolm X became Ibram X. Kendi.... There was no Cool left in America by the time the Trump era began, just noise....  Over there: howling patriots, conspiracy lunatics, Nazi bodybuilders, militarized trolls, hustlers and grifters. Over here: brittle liberal worthies, nerds, meritless meritocrats, academic Torquemadas, trust-funded podcasters, pseudoscientific TED speechifiers, hysterical talking heads and way too many lawyers. Not to mention all the creepy racists, the OnlyFans fans, the ‘wine o’clock’ mothers, the whining, weepy- kneeling athletes, the hate-crime fakers, the wannabe Bolsheviks, the acorn-brained influencers, the over-exposed YouTubers, Jerry Falwell Jr’s pool boy, Bret Stephens versus the 1619 Project....  [A]ll the psychotic grouplets of American life studied each other incestuously, searching for their enemies’ blunders and fails.... Cool was an impossibility... Awkwardness and shame brooded over the land...."

I'll take "Manhattan" — copyright-free at long last!


"Manhattan" was written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart for the 1925 revue "Garrick Gaieties," Wikipedia explains
The song describes, in several choruses, the simple delights of Manhattan for a young couple in love. The joke is that these "delights" are really some of the worst, or cheapest, sights that New York has to offer; for example, the stifling, humid stench of the subway in summertime is described as "balmy breezes", while the noisy, grating pushcarts on Mott Street are "gently gliding by"... [T]he couple is obviously too poor to afford a honeymoon to the popular summertime destinations of "Niag'ra" or "other places", so they claim to be happy to "save our fares"....
We'll go to Yonkers/Where true love conquers/In the wild/And starve together, dear/In Child's/We'll go to Coney/And eat baloney/On a roll/In Central Park we'll stroll/Where our first kiss we stole/Soul to soul...

At long last in the public domain: "The Great Gatsby"!

New York Magazine on the books — from 1925 — that just entered the public domain:
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time, Sinclair Lewis’ Arrowsmith, Aldous Huxley’s Those Barren Leaves, Agatha Christie’s The Secret of Chimneys....

More here, at Duke's Center for the Study of the Public Domain:

The BBC’s Culture website suggested that 1925 might be “the greatest year for books ever,” and with good reason. It is not simply the vast array of famous titles. The stylistic innovations produced by books such as Gatsby, or [Kafka's] The Trial, or Mrs. Dalloway marked a change in both the tone and the substance of our literary culture, a broadening of the range of possibilities available to writers....
From that BBC article
The brutality of World War One, with some 16 million dead and 70 million mobilised to fight, had left its mark on the Lost Generation....  The solid external world of the realists and naturalists was giving way to the shifting perceptions of the modernist ‘I’... 
[Gertrude] Stein responded to her immersion in the Parisian avant-garde by writing The Making of Americans, which was published in 1925, more than a decade after its completion. In over 900 pages of stream-of-consciousness, Stein tells of “the old people in a new world, the new people made out of the old,” and describes an American “space of time that is filled always filled with moving”.... 
In New York, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, Jean Toomer and other writers of the Harlem Renaissance were given a definitive showcase that year in the anthology The New Negro, edited by Alain Locke....
The Great Gatsby, published in 1925, gives a portrait both tawdry and touching, as Gatsby remakes himself in a doomed attempt to win the love of the wealthy Daisy Buchanan. 
The tarnished American Dream also was central that year to Theodore Dreiser’s naturalist masterpiece, An American Tragedy. Dreiser based the novel on a real criminal case, in which a young man murders his pregnant mistress in an attempt to marry into an upper class family, and [spoiler alert!] is executed by electric chair.....
John Dos Passos’ Manhattan Transfer introduced the cinematic narrative form to the novel. New York, presented in fragments as if it were a movie montage on the page, is the novel’s collective protagonist, the inhuman industrialised city presented as a flow of images and characters passing at high speed. "Declaration of war… rumble of drums... Commencement of hostilities in a long parade through the empty rainlashed streets,” Dos Passos writes. “Extra, extra, extra. Santa Claus shoots daughter he has tried to attack. Slays Self With Shotgun."...

"In July, Joe Biden released a seven-hundred-and-seventy-five-billion-dollar plan with the tongue-twisting title 'Mobilizing American Talent and Heart to Create a 21st Century Caregiving and Education Workforce.'"

"Biden’s plan aims to expand child care and services for the elderly and the disabled, and elevate the status and pay of caregivers as well. But those goals will remain aspirational without a Democratic majority in the Senate, which is why [Schanchline] Nanje and a dozen other Family Friendly Action canvassers have been knocking on a hundred doors a day in the suburbs north of Atlanta. Their work is financed by the Women Effect Action Fund, a group that promotes economic gender equality and women’s rights. Lisa Guide, the fund’s co-founder, told me that the organization was targeting the Georgia races to show both voters and elected officials the enormous impact that access to child care, as well as services for the elderly and disabled, have on women’s personal and professional lives. 'We’re in Georgia to make sure Georgia voters know which Senate candidates are going to help them through our national care crisis—and who aren’t,' Guide said. 'And we want elected officials and policymakers to understand that voters really care about these issues so they end up rising up the ladder for both Democrats and Republicans.'" 

That made me think about Obama's resistance to concentrating on healthcare jobs, which I blogged (in September 2011) under the heading "Obama's Infrastructure Stimulus — designed to build masculine pride"
Here's a fascinating passage from Ron Suskind's new book "Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President" (pp. 18-19)(boldface added). Obama and his advisers are plotting campaign strategy in August 2007 and the subject turned to the problem of jobs for 10 million low- to moderately skilled male workers. What "sunrise" could the government subsize and stimulate. The advisers hit on health care:
That was where the jobs would be: nurse’s aides, companions to infirm seniors, hospital orderlies. The group bandied about ideas for how to channel job-seeking men into this growth industry. A need in one area filling a need in another. Interlocking problems, interlocking solutions. The Holy Grail of systemic change.

But Obama shook his head.

“Look, these are guys,” he said. “A lot of them see health care, being nurse’s aides, as women’s work. They need to do something that fits with how they define themselves as men.” ...
As the room chewed over the non-PC phrase “women’s work,” trying to square the senator’s point with their analytical models, [Alan] Krueger—who was chief economist at the Department of Labor in the mid-1990s at the tender age of thirty-four—sat there silently, thinking that in all his years of studying men and muscle, he had never used that term. But Obama was right. Krueger wondered how his latest research on happiness and well-being might take into account what Obama had put his finger on: that work is identity, that men like to build, to have something to show for their sweat and toil.

“Infrastructure,” he blurted out. “Rebuilding infrastructure.”

Obama nodded and smiled, seeing it instantly. “Now we’re talking.... Okay, let’s think about how that would work as a real centerpiece.... Don’t even get me started about potholed highways and collapsing bridges,” Obama said....
And just like that, a policy to repair the nation’s infrastructure was born. The federal government, in partnership with the private sector, would call upon the underemployed men of America to rebuild the country, and in doing so restore their pride
Obama wanted to rebuild masculine pride!

But what happened? Why didn't the original stimulus, in early 2009, rebuild America and America's men? I seem to remember some pushback. There was this NYT op-ed in December 2008, by Linda Hirshman:
Mr. Obama compared his infrastructure plan to the Eisenhower-era construction of the Interstate System of highways. It brings back the Eisenhower era in a less appealing way as well: there are almost no women on this road to recovery....

The bulk of the stimulus program will provide jobs for men, because building projects generate jobs in construction, where women make up only 9 percent of the work force....

Fortunately, jobs for women can be created by concentrating on professions that build the most important infrastructure — human capital. In 2007, women were 83 percent of social workers, 94 percent of child care workers, 74 percent of education, training and library workers (including 98 percent of preschool and kindergarten teachers and 92 percent of teachers’ assistants)....
And then what happened? Did Obama ever openly express his enthusiasm for masculine jobs? The terminology became "shovel-ready jobs." He couldn't say "manly jobs" or "men's work." Not only did Obama abandon his dream of lifting up men, we didn't even get the construction work done.

And now here he is, last week, posing by a bridge that's — what? — falling down and getting accused of using the bridge as a "prop."

Oh! The masculinity!

Saturday, January 2, 2021

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"This year, women around the country have staked out each other’s homes in the name of a quest that gained popularity during the pandemic: raising spirits by giving spirits, anonymously."

"Booze fairies, as they’re called, bring together the childhood thrill of ding-dong ditch with a side of Secret Santa and a dash of adult beverages. Sometimes, they wear wings and a tutu.... Booze fairies operate on a 'pay it forward' philosophy. Participants share their addresses (and alcohol preferences) with volunteer group leaders, who then assign them to various other fairies. Each gift basket comes with a new address to deliver to, and thus a fairy is born.... 'It’s hard to make friends. I’m usually shy... This makes me feel useful. It’s amazing how a little surprise can make you feel excited about what’s next.'"

1. No comments section over there, so nobody to naysay about alcohol. 

2. What's the NYT revenue from alcohol ads?

3. That "'pay it forward' philosophy" is the "philosophy" of chain letters and pyramid schemes.

4. I don't remember seeing the phrase "ding-dong ditch" before. It's explained in the Wikipedia article "Knock, Knock, Ginger":
Knock, knock, ginger (also known as knock down ginger, ding dong ditch, chap door run, chappies, knock knock, zoom zoom and numerous variants) is a prank or game dating back to 19th-century England.... It involves knocking on the front door (or ringing the doorbell) of a victim, then running away before the door can be answered.... 
Victims of this prank are not likely to call the police, but if they decide to, the prankster can face charges of trespassing and disturbing the peace.... In Scotland, although the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 establishes universal access rights, the so-called "right to roam" is only permitted where the privacy of others is respected....

5. I found the NYT article via Metafilter, where somebody says, "Nothing sets my teeth on edge like the faux-cutesy phrase 'adult beverage.'" I hear it more as faux-sophistication. But there are plenty of grossly cute locutions for alcohol. I think! For some reason the only one I can think of right now is something that seems to come from the 1950s: "drinky-poo" (or "drinky-winky").

"Eighty-eight rarely seen drawings of Dante’s The Divine Comedy have been put on virtual display as Italy begins a year-long calendar of events to mark the 700th anniversary of the poet’s death."

"The drawings, by the 16th-century Renaissance artist Federico Zuccari, are being exhibited online, for free, by the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. 'Until now these beautiful drawings have only been seen by a few scholars and displayed to the public only twice, and only in part,' said Eike Schmidt, the Uffizi’s director. 'Now they are published in full, alongside a didactic-scientific comment, where from [Friday] they will be freely available.'" 

The Guardian lets us know. Go here for all the artwork and the "didactic-scientific comment."

"President Trump took to Twitter Friday evening to make the unfounded assertion that Georgia’s two Senate races are 'illegal and invalid,' an argument that could complicate his efforts..."

"... to convince his supporters to turn out for Republican candidates in the two runoff races that will determine which party controls the Senate... Some Republican leaders are afraid that his supporters will take the president’s argument seriously, and decide that voting in a 'corrupt' system is not worth their time, a development that could hand the election to the Democrats."

I'm pretty sure the NYT wants to help the Democrats, so anything that looks like advice to Trump not to do what he's doing should probably be translated into an expression of fear that it might work. 

One might say that Trump's continued assertions about rigged elections keep Republican voters stirred up. They may get the idea that they need to win by enough to overcome the cheating. They may feel outraged that cheaters have been stealing elections and that it's crucial to fight back right now. 

Alternatively, it might be that Trump doesn't mind losing the GOP majority in the Senate. He might prefer to fight his way back to power in 2024 with his party excluded from power. He'll be more of an outsider and able to attack everything in a much more interesting and theatrical way if we're not distracted by the day to day efforts of McConnell et al.

Friday, January 1, 2021

New Year's dawn.







Open thread in the comments. Write about whatever you want.

"Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse’s new merchandise site signals ‘new era’ of criminal defense."

WaPo headline. From the article:
Jeff Neslund, a Chicago-based civil rights attorney and a former prosecutor with the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, said the website “is dangerous for prosecutors” attempting to secure a conviction in the pending trial, because it has the potential to taint a jury pool. 
“You’re going to have a lot of people who want to be on this jury to help this kid because they have an agenda, so prosecutors will have a tougher time to do their homework to flush those people out,” he said. “But if someone says they never saw the website, what are you going to do? Check their browser history?” 
[John Pierce, a Los Angeles-based attorney for Rittenhouse] Pierce defended the site, saying “the notion of a fair trial was blown out of the water” when celebrities and political figures used the case to portray Rittenhouse “as a mass murderer and white supremacist.” 
“All we are doing is defending his reputation and telling the truth,” Pierce said. “He has a constitutional right to that. There’s nothing wrong or inappropriate to it.”

If you click on the link to the website — which WaPo provides — you don't get to what I'd call a "merchandise site." It looks like a somber presentation of the facts of the case. It does have links across the top of that page and one of them is labeled "store." If you click on that, you get to a page that says, "We're making some adjustments." According to WaPo, the website had "more than 30 apparel items and accessories emblazoned with the logo 'Free Kyle' and a slogan, 'Self-defense is a right, not a privilege.'"

A highly rated comment over there is: "Imagine what would have happened if ISIS had opened a store to celebrate its murders. The victims should swoop down NOW and grab every blood-soaked penny. This act in support of terrorism is an outrage."

"Bob Ross was wrong. Everybody can't paint.... I just want people to know that none of the trees in my paintings are happy. They're very unhappy...."


I'm excited about this because I loved John Lurie's old show, "Fishing With John."

"Minneapolis police shot and killed a man who allegedly opened fire on officers during a traffic stop Wednesday night..."

".... sparking new tensions in a city still deeply on edge since the police killing of George Floyd in May and the fiery unrest that followed. Scores of protesters quickly arrived at the site of the shooting, a gas station parking lot in South Minneapolis, about a mile from the intersection where Floyd was killed, facing off in below-freezing temperatures with police officers clad in riot gear, some clutching batons and cans of pepper spray. The tense scene, reminiscent of clashes between police and demonstrators in the aftermath of Floyd’s death, continued into early Thursday and prompted calls for peace from Minneapolis officials anxious to avoid a repeat of the May unrest that left parts of the city burned and destroyed. On Thursday evening, dozens of people began gathering at the gas station again for a vigil.... The body-camera footage appears to show the driver fire a shot through his window.... Word of the shooting quickly spread on social media, including rumors about the race of the suspect and how many times he had been shot and where...." 

You have to read the long article carefully to see that we're not told the race of the man who was shot dead by the police. We're not told, even though the writer of the article seems to have watched the video — "The body-camera footage appears to show the driver fire a shot through his window." Can't we hear what the race the driver "appears" to be? Is it simply that it's a delicate matter, guessing what race a person is? Or is it that if they say he appears white, people will say different things that if they're told he appears black? 

We're not even told what the "rumors about the race of the suspect" were! It seems most likely that the rumors were that he was black, since people were drawn out to a protest. But what if the dead man turns out to have been white? Would protest leaders shift to saying the problem is police brutality against all races? I note that they could say the police only kill a white man when he's actually firing a shot right at them. 

"Instead of receiving applause and purple hearts for the resurgence of a school, you find yourself maligned by a few feebleminded creeps."

Said Joe Clark, quoted in "Joe Clark, Tough Principal at New Jersey High School, Dies at 82/Bullhorn in hand, he roamed the hallways as he imposed discipline, expelling 'miscreants' and restoring order. Morgan Freeman portrayed him in the film 'Lean on Me'" (NYT). 
When Mr. Clark, a former Army drill sergeant, arrived at Eastside High School in Paterson in 1982, he declared it a “caldron of violence.” He expelled 300 students for disciplinary problems in his first week.  When he tossed out — “expurgated,” as he put it — about 60 more students five years later, he called them “leeches, miscreants and hoodlums.”...

Mr. Clark, who oversaw a poor, largely Black and Hispanic student body, denounced affirmative action and welfare policies and “hocus-pocus liberals.” When “60 Minutes” profiled him in 1988, he told the correspondent Harry Reasoner: “Because we were slaves does not mean that you’ve got to be hoodlums and thugs and knock people in the head and rob people and rape people. No, I cannot accept that. And I make no more alibis for Blacks. I simply say work hard for what you want.”

I'm surprised that the NYT allows comments. Comments on an obituary? I don't think that's the norm. But I can see why they wanted comments here, and I appreciate it. The film — which I've never seen — is remembered fondly by many people, and of course, the love for Morgan Freeman is lavish. But everything I'm reading in the obituary strikes me today as so archaic. Anyone talking like that today... it's hard to picture!

Here's the top-rated comment: 

I am a teacher in a fairly diverse community, and I can see how some of his policies are problematic. However, the movement, led by postmodernists, to remove academic and behavioral accountability in the name of equity has been nothing short of an epic disaster for children. 

There's also this (click to enlarge and clarify):

"Came across this show last week while browsing Netflix and now I can't sleep before watching an episode. Might be the rain, the aged diner, the calm..."

"... and polite conversations that take me back to my childhood growing up in a rural country. Now stuck physically in a noisy concrete jungle in the US but its this 22 mins of calmness that puts me to sleep." 

A post at the subreddit r/MidnightDiner.

"His motive remains unclear. Police said that detectives believe he knew the spoiled doses would be useless..."

"... and people who received them would mistakenly think they’d been vaccinated when they hadn’t. Advocate Aurora Health Care Chief Medical Group Officer Jeff Bahr told reporters during a teleconference Thursday afternoon that the pharmacist deliberately removed 57 vials that held hundreds of doses of the Moderna vaccine from refrigeration at a Grafton medical center overnight on Dec. 24 into Dec. 25, returned them, then left them out again on the night of Dec. 25 into Saturday.... Bahr said the pharmacist initially said that he had removed the vials to access other items in the refrigerator and had inadvertently failed to put them back.... Bahr declined to comment on the pharmacist’s motive. He said the hospital system’s security protocols are sound. 'This was a situation involving a bad actor,' he said, 'as opposed to a bad process.'" 

I'll put up a poll just to demonstrate what I think is obvious:

What's more likely? free polls


Now that he's almost gone — right?! — it's safe to enjoy the fun that was Trump.

The Guardian has "From covfefe to the Mooch: 10 funny moments from the Trump presidency." They still must ward off outrage with a pissy subtitle: "Amid four years of corruption, caging children and trashing democracy there were some light-hearted moments – no really."

My favorite: