August 18, 2017

"We make the assumption that if people are aware of how urgent and frightening and scary these issues are, then people will automatically translate that into ‘Oh my gosh, what kind of actions can I take?'"

"That’s just simply not the case," says Renee Lertzman, "a psychologist who studies climate-change communication," quoted in The Atlantic in "Constant Anxiety Won't Save the World/Spreading fear and worry about issues you care about on social media can lead to burnout rather than action."

There's also this from Scott Woodruff, "the director of the anxiety and obsessive-compulsive treatment program at the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy":
The anxious mind and the worried mind can manage to bring back topics over and over again. It is possible that people can really spend quite an amount of time every day worrying about world events.... Excessive worry can lead to fatigue, lack of concentration, and muscle tightness. The interesting thing is the fatigue and lack of concentration are the opposite of what people are trying to promote when they’re advocating for vigilance.... [P]eople get overwhelmed. They burn out and short-circuit and turn their backs on the very issues that they care most deeply about.
I'm watching this phenomenon every day on the internet. And I really am vigilant, having blogged daily for 13+ years, with genuine, unbroken concentration. I observe the anxiety of others and how they spread it in social media (and mainstream media), but I experience the opposite of anxiety for some reason. I think I'm often saying calm down, it's not so bad. Why is everybody cranking everybody else up?

One answer is: It's not everybody. It's just everybody on the internet. There are huge numbers of ordinary people who go about their business, working for a living, caring for their loved ones, experiencing real-world pleasures, and doing constructive, concrete things that can be done.

Facebook could be about friends sharing views into their life in the real world. That's why I'm on Facebook. My Facebook feed is currently cluttered with posts expressing alarm about Nazis and slavery. Oh my gosh, what kind of actions can I take? The only "action" required is to express, again and again, just how terribly much you oppose Nazis and slavery. There isn't even any challenging thinking involved. What can you say other than the obvious, that Nazis and slavery are wrong? Well, you can put some serious effort into denouncing people who are not stating the obvious with sufficient intensity or who are not stating the obvious in a statement that does not contain additional statements.

This intense policing of the virtue of others — it's not even virtuous. But that's not where the article in The Atlantic goes. Cautioning against burnout, it recommends more self-care.

August 17, 2017

"The removal of City-owned monuments to confederate soldiers in Forest Hill Cemetery has minimal or no disruption to the cemetery itself."

"There is no disrespect to the dead with the removal of the plaque and stone," said a written statement from Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, after the removal of the memorial. My post on the subject is here, where there's been a discussion under way for a couple hours. In that time, I walked over to Forest Hill and found the Confederate’s Rest section:




I had hoped that perhaps the plaque was not yet gone, because I wanted to read the text. But here's a photograph from William Cronon that shows how it looked. The text is mostly readable. The soldiers (who died as prisoners of war) are called "valiant." We're told they surrendered "after weeks of fighting under extremely difficult conditions" and that they arrived in the prison camp here in Madison "suffering from wounds, malnutrition and various diseases."
Within a few weeks 140 graves were filled, the last resting place for these unsung heroes, far from their homes in Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas.
It's a neutral, informative account except for that word "heroes." They were called "unsung heroes," but to say "unsung heroes" is to sing — however slightly — of their heroism. "Unsung" was thus untrue, and that little bit of singing of heroism was enough to incite the passion for cutting down monuments. Don't call them heroes just because they fought hard and suffered and died!

Who are heroes? "If somebody’s a prisoner, I consider them a war hero." That's what Donald Trump said after he said "He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

My dictionary, the OED, says "A man (or occasionally a woman) distinguished by the performance of courageous or noble actions, esp. in battle; a brave or illustrious warrior, soldier, etc." It doesn't say the man had to fight on your side, but who puts up monuments using the word "heroes" for the courageous fighters on the other side? We know the answer: Our city. We had whatever reason we had to express kind thoughts toward the men who suffered and died in our prison camp. But our city's thoughts are harsher today. To paraphrase Trump: I like people who weren't fighting for slavery. 

Here's an article from last May about veterans honoring the different sites, including Union Rest and Confederate Rest:
“You want to honor the soldiers. It doesn’t matter what side they were on,” said Carol Gannon-Hembel, who accompanied her husband, Alan Hembel, to the ceremony....

At the Confederate Rest service, Alan Zeuner and Dan Bradford, dressed in Confederate regalia, lamented the removal of the flag pole holder in front of the Confederate Rest grave site. Bradford called it a “slap in the face” to Confederate veterans who were repatriated after the war.

“It’s a part of history that is largely ignored,” Bradford said, regarding the role of Confederate soldiers in 19th-century Wisconsin history. “I want to see to it that people see it for what it really is, rather than outright lies.”

Bradford, a member of the 61st Georgia Infantry, has both Union and Confederate ancestors. He said he is a descendant of Union Army General James Shields, who is known for challenging Abraham Lincoln to a duel, prior to his presidency.

“These are just interesting little points of history,” Bradford said....

"There's a cemetery just a few blocks from where I live up here in the north where there is a section full of graves of Confederate soldiers."

"These are well-tended graves in part of a beautiful cemetery. I think these men suffered and died at the place we still call Camp Randall. It's where we play football now, but it was a miserable prison camp. But statues in the public square honoring the other side in a war? Why are we doing that? It's very strange!"

I wrote that in the comments section to a post I put up 2 days ago. I'd said "Why do we have monuments celebrating the losing side, the Americans who took up arms against America? That's rather crazy other than to express respect for the dead."

I really did not think the monument-topplers would go after the cemetery. 

But today I see that Madison Mayor Paul Soglin has ordered the removal of a stone with a plaque memorializing those dead men at the site of their graves:
Soglin said in a statement Thursday that he has directed staff to remove a plaque and a stone at the Confederate Rest section of the cemetery, adding "there should be no place in our country for bigotry, hatred or violence against those who seek to unite our communities and our country."...
A plaque at the Confederate Rest section of the public cemetery describes how the 140 soldiers ended buried in Wisconsin after surrendering in a battle and being taken to Camp Randall. It described them as "valiant Confederate soldiers" and "unsung heroes."
Here's an article from 2014 about that part of the cemetery:
The servicemen, most from Alabama’s 1st Infantry Regiment and others from Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi, died from their injuries or other ailments not long after arriving in Madison by train in April 1862. They were captured at Island No. 10 — a Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River where Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee meet — and held at Camp Randall, a Union army training facility that became a prisoner-of-war camp and military hospital.

Visitors from around the U.S. seeking their forebears have made pilgrimages to the small plot, and some have taken its plight to heart. Alice Whiting Waterman moved to Madison from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1866 to care for the graves. When she died in 1897, she was buried there with “her boys.”
I truly believed that Madisonians were proud of the respect they had shown for so long for those prisoners who died here.

It is awful to preempt public discussion about these graves, to choose go after them in a time of heightened passion. These are graves!

ADDED: Here is the full text of the statement Paul Soglin put up on the City of Madison website an hour ago:

"For one week, every August since 2009, a Maddon-managed team is allowed to show up to the ballpark no more than three hours before first pitch..."

"... and is encouraged to come even later. It’s called American Legion Week, in reference to when Maddon would have a day job and then 'show up at 5 p.m. for a 5:30 game' in American Legion ball. Even more than normal, he wants less work from his players before games this week. There’s actually a fine for showing up earlier than three hours before game time, in the form of a bottle of $100 wine (with receipt).... But ask veterans, and they love it -- though it’s not easy convincing players that less work is better for them... Since 2009, Maddon’s teams are 130-91 in August, not including this season. Since he came to Chicago, the Cubs are 10-1 during American Legion week.... 'This is the time of the year that you really have to fight through,' Maddon said. 'I’m talking post-All-Star break into August, because this is the time when you’re a little bit fatigued. That’s why we’re doing the American Legion Week. If you’re able to maintain at this particular point, here comes September and I promise you our guys will be charged up every day. September provides its own energy.'"

ESPN reports.

With Twitter, you can get your message out.

There's this:

Additional Trump tweets about the statues (without the hijacking GOP swastika image):
...can't change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also...
...the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!

I might be getting sick of the solar eclipse.

How about you?

Test yourself. Ready?

Here's a news story that went up this morning:
News that’ll surely leave you beaming — ’80s icon Bonnie Tyler will sing her enduring pop-rock hit “Total Eclipse of the Heart” during the looming solar eclipse in a move that will surely leave the cosmos shook.
Reaction?? free polls

"The A.C.L.U. needs a more contextual, creative advocacy when it comes to how it defends the freedom of speech."

"The group should imagine a holistic picture of how speech rights are under attack right now, not focus on only First Amendment case law. It must research how new threats to speech are connected to one another and to right-wing power. Acknowledging how criminal laws, voting laws, immigration laws, education laws and laws governing corporations can also curb expression would help it develop better policy positions. Sometimes standing on the wrong side of history in defense of a cause you think is right is still just standing on the wrong side of history."

That's from a NYT op-ed by K-Sue Park ("a housing attorney and the Critical Race Studies fellow at the U.C.L.A. School of Law") called  "The A.C.L.U. Needs to Rethink Free Speech."

Contextual... creative... holistic... these are the subtleties that grease the way to the end of constitutional rights.

Thanks to the ACLU for standing up for free speech where it counts — when the speaker is hated.

You can donate to the ACLU here.

"I’ve been struck by the similarity between recent calls for suppressing white supremacist speech and past calls for suppressing Communist speech."

"Of course, there are differences as well — there always are for any analogy — but I thought I’d note some likenesses...."

Writes Eugene Volokh, offering a chart showing 9 points of correspondence.

"Antifa’s activists say they’re battling burgeoning authoritarianism on the American right. Are they fueling it instead?"

"The Rise of the Violent Left" by Peter Beinart in The Atlantic. Conclusion paragraph:
Revulsion, fear, and rage are understandable. But one thing is clear. The people preventing Republicans from safely assembling on the streets of Portland may consider themselves fierce opponents of the authoritarianism growing on the American right. In truth, however, they are its unlikeliest allies.

"In some ways, Trump would rather have people calling him racist than say he backed down the minute he was wrong."

“This may turn into the biggest mess of his presidency because he is stubborn and doesn't realize how bad this is getting.”

Said "one adviser to the White House," according to Politico.

An "adviser to the White House" is presumably someone who doesn't work in the White House, and the comment is something just about anybody could say. It's the most banal and obvious observation about Trump.

So let me say something unconventional — not because I know anything but just as a hypothesis — and that is: It's not that Trump "doesn't realize how bad this is getting." He realizes everything everybody else realizes and more. He's playing a different game, in a different way, and all along it's looked bad to almost everyone. But he's the President, and 17 opponents went down trying to play against him. He's looking ahead and strategizing and we're the ones with inadequate perception. We don't realize how good this is getting.

Just a hypothesis! I'm just inviting you into the old what-if-you-had-to-argue game. What if you had to argue that it's Trump who is seeing things clearly and making correct decisions?

And to help you get started: The media are so heavy-handed with the Charlottesville story. They're showing so much ugliness and stirring up so much anxiety, but it's not really sensible to think that neo-Nazis are making any headway in our culture. Quite the opposite. Some people are getting afraid and angry, and these people may go too far, making more and more demands. Ordinary people will seek peace. They may get disgusted with the media that won't stop giving air time to unimportant loser clowns who nobody decent supports. Ordinary people may think that the media are giving too much attention to the destruction of monuments, and it's time to build up. Construction! A Trump specialty.

By the way, we haven't heard about the Mueller investigation much later. Is the Charlottesville story blotting out all the other news because the other new is good for Trump? There's one new story about the investigation:
Longtime FBI investigator Peter Strzok has stepped away from the investigation that seemed to be hitting a new stride in recent weeks.... It's not clear what motivated the departure.... Strzok has previously led the FBI's counter-espionage section, and also worked on the Hillary Clinton email investigation.

"Bannon is an incredibly savvy political operator who talks to reporters all the time, and did these interviews for some reason."

"Yes, Bannon, who is a top adviser to the president who harps on leaking, is constantly gabbing with journalists. He gave two interviews over the course of roughly 48 hours. His job was on the line, then he found himself aligned with the president over protests in the south. He used the Prospect to dump on Gary Cohn, the president’s economic adviser, with whom he has clashed, and to get his views heard on China. Whatever his motivation was, he felt like he should dial up some reporters and get his take out there."

From "THE BANNON intvw intrigue: what was he doing?" (Politico).

August 16, 2017

At the Late-Night Questionable Artwork Café...


... I'm soliciting opinion on the possibly deplorable politics of this image. I think there are a lot of suspicious details here, and we may need to raise an outcry.

Or talk about anything you want. It's a café post.

More on the artwork later. I just thought opining on the political correctness of artwork was the order of the day.

Consider supporting my inquiry into questionable artwork by using The Althouse Amazon Portal.

ADDED: Here's the card (from the wall at the Indianapolis Museum of Art):

What a manipulative card! Eerily... disquieting... detached... separation... loneliness... transience... anonymity... Can't I have my own feelings? Are the older couple really so alienated from each other? Is the older woman not looking at the man? They don't look happy, but to me, they seem engaged.

Perhaps they're in town for a funeral. They've got their coats. They're going somewhere or they just got back. Something's up, something related to the world beyond this weird room. The young woman with the book is engaged with reading. Reading entails connection to another human being, the writer. Perhaps the young woman represents the youth the older couple have lost. Now, the older couple seem poised, tarrying, at the edge of the grave, represented vertically by the doorway to the dark restaurant. They're on the menu, food for worms.

The lobby is the antechamber of death. Outdoors is only a picture on the wall. There's no going back. The green line of life leads in from the left corner. The old lady has plopped into the chair and planted her prim little toes on the line. She looks with anxiety at the man who, one foot on the green line, lamely explains that they've got to keep going. The line turns a sharp corner, into the coffin/desk and the undertaker/desk clerk waits almost invisibly under the half-shown clock where their time is running out.

BUT: What is the argument that there is something politically objectionable here? Does the white man in the business suit dominate? Is he lording it over his wife? She looks intimidated. Is the other woman failing to notice, absorbed in the distracting delusion of her presumably nonfeminist reading material? The man and various phallic objects block progress toward the exits. One doorway (the entrance to a security room?) even has a cage-like door. The mountains (breastlike, signifying the female) are contained within a wooden picture frame. The alarmed woman's path to liberation is obstructed all around. The other woman doesn't even realize she needs to go. The green path mocks the idea of a path to freedom. It's not outdoors, like green grass, but an ugly stripe in the carpeting that ends in a sharp right turn into a dark corner. The older woman's toes extend into the path — a meek request — but the man is saying no. The other woman is far from the path, lost in a pre-printed dream. But this is not politically objectionable because we the viewers see it all and know we don't want to be there. Thus it works as critique and an inspiration to freedom and personal fulfillment. Judgment: Politically correct.

The Spotted Cheetah — the for-real Cheetos restaurant.

"The menu — which includes Cheetos meatballs, Cheetos crusted fried pickles, and Flamin’ Hot and White Cheddar Mac n’ Cheetos — was created by celebrity chef Anne Burrell. Each of the eleven items range in price, from $8 to $22."

"I bethink me that you may have no objections to hear something of my whereabout and whatabout."

Wrote Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1841. Did you ever think about the word "whatabout," corresponding to "whereabout"? We usually see "whereabout" in the plural — as in "I was right learn of your whereabouts and whatabouts."

I found both of those sentences in the OED as I was looking up "whataboutism" in the OED. "Whataboutism" isn't there — nor is "whataboutery" — but I'm seeing the word "whataboutism" a lot this week. It's in reference to Trump, of course. Trump famously referred to the "alt-left" when asked about the "alt-right," and there's some very heated criticism of that form of argument, which really is very annoying when you're criticizing someone and you don't want to hear that there's a corresponding — and smaller!!! — criticism against you.

One problem is that very few people are willing to give up that form of argument when the tables are turned. In other words, what about your whataboutism?

"Fremont's Lenin Statue Is Currently Under Siege By Trump Supporters and An Alt-Right Troll."

The Stranger reports.

"[Stephen] Stills may be hobbled by arthritis—backstage he bumps fists rather than shakes hands with fans..."

"... he has carpal tunnel and residual pain from a long-ago broken hand, which affects his playing—and he is nearly deaf, but his performance life has continued. Drugs and alcohol may have dented him somewhat, forming a kind of carapace over the youthful sensitivity and cockiness one often saw in the face of the young Stills. Some might infer by looking at the spry James Taylor or Mick Jagger that heroin is less hard on the body than cocaine and booze, which perhaps tear down the infrastructure. ('Stills doesn’t know how to do drugs properly,' Keith Richards once said.) But one has to hand it to a rock veteran who still wants to get on stage and make music even when his youthful beauty and once-tender, husky baritone have dimmed. It shows allegiance to the craft, to the life, to the music. It risks a derisive sort of criticism as well as an assault on nostalgia."

The novelist Lorrie Moore writes a book review (NYRB) for a biography of Stephen Stills

I'm interested in reading the review because Lorrie Moore wrote it. I don't particularly care about Stephen Stills, but if Moore wants to describe him, I'm up for hearing about his carapace and his infrastructure. And I do love this one song...

... which I believe somebody brought up in one of the comments sections this morning. Let's see. Ah, yes. Here it is: pacwest said:

At the Questionable Artwork Café...


... you tell me if this is okay.

Or talk about anything you want.

I'll provide more background on the artwork later. I just thought opining on the political correctness of artwork was the order of the day.

It's midmorning break time for me. Perhaps it's time for shopping. If you're shopping, I encourage you to support this blog by using The Althouse Amazon Portal.

ADDED: Here's the wall card from the Indianapolis Museum of Art:

The NYT gives its readers definitions for "alt-right" and "alt-left."

In the transcript (NYT) of yesterday's press conference, we see Trump talking about the "alt-right" and the "alt-left" and challenging a reporter to give a definition:
REPORTER: Senator McCain said that the alt-right is behind these and he linked that same group to those that perpetrated the attack in Charlottesville.

TRUMP: Well, I don’t know. I can’t tell you. I’m sure Senator McCain must know what he is talking about. When you say the alt-right. Define alt-right to me. You define it. Go ahead. No, define it for me. Come on. Let’s go.

REPORTER: Senator McCain defined them as the same group —

[cross talk]

TRUMP: What about the alt-left that came charging at — Excuse me — What about the alt-left that came charging at the, as you say, the alt-right? Do they have any semblance of guilt? [cross talk] Let me ask you this: What about the fact that they came charging, that they came charging with clubs in their hands swinging clubs? Do they have any problem? I think they do. So, you know, as far as I’m concerned, that was a horrible, horrible day.
Define your terms — it's a way of slowing down an interlocutor who's letting labels do too much of the work. Trump combines the demand for a definition of one thing that is said with calling attention to what is unsaid: You've got a label for one side but not for the other side.

Perhaps reacting to that demand for definition, the NYT has "Alt-Right, Alt-Left, Antifa: A Glossary of Extremist Language" (by Liam Stack).

First up is the definition of "Alt-Right," and I think this definition pushes the word into a much uglier zone than some of the people who have popularized the term deserve:

Apparently, we're in a time to break down, a time to cast away stones.

"To everything... There is a season... And a time to every purpose, under heaven... A time to build up, a time to break down/A time to dance, a time to mourn/A time to cast away stones, a time to gather stones together...."

Remember that Donald Trump destroyed sculptures.

"In 1979, when he was a relatively unknown New York real estate developer (the mind boggles), a 33-year-old Trump acquired the historic Art Deco Bonwit Teller building, only to demolish it a year later to build what would become Trump Tower. He promised, however, to save two 15-foot-high bas-relief panels that adorned the Teller building and donate them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art should he be able to remove them. Despite his word, the 'pieces that had been sought with enthusiasm by the Metropolitan Museum of Art…were smashed by jackhammers yesterday on the orders of a real estate developer,' as the New York Times report from the time tells it."

From "How Real Estate, Violence, and Public Protest Destroyed These Iconic New York Artworks" (which includes the story of "Tilted Arc," a sculpture people hated because it was massively in the way.)

Trump said at the time that the sculptures were "without artistic merit":
In the New York Times the PR spokesman identified himself as ‘John Barron’. In the Associated Press story the same publicity man called himself ‘Donald Baron’ and was quoted as saying that ‘the merit of these stones was not great enough to save them.’ Both ‘John’ and ‘Donald’ were Trump. ‘What do you think? Do you think blowing up the sculptures has hurt me?’ he asked Vanity Fair a decade later.
Who cares? Let’s say that I had given that junk to the Met. They would have just put them in their basement. I’ll never have the goodwill of the Establishment, the tastemakers of New York. Do you think, if I failed, these guys in New York would be unhappy? They would be thrilled! Because they have never tried anything on the scale that I am trying things in this city. I don’t care about their goodwill.