Trooper of the Year

No all police are corrupt, self-serving, fascist pigs.

Of course not.  I am occasionally reminded by friends that you should not judge all police by the bad behavior of a few.  They are right, of course.  But when you read a story like this, you begin to wonder if the people who advocate defunding the police aren’t right.  Here you have a police officer arriving at a scene in which a emotionally disturbed young man is threatening to take his own life.  The sensitive, kindly, thoughtful State Trooper demands that the man drop his weapon.  When he doesn’t– he had it taped to his neck– the distinguished officer shoots him dead.

Now, it is one thing to argue that this outcome was unfortunate.  It is one thing to argue that this outcome was unnecessary (the man in question was in his own room in his own house and not threatening to kill anybody but himself).  It is one thing to argue that the situation was unclear.  But it is something else entirely to give the officer an award for “Trooper of the Year”.

The officer, Jay Splain, went on to kill three more people.  Is there a bigger award than “Trooper of the Year” we can give him?

So the institution of the state police are all in on it.  So many of them felt so strongly that there was nothing wrong with this outcome that they called public attention to it and gave him a prize and a commendation.

Even some conservatives will tell you that this kind of incident could be avoided with a little common sense: there was no need for the police to even escalate the situation at all.

But he had a gun.  But isn’t that his god-given all-American Jesus-Loving wholesome family values right?

Mr. Martin saw nothing wrong with allowing the police to investigate themselves.

Mr. Martin thinks people like me think people like him are stupid.  He’s right.

But I would love to ask Mr. Martin, since the principle of allowing police to investigate themselves is alright with him, would he mind if allegations of welfare fraud were investigated by, say, local black church leaders?  Drug dealers?  Let’s get representatives of the pharmaceutical companies to judge.  Traffic violations?  I think NASCAR should send us some reps.


My Dissenting Voice on Betty White

The journalist Dan Rather wrote that Ms. White had been beloved because she “embraced a life well lived.”

“Her smile,” he wrote. “Her sense of humor. Her basic decency. Our world would be better if more followed her example. It is diminished with her passing.”

What is this shit?

First of all, Dan Rather hasn’t been a real “journalist”– someone who actually investigates, researches and reports on a news story– for several decades.  Secondly, “basic decency”?  “Life well-lived”?   Well, that’s what you say, I guess, when you can’t really list any achievements that don’t sound trite.

Betty White died yesterday, at 99.  The New York Times says:

“A cultural icon”: Television stars, comedians, a president and seemingly the whole internet paid tribute to Betty White.

Really?  Will no one speak up for those who have real achievements but will join Betty in the dumpster of useless Hollywood has-beens because even the New York Times thought Betty White was something?  “James Baldwin died– he lived a life well-lived.”  “Richard Nixon died– another life well-lived.”  “Leonard Cohen died.  Yet another life well-lived”.  I could go on.  And on.  And on.

I would say that I racked my brain trying to think of a single distinguished achievement by Betty White but I didn’t even bother.  Even her fans have to admit that she has not a single notable achievement in her resume.  Not a single great movie role.  Not a single great achievement behind the camera.  And a long list of mediocre television appearance.  I’m sure you are baffled: then how did she get to be so famous?

We have all been bombarded with this “Betty White is so great, so funny, so cute” bullshit that it would have been impossible to avoid.  The truth is that Betty White was never anything more than a boring “celebrity” in the most bankrupt definition of the term: someone without any real achievements who is famous for being famous.  That’s why she was added to the cast of  “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (she was also a personal friend of the star of the show) and that’s why she got a role in “Golden Girls”.

Betty White broke barriers, defied expectations, served her country, and pushed us all to laugh.  (Michelle Obama on Twitter).

Broke barriers?  Which barrier was that?  The one that prevents  privileged ambitious attractive young women with connections from getting onto TV in trivial inconsequential roles and than leveraging their exposure into trite game show gigs and then leveraging that into a sitcom gig– because your friend, the star of the sitcom, gave it to you?

Or that tremendous barrier against old people being hilariously interested in sex?

She was famous.  For being famous.  A reassuring porridge of unthreatening pabulum for the American public–mostly women– to consume without fear of the slightest disturbing vibration.  Nobody regarded her as a serious enough talent to give her a substantial role.  TV-land, lady.

What was she famous for?  Take a close look.  Not a single damn thing.  Quick– name the movie that catapulted her to stardom?  Of course you can’t: she didn’t star in a single notable movie.

You have to accept that she got her “big” television roles because she was a celebrity, which counts as nothing.  She didn’t blow people away with an audition.  She didn’t sell people on the part.  She was a comforting, familiar face to tv viewers.  TV Viewers are idiots: they decide what to watch based on which overly familiar celebrity is in the cast.  That’s why Bill Cosby was a success.  That’s why there was never an inter-racial dating on the Bill Cosby show.  That’s why there was Bill Cosby: you get the celebrity you deserve.

So how did she get that “celebrity” status?  By leveraging small, insignificant roles in radio and tv into guest appearances on that stream of sewage we call television game shows.  From her over-exposure on the game shows, celebritydom.  From celebritydom, casting decisions, as well as her personal friendship with Mary Tyler Moore.

Game shows were her specialty: She appeared on “To Tell the Truth,” “I’ve Got a Secret,” “The Match Game,” “What’s My Line?” and, most notably, “Password,” whose host, Allen Ludden, she married in 1963.

That’s it.  That’s the talent reservoir of the “beloved” Betty White, an actress I personally found so annoying I would change the channel the instant I saw her face in whatever it was was on.  Her face there was an iron-clad guarantee that whatever you were watching would be derivative, repetitive, dull, and ugly.  The kind of humor popularized by Carol Burnett and Red Skeleton,

Everyone I know loves her.  They seem to believe she had a long list of real achievements to her career.  Creating a monotonously one-note character of repetitive gesture and catch-phrase in a TV sitcom is not an achievement.  It’s vulgar and boring.  Starring as the most cliche-ridden character in the entire history of popular culture: the feisty old lady– in “The Proposal”– itself an incredibly boring predictable stew of insipidness– counts against you.

And nothing was more boring on television than an aging female star making tiresome jokes about sex.

“Oh my God!  Betty White!  She’s so funny.  I just love her.”

Stunningly, The Screen Actors Guild gave her a lifetime achievement award in 2010.  What the fuck!?  Do you not even have to have a single real achievement to win this award?  Not one?

If you have a Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement award you might as well toss it in the dumpster: it obviously is not earned by any actual remarkable achievement.

The comedian Bob Saget called Ms. White “a remarkable talent” who was witty, kind, funny and “full of love,” especially for her husband.

Bob Saget is a comedian?

Well, he is the most appropriate person to pay tribute to Ms. White: no other male tv personality matches his degree of vacuous charmlessness.

The shame of it is we already have a veritable river of shallow celebrity worshippers streaming their effuse adulation of this incredibly trite person– why could the New York Times not reserve it’s accolades for people with real achievements?  Leave us one media source that doesn’t by into this shit.



A Very High Spiritual State

Everyone… razzamataz and look at me: I was doing something that was intended to take you into a very high spiritual state.  La Monte Young

And that “something” was smashing a piano with an axe.  Among other things.

La Monte Young is an American avant-garde composer, a minimalist, whose work has “called into question” the very nature of music.  Which also what any accidental sounds do.  Always.

You know immediately that you are not cool if you do not recognize that smashing a piano with an axe, as an act of musical performance, is the most incredibly brilliant thing you have ever seen.   You are now in a very high spiritual state.

What is so brilliant about it is that you invite rational people to ridicule what you are doing, which makes it cool for hipsters to announce that they understand it.  They get it.  They are cool, hip, youthful, still fuckable.  Not like those un-cool nerds.

But you– you are a dinosaur.  A fossil.  You probably still listen to AM radio.

Narcissist Jami Attenberg

What’s particularly calculating about Attenberg describing her assault is that it brilliantly inoculates her from criticism. “Oh, you don’t like my book? Well, clearly, you stand on the side of toxic masculinity!” Hardly. But I have to wonder — in light of Alice Sebold identifying the wrong man who assaulted her — how much of this story was invented or embellished or even fact-checked by the people at Ecco. It’s easy enough to suss out who “Brendan” is. (It took me three minutes to find him on Google.) And since the dude is now dead, we have no way to corroborate the story. We also get a casual detail about a suicide attempt, but no effort by Attenberg to examine what led her to this state. Victimhood has become the currency of “memoirs” of this type. Victimhood is also the very quality that a narcissist flails about to anyone who will listen.  From Here.

And the above is quoted.

And validation.  Yes, the New York Times treats her account of the assault as validation.

“I Came All This Way to Meet You” is at its most affecting when Attenberg follows the darker thread of her own experience, sharing the story of an assault she endured from a classmate in her writing program. It’s not the revelation that makes this story so powerful; it’s Attenberg’s vituperation over how the university handled the assault, and how she is — and is not — valued as a writer, and how these two things are bound up together.

From Here.

What the New York Times forgot to say– or maybe the repetition police stepped in– is just how fucking courageous that makes her.  So courageous.  So amazingly courageous.  Oh my god, that’s so courageous.  How brave!  Oh my.

It must be noted that the person Attenberg accuses of assaulting her is conveniently deceased and unable to counter her allegations.

We get more:

All of this rings painfully true; above all, Attenberg’s rage — the rage of the writer, especially the female writer, who’s suffered not just assaults but endless indignities and unfairnesses.

The problem always is, how do you know if the “assaults”, “indignities”, and “unfairnesses” were caused by sexism?  How do you know if this treatment might have been deserved?  Did you know that everybody occasionally suffers “indignities” and “unfairness”, even if they don’t all make themselves into martyrs.  Maybe Attenberg was a self-aggrandizing narcissistic bitch?  She was obviously– from her own testimony– a ruthlessly ambitious writer who might have been tempted to use people along the way.


A Rashomon Moment on Highway 401: The Trucker Convoy

In the Japanese movie “Rashomon”, by the incomparable Akira Kurosawa, a magistrate convenes a hearing to determine who was responsible for the death of a man in a remote area of a nearby forest. Each of three protagonists, the man’s wife, a common thief, and the man himself (through a medium) confesses to the murder(!) Why? Because it is preferable to them to confess to a heinous crime than to admit to a dishonorable act that each committed during the incident. In the end, a witness comes forward who saw the incident and relates the truth to the court; only one of them is the real murderer, but all three of them are shown to have behaved shamefully.

“Rashomon” was made in 1950 and is often cited as the reason the film academy added “Foreign” to its Oscar categories. I saw it when I was very young and it shook me, and still influences my perception of why people act the way they do. (Another film I saw around the same time, “Monsieur Verdoux” by Chaplin– had a similarly powerful impact on me.)  Nowadays we sometimes say people are “invested” in a particular narrative. In fact, some people are dying of Covid 19 because of their investment in an anti-vaccine ideology.  To the end, most of them refuse to concede that they were fundamentally, ridiculously wrong about Covid.  They can’t stand the idea of admitting they were idiots.

Science isn’t perfect but it’s a hell of a lot more reliable than some website that caters to a political constituency and rages about conspiracies and media bias. And yes, the “mainstream media” is actually another way to describe accountable, institutional journalism that isn’t perfect but has a pretty good track record of uncovering facts and evidence. Most news organizations presented with the claim that vaccines cause illnesses will diligently seek evidence: scientific studies, personal accounts, opinions of qualified, experts. Something like the extinction or near extinction of certain diseases, like measles and polio– which is not hard to verify– is pretty compelling evidence.

Have I wandered?  No.  There is a powerful connection between the truth revealed by “Rashomon” (and “Monsieur Verdoux”) and truth about the pro-Trump right-wing anti-vaccine rabble that is destroying America.  This is about shame.  This is about people who have long despised the “educated elites” who promote equality and feminism and the fight against global warming and the truth about American history (that it is a history of racism and genocide) and want to tax gas-guzzling pick-up trucks and take away your guns because they have contempt for those things, and not because it is good social policy.

These people have felt a sense of shame at the condescension liberals hold for them and this is their chance to say “fuck you” to the members of the “establishment” who make them feel stupid and vulgar.

And they would go very, very far to avoid admitting that they really are stupid and vulgar.

The Women Roar: I am Weak and Fragile

Here we go again.  Some women at Harvard, wishing to challenge the establishment within the institution to prove they are totally woke when it comes to feminist issues, have demanded a pound of flesh for the horrifying, terrible, rotten, monstrous acts of a certain professor John Comaroff.

In the interview, she recalled how Dr. Comaroff launched into a harangue about how she could be subjected to “corrective rape,” or even killed, if she were seen in a lesbian relationship in certain parts of Africa. But he said it with “a tone of enjoyment,” Ms. Kilburn said, adding, “This was not normal office hours advice.”

This was Dr. Comaroff advising a graduate student that traveling through Africa with a same-sex partner could be dangerous.

Did you catch it?  Do I have to call attention to the fact that this is something he said.  These are words.  And her judgement of his tone: it was not satisfactory, to her.  It was a “tone of enjoyment”.

So the grand inquisitors of the feminist movement sprung into action, recruited some fellow-travelers who don’t appear to have anything more substantial to add to the story, and attacked Professor Comaroff and sued Harvard University for not having burned him at the stake long ago.

A group of 38 colleagues at Harvard wrote a letter defending him.  Then they retracted it.  Apparently they discovered that Professor Comaroff, attacked by a female student, reacted the way most of us do when attacked unfairly: he defended himself.  He refused to favor this student with his approval and blessings.  He gave his opinion of this student’s attack on him to others.  (In fairness, read this for a relatively balanced view.  “Balanced” if you believe that the student did not have the option of telling him to get lost and going somewhere else.  But then, she claims, she would have been disadvantaged by not being able to expect favorable treatment from a professor she attacked for being abusive to her because he seemed to enjoy warning her about the social policy and attitudes of certain African nations.)

Of course his advice was stupid and unpleasant.  Of course he was also probably right.  And of course he probably enjoyed passing that information along to the lesbian student, Lilian Kilburn, who was convinced that he was hitting on her.  Maybe he was.  She’s not particularly attractive, but who knows.  Either way, as I glided past the salacious headlines and teasers about this story I kept waiting for the part that described the “harassment”.  Was it– yes it was: he kissed her on the lips.  Maybe.  He says he didn’t.  She says he did.  Suspend the fucker!  Cancel him!  He must pay for his outrageous iniquities.

I’m not going to go into any more detail on this one– that’s all there is.  There is no real groping or rape or sodomy or slapping or whatever it is that we used to call “sexual” abuse.  Just a number of female students who clearly don’t like Professor Comaroff, who resent the fact that he defended himself when attacked, and, yes, of course it isn’t about the money and of course they are after the money.  Yes indeed: these martyrs are suing Harvard University for not protecting them from Professor Comaroff’s lips and words.

Fuck this.  This is indefensible.  This does not evoke a sense of women’s empowerment and equality and intellectual stature.  It evokes a conviction that these women are weak, petty, vindictive, and insecure.  How do they prove that they really are better and smarter and more virtuous than those men at Harvard who actually run things?  Sue them.  It’s better than bringing down the governor.   It’s even better than accusing them of being complicit in a murder, like Joyce Carol Oates did.

I’m not even going to make sure you know all about my long-standing beliefs or views on women’s rights and equality as if I somehow have to prove that seeing bullshit for what it is has to be excused in some way.  This IS bullshit.  It is stupid.  It discredits feminism– and the sustained drumbeat of these cases is doing more damage to it than most women would believe.

And they don’t know about it because it’s something sensible, smart, educated, enlightened men talk about when there are no women in the room.

Now, be careful.  If you comment about the rather butch appearance of these women, you too could be cancelled.  I’m going to comment anyway because if the tone of voice of Professor Comaroff is fair game (yes, that is basis of part of their complaint) then I must insist that the physical appearance of these three women is also fair game.

It’s all subjective judgement that in one case become the axis of a million-dollar lawsuit and in another case my disrespectful opinion of what I think is really happening here.


According to a study in Tennessee, children from poor backgrounds offered a pre-school program (for 4-year olds) did worse in several important categories by Grade 6.

This is not supposed to be true.  It is counter to other studies which generally showed that children do better — they graduate high school and have fewer disciplinary issues– if they have an extra year of school at about age 4.  For as long as I can remember, that has been the accepted wisdom on pre-school.  But this study flatly contradicts those assumptions.

If it survives further analysis and assessment, it will have to be taken into account regardless of the politics of government-funding for pre-school.

Those We Can

The chair of the Columbia University department of psychiatry was suspended on Wednesday, “effective immediately,” after referring to a dark-skinned model as possibly a “freak of nature” on Twitter.  NY Times

What the hell is wrong with that?

The Grand Canyon is a “freak of nature”.  A peacock is a “freak of nature”.  The Northern Lights are a “freak of nature”.  They are beautiful and wonderful.

It is quite notable that most of the great cancellations of the “woke” era are of people who are fundamentally allied politically with those who do the cancelling.  [See, most recently, Jane Campion.]

Witness poor Jeffrey Lieberman, the chair of psychiatry at Columbia University in New York.  It is immediately apparent from his abject apology and self-flagellating acknowledgment that he, unlike the real enemies of racial justice, is sympathetic to the cause.  I believe his sense of guilt is entirely derived from the self-righteous piety of those accusing him.  He thinks he did something wrong because a bunch of puritanical zealots told him he did.  He even added that he now knows that he had no idea how racist he was. The  horrified expressions and vindictive passion of his accusers overwhelmed his good sense.  His attackers feel righteous and holy, having once again stomped out another residue of institutional black oppression.

He absorbed a terrible insult and I dearly wish he had had the character to stand up to this bullshit and refuse to apologize or acknowledge that there was anything wrong with his tweet.  Let them fire him and let it play out.  It will not go well for his attackers.  They will have provided Tucker Carlson with more fodder.  And then sue the damned University for damages and wrongful dismissal.  Let it play in a court of law: I was fired over a phrase.  Let us learn what the meaning is of “freak of nature”.

What did he do?  He remarked upon the surreal beauty of model Nyakim Gatwech.  I’ll join him in his transgression: Ms. Gatwech is a surreal beauty of utterly remarkable skin coloring.   She is unique and unusual.  Yes, a “freak of nature”, like Wayne Gretzky, Einstein, and Tuesday Weld.

“Freak of nature”: that’s the phrase that set off people:

“Dark skin is normal, dark skin is just part of the normal variation of human existence,” Dr. Lett said. “Stigmatizing language has psychological impacts. It hurts people.”

Yet Ms. Gatwech herself proudly advertises her colouring as a valuable and commodifiable quality.  She is paid to show her skin to the marketers of cosmetics and clothing, to photograph and broadcast.  Ms. Gatwech, for your information, is cashing in on the character of her skin colour.  Is there a note of hypocrisy here?  Well, it’s not just a note; it’s a symphony of hypocrisy.

Dr. Lett assumes that “freak of nature” is pejorative.  It is not.  It is fundamentally similar to the first part of my comment, that Ms. Gatwech’s skin colouring and shape is a unique and remarkable expression of various attributes of gender, race, and heredity.  Unusual.  Distinctive.  Uncommon.  Poetically, she could be said to be a Mona Lisa, a Venus, a Madonna.

How different really is it from this more “anodyne” comment from TeenVogue?

It was then the dark skinned beauty started to build her portfolio, taking two years in New York and countless weekends during college to have photo shoots.

“Dark-skinned”?  Does that phrase stigmatize Ms. Gatwech?  Does it stereotype her?  Does the word “beauty” sexualize her?

It is clear from the rest of Dr.  Lieberman’s tweet that his comment is complimentary.  He admires Ms. Gatwech’s beauty.  It takes a perverse mind to construe his tweet as “stigmatizing” or “stereotyping” especially when the very attribute he is amazed by is her particularity.

Is it racist?  I don’t see it.  I see someone stating the obvious: Ms. Gatwech is a very unusual beauty, with extremely dark skin.

He added that he was “deeply ashamed” of his “prejudices and stereotypical assumptions.”

WTF?  What prejudice?  What “assumptions”?  Is there something else he said that we are missing that expressed prejudice?  Do the people making the accusation even know what a “stereotypical assumption” is?  Where is it, in the tweet?

I cringe at Dr. Liberman’s pathetic surrender to the puritanical fanatics of this culture of victimization.  You give liberals and progressives a bad name.  You make some right-wing commentators sound reasonable when they decry your extremism.

As for his judges, I hope I never, ever, ever meet you.

More on the scandal from NYTimes

An Excellent Rebuke to the culture of purity and assonance.

As for Jane Campion, what she said, in accepting her award for “Best Director”, is absolutely accurate: the Williams sisters did not, like her, have to compete against men for their prizes and awards.  Some critics counter that they did, indeed, play on mixed doubles teams, where they did play men.  Give me a break: that’s is not remotely the same as playing one-on-one against Nadel or Djokovic, against whom neither sister would stand a chance.  It is also a pity “King Richard”, the film about how they were “encouraged” to succeed by their father, never raises the issue of steroid abuse, even if to insist Serena was not using them, and that she had a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) for prednisone, prednisolone and oxycodone.

As rumors of steroid abuse swirled around the WTA in the late ’90s and early 2000s, the WTA finally took action and called for offseason steroids testing. That testing was blocked by the top three women’s tennis players at the time. Those players were Serena and Venus Williams, along with Jennifer Capriati.  Bleacherreport

The claim is that these therapeutics help a sick athlete get better.  But very few therapeutics actually do that.  Usually, a virus runs it’s course and diminishes over time.  Therapeutics merely help you feel better.  And if someone was paying you millions of dollars to perform without raising questions about the integrity of your performance….


What I really liked about the film “Coda”:

  1. The “deaf” characters are played by deaf actors.
  2. The story isn’t highly original but it has some charms and some heart.
  3. I was astonished by the fact that they don’t appear to have autotuned the singing. Really astonished– and I loved it. Yes, the singing is slightly off occasionally– and wonderfully real.
  4. Emilia Jones trained on a fishing boat for six months and does her own singing. (That doesn’t mean they didn’t record her in a studio first and then film it synched — just that it is the actor’s real voice,) She’s also very good in the role.
  5. The song they chose for the finale, “Clouds” by Joni Mitchell, was perfect for that moment in the film. If anything, it’s a song that almost over-shadows the rest of the story in it’s eloquent expression of disillusionment and transition. The ending is just clever enough to overcome its own predictability.

We actually watched the entire movie without subtitles. Then laughed when we discovered that it had subtitles, because about 1/3 of the movie is sign-language. It was accidentally charming: we worked hard to interpret what they were saying from their facial expression, body-language, and whatever we could figure out from the hand gestures.

The Kabuki Theatre of Putin and the Ukraine

[I am publishing this because I was wrong.  I want to acknowledge it, because that’s the only way we learn to be better and more astute in judging these issues.  I really thought Putin would not go this far, but it is clear he is a madman–madder than we thought–who is dangerous to all of Europe.]  Gwynne Dyer courageously acknowledging that he was wrong about Russia’s intentions on the Ukraine.  The odd thing is, he was actually right.  He thought Russia would not invade Ukraine because Ukraine had a far more formidable army than most commentators thought.  He was right about that– most commentators also thought Russia would overwhelm Ukraine within a matter of weeks.

Still leaning towards the idea that all this blather about Ukraine is just so much self-perpetuating frenzy: everyone is reporting it so it must be true. And who is supplying all the networks with the lustrous video of tanks and missiles and armored personnel carriers racing around? The Russians of course.

Gwynne Dyer thinks Putin has no intention of invading and he’s right more often than most pundits. Every TV newscast starts out with “INCREASING tension today… ” but tension can’t increase every day without reaching 100% at which point it’s either the same or it decreases. North Korea had it’s time; then Iran. Now it’s Putin.

Strikingly, nobody ever mentions the size of the Ukrainian army, which is actually the largest in Europe at 250,000.

If you hypothesize that this is all just theatre and watch the news in that context, nothing seems jarringly out of place. The White House wants to look tough and determined; Putin wants to look like he’s big and powerful enough to go toe-to-toe with Biden (he’s not: Russia is really not that big or powerful), the media thrives on a perpetual state of crisis.

It’s like Republicans and the crime the rate: it’s always going up. It’s now at 26,000 percent.