What Stood Out, WK 22

The giant elephant of the week was the Uvalde school shootings. There isn’t anything I could write about this that would make it more comprehensible to myself, let alone anyone else. I wish I could believe that this time will be different. That this time the majority of the country will take a stand and face down the gun industry, the NRA and the toxic masculinity that has brought us to this place. Maybe it will happen but I am in a believe it when I see it mode.

I read a number of articles that had meaningful, worthwhile things to say about the latest in a long line of tragedies.

This article in The Atlantic confirms what I believe, that nothing is likely to change any time soon that will restrict access to any kind of gun in any meaningful way:

We Have to Fix America’s Broken Culture of Guns

The most important thing you need to know about yesterday’s tragic school shooting in Texas is that absolutely no laws are going to change as a result of it.

In the 14 years since the Supreme Court found an individual right to bear arms under the Second Amendment in the landmark case of D.C. v. Heller, the federal judiciary has only grown more conservative. The courts will likely bar any meaningful restrictions on the possession of firearms for at least another generation.

We all need to adjust to the idea that unfathomable levels of gun violence, including school shootings, are going to get worse, not better, in the decades to come.

This is America, folks. This is who we are.

The author offers some suggestions about putting more funding into responsible gun handling training. He also suggests that we need to get to work on the culture that has evolved which treats military weapons as fetishistic objects through which masculinity is confirmed. Personally, I think that culture will die if the mostly white patriarchy goes the way of the dinosaur as it well may, or may not. That story is being written as I write.

This article, also from The Atlantic, identifies a lack of collective determination by a majority of the population who haven’t made gun legislation a priority, for whatever reason, in their voting:

America’s Hands Are Full of Blood

Most of us are appalled. But not enough of us are sufficiently appalled to cast our votes to halt it. And those to whom Americans entrust political power, at the state and federal levels, seem determined to make things worse and bloodier. In the next few weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will deliver its opinion in the case of New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen, a decision that could strike down concealed-carry bans even in the few states that still have them. More guns, more places, fewer checks, fewer protections: Since Sandy Hook, this country has plunged backward and downward toward barbarism.

Whether any particular killer proves to be a racist, a jihadist, a sexually frustrated incel, or a randomly malignant carrier of sorrow and grief, can Americans ever break the pattern of empty thoughts, meaningless prayers, and more and worse bloodshed to follow?

Infuriatingly, the gun industry was aware of the direction they were heading as they embraced, after 911, and especially after Barrack Obama’s election, America’s turn towards a militaristic gun culture. What used to be relegated to the dingy corners of gun conventions and shows became ubiquitous and mainstream. Profit motive overtook common sense in ways not unlike the cigarette industry. This article, written by an ex gun industry executive relates that story:

Even the Gun Industry Knew We Would End Up Here - The Bulwark(https://www.thebulwark.com/even-the-gun-industry-knew-we-would-end-up-here/)

This delicate balance started to erode as Barack Obama rose in the polls beginning in 2007. People like me who sensed the impending danger of this shift towards extremism were shouted down. When beloved industry icons raised concerns, even going so far as to label AR15s as “terrorist rifles,” their careers were immediately terminated. Time and again, these alarms were raised, and time and again, the sound of fundraising hauls, election night parties, and cash registers at the gun counters drowned them out.

Coming as a small light of hope in the wilderness is the willingness of major professional sport franchises to speak openly against gun violence and in favor of gun safety regulations:

May 26, 2022 - by Heather Cox Richardson(https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/may-26-2022?s=r)

But this evening the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays announced they would use their social media channels not to cover tonight’s game but to share facts about gun violence. “The devastating events that have taken place in Uvalde, Buffalo and countless other communities across our nation are tragedies that are intolerable.”

Before the Uvalde school massacre unfolded and justifiably dominated the news cycle, another big story was unfolding. An investigative study on sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist world commissioned by the Southern Baptist Convention broke and it was horrific. The nations largest religious organization was shown to be as deeply flawed as the Catholic Church in matters related to sexual abuse. The SBC scandal is more about the treatment of women than young boys but it underscores how the evangelical church has lost its way:

No Atheist Has Done This Much Damage to the Christian Faith(https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/05/southern-baptist-convention-abuse-report/630173/?utm_source=feed)

“I knew it was rotten, but it’s astonishing and infuriating. This is a denomination that is through and through about power. It is misappropriated power. It does not in any way reflect the Jesus I see in the scriptures. I am so gutted.”

And this article on the culture of conspiracy and cruelty of the Christian Right by David French also solidifies my dismal opinion of the Christian Right:

A Commitment to Kindness Does Not Mean Surrendering Your Convictions(https://frenchpress.thedispatch.com/p/a-commitment-to-kindness-does-not?s=r)

The Christian civility wars aren’t about competing essays crafted by the tweeting elite. They’re about the emergence, amplification, and valorization of an actual culture of conspiracy and cruelty on the Christian right. 

Moving on to a topic that we need to pay attention to, but which commands little attention in the news cycle even without wars in Ukraine, pandemics and horrific massacres, robotics and the future of work:

Rent-a-Robot and Our Tight Labor Market(https://www.thebulwark.com/rent-a-robot-and-our-tight-labor-market/)

When it comes to automation, we are in what John Maynard Keynes called the “painfulness of readjustment between one economic period and another.” The right policy response is not to interfere with or try to manage this transition from the top down but to incentivize thoughtful, human-centered adaptation, from both worker and employer standpoints. But with 11.5 million job openings (including close to one million manufacturing jobs) and just 5.9 million Americans looking for work, combined with renewed efforts to “re-shore” critical manufacturing, robots may prove to be less of a problem than part of the solution to the nation’s long-term labor shortage.

That will be it this week. Surprised I got anything at all together, I have been so much on the move. We are settled on Block Island for the next two weeks. Can you say Vacation?

Beach Rose… they smell so sweet and, well, rosey…

First time averaging over 15 K steps for the week! Even with a very low step count yesterday.

We Have to Fix America’s Broken Culture of Guns

We all need to adjust to the idea that unfathomable levels of gun violence, including school shootings, are going to get worse, not better, in the decades to come.

This is America, folks. This is who we are.

My favorite spring flower…

What Stood Out, WK 21

I want to start this post with three experiences I have had in the past week and a half.

A conservative family member and I were talking about book banning and as we did it became clear that we both believed “my side doesn’t do that.” This was astonishing to me because there is so much about the book banning of the right in my news feeds and nothing about liberal book banning. This family member cited the example of Huckleberry Finn. “Why would anyone want to ban Huckleberry Finn?” I said. I don’t think liberals could possibly do that. Our convictions about our “teams” were a roadblock to having a conversation about book banning itself.

I went for a walk and a cup of coffee and while I was sipping my coffee I looked up liberal book banning and sure enough, some liberals want to ban books with messages or words they don’t like. Huckleberry Finn’s sin was the N word. We don’t do it as much as conservatives do in the present moment, but we do it.

When I returned I immediately told M that I had researched book banning and that, yes, liberals do it too. I didn’t say anything about who did more, I simply acknowledged that liberals are guilty of it too. At that point, we were able to turn to the issue of book banning and we both agreed there should be no book banning wherever it comes from.

This past Friday we entertained one of M’s friends for dinner. This friend was conservative as is M. We had a lovely evening with lively conversation and then it turned to the issue of abortion. This friend told us they were Catholic and that they did not believe that abortion should ever be the choice. But, they said, they also didn’t believe they had any right to dictate how others think about abortion and whether it should be available. M is not in favor of banning all abortions either. We had an intelligent conversation about it and learned that we had overlapping views on abortion which can be summed up by the Clinton formulation, “available, safe and rare.” We listened to each other, embraced our common ground and respected our differences.

Yesterday. I was out for my morning walk when I passed by a large group of Proud Boys protesting outside a local church. The church was hosting a youth pride event. They had signs reading “Jesus is the Only Savior,” or Stop Grooming our Children," or “There is a Hell and You Will Burn in it Forever.” As I passed by one of the protestors asked me if I knew what was going on inside (the church). I said “yes and I am not on your side on this one.” They verbally harassed me until I was well down the block. It alarmed me to see the overlap of evangelical Christianity and the Proud Boys. Nothing good can come of that. A militia backed by a fundamentalist god is more sinister than it would be on its own.

Which brings me to the first of the articles I will share on the “Great Replacement Theory.”

The Great Replacement

The ideology of the Great Replacement is a particular threat to democratic governance because it insists that entire categories of human beings can or should be excluded from democratic rights and protections. Any political cause can theoretically inspire terrorism, but this one is unlike others in that what it demands of its targets is their non-existence.

Both conceive of America as fundamentally white and Christian, and in so doing posit not only a racial conception of citizenship but a racial hierarchy, one that must be maintained if America’s true nature is to endure.

This conspiracy theory has grown so popular among key GOP figures that the conservative elite can no longer condemn it unreservedly. Instead, some prominent conservatives have chosen to defend it in sanitized form, arguing that the Democratic Party’s support for immigration reform is a plot to, as Representative Elise Stefanik of New York put it in an ad last year, “overthrow our current electorate and create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.” Note the notion that an “electorate” can be “overthrown” by being outvoted, as though Republican electoral defeat is by definition illegitimate—especially if that victory is enabled by the wrong kind of voters.

If any Democrats or Republicans believe that demographic change inherently advantages one party over the other, they are tremendously foolish.

Liberals can do nothing to prevent conservatives from embracing this conspiracy theory, beyond forcing Republicans to pay a political price at the ballot box. It would be better, by far, if prominent conservatives persuaded their comrades to reject this perverse ideology, rather than attempt to sanitize it for mainstream consumption. If their recent reaction to the Buffalo shooter is any guide, though, they have chosen a different path.

With Roe V. Wade hanging by a slim thread of time, it was interesting to find this article about Sex and the Single Woman, a book written by Hellen Gurly Brown, who also started Cosmopolitan Magazine.

Sex and the Single Woman

Brown’s blunt copy is false advertising. After a while, the carefree singlehood that she claims to be selling begins to look like drudgery. Spared of housework and care work, the women Brown imagines toil instead at the labor of sexual conquest.

Men as active, women as passive; men deciding, women accommodating: That was Brown’s cosmology. And soon, even more people will likely be forced into its physics. When men and women have sex that ends in a pregnancy, it will be the women who bear the burdens. When men rape women, it will be women who bear the consequences. Feminists fought for sex to be casual—not in the sense that it doesn’t mean anything, but in the sense that it should not mean everything. The world we are facing is one that is losing that fight. And it is the world that Helen Gurley Brown foresaw, precisely because of her limited vision: Men will do what they do. Everyone else will adjust accordingly.

And thoroughly depressing to read this article about Oklahoma’s new abortion ban law.

Oklahoma Just Took Abortion Bans to a New Extreme – Mother Jones

On Thursday, the Oklahoma House passed a bill banning nearly all abortions in the state. Like a recent ban passed in Texas, which barred abortion after six weeks, the law will be enforced through private civil action. And Oklahoma’s bill takes things even further by banning abortion beginning at fertilization. It will take effect immediately upon being signed by Republican Governor Kevin Stitt.

Here are some sage words from Rebecca Solnit about how we can fight back to protect abortion rights:

Here’s how Americans can fight back to protect abortion rights | Rebecca Solnit | The Guardian

“Us” these days means pretty much everyone who’s not a straight white Christian man with rightwing politics. They’re building a broad constituency of opposition, and it is up to us to make that their fatal mistake.

The right knows that it represents a minority and a shrinking minority as Americans as a whole become more progressive and as the country becomes increasingly non-white. They have made a desperate gamble – to rule via minority power, for the benefit of the few, which is why voter suppression is so crucial a part of their agenda. It cannot be a winning strategy in the long run. But in the short run it can perpetrate immense damage to too many lives and to the climate itself. The revelations should strengthen our resolve to resist by remembering our power and strengthening our alliances, winning elections, and keeping eyes on the prize.

This one may have been under the radar for a lot of people, but congresses authority to delegate to agencies to administrate its policies has been under attack for being un-constitutional. To say they don’t have this authority would effectively kill the administrative state which would have serious consequences. I’ve read different opinions on how serious this particular case is. Some say the issue is fixable, others say it is the end of the world as we know it.

Bad Day in Court for the Administrative State

A nondelegation ruling against the SEC is a big deal, but the actual argument is somewhat more modest. The claim is that Congress did not articulate an intelligible principle to guide the SEC on whether to bring enforcement actions in Article III courts or through administrative decision-making. Significant, but pretty fixable.

I could not issue this weeks What Stood Out without a nod to my Niece and this wonderful review of her new book in The New Yorker.

A Riveting Memoir of Life as a Chef with an Eating Disorder | The New Yorker

I first read Loew-Banayan’s book because I was a fan of their cooking. Last year, they opened Café Mutton, their first restaurant, in the upstate town where I live, and it quickly became my favorite local place to eat. They work there in an open kitchen, wearing a baseball hat and T-shirt, roasting pigeons, pickling mussels, making pigs’-head terrines.

A couple of artists came to my attention.

Walter Murch Sought to “Paint the Air” Between His Eye and His Subject

Murch’s particular genius lies in the ways in which he could paint something that appeared at once solid and dissolving. As he claimed, “I paint the air between my eye and the object.”

Memories Remade With Charcoal and Ash 

“The landscape of the subject is only true if we acknowledge that there is no such thing as landscape” because “landscape acquires meaning through memory.”

Back to politics, this article in The Dispatch about 45 and the GOP resonated with me:

Trump Cares About Control, Not Winning Elections

The key to understanding the GOP primaries is to understand that neither traditional conservative ideology nor even competence are qualifications or differentiators anymore. If they were, Liz Cheney wouldn’t be a pariah, and the bomb-throwing Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert wouldn’t be Republican stars. Everyone has to be an angry populist revolutionary who wants to see the world burn.

As did this one in the Atlantic about the state of our political system:

The Rotten Core of Our Political System

You’re confronted with a world of almost unrelieved cowardice, cynicism, myopia, narcissism, and ineptitude, where the overriding motive is the pursuit of power for its own sake. It’s rare that a politician thinks about any cause higher than self-interest.

Delusional vanity plays a part in the follies of both Democratic factions. Centrists deceive themselves into believing they can forge a bipartisanship that doesn’t exist, while progressives can’t see what’s in front of their faces—that they have little public support.

The rotten core around which our democracy has begun to collapse is the Republican Party. It remains Trump’s party as long as he keeps his grip on its voters and can defy the medical odds against an old man who eats badly and never exercises.

Those picking up this book a few decades from now will have to confront the question of why a free people, in discarding their most promising leaders while elevating the likes of Kevin McCarthy, asked for their own destruction.

America’s Hands Are Full of Blood

Whether any particular killer proves to be a racist, a jihadist, a sexually frustrated incel, or a randomly malignant carrier of sorrow and grief, can Americans ever break the pattern of empty thoughts, meaningless prayers, and more and worse bloodshed to follow?

May 24, 2022 - by Heather Cox Richardson

a gunman murdered at least 19 children and 2 adults at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah… blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Nothing will change. A nation being dragged under by a radical minority.

It rains as the Nigerian(?) sheet rock guys chat in the background.

This is my niece…

A Riveting Memoir of Life as a Chef with an Eating Disorder | The New Yorker

I first read Loew-Banayan’s book because I was a fan of their cooking. Last year, they opened Café Mutton, their first restaurant, in the upstate town where I live, and it quickly became my favorite local place to eat. They work there in an open kitchen, wearing a baseball hat and T-shirt, roasting pigeons, pickling mussels, making pigs’-head terrines.

Rain last night…

Related to journaling note taking discussion…

The Paris Review - Clipboard, 2022 - The Paris Review

I don’t use a journal, just a small piece of clipboard material on which I place quartered (torn) sections of 8.5 x 11″ paper that I have folded in half.

First flattened can I have run across in 2 1/2 weeks. People around here don’t toss much on the ground and when they do the grounds crew whisks them away.

I think this is more of a pinky drive than a thumb drive. And it holds 256 GB to boot!

Moonlight reflected on the Gulf of Mexico…

I really like underexposing images sometimes…

These are dropping from the trees around here all the time. Hope I never happen to be underneath when one comes down.

Almost full moon over the Gulf of Mexico this AM.

Wow, panic time over. I briefly got locked out of my account but @manton got me fixed up right away. Thanks!


Full moon setting over the Gulf of Mexico

What Stood Out, WK 20

This week began with Mother’s day (shout out to all the Mothers out there, hope you had a great week) and this post by Heather Cox Richardson which taught me something I didn’t know about Mother’s day:

May 7, 2022 - by Heather Cox Richardson

“Mothers’ Day”—with the apostrophe not in the singular spot, but in the plural—actually started in the 1870s, when the sheer enormity of the death caused by the Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War convinced American women that women must take control of politics from the men who had permitted such carnage.

I wouldn’t mind returning to this concept of Mothers' Day except my faith that women and power are a combination that is any better than men and power has been shaken by the likes of Marjorie Taylor Green, Lauren Boebert and Sarah Palin.

Concerns about the Supreme Court’s likely decision to overturn Roe V. Wade continued unabated in the early part of the week. As I have read more and more on the issue, a part of me has started to wonder weather it will be a good thing in the long run despite the horror show it will be in the early going. It is interesting to note these thoughts by Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Offers Critique of Roe v. Wade During Law School Visit | University of Chicago Law School

“My criticism of Roe is that it seemed to have stopped the momentum on the side of change,” Ginsburg said. She would’ve preferred that abortion rights be secured more gradually, in a process that included state legislatures and the courts, she added. Ginsburg also was troubled that the focus on Roe was on a right to privacy, rather than women’s rights.

“Roe isn’t really about the woman’s choice, is it?” Ginsburg said. “It’s about the doctor’s freedom to practice…it wasn’t woman-centered, it was physician-centered.”

But then again, there was this article about the stability to abortion brought about by Roe V. Wade:

In Defense of Roe

… for most Americans, Roe led to a half-century of remarkably stable cultural consensus about how to balance the rights of women with the rights of fetuses or, as pro-lifers prefer, unborn children.

And this article attacking Justice Alito’s conclusion that there was nothing in the US Constitution about a woman’s right to an abortion seemed particularly effective in questioning the idea that the constitution is a flawless document as written:

Of Course the Constitution Has Nothing to Say About Abortion | The New Yorker

As it happens, there is also nothing at all in that document, which sets out fundamental law, about pregnancy, uteruses, vaginas, fetuses, placentas, menstrual blood, breasts, or breast milk.

Moving on to a different topic, this article on why achieving equality in our society is so difficult caught my attention:

This Research Explains Why Equality in America Is So Elusive – Mother Jones

Social scientists call this “Vladimir’s choice.” Even as we claim to support greater equality, we are hung up on protecting our relative advantage—even if it costs us in absolute terms.

And now, from the parochial to the universal, there is a new theory about where dark matter comes from:

A Mirror Universe

Scientists say there’s an “Anti-Universe” out there mirroring ours but running backward in time. According to Caroline Delbert of Popular Mechanics, the new theory could explain the presence of dark matter.

The subject of book banning came to the fore towards the end of the week when in conversation with a family member we both swore that it was the other side that was doing it and that “my” side would never do that. It turns out that book banning is a bipartisan issue:

Banning books is a nasty habit, whether it comes from the right or left (opinion) - CNN

For some years, the American Library Association has published annual lists of the most “challenged” books. Most of them offend the self-righteous right, which can’t bear that students should learn about America’s history of racial oppression and bigotry, or read positive depictions of LGBTQ people, or witness the naked face of poverty and prejudice.

But banning books is not just the product of right-wing intolerance. Many liberal parents don’t want their children to encounter the N-word anywhere, not even in what is in my view the greatest American novel, “Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain. And so they fight to ban a novel that eloquently and passionately attacks racism in 19th-century America.

I have maintained for some time now that in order to have a conversation across party lines about anything, one had to talk directly about the issues. In this case, once I acknowledged to this family member that yes, indeed, my side has been guilty of banning books, we were immediately able to agree that all book banning was bad.

On to the world of art. I have been following NFT art for a while now, as I suspect that if I can figure it out some of the photographic work I do might be uniquely suited to being sold this way. This third in a series of articles on the ins and outs of NFTs was interesting as is the whole series:

NFTs Part 3 – The 10k Project – A Photo Editor

August’s great-grandson Julian Sander had put the project together to create a permanent archive on the blockchain where I was told information about the images could be added by the community.

The August in this case is August Sander, a major figure of the photographic community of the last century.

And this article on Louise Bourgeois was interesting because, well, what isn’t interesting about her?

The Monstrous Beauty of Louise Bourgeois’s Late Textiles

The artist’s genius is in how she hints at the deep complexity of human relationships.

And finally, I will end with this article about an exhibition of women photographers (a big interest of mine) at MoMA:

The MoMa’s New Exhibition Surveys a Century of Photographs by Women

The histories of feminism and photography have long been entwined,” curator Roxana Marcoci writes in the exhibition catalogue chapter ‘What Is a Feminist Picture?

… child proclaiming his dislike of watermelon to his mother… “For all these years where have you been? I don’t like watermelon!”… apparently he doesn’t like cantaloupe either… random eavesdropping can be amusing…

It’s as if there is a rule about where the wet can pass…

Margaret Atwood on Women’s Position in Society

Women were nonpersons in U.S. law for a lot longer than they have been persons. If we start overthrowing settled law using Justice Samuel Alito’s justifications, why not repeal votes for women?