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an endless succession of beans and nuts.

Paul Auster purveys the notion that the Black Panthers originated the idea of an individual right to bear arms.

This is from a Guardian interview with Paul Auster, the novelist, who has a new, nonfiction book called "Bloodbath Nation."

In the book you say the second amendment, framing the individual’s right to bear arms, was largely ignored until just a few decades ago, when it began to be seen as a fundamental text about what it means to be an American. Why did this happen?

Because of the 1960s – the assassinations and the chaos. People were frightened. And also because of the Black Panthers, who were obviously not white conservatives, but they were the group who originally set forth the argument that gun ownership is a right and that it’s for self-defence. It is hugely ironic: the Panthers were wiped out but their ideas stuck and were adopted by the white right wing. Now, for many, the second amendment has an almost religious component to it. The right to own a gun is seen as a kind of holy grail.

Why shouldn't individual rights have "an almost religious component"? That's the way it looks in the Declaration of Independence.

The Guardian also has an excerpt from the book: "Paul Auster: 'The gun that killed my grandfather was the same gun that ruined my father’s life'" ("In this extract from his new book, Bloodbath Nation, the novelist details the chilling murder his family hid for five decades – and why fixing the US’s deadly relationship with firearms will take gut-wrenching honesty"). 

It's interesting that Auster is writing about death by gunshot when it was so recently — just last year — that his 10-month-old granddaughter died from drugs and his 44-year-old son was arrested for that death and then died from a drug overdose.

And it's interesting that he disparages the religion-like attitude toward rights, when "He has described right-wing Republicans as 'jihadists.'" That blithe injection of religion appears in the above-linked Wikipedia bio. And it makes me wonder, given the quote at the top of this post, if he'd call the Black Panthers "jihadists."

But he's a novelist. I don't expect a novelist to be consistent. I expect a novelist to write aesthetically appealing sentences and paragraphs that channel and manipulate emotion across an exciting narrative arc.

"It honestly seems like it was written by a teenage Tumblr user who, having come into contact with some new and exciting ideas about social justice, seeks to impose them widely and lecture perceived wrongdoers gleefully."

Writes Jill Filipovic, in "Hamline University’s Controversial Firing Is a Warning/Insistence that others follow one’s strict religion is authoritarian and illiberal no matter what the religion is" (Slate). She's talking about a statement written by Hamlin University President Dr. Fayneese S. Miller. 

Filipovic continues:

[Miller] writes that “when we harm, we should listen rather than debate the merits of or extent of that harm” and that “the classroom incident is only one of several instances in which their religious beliefs have been challenged.” (God forbid a college student have their beliefs challenged.) But this is where it goes really off the rails:

As a caring community, there are times when a healthy examination of expression is not only prudent, but necessary. This is particularly the case when we know that our expression has potential to cause harm. When that happens, we must care enough to find other ways to make our voices and viewpoints heard. Perspectives should be informed, mindful and critical, as befits an education steeped in the tenets of a liberal arts education. We believe in academic freedom, but it should not and cannot be used to excuse away behavior that harms others.

I realize I sound like a crotchety old conservative here, but college classrooms should not be “safe spaces.” They can’t be safe spaces. They should be respectful spaces, and professors and students alike should treat each other with consideration, but “cause no emotional harm” is not, in fact, a value to which academic institutions should aspire, or an ideal they can ever realistically reach—especially when “this is harmful” has become an easy cudgel to use in order to get one’s way.

Much more at the link. It's interesting to see a person who wants to maintain her status as a left-winger struggle with all of this:

This incident is making headlines because conservatives have latched onto it as another example of left-wing “cancel culture.” But how a conservative interpretation of Islam that gets a sensitive and thoughtful art history lecturer fired is “left-wing” is beyond me.

I've bold-faced what is the second-to-last sentence. The light bulb comes on! 

But there's one more sentence. It's not a snapping off of the light — more of an adjustment of the dimmer switch:

It is true, though, that many people on the left have stayed quiet about this one, because, well, one doesn’t want to aid a perceived enemy, and perhaps because we want to be sensitive to Muslims who are undeniably often mistreated in the United States. 

We'll see where Filopovic goes from here. I said I found it interesting when someone who wants to be left wing struggles with issues conservatives care about, but that's an understatement. It is the strongest interest that has powered my blogging over the years.

I'm sure I had some dispute with Filipovic long ago, but I can't remember what it was, and I think at the time she was a law student while I was a law professor. Anyway, she graduated from law school in 2008, and she's turning 40 this year (the same year my younger son turns 40), so there's no reason to shrink from challenging her, and apparently she's in favor of the intellectual challenge. 

So I'll go ahead and wonder out loud whether Filipovic intended to be so transgressive as to compare a black woman — Hamlin University President Dr. Fayneese S. Miller — to naive teenager — "a teenage Tumblr user who [has just] come into contact with some new and exciting ideas about social justice."

I'm not saying that's racist or sexist, but I think a typical left-winger would say it is. I think it's anti-racist to apply the same vigorous criticism to a black woman that you'd apply to a white man.

But that's another one of these ideas that seem like something a "crotchety old conservative" would say.

"Since I have to wrap up soon, do you have any strategies for ending an interview well?"

Michael Schulman asks Dick Cavett at the end of "Dick Cavett Takes a Few Questions The legendary television host talks about his friendships with Muhammad Ali and Groucho Marx, interviewing Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis, and finding a new audience on YouTube" (The New Yorker). 

Cavett answers:

Often I would do it very badly. I would rush it, hadn’t saved enough time. I almost called a guest by the wrong name but caught it, thank God, or whatever gods may be. What’s that from? “I thank whatever gods may be.” It’s a poem that’s often recommended as good religious thinking. “I thank whatever gods may be for my indomitable soul”? Hmm.

Should I Google it? “Invictus,” by William Ernest Henley.

“Invictus”! Of course.

“I thank whatever gods may be / For my unconquerable soul.”

“Unconquerable”! Yeah. What’s the first line?

“Out of the night that covers me, / Black as the pit from pole to pole, / I thank whatever gods may be / For my unconquerable soul.”

It’s an un-God poem, but it’s used as one. Funny about that. For some reason, I remembered the other day my great, great philosophy professor Paul Weiss. God, he was brilliant. He taught Socratically: “Come on, ask me anything.” He was on my show with James Baldwin. It was as close to knowing Socrates as you’re going to get.... Smartasses would sometimes try to surprise him or corner him, and one time I said, changing the subject rudely, “Mr. Weiss, can you name any act that would be completely immoral?” And Weiss thought for a second or two and said, “You can’t use a man to stuff a hole.” I’ll never forget it.

"Taught Socratically" got my attention — me, a former law professor. And then that "Come on, ask me anything"... I plunged into a lengthy fantasy about teaching a law school class by beginning "Come on, ask me anything." What crazy hell would have ensued!

Of course, Paul Weiss the professor is not to be confused with Paul, Weiss the law firm. From the Wikipedia entry for Paul Weiss the philosopher:

In a June 13, 1968, guest appearance on the nationally televised The Dick Cavett Show, Weiss argued that fellow guest James Baldwin was excessively focused on the Black experience. The exchange was featured in Raoul Peck's documentary I Am Not Your Negro, and described by media reviewer A. O. Scott as the "initial spectacle of mediocrity condescending to genius is painful, but the subsequent triumph of [Baldwin's] self-taught brilliance over credentialed ignorance is thrilling to witness."

But Cavett is now saying "God, he was brilliant" about Weiss and only mentions James Baldwin in passing. 

Judge for yourself. Here are the 3 men on the show in 1968:

"There seems to be genuine confusion over what a well-meaning person can say without offending someone."

"According to Pew, a majority of Americans believe there isn’t any agreement on what language is considered sexist or racist of late.... You might find yourself wondering: Can I use that word? Am I not supposed to say that anymore?... [W]e enlisted the help of the polling firm Morning Consult to survey a representative sample of over 4,000 Americans...."

This is a very useful and entertaining exploration by the New York Times. Let me just highlight — uplift and highlight — a few things that stood out for us here at Meadhouse: 

First, the overview:


The least-said things in the test were politically correct neologisms — "chestfeeding" (bleechh), "Global South" (never heard of it), "Latinx," "A.A.P.I.," "BIPOC," and "Low-income" (for "third world"). The only old-time expression that was equally off limits was "spaz," which was always an insult — though John McWhorter, one of the quoted commentators, considered the possibility that some people may have thought it was a decent way to refer to a medical condition. My sense is that might have been true in England. 

Speaking of John McWhorter, this caught our eye:

I don't know the histories of “A.A.P.I.” or “BIPOC” in detail, but none of these terms emerged from the folk, as it were. They are enlightened suggestions from the educated and the highly activist. It isn’t an accident that I learned of all of them on Columbia’s campus.

"The folk" — do we say that? I'm afraid I'd be shunned around here — the UW campus — if I talked about language emerging (or not emerging) "from the folk." But it's okay with me. Go ahead and contribute to making it okay, Professor McWhorter.  

He goes on to observe that "African American" is a term most used by people who are not themselves in the category. He cites the long influence of Jesse Jackson, who made a point of announcing, back in the 1980s, that henceforth "African American" was the respectful and appropriate term. These days, the people most likely to use it are female Democrats. 



McWhorter is denied his own preference! His "black" gets hypercorrected to "Black." But at least he can write "Black" (if not "black") and isn't forced all the way to "African American."

He's also critical of the effort to require "Latino" over "Hispanic": 

I am struck... how in my overeducated world, “Latino” has all but taken the place of “Hispanic,” which I process as a relic of the 1980s and before, while in my heavily Latino neighborhood, “Hispanic” and “Spanish” are the preferred terms among Latinos themselves. This top-down approach to language is perhaps inevitable, as the people most committed to this kind of change tend to be more educated, given to thinking about groups and actions in the abstract – as opposed to those who may be too busy living an existence to be concerned about the labels for it. In any case, where we are headed is that a certain sliver of our population will control a rich jargon of prescribed terms, of little import to most people.

That's the last line of the article, which makes it seem as though McWhorter is ceding power to the "certain sliver" over "the folk." But I suspect that he prefers the language that percolates through the people — the language of the folk — and that the NYT cuts off the discussion where it does because it prefers the elite — the certain sliver — and wants to keep titillating those of us inside the sliver with a feeling that "the folk" are — in their folksy hearts — racist, sexist, xenophobic homophobes.

And then Meade sent me a screenshot of this...


... and said "I'm offended by calling it a 'panic.'" 

Me, I question the causality. Let's assume the right did panic when it first heard that we needed to stop saying "pregnant woman" and "breastfeeding" and start saying "birthing parent" and "chestfeeding." Whether "the right" actually got scared or just disgusted and annoyed by this pressure toward inclusion, various righties (and others) spoke up and said it was ridiculous or otherwise bad to push people to use these weird new expressions and that it was fine for people to continue to use our normal, familiar speech or that it was important to give distinction and visibility to women. This response may have convinced a lot of people not to repress their natural speech patterns and not obediently to yield to the prescriptions of those who pose as their betters.

It's an Emperor's New Clothes situation. Everyone could see the emperor was naked. Everyone could see that "chestfeeding" and "birthing parent" were not necessary replacements for "pregnant woman" and "breastfeeding." But most people were disinclined to stand out and say so. It took the impetuous little boy to say out loud that the emperor was naked, and it took some "panicked" right-wingers to decry the prissy terms "chestfeeding" and "birthing parent."

I've got 8 carefully curated TikToks for you this evening. Let me know which ones you like.

1. Christine McVie's voice — isolated — from "Songbird."

2. If you know this story about the lady in waiting, Lady Susan Husse, you'll understand this brilliant turnabout.

3. One reason I don't want a dog is that it can't be guaranteed that I won't turn into a person like this.

4. The Chinese immigrant explains what's happening in China.

5. A trippy street view.

6. It's not easy dressing green.

7. In case you wonder how to speak when they tell you to act your age.

8. This funny little hedgehog.

"Although Cambodia to this day has no law specifically limiting surrogacy, the government criminalized the practice by using existing laws against human trafficking..."

"... an offense that can carry a 20-year sentence. Dozens of surrogates have been arrested, accused of trafficking the babies they birthed. In a poor country long used as a playground by foreign predators — pedophiles, sex tourists, factory bosses, antique smugglers and, yes, human traffickers — the Cambodian authorities said they were on the lookout for exploitation....  Nearly all of those arrested in the 2018 raid gave birth while imprisoned in a military hospital, some chained to their beds. They, along with several surrogacy agency employees, were convicted of trafficking the babies. Their sentencings, two years later, came with a condition: In exchange for suspended prison terms, the surrogates would have to raise the children themselves. If the women secretly tried to deliver the children to the intended parents, the judge warned, they would be sent to prison for many years. This means that women whose financial precarity led them to surrogacy are now struggling with one more mouth to feed."

From "They Were Surrogates. Now They Must Raise the Children. In Cambodia’s weak legal system, surrogacy exists in a gray market, endangering all involved when political conditions suddenly shift and criminal charges follow" (NYT).

In one example discussed in the article, the surrogate was paid "$9,000 — about five times her annual base salary." 

Also: "Most of the Chinese babies carried by Cambodian surrogates are boys. Sex selection is banned in China, but not in Cambodia." And the agency spokesperson said: "Mixed-race children are popular with our clients." We're told "many of its egg donors came from Russia, Ukraine and South Africa. The intended fathers were Chinese, and many were gay." So the children the surrogates must raise look half-European, which the NYT says "can create additional strains."

A serious deficiency in this article: We are never give the text of the statute that Cambodia is enforcing. I see there's a quote from a sperm-donor's lawyer — "Are they serious that he is trafficking his own child?" — but it's impossible to analyze the legal question without seeing how the crime is defined in the statute. That's not about what the English words "human trafficking" seem to mean to us!

"The social media network known as Mastodon is sort of an anti-Twitter: quiet, calm, and refreshingly free of Nazis."

"People have been flocking to it lately, only to get confused by the way it’s set up—which is a shame, because it’s not that hard to get started. Here’s how."

I'm reading "How to Move From Twitter to Mastodon/There are many similarities between the two—except that Mastodon feels like a nice place to be" (lifehacker). 

I'm reading that because I wanted to take a look at something I've heard about a lot lately, but — as it says above — I got confused. I had to find an article explaining it.

I'm confused by this article too. How can a speech forum have a mood as specific as quiet and calm? And what kind of dolt feels "refreshed" by a feeling that a place is "free of Nazis"? I would expect Nazis — especially dangerous Nazis — to lull people into "not see"ing them (until it's too late). You know those old movies where somebody would say "It's quiet. Too quiet." It's like that, I would think. If you're saying "It's refreshingly free of Nazis," you ought to go on to say "Too refreshingly free of Nazis." 

And what's this "Mastodon feels like a nice place to be"? Yeah, feels like.

Lifehacker proceeds to help us with our confusion by trying — trying — to talk to us as though we are easily triggered by anything that sounds disconnected from a simple, off-screen life:

Whereas Twitter is a single huge corporate entity, Mastodon is more like a bunch of local mom-and-pop shops. That means you need to choose an “instance”—a server you’ll call home.

You're trying to soothe me into absorbing a technical description, and you're telling me I need to call something "home" that you're calling an "instance." Just tell me there's something called an "instance" and what it is. And don't drag in mom-and-pop shops. Are we going shopping or going home? Neither. We're having an "instance." Look, I was attracted by the "mastodon," which is a cute extinct animal. There are no Ice Ace behemoths in this Bedford Falls you've got me imagining. And I am more and more alienated from this nice, quiet, Nazi-free place.

It’s like how you can choose to keep your money at your local bank or credit union, but your money is still good everywhere....

Another analogy! Now it's about money. My eyes glaze over. I don't want to understand it. I just want to do it. I'll skip ahead to what I'd see if I did get on this thing:

[Y]our instance also has two special timelines: The local timeline is a stream of everybody tweeting from that instance. So if I click there, I see everything that’s going on on It’s like listening in on everybody in your neighborhood.

It's like Mr. Rogers is explaining this... but he's not helping. And in real life, "listening in on everybody in your neighborhood" is not nice. It's quite wrong. But I know they don't mean "listening in." They just mean reading things people have written and posted.

The federated timeline...

Federated! I don't get niceness vibes from "federated." Is this for people with warm feelings toward the federal government?

... is everything on the local timeline, plus everybody who is followed by someone on your instance. So if I follow Nick, his toots (yep, they’re called toots) will show up in’s federated timeline.

They're only called "toots" if people call them "toots," and I doubt that people will do that. The writer of this article already wrote about "a stream of everybody tweeting from that instance."

A few terms to help ease your transition from Twitter: It’s not a tweet, it’s a toot. It’s not a retweet, it’s a boost. There is no such thing as a quote-tweet, you just either boost or you don’t. Twitter itself is referred to as “the birdsite.” Do not bring birdsite drama onto Mastodon....

Who is telling use what we can do or not do and what words we need to use? Is my question dramatic and birdsite-y? I feel unwanted at Mastodon. It feels inclusive and exclusive simultaneously. How will this rule of niceness be enforced? With niceness? 

First, this is not Twitter. Each instance has its own administrator and its own code of conduct, so make sure you read up before you toot.

So I have to pick an "instance" to start, but each instance has a different code. How many codes should I read before I pick? But reading the code wouldn't be enough, because I wouldn't know how the code is interpreted and enforced. I see that one instance has a code that says (in part):

The following types of content will be removed from the public timeline, and may result in account suspension and revocation of access to the service: Racism or advocation of racism/Sexism or advocation of sexism/Discrimination against gender and sexual minorities, or advocation thereof/Xenophobic and/or violent nationalism....

I'm required to understand a word that isn't even a word: "advocation." Plus, of course, I don't know what will count as "racism" or "sexism." It could be quite broad or idiosyncratic. One person's feminism is another person's sexism. And, for some people, racism is structured into everything and operates covertly, like those clever Nazis I was just talking about.

I quit. I quoot.

"The Black women detailed fierce competition on cryobank websites for vials from Black donors, which, they say, typically sell out within minutes."

From "America has a Black sperm donor shortage. Black women are paying the price. Black men account for fewer than 2 percent of sperm donors at cryobanks. Their vials are gone in minutes" (WaPo).
The sperm banks say they have tried to recruit Black donors and want to meet their customers’ needs. “Over the years, we have spoken to African American fraternities and student organizations to try to increase our number of applicants. This has not been very successful,” California Cryobank’s Shamonki said. She added that “it’s proven to be challenging to hit the right tone and appeal to these donors rather than further alienate them.”
The Sperm Bank of California has had similar challenges. “Folks felt our ads were a little too urban. And so we really work very hard to come up with images that we feel resonated with the donors,” Campbell said.

I think they're trying to say that the black men they tried to recruit found the appeal racist. I wish there was more detail to the content of the appeal and more clarity about why it was offensive.

This story is highly promoted on the Washington Post front page — the second-most prominent headline. But the story focuses on the black women who want to have babies with black fathers. I don't think there's any discussion of white women who would like babies with black fathers.

One black woman who used a white man's sperm to father her child said people seeing her baby said things like "Of course she’s mixed.... You only wanted a light-skinned baby. You don’t like being Black." That is a special problem... a problem that exists because other people — some other people — are awful.

The highest-rated comment over there is from someone who quotes the line "a Black sperm donor who could give her a child that looked like her and shared her culture" and says "A baby doesn't have a culture. Culture is construct that a community creates."

"Since I have to wrap up soon, do you have any strategies for ending an interview well?""There seems to be genuine confusion over what a well-meaning person can say without offending someone."

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