Good morning on Monday, October 17, 2022: National Pasta Day! This year I discovered (thanks to a reader), the wondrous pasta of bucatini: thick, spaghetti-like pasta with a tiny hole through the middle of each noodle, allowing it to sop up additional sauce. Here’s a famous version, Bucatini al’Amatriciana, with tomato sauce and pancetta:
It’s also Four Prunes Day (based on the belief that eating 4-9 prunes/day brings digestive health, Black Poetry Day, Forgive an Ex Day, Wear Somethng Gaudy Day, International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, and World Trauma Day.
Readers are welcome to highlight notable events, births, and deaths on this day by going to the October 17 Wikipedia page.
*We’re NYT-heavy today as I found several items of interests, not all of which is Nooz.
First, we have a Twitter spat from Ibram Kendi over David Brooks’s op-ed piece, “This is what happens when race is everything.” Brooks’s topic was the revelation of racist remarks in a secret but now-released recording of the Los Angeles City Council, remarks made in a meeting in which Hispanic leaders plotted how to solidify their power by changing the school district boundaries.
According to Brooks, the Council members had internalized two assumptions:
Their first assumption was that America is divided into monolithic racial blocs. The world they take for granted is not a world of persons; it’s a world of rigid racial categories.
At one point Martinez vulgarly derided someone because “he’s with the Blacks.” You’re either with one racial army or you’re with another.
The second assumption was that these monolithic racial blocs are locked in a never-ending ethnic war for power. The core topic of their conversation was to redraw Council districts to benefit Latino leaders.
Brooks’s point is that these assumptions come from people like Ibram Kendi, while others think that this constant emphasis on race is a problem. In the end, he says that this Manichean view is self-fulfilling—not a new view but one worth repeating.
If we use rhetoric that assumes that we’re all locked into rigid racial blocs and that group conflict is the essential element of public life, then group conflict is what we will get — Balkanization on a continental scale. That’s not just about L.A. City Council members. That’s about a set of ideas and a way of talking too readily accepted in this society.
He attributes a lot of this balkanization to Ibram Kendi, and I think Brooks is right (I think everyone needs to read Kendi’s book How to be an Antiracist):
Those two assumptions didn’t come out of nowhere. We have had a long-running debate in this country over how to think about racial categories. On the one side there are those, often associated with Ibram X. Kendi and others, who see American society as a conflict between oppressor and oppressed groups. They center race and race consciousness when talking about a person’s identity. Justice will come when minority group power is used to push back on white supremacy. “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination,” is how Kendi puts it.
That is an accurate and succinct view of Kendi’s book, but Kendi himself, who refuses to debate critics in person, simply emitted a bunch of tweets saying that he was misunderstood. Here are the first two:
.@nytdavidbrooks claims there are two sides of "a long-running debate in this country over how to think about racial categories.” He claims that one of these sides is “often associated” with me, which was news to, well, me. 2/
— Ibram X. Kendi (@DrIbram) October 15, 2022
Kendi’s always had a thin skin, but in this case Brooks is spot-on in representing Kendi’s view in the paragraph above. Kendi certainly holds a Manichean view of blacks and whites as a binary of oppressed and oppressor, respectively. Other claims of Brooks are not those of Kendi (who sees blacks and whites as identical in culture), but Brooks doesn’t attribute those views to Kendi. Kendi’s tweetstorm is misguided, defensive, and incorrect. Read his book and see for yourself.
Twitter catfight! John McWhorter took out after Kendi on Twitter but then deleted two tweets and apologized to Kendi. McWhorter’s apology and two screencaps of the tweets he deleted are below. If McWhorter had just said “phenotype” or “blackness” instead of “skin tone and your hair,” there would have been no need for an apology. It’s also a bit snarky, but good of McWhorter to apologize.
Folks – my tweets about Kendi yesterday were too much. I shouldn't have gone there. Sincere apologies.
— John McWhorter (@JohnHMcWhorter) October 16, 2022
how much? pic.twitter.com/874LOcUFw5
— tayeb (@caisersoze84) October 16, 2022
*By all accounts, new British Prime Minister Liz Truss has gotten herself into deep doo-doo in her first weeks on the job. Even members of her own conservative party are thinking that their leader already has failed. As the Associated Press reports:
When Liz Truss was running to lead Britain this summer, an ally predicted her first weeks in office would be turbulent.
But few were prepared for the scale of the sound and fury -– least of all Truss herself. In just six weeks, the prime minister’s libertarian economic policies have triggered a financial crisis, emergency central bank intervention, multiple U-turns and the firing of her Treasury chief.
Now Truss faces a mutiny inside the governing Conservative Party that leaves her leadership hanging by a thread.
Conservative lawmaker Robert Halfon fumed on Sunday that the last few weeks had brought “one horror story after another.”
“The government has looked like libertarian jihadists and treated the whole country as kind of laboratory mice on which to carry out ultra, ultra free-market experiments,” he told Sky News.
It’s not as if the party wasn’t warned. During the summertime contest to lead the Conservatives, Truss called herself a disruptor who would challenge economic “orthodoxy.” She promised she would cut taxes and slash red tape, and would spur Britain’s sluggish economy to grow.
Her rival, former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak, argued that immediate tax cuts would be reckless amid the economic shockwaves from the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
*Is there any Democrat, or for that matter any sane person, who thinks Herschel Walker is fit to be a senator from Georgia? The man is thick, a liar, and possibly mentally ill. In his NYT column, “Why Herschel Walker may win“, Frank Bruni gives us the reason why this sad specimen of a retired football player might actually haul in a Senate seat in November. I’ve put below Waker’s one debate with Democratic opponent, Senator Ralph Warnock, and if you watch it you’ll see that Bruni has a point.
But his performance serves as an important reminder to Democrats who’ve taken such heart from — and found such hope in — the blemishes and blunders of Republican candidates in crucial races: Being flawed and being doomed are very different things.
The mess around Walker over the past two weeks and the mess of him over the entirety of his campaign have made it easy to focus on those flaws and forget the advantages that he, like all Republicans running in the midterm elections, possesses. But Walker spent Friday night remembering. He knew what he had to do to stay competitive in, and possibly win, the neck-and-neck Senate race against Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat — which could decide which party controls the chamber.
He seized on President Biden’s unpopularity to cast Warnock as Biden’s dutiful manservant. “Can he tell me why he voted with Joe Biden 96 percent of the time?” Walker asked the moderators and the audience. He said Biden’s name so often that a strategy almost came across as a stutter.
He dwelled, too, on Americans’ economic woes, the nature of which could well lead voters to punish Democrats, who control both chambers of Congress.
And if he was rattled in the least by all the recent attention to a former girlfriend’s allegations that he paid for her to have one abortion and urged her to have another, he didn’t show it. Walker, who opposes abortion rights, emphatically denied her account and then sought to portray Warnock as the hypocrite, suggesting that Warnock’s Christian faith — he’s a Baptist preacher — was incompatible with his pro-choice politics.
Watch part of this, including the brief opening statements:
By a factor of more than two, Walker demonstrated that the prime concern of Georgia voters was the economy (“threats to democracy” was a distant second). And so Walker brought up the shaky American economy, as well as Biden’s expensive plan to forgive student loans. It’s the old James Carville trope, “It’s the economy, stupid.”
Will Donald Trump fume? Does it matter? Rather than Warnock trying to make Walker answer for his alliance with the former president, Walker insisted that Warnock defend his with the current one — a dynamic that doesn’t exactly track with media coverage of the midterms. We keep wondering how much Trump will wound Republican candidates. Warnock seemed plenty worried about how much Biden would wound him.
Remember, Biden’s approval rating stands at 42.9%.
*According to The Washington Post, new Supreme Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson has hit the ground running, asking tons of questions during oral arguments while her colleague Clarence Thomas says his usual amount: nothing:
few were prepared for Jackson’s venturesome debut in the court’s first sitting. Over eight oral arguments, she dominated the questioning and commentary, speaking twice as much as her next most loquacious colleague. It is likely a record for a new justice, according to Adam Feldman, who tracks such things for his Empirical SCOTUS blog.
Jackson was a persistent questioner in every case. Her contributions ranged from the sweeping — a rejection of an originalist interpretation of a colorblind Constitution that provoked swoons from the liberal legal community — to the kind of mundane minutiae upon which even Supreme Court decisions turn.
To wit, in a case about federal law regarding overtime pay: “You’re now suggesting that [Section] 601 is distinguishing highly compensated at the 455 level, but I see that in 600, which is not in the highly compensated.”
Janai S. Nelson, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said Jackson’s focus on issues large and small “was a delight to witness.”
“Many of us have advocated for increased diversity on the court, but I don’t think that we anticipated there would be such an appreciable difference out the gate,” Nelson said, adding that Jackson demonstrated oral arguments at the court are not just “performative.”
“She is asking very trenchant questions and demonstrating that it’s important for the justices to actively engage with the material and issues and arguments and people before them.”
The article is heartening: Justice Jackson has done her homework, and is asking trenchant questions. It’s a pity that despite her ascendancy to the bench, the votes are going to be 6-3 in favor of the wrong decision—all down the line.
*I like the NYT reporting of Pamela Paul, who is either 51 or 52 years old (her date of birth is unclear). That makes her officially Middle Aged, but in her latest NYT column, “Wait, who did you say is middle-aged?“, Paul refuses to go gentle into her dotage. But she worries at the signs that she’s no longer young:
It’s that shift from copying the outfits of your slightly younger colleagues to realizing that their fashion choices would not look at all OK on you. And then moving on to the final frontier: looking at the outfits of your much younger colleagues and really not wanting to dress like them at all. With a lurch, you recall those Harper’s Bazaar features about what to wear for each decade of your life and understand that you’ve entered the age in which wearing jewel tones is meant to be a good idea. Welcome to the long slide.
Then it starts hitting you repeatedly in the face. It’s all those little moments: waking up after a really good, long night’s sleep only to feel worse off than you did when you got into bed the night before. You don’t bounce out but instead heave yourself up to audible snaps and crackles. You learn that you can inflict a grave injury to your own body simply by reaching for the alarm clock in the wrong way. You know that when you wind up in physical therapy it will not be the result of a marathon or water skiing but because of something that happened on a sidewalk.
It’s in understanding that after a lifetime of incremental improvements to your self-care regimen, you’ve finally figured out how to make your face and hair look the best they possibly can at precisely the moment it’s all for naught. Your resting bitch face that in an earlier decade may have given off a miffed Jeanne Moreau vibe has hardened into something that more closely resembles unbridled fury. “What’s wrong?” people ask you while you’re daydreaming or gazing softly into the middle distance.
No one is applying words like “moxie” or “edgy” or “gamine” to describe you anymore.
She winds up with something I’ve realized about getting old: you can get away more often with acting like Andy Rooney:
You realize you are getting closer to something inconceivable only a short time ago: the grandma years. When you are a grandma, you won’t even need excuses. You can behave in ways entirely inexplicable to everyone younger than yourself and it will be seen as an eccentricity. You can sidle up to strange men in line for the movies and take some of their popcorn to give to your grandchild, the way my grandma did. You can pretend to have gone entirely batty whenever it suits you. You can pretend you don’t know that you’re shouting or that you can’t hear anything anyone else says.
And you know what? It starts to feel like something to look forward to.
It’s good writing, and of course hits home: I’m two decades older than she.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is making a funny:
Hili: I don’t have the smallest doubts.A: So what doubts do you have?Hili: Only the bigger ones are left.
Hili: Nie mam najmniejszych wątpliwości.Ja: A jakie masz?Hili: Zostały mi już tylko te większe.
From Wild Kingdom, a herbaceous dragon via Malcolm:
From Anna (I may have posted this before), a cartoon that appears to be from Eric Decetis:
God takes sides in Iran, and He’s not on the side of the mullahs:
— God (Thee/Thy) (@TheTweetOfGod) October 15, 2022
From Masih: the Iranian morality police beat up an improperly clothed woman (female morality police are in dark blue):
See how we the woman of Iran get beaten up to death by morality police & pass our message to your government in the West.
Sanctioning morality police without taking action against those who order morality police to kill women is futile.#MahsaAmini
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) October 15, 2022
From Simon, an excellent tweet:
"Introducing … 34andMe. Just swab your nose, our team will analyze the results, and reveal if Herschel Walker is your dad." https://t.co/kJHi5EIc7l
— George Conway🌻 (@gtconway3d) October 13, 2022
“Help” 😂 pic.twitter.com/SLR2JM8vwF
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden) October 15, 2022
From Gravelinspector: a very scary Halloween motif:
— Lindsey Fitzharris (@DrLindseyFitz) October 15, 2022
From the Auschwitz Memorial: a woman who lived but three months in the camp:
15 October 1920 | A Polish woman, Alina Bielak, was born in Warsaw. A clerk.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) October 15, 2022
Tweets from Matthew. First, an oxymoron—a dumb cat:
We all know people who make things more difficult than they need to be.
— Paul Bronks (@SlenderSherbet) October 16, 2022
I think these are ducks,not geese, but can’t be sure. Sound up!
Well that was worth getting up for! pic.twitter.com/vW1G3IiRUz
— Jake Fiennes (@jake_fiennes) October 16, 2022
A tweet found by Matthew that I retweeted:
"Sanction" always gets me, too, and I have to look it up every time. https://t.co/sCDpdWsrBL
— Jerry Coyne (@Evolutionistrue) October 16, 2022