Sometimes I ask myself why a particular high-profile piece of journalism was published.

And in the case of Roger Cohen’s anemic New York Times profile of Anne Hidalgo, I have to conclude it’s sheer snobbery. Plus bait and switch.

Hidalgo represents the currently pathetic to the point of invisibility French Socialist party. Their candidate eked out six percent in the last presidential election, and, even so, Cohen wants us to entertain the possibility that Hidalgo – a possible candidate only – will do far, far, …. far……………. ffffaarrrrr better.

Yet why, since Hidalgo’s chances hover at around … six percent, should we entertain that possibility? Because, like your Visa card, she’s everything that you – New York Times reader – want her to be. You want the first woman president of France to exist, and “HERE COMES ANNE HIDALGO,” announces Cohen’s headline. Subhead: She’s “CHARISMATIC.”

*******************

Okay, so I’m on board for this! I, UD, will settle in and read this entire article because I am a snob (I love to speak French!), and like many snobs have a strong interest in many things French. So let’s go!

I was easy to bait, wasn’t I? I mean, given its nullity, its total lack of reason to exist, it occurs to me as I read that the Cohen piece has rather the same status as a lushly illustrated essay in the Sunday NYT Magazine about how to make onion soup. Yet I keep reading.

And as I read, Cohen’s bait – charismatic! maybe she can do it! – gradually shifts to switch. ‘The once-proud “gauche” is in tatters.’ Oh.

********************

But wait!

Ms. Hidalgo has clout and international recognition. Michael Bloomberg is a friend.

Oh, okay, I’m back up on the horse! And what a spectacular electability advisor Bloomberg would be.

‘[A]s Philippe Labro, an author and political observer, remarked, “France today is squarely on the right.” Terrorism, insecurity, fear and perceptions of unrestrained immigration pushed the country there. The left has had no clear answer, not Ms. Hidalgo, not anyone.’

Cohen’s list is curious, suggesting as it does that things like, I don’t know… how to run the economy have nothing to do with the right’s current strength. No, it’s all reactionary stuff: insecurity, fear.

******************

Is it a story worthy of the New York Times that a relatively obscure woman, with zero chance of making it into the second round of an election she might not even enter, recently enjoyed an enthusiastic reception at a gathering of French socialists?

Nope. But it’s a story worthy of UD, New York Times reader. Bait; switch; pander.

Thanksgiving: Malva: Last Name Unknown.

Malva works at the pharmacy at the Harris Teeter in North Bethesda, Maryland. A couple of days ago an older man walked unsteadily into the store, blood streaming from his forehead, hands cut and dirty from cushioning a fall. “Could you direct me to the men’s room?” he asked her. “I need to clean up.”

Malva took one look, got a chair, sat the man on it, and said, “I’m calling an ambulance.” She made the call, then left for a moment to gather material to start cleaning his wound.

Other employees approached, asking the man questions designed to disclose whether he’d suffered brain damage. “They asked me what year it is,” he told UD later, “and I totally aced it.” (This was an odd moment because, imagining herself asked the same question, UD suddenly realized that she might have said 2021. A measure of her eagerness to see the back of a certain president.)

Malva asked the man for the phone number of a relative. She made the call, but this particular relative was recharging her phone in their bedroom while sitting in front of their house reveling in the remarkably strong sunlight in late afternoon in November in Garrett Park. With her dog quietly sitting next to her, her daughter working remotely in the house (visiting for the holiday), and her husband talking a walk, she breathed deeply, felt the sun on her face, and thanked whatever gods there be for a good life.

But now her daughter appeared next to her in the front garden, scowling into her phone. “Is he okay? What happened?” Malva told her her father had had a bad fall near the store, and that an ambulance had just arrived to take him to Suburban Hospital. She stayed on the phone as long as it took to calm UD‘s daughter down and give her complete information about Mr UD‘s condition, and as La Kid and UD prepared an overnight bag for him (two volumes on Kant from A History of Philosophy, pajamas, cookies), she called again to make sure the two of them were okay. She took a picture of Mr UD‘s wound and sent it to UD‘s daughter, so they could see exactly what they were dealing with.

The next morning, Mr UD in his bed recovering (the scan revealed a brain robustly able to assimilate Frederick Charles Copleston CBE SJ on Immanuel Kant), and UD preparing a special breakfast for him, Malva again called La Kid, wanting to know how Mr UD was doing. La Kid told her about his twenty stitches, and about how despite the nasty laceration he was able to keep his record intact: In seventy years of life, he has never spent a night in a hospital. (“The only possible exception,” Mr UD once said, “was my birth. I don’t know whether my mother stayed in the hospital overnight.”)

So today Mr UD, with his big white head bandage, looks like a mashup of Marat and Apollinaire. He feels fine.

And today – Thanksgiving – UD thanks Malva, who took one look at a hurting human being and was instantly in it for the long haul.

Fanatics Will Try to Kill Her.

For Shamsia Alizada’s own safety, Harvard should offer her a massive scholarship to study here. Med school here too. Maybe by the time of her graduation, Afghanistan will have gotten to the point where they don’t try to kill intelligent, high-profile women.

Simply the best.

She deserves a big fat tip and she’s getting one.

Donate to Amy McGrath’s Senate Campaign.

She just won her primary.

If Trump won’t leave the WH after he loses, she can bomb him the hell out of there.

Harold Bloom is Giggling in His Grave.

His student, Naomi Wolf, who tried to get major mileage out of claiming Bloom sexually aggressed against her, has been writing really bullshitty books for decades, as UD’s new heroine, New York Times reviewer Parul Seghal, notes. And finally one of them has been pulped.

Wolf is the left’s Donald Trump – a veteran flim-flammer, with his patented brew of insolence, narcissism, self-pity, and mendacity. Moi, I doubt Wolf even penned her last book – the pulped one – because its childish ignorance is the sort of thing you get when you assign the actual research and writing to some hastily assembled slave class and then slap your name on it without bothering to read what they came up with.

Duflo Gets the Nobel

From an earlier post about Esther Duflo:

… She is a world expert on understanding why despite throwing billions at development programmes in poor countries, many fail, and why others succeed. A pioneer in this field, which has only existed for ten years, she has devised a technique to test the effectiveness of anti-poverty programmes through “random testing”, much like pharmaceutical companies test drugs.

*********************

Esther married her MIT professor Abhijit Banerjee in 2015.

Whoops. They’re in big trouble. UD assumes MIT has a firm policy punishing student/faculty relationships.

“Remember me!”

Jessye Norman, who has died, sings UD‘s beloved Purcell.

‘Sit down, pay extra to upgrade to business class, or get off the plane.’

Music to UD‘s ears: An ultraorthodox man demands that a woman sitting next to him on an El Al flight move because he refuses to sit next to women. Instead of letting him rant on and eventually force the woman to move, the flight director tells him what it says in UD‘s headline: Fuck off.

As long as Israel’s courts remain real courts (not guaranteed!), her heroine, Anat Hoffman, who with her organization brought the suit that forced gender equality on El Al, will keep winning virtually every case she brings, just the way she won this one.

Hoffman was on this particular plane; she witnessed the exchange.

I was proud to hear the flight director use the exact wording as promised by El Al in court. It was as if she were reading from the verdict itself, stating in no uncertain terms that the in-flight staff would not ask the woman to change her seat. If the staff had acted differently, and if they had, in any way, asked the female passenger to change her seat ‘for everyone’s benefit,’ I would have encouraged her to sue El Al. That passenger did not know it, but she had all of IRAC—a powerful ally—standing behind her.

Before the flight director finally issued an ultimatum to this man, other people on the plane began to pressure the woman to move, practically bringing her to tears. But, as UD‘s beloved Christopher Hitchens used to say, “Enough with clerical and religious bullying and intimidation.”

“Child abuse with a sharp object.”

Ilhan Omar’s brushoff of Maryum Saifee’s urgent and pertinent question about female genital mutilation earned Saifee an NPR interview, during which she pointed out that since plenty of children in Omar’s own district suffer this abuse, it’s kind of rich of her to get all huffy and refuse to deal with the issue. Here’s more of what Saifee said:

[We need to be willing to talk about] misogyny within our own community… [N]obody talks about FGM. [It’s a ].. squeamish topic.

[Also problematically,] it is politicized as an anti-Muslim issue. [But this] doesn’t give the community a free pass not to talk about it. [In any case, FGM is not merely a local issue; it is an international] human rights issue. [It is] systematized child sexual abuse with a sharp object… 

[There’s] very low literacy on this issue, [and people need to be educated about it; silence of Omar’s sort is just the opposite of what’s needed].

Sing it.

Rapinoe
I look for my heart
It’s Rapinoe
I lost it to her she’s divino
The day that the final started

‘“She’s a real intellectual,” said Barry Lynn, executive director of the Open Markets Institute, who has worked with Warren and her team on their anti-trust tech proposals.’

The kiss of death for longtime UD favorite, Elizabeth Warren. It’s going to be close to impossible for her to dig herself out of the “she’s an intellectual” hole.

Butterflies – and Kurdish Judges – Are Free.

‘On this day, presiding over [an ISIS fighter’s] trial, [Judge] Amina is wearing a white shirt and jeans with embroidered butterflies — clothing ISIS would have whipped women for wearing in public. She is seated behind a wood and faux-leather desk, which hides her platform heels. The public prosecutor is wearing a short-sleeved shirt.

In the future, Amina says, perhaps they will have judge’s gowns and proper courtrooms where journalists and the public can come all the time.

It’s a shock to some ISIS fighters to be sentenced by a woman. In the self-declared caliphate, women had very restricted roles, requiring them to stay at home unless they were accompanied by a close male relative. According to ISIS ideology, men are not allowed to look at women who are not direct relatives.

“Some of them, when they hear the voice of a woman, they look at the ground,” says Amina. “I tell them, ‘I am talking to you — raise your head and look at the committee.'”

Amina says a female colleague jokes that ISIS fighters thought that, as the Quran promises men who are faithful, they would end up in paradise with dozens of beautiful women to accompany them. “Instead, they look up and see us” in the courtroom, Amina says with a laugh.’

In memory of Agnes Varda…

… the French New Wave director who died yesterday, an essay UD wrote long ago about one of her best-known films, Vagabonde.

In memory of Sarah Auffret…

… killed in the Ethiopian Air crash, excerpts from an interview she gave about her two seasons at Port Lockroy, Britain’s most southerly post office. Auffret was – like so many people on that flight – an adventurer, an environmentalist, and a moralist.

As the sun never sets, days are long, but always enjoyable. The team wakes up around 7 a.m. – my morning alarm was the sound of penguins calling and snowy sheathbills knocking at the window. A typical day during high season very much revolves around ship visits – there would be two a day and sometimes a sailing yacht at lunch time. One or more of us would go on board the vessel first thing for a pre-landing briefing and perhaps breakfast – fans of bacon and eggs were always keen to get on board for this!

… Living conditions are pretty basic – there is no running water, only one gas heater in the team’s living quarters, and you may get one shower a week on a visiting ship if you’re lucky. You also need to be able to live with just a small number of people, yet also be very sociable, as you meet about 300 people a day.


When I left, I really missed the light and the tranquility of the island, and the absence of phones and internet. On base you can be connected to what is actually around you without the constant distraction of the online world.

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