A Day That Will Live in Infamy 2016

  1. What the Gypsy woman said
  2. Race in the election just past
  3. General Mattis
  4. Speech, constrained and compelled
  5. The Great Hair Salon freakout

Secondary Things


I am a Romanian gypsy from a long line of chicken stealers, fortunetellers, tax evaders, and draft dodgers. That is not such a bad heritage.

When I was a child, my Uncle George used to take me to visit an old gypsy woman, who told fortunes and sold alcohol without a license in her front parlor, an Old Country social club to which the local police turned a blind eye. Besides, the gypsy way pays no attention to the civil authorities.

My uncle would play cards and drink hot tea with rum, while I watched the old gypsy woman’s large parrot. The parrot would shout swear words in English and Romanian. In this way, I learned that Romanian is much better than English for cursing. The old men in the unlicensed bar told me the parrot spoke English better than they did.

The old gypsy woman always wore a babushka and a long skirt that went down to her ankles. She played solitaire at a kitchen table next to the parrot. One day, the old gypsy woman told my fortune. Her long, surprisingly youthful-looking fingers shuffled a deck of playing cards and dealt six cards face up on the table in front of her.

The old gypsy woman said, “You are going to be a scientist and will work at a laboratory for the destruction of mankind.”

Then, she picked up the cards and said, “You are too young to hear the rest.”

I said to myself, “The old gypsy woman is crazy.”

Many years later, I became a theoretical physicist and received a postdoctoral appointment to Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico ….

(George Stanciu) If you think that sounds promising, I think you’re right. It’s one of the best essays I’ve read on the internet in the past few months, as Stanciu reminisces on and around Stan Ulam, “the most intelligent person that I would meet in my life.”

Cameo appearance by Edward Teller (an inferior mind but a superior self-promoter).

Tertiary Things


Scott McConnell not only commits truth about the term “white supremacist,” but adds a surprising twist:

In the 1960s, white supremacy was being brought to a welcome conclusion.

Suddenly, several decades later, the term has returned with a vengeance. Conor Friedersdorf explores its shifting meaning in The Atlantic, after discovering thatMother Jones writer Kevin Drum and Bernie Sanders were both charged with invoking white-supremacist arguments, Sanders by criticizing Democrats’ over-reliance on identity politics and Drum by defending him, in part by noting that the charge of “white supremacist” was in danger of becoming so broadly used as to become meaningless …

But, he notes, the term has been revived and stretched out in the covens and crannies of left-wing academia. There we encounter a definition of white supremacism, drawing on “critical race theory,” in which the term can refer to a political or socioeconomic system where white people enjoy a structural advantages over other ethnic groups. The term no longer means hatred of non-white groups or any effort to discriminate against them. Basically it has been stretched to mean that almost any institution where whites predominate—race-neutral or not—is racist …

In the past election, there were numerous signs of seepage of various kinds of race extremism into the presidential campaign. One could point, as countless commentators did, to the many instances of white nationalists’ embracing Donald Trump, and of his not always disavowing or denouncing them with the force and alacrity demanded by his opponents. But there were just as many signs of “critical race theory” seeping into Hillary Clinton’s campaign. It is evident in Jennifer Palmieri’s striking charge of “white supremacism”—unsupported by anything said by Donald Trump, or for that matter ever published on Breitbart, despite the tens of millions of words posted on that site.

One could see traces, or perhaps they should be called dog whistles, in Hillary Clinton’s own rhetoric. In January, she claimed it was a reality that police officers see black lives as “cheap.” In a February debate, she accused the state of Wisconsin of “really systemic racism” in education and employment ….


Jon Basil Utley profiled Retired General James Mattis in January of 2014 after a Jamestown Foundation speech. It makes for good reading now because essentially nothing has changed about America’s failed war policies in the ensuing 35 months.

Appointments like Mattis make me hopeful that Trump is surrounding himself with many people of excellence, not political cronies (of whom he has few) or the usual revolving door suspects.

I still detest the man, but we must wish him success in governance for our own sakes.


I recently lamented a French court’s decision to ban from the airwaves a life-affirming ad because it might prick the conscience of someone who made the life-denying choice of abortion.

But aren’t we on sort of the same trajectory? Instead of banning expression, we’re compelling it, and we’re doing so because feelings of those who want nice artistic things might be hurt if they can’t get them from their top choice artist.

Example 1. Example 2 (new Tuesday). Why should someone who cannot be compelled to express an opinion suddenly be compelled because they’re entered the business world? Is every business a “public accommodation,” akin to the only Inn within a 20 mile radius 300 years ago? Should a professional Democrat political speechwriter be compelled to write speeches for Republicans?


According to [New York magazine’s Heidi] Mitchell, women in the District of Columbia, where Hillary Clinton topped 90% of the vote, “are collectively—however subconsciously—making their own statements of rebellion by challenging traditional notions of beauty. Just ask any hairstylist in the Beltway”:

Over at Georgetown Salon & Spa, one of the most exclusive salons in D.C., much-sought-after colorist and stylist Mariangela Moore has witnessed this “take control” movement daily for the past month. “One of my clients said, ‘Think of Melania Trump and go in the opposite direction,’ ” she says. “She said, ‘I don’t want to be that person people see as sexual, I want to be seen as strong.’ ” Another professional woman cut her hair into a flattop. One client got rid of the blonde highlights she maintained forever, “because she said she never wants to be seen as cheap. I don’t know where that idea came from, but maybe that’s what she’s hearing.” A move away from the look of political parrot Kellyanne Conway, perhaps. In the comfort of Moore’s salon chair, D.C. women are expressing their anger and frustration, and taking a stand with their hair: Many have gone dark and lopped off length.

(James Taranto) There are frequent lampoons on the more sophomoric conservative websites making the point that liberal women need make no special effort whatever to avoid being as sexy as conservative women. They will love this story, to which I hereby release and quitclaim all my nonexistent rights.

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“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.