Saturday, August 4, 2018

a postcard

'Built in 1884, the railroad ran from New Orleans up to Memphis, and new towns like Cleveland, Mississippi were created along the route. President Grover Cleveland, after whom the town was named, William Jennings Byan, and President Theodore Roosevelt made whistles stops here. The train stopped running in the 1960s. The abandoned depot was converted to a special Library for Adult Literacy.'

Photo by Diane Asseo Griliches

Friday, August 3, 2018

Yesterday from one of the cars in the street next to where I stand, an African American man raised his arm out the window in a fist salute and said loudly in a great voice as he moved by, Make that sign bigger.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

You need companions. In the 60s there was all that never-before-never since music. It was what we lived by.  It was in the background everywhere when we, students then, talked incessantly about maybe having to go to Vietnam. There were good political magazines and books too.  Michael Harrington’s book on poverty in the U.S. was a major one. It was given to JFK and it caused him to begin a war on poverty. I can still see it in my hands. I was standing staring at it, the day I bought it, in my dorm room sophomore year in college. 1966 0r 67.

There’s no music now like there was then. You’d think there would be given the state were in.

There are books by people like Naomi Klein and Ta-Nehisi Coates.

I grabbed this reprint of the Harrington book the other night.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

On Chambers Street holding the sign in the morning I get a few peace signs held up to me in car windows or in the warm weather like this morning out the car windows. I smile inside myself thinking that the sign has its good message which brings those impulses out in people.

Over 50 years ago I first saw the peace sign. I flashed it myself sometimes in college and after. My daughters used to flash it back to me when they were young.

I went out to eat in Brooklyn last night with the two oldest of those three daughters. It was the younger ones 48th birthday. Thats her on the right. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

from The New Yorker:

Trump vs. the Times: Inside an Off-the-Record Meeting

The new Times publisher, A. G. Sulzberger, said that he attended the Oval Office meeting expressly to push back on President Trump’s “deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric.”
Photograph by Todd Heisler / NYT / Redux

On July 20th, the new publisher of the Times, A. G. Sulzberger, visited the Oval Office at the invitation of President Trump. The meeting was meant to be off the record. As a matter of policy, Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the Times, will not attend such meetings without being able to report on them. Instead, Sulzberger went to the session accompanied by James Bennet, the editorial-page editor. The meeting, which Trump clearly intended as a way both to introduce himself to Sulzberger and to complain about coverage, became, in the course of more than an hour, something a great deal more revealing.

The President broke the off-record agreement nine days later by tweeting that he and Sulzberger had talked about “the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, ‘Enemy of the People.’ Sad!” Sulzberger fired back with a statement saying that he went to the meeting expressly to push back on the President’s “deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric,” which has proved “not just divisive but increasingly dangerous.”

The once-secret session provides a fascinating look at Trump’s capacity to feign charm and receptiveness to criticism in private and then return to a war footing not long after.

The two Times leaders had not known why they had been asked to the White House, but it was soon evident that Trump did not intend to berate them, as he might in a tweet or from a podium. Not surprisingly, Trump took up much of the seventy-five-minute session extolling his accomplishments, real and imagined. He also wanted to sell Sulzberger and Bennet, to explain to them just why he was so critical of the press and routinely brands the “failing” Times and so many other outlets as “fake news.”

Trump, as he often does, claimed that he invented the phrase “fake news.” (Indeed, he has said elsewhere that “fake news” is “one of the greatest of all terms I’ve come up with.”) In fact, “fake news” first entered the language in the late nineteenth century; it came to the fore most recently as a way of describing fabricated stories, not a few of them engineered for profit in Russia and other foreign countries. Trump adopted the phrase for his own purposes during the 2016 campaign and has deployed it as a weapon in his broader attempt to delegitimize the news outlets—the Times, the Washington Post, CNN, and many more—that he views as political adversaries, and to create a kind of parallel universe of “alternative facts” and realities.

During the Oval Office discussion, Sulzberger pointed out to Trump that foreign leaders, particularly authoritarians and despots, have taken up Trump’s language and angle of attack. And the reason is not hard to discern: autocrats from Manila to Yangon, Ankara to Caracas, Beijing to Moscow, have found it advantageous to point out that even the President of a country that gave primacy to freedom of speech and the press in its Constitution disdains the news media as “fake.”

Last year, the Chinese state news agency denied a report that police had tortured Xie Yang, a human-rights activist, as “essentially fake news.” The Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, denied an Amnesty International report on the thousands of people who died in a military prison between 2011 and 2015 by telling Yahoo News, “You can forge anything these days. We are living in a fake-news era.” U Kyaw San Hla, a top security official in Rakhine State, in Myanmar, denied ethnic cleansing in the country, insisting, “There is no such thing as Rohingya. It is fake news.” (Two Reuters journalists who exposed the killings of ten Rohingya are currently on trial in Myanmar and face up to fourteen years in prison.) In Venezuela, President Nicolás Maduro went on the Russian state channel RT and declared that “Venezuela is being exposed to bullying by the world media besieging us. . . . This is what we call ‘fake news’ today, isn’t it?” After the Cambodian government put journalists in prison, expelled Radio Free Asia, and closed dozens of radio stations and the Cambodia Daily, Prime Minister Hun Sen went on the offensive against critical coverage in the West, saying, “I would like to send a message to the President that your attack on CNN is right. American media is very bad.”
Trump seemed to relish telling the Times executives that not only had he invented the phrase “fake news” but that some countries had banned “fake news.”

Sulzberger replied calmly that such countries were dictatorships and only dictatorships could ban independent inquiry.

The Times publisher told the President that he was even more concerned about Trump branding the press as “enemies of the people”—a phrase used by the Jacobins in eighteenth-century France and by Stalin at the height of the Great Purge, in the late nineteen-thirties. (When Nikita Khrushchev denounced Stalin, in the fifties, he said that “the formula ‘enemy of the people’ was specifically introduced for the purpose of physically annihilating such individuals.”) Sulzberger argued that the use of such a phrase was inflammatory, dangerous to journalists both in the United States and abroad. Journalists were getting threats, he told the President. Some news outlets were posting armed guards at their offices. Journalists abroad were being imprisoned, murdered. To inflame that situation with such rhetoric was a true danger, a match lowered to a tinderbox. Sulzberger pressed this point twice, both in the middle of the session and toward the end.
Strikingly, Trump did not argue and at least pretended to take it onboard. 

He did not apologize, by any stretch, but he tried to get across the possibility that he would think about it. At one point, near the end of the conversation with Sulzberger and Bennet, he even pointed to his temple, a gesture that seemed intended to indicate that he would give the idea some consideration.

The Times executives left the meeting struck by how relatively mild Trump had seemed compared to his public performances, but they were under no illusion that he would change his rhetoric.

The problem is that Trump’s assault on the press has been remarkably effective. He is by no means the first President to resent or attack the press. Richard Nixon raged in the Oval Office about the sins of the Washington Post, telling aides that no Post reporter could ever again enter the building; his Vice-President, Spiro Agnew, referred to the press as “nattering nabobs of negativism.” But none has ever waged battle with the press so obsessively. Trump’s ferocious attacks at rallies and on social media give a direction and a language to his amplifying outlets: Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Rush Limbaugh, the Drudge Report, Breitbart, and countless trolls online.

Trump’s capacity to create alternative and polarizing realities, to divert attention from his failures and scandals, to inflame his opponents, and to foment a general atmosphere of culture war and mutual recrimination is perhaps his greatest political talent. He can be affable enough to a couple of visiting Timesexecutives in the Oval Office but then has no compunction about going back to war from the stump. This is at the heart of his appeal.
Steve Bannon, once Trump’s chief ideologist, put the matter well earlier this year when he told Michael Lewis, “We got elected on Drain the Swamp, Lock Her Up, Build a Wall,” he said. “This was pure anger. Anger and fear is what gets people to the polls.” Bannon added, “The Democrats don’t matter. The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.”

It didn’t take long for Trump to make it plain that he will not mellow or relent. Attacking the media will undoubtedly be part of his campaign strategy for the midterm elections. In Kansas City, four days after his meeting with Sulzberger and Bennet, Trump told followers at a rally, “Stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.” And then, as the crowd booed the reporters, Trump added the Orwellian finisher: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

On Sunday, after violating the off-the-record agreement with the Times and then learning of Sulzberger’s response, Trump dispensed with any notion that he was rethinking the phrase “enemies of the people.” In a flurry of tweets, he made it all quite clear; the true danger was an “insane” media and its outrageous insistence on describing the “internal deliberations of government”:

When the media - driven insane by their Trump Derangement Syndrome - reveals internal deliberations of our government, it truly puts the lives of many, not just journalists, at risk! Very unpatriotic! Freedom of the press also comes with a responsibility to report the news . . .

. . . accurately. 90% of media coverage of my Administration is negative, despite the tremendously positive results we are achieving, it’s no surprise that confidence in the media is at an all time low! I will not allow our great country to be sold out by anti-Trump haters in the...

. . . dying newspaper industry. No matter how much they try to distract and cover it up, our country is making great progress under my leadership and I will never stop fighting for the American people! As an example, the failing New York Times . . .

. . . and the Amazon Washington Post do nothing but write bad stories even on very positive achievements - and they will never change!

And now another week begins.

David Remnick has been editor of The New Yorker since 1998 and a staff writer since 1992.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Away from New York for two weeks, I came back Saturday evening. I had things I’d be doing again. Holding my sign every weekday morning the most central. Walking every afternoon along the East River for an hour. Going to the coffee shop to read the Times.

I got an email while I was away saying a library book I'd requested had come in. For a moment as I walked from the subway with my two heavy backpacks, I thought I’ll get that tomorrow. Then I realized tomorrow was Sunday and the city's neighborhood public libraries are not open on Sunday, I got mad as I always do when I think about that. The place I’d been for two weeks, their library was open on Sunday. Not here? With all the immigrants, and poor people, and students, and people living in apartments? Millions.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

from Electric Lit (

Science Says Reading a Book Makes You a Better Friend
A new study is the latest evidence that being a bookworm makes you more social, not less

By Erin Bartnett, a writer based in Brooklyn, fiction editor at American Chordata. 

Iam tired of the misconception that loving books means loving people less. In fact, I have spent a lifetime mistakenly calling myself an “introvert,” because I thought being a reader was synonymous with introversion. Thankfully science is here to help me and other socially-minded readers out there re-identify with our gregariousness. This week, NBC news highlighted research from Professor Melanie Green, a social psychologist at University of Buffalo who is studying how the transporting experience of “getting lost” in a story affects our social relationships. She’s discovered that our ability to be transported by a story actually says a lot about how we can comprehend, interpret, and empathize with the stories of those around us in real life. A quick tour through some social psychology journals proves she’s not the only one discovering that readers are the best people to swap BFF necklaces with.
The psychological study of reading stories is fairly new. In 2000, Jèmeljan Hakemulder at Utrecht University in Germany published The Moral Laboratory, one of the first books to examine the relationship between reading and empathy. In 2011, Raymond Marr published the results of a study that found that the same parts of the brain (known collectively as the mentalizing network) that light up “to infer the mental states of others” also light up during narrative comprehensionthe process we use to understand stories we are reading. In 2013, another study in the APA journal of Psychology of Aesthetics Creativity and the Arts shared empirical evidence that suggests there is a positive correlation not only between reading and social cognition, but more importantly between reading and empathy.
Reading transporting stories helps us develop what psychologists call “prosocial behaviors”—any behavior that benefits others, like volunteering, cooperating, sharing, and contributing to the community. In other words, these studies are proving that reading makes us treat ourselves and others better. But how does reading make that happen?

Some argue reading is where we get to conduct our own social experiments and observe the results. Professor Keith Oatley has been studying the relationship between reading and social life for awhile. (One of his studies is titled “Book worms versus Nerds: Exposure to fiction versus nonfiction, divergent associations with social ability, and the simulation of fictional social worlds” and was published in the Journal of Research in Personality. If that’s not a David Foster Wallace endnote waiting to be written, I don’t know what is.) He argues that reading lets us simulate social behavior we then put into practice in real life. Oatley measured the different responses to the way a story was structuredeither fiction or nonfiction. Participants in the study reported feeling higher levels of emotion after reading the fiction story, and showed significant behavioral changes. It’s the act of reading, Oatley argues, that actually transforms us into better friends. Reading encourages people to develop in particular ways after personal reading experiences. As Oatley told NBC News: “It is very important in the social world to understand others, to understand ourselves, and not just get stuck.” Reading keeps us from getting stuck.

It’s the act of reading, Oatley argues, that actually transforms us into better friends. Reading encourages people to develop in particular ways after personal reading experiences.
So why do bookworms have a reputation for being antisocial? Maybe the misunderstanding comes from the assumption that because we readers are so good at finding friends in books, we don’t need anyone else. At least part of that is true: we are really good at finding friends in books. In another study conducted at the University of Buffalo (titled “Becoming a Vampire without Being Bittenthese titles!), Professors Ariana Young and Shira Gabriel examined how reading helps satisfy the need for human connection. They had 140 students read Twilight or Harry Potter. Then, as they explained to The Guardianusing their “Twilight/Harry Potter Narrative Collective Assimilation Scale,” they asked the students to answer questions about how long they could go without sleep and whether or not they could imagine moving something with the power of their minds. Young and Gabriel recorded the results, and measured factors like mood, absorption into the stories, and general life satisfaction. Not only did the students who were absorbed in the stories report feeling levels of happiness and connection that mimic the same feelings we get in real social interactions, but they also identified with the traits of the characters they had read about in each book. Twilight readers self-identified as vampires, while Harry Potter readers self-identified as wizards. (These are, one might argue, not traits that usually make for social fluency. And yet!)
We already know that reading does a lot of goodit makes us live longer, and it reduces anxiety. And now we can say reading makes us better friends, too. To be clear, it’s totally cool if you’re an introvert. But if you’re a person who likes to read books and be around people, or you’ve been wondering why you naturally enjoy being around people who read a lot of books, you have science to back up the feelings. Go ahead, read and be friendly!