Why You May Be Experiencing a Mental Midwinter ~ The School of Life

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Every year, nature quietly takes us through a moral lesson that has much to teach us about how we might relate to certain of the more dispiriting and despair-inducing moments in our own development. Beginning in mid-October in the northern hemisphere, the temperature drops, the nights draw in, the earth turns cold and hard, fog lies low over the land and rain drives hard across the austere, comatose grey-brown landscape. There is nothing immediate we can hope for; now we have nothing to do but wait, with resigned patience, until something better shows up.

Far more than we can generally accept, our minds too have cycles. We cannot be permanently fruitful or creative, excited or open. There are necessary times of retrenchment when, whatever we might desire, there seems no alternative but to stop. We can no longer be productive; we lose direction and inspiration. We are immovably numb and sterile.

It can be easy to panic: why should such a paralysed and detached mood have descended on our formerly lively minds? Where have all our ideas and hopes gone? What has happened to our previous animation and gladness?

We should at such times take reassurance from the late November landscape. Certainly things are lifeless, cold and in suspension. But this is not the end of the story; the earth is like this not as a destination but as a phase. The deadness is a prelude to new life; the fallow period is a guarantor of fecund days to come. All living organisms need to recharge themselves, old leaves have to give way, tired limbs must rest. The dance and ferment could not go on. It may look as if nothing at all is happening, as though this is a trance without purpose. Yet, deep underground, at this very moment, nutrients are being gathered, the groundwork for future ebullience and dynamism is being laid down, another summer is very slowly collecting its strength.

As nature seeks to tell us, we cannot permanently be in flower. We need moments of repose and confusion. There is nothing to fear. Things will re-emerge. We should make our peace with our own midwinters — and lean on nature’s wise accommodation to strengthen us in our pursuit of serenity and patience.

Stevens Pass skiers snowed ~ Seattle Times

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Getting cheated on your ski area season pass definitely falls under the category of First World problems, but, in a region with a legion of snow sports enthusiasts, it is not inconsequential.

Right now, with more than 30,000 signatures, one of the hottest petitions on Change.org is aimed at Vail Resorts, alleging gross mismanagement of one of Washington’s most treasured boutique ski areas, Stevens Pass, and failure to honor promises made to season pass holders.

For generations, Stevens Pass has been a favorite venue for local skiers and snowboarders. It is not a destination resort in the league of Whistler or even Crystal Mountain, but, because of diverse terrain, plentiful snow and fairly long runs, a day or night at Stevens offers some seriously fun skiing just 90 minutes from the heart of Seattle.

In 2018, Vail, one of the two conglomerates that have been gobbling up ski areas all over the West, purchased the Stevens area, and it did not take long for customers to start griping. The current petition decries the abysmally inadequate parking that too often forces skiers to turn around and go home, and the endless chairlift lines caused by Vail’s decision to keep 60% of the terrain closed this season. The petition says Vail has oversold season passes and is failing to honor the promises made in the marketing of those passes.

Vail blames these difficulties on avalanche control concerns and a shortage of workers. The petitioners respond by pointing out that other local ski area operators, from Crystal, White Pass and Mission Ridge to Snoqualmie, Alpental and Mount Baker, are generally not experiencing the same problems. Vail, they say, is piling up profits by selling more passes than they can accommodate while not offering fair wages that would attract enough employees.

Will Vail find a way to address this blizzard of complaints? Or is it just too cozy inside those corporate offices in Colorado for them to care?

OPINION: LAUREN BOEBERT IS WHAT GEORGE W. BUSH CALLED THE ‘WORST OF HUMANKIND’ ~ The Washington Post

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Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in July. (Andrew Harnik/AP) 
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By Dana Milbank Columnist|

I’m old enough to remember when Republican leaders still had souls.

Twenty years ago, I was on the White House beat for The Post when President George W. Bush, six days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, set aside his war planning efforts long enough to visit the mosque at the Islamic Center of Washington to admonish Americans not to take out their anger on innocent Muslims. I went to the mosque, on Massachusetts Avenue overlooking Rock Creek Park, and reported on the presidential visit:Opinions to start the day, in your inbox. Sign up.“The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam,” said the president, escorted by Islamic clerics into the ornate mosque full of Turkish tile, Persian rugs and Egyptian paintings. “Islam is peace.”Quoting from the Koran’s prohibitions against evil, Bush said women who cover their heads should not fear leaving their homes. “That’s not the America I know,” he said. “That should not and that will not stand in America.”

Some conservatives objected at the time to Bush’s pro-Islam appeals, and pointed out, correctly, that he gained nothing politically from this message. But he gained much morally.

Contrast that with Republican officials’ latest actions over the holiday weekend, while the rest of the country paused to express gratitude for our many blessings. Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, a QAnon-admiring Republican, referred to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who is Muslim, as part of a “Jihad Squad” and told an audience a false story of a worried Capitol Police officer chasing down Omar. Boebert claimed she said: “Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. We should be fine.”

Boebert at first apologized “to anyone in the Muslim community I offended” with her Muslims-are-terrorists message. Nominal House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) issued a statement that avoided criticism of Boebert’s words. And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), whose support McCarthy needs to remain GOP leader, criticized Boebert — for apologizing. “Never apologize to Islamic terrorist sympathizers,” she wrote, repeating the “Jihad Squad” phrase.

After rejecting Omar’s request for a public apology on Monday, Boebert released a video expanding the original slander. “I will continue to fearlessly put America first, never sympathizing with terrorists,” Boebert said. “Unfortunately, Ilhan can’t say the same thing.”

House Democrats are going through the now-routine deliberations about whether to censure Boebert, or remove her from committees. Why bother? It would give Boebert the martyrdom she desires, just as previous punishments did for Greene (who posted a threatening image of her holding an assault riflenext to Omar and other Democrats) and Rep. Paul Gosar (the Arizona Republican who posted an anime video of him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York).

Rather, Democrats ought to call the bluff of those Republicans who insist they be given the chance to police their own ranks. That’s the excuse Tom Cole (Okla.), ranking Republican on the Rules Committee, used when he opposed punishing Gosar. “The majority can and should leave the matter up to Leader McCarthy and the Republican Conference,” he said when letting Gosar off the hook. He similarly excused Greene, who before entering Congress also embraced antisemitic comments and a remark about assassinating House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Will Cole speak out against the latest bigoted, violent fantasy from a colleague? Or wait a few days for it to be eclipsed by the next outrage?

There have always been clowns like Greene, Gosar and Boebert. Over the past two decades, the Rev. Jerry Falwell referred to the prophet Mohammed as a “terrorist,” the Rev. Franklin Graham called Islam “evil,” Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson likened Muslims to Hitler, and conservative activist Paul Weyrich condemned Bush’s “constant promotion of Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance” because “it is neither.”

But Bush overruled the haters. Repeatedly during the months after the 9/11 attacks, he appealed to Americans:

“Muslim members of our armed forces and of my administration are serving their fellow Americans with distinction.”

“Millions of our fellow citizens are Muslim. We respect the faith. We honor its traditions. Our enemy does not.”

“This great nation of many religions understands our war is not against Islam. … Our war is a war against evil.”

“The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself.”

There’s plenty to fault in the Bush presidency and its wars, but his defense of Muslim Americans was the essence of moral leadership. “Those who feel like they can intimidate our fellow citizens to take out their anger,” he said at the Washington mosque that day in 2001, “represent the worst of humankind, and they should be ashamed of that kind of behavior.” America “is a great country,” he said, “because we share the same values of respect and dignity and human worth.”

Twenty years later, Boebert, Gosar, Greene and too many of their colleagues have abandoned those shared values. And Republican leaders, divesting themselves of shame, now tolerate the worst of humankind.

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Boebert Reaches Out to Omar After Incendiary Video, Escalating a Feud ~ NYT

Representative Lauren Boebert made an overture to Representative Ilhan Omar after suggesting that the Muslim lawmaker was a terrorism threat. The call did not go well.

Representative Lauren Boebert, Republican of Colorado, has proclaimed herself a victim of a hypersensitive political culture.
Representative Lauren Boebert, Republican of Colorado, has proclaimed herself a victim of a hypersensitive political culture.Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

By Jonathan Weisman

Nov. 29, 2021

WASHINGTON — Some gulfs are too wide to bridge, but it appeared at first as if Representative Lauren Boebert, the far-right Republican from Colorado, was trying to do so on Monday when she reached out to Representative Ilhan Omar, the progressive Democrat from Minnesota.

Ms. Boebert, a freshman who has built her brief political career on incendiary comments and right-wing provocations, angered Democrats over the Thanksgiving break when a video surfaced of her suggesting that Ms. Omar, a Muslim who wears a hijab, could be a suicide bomber, and bragging to constituents about confronting Ms. Omar on an elevator with an Islamophobic epithet.

On Monday, Ms. Boebert reached out to Ms. Omar, ostensibly to apologize. It did not go well.

Ms. Omar has said the elevator incident never happened, but the two lawmakers’ accounts of Monday’s phone call do not differ much, down to Ms. Omar abruptly hanging up on Ms. Boebert. Both came away doubly aggrieved — Ms. Omar calling the apology woefully inadequate and Ms. Boebert proclaiming herself a victim of a hypersensitive political culture.

“Instead of apologizing for her Islamophobic comments and fabricated lies, Representative Boebert refused to publicly acknowledge her hurtful and dangerous comments,” Ms. Omar said in a statement after the brief call. “She instead doubled down on her rhetoric, and I decided to end the unproductive call.”

Specifically, Ms. Boebert called to tell her adversary that she was a “strong Christian woman” and had erred when she attacked Ms. Omar on her Muslim faith instead of on the issues that divide them, said Ben Stout, Ms. Boebert’s press secretary. She said she should not have recounted to supporters how she brushed aside a Capitol Police officer’s apparent worry about her sharing an elevator with Ms. Omar after noticing that the Democratic congresswoman was not wearing a backpack, nor should she have called her a member of the “jihad squad.”

Ms. Omar then demanded a public apology, so, Ms. Boebert said in a video on Instagram, “I told Ilhan Omar that she should make a public apology to the American people for her anti-American, antisemitic, anti-police rhetoric. She continued to press, and I continued to press back.”

The two women have their fans and detractors, but they could not be more different. Ms. Omar, a Somali refugee and a leader of the House Progressive Caucus, represents a diverse and liberal district that includes most of Minneapolis and its near-in suburbs. Ms. Boebert, the owner of Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colo., which she reopened during the pandemic against state orders and where servers are encouraged to carry guns, unseated a five-term Republican in 2020 by running far to his right in a largely rural mountain district.Sign Up for On Politics  A guide to the political news cycle, cutting through the spin and delivering clarity from the chaos. Get it sent to your inbox.

Ms. Omar has had her run-ins with Jewish members of Congress, including Democrats, who saw her criticism of Israel as swerving into antisemitic tropes. Many Democrats have distanced themselves from the “defund the police” movement that Ms. Omar has embraced.

But Democrats are not about to allow Ms. Boebert to lecture them on probity, not after she embraced the lie that the 2020 election was rigged and tweeted information about Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s whereabouts during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Her vow to bring guns onto the House floor prompted Democratic leaders to install metal detectors at the entrances — a constant reminder of the ill will that separates the parties.

The entire House Democratic leadership released a joint statement on Friday calling out Ms. Boebert’s “racism” and the Republican leadership’s “repeated failure to condemn inflammatory and bigoted rhetoric from members of their conference.”

“Congresswoman Boebert’s repeated, ongoing and targeted Islamophobic comments and actions against another member of Congress, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, are both deeply offensive and concerning,” Democratic leaders wrote.

But after censuring Representative Paul Gosar, Republican of Arizona, and stripping him of his committee assignments for posting a doctored video depicting him slashing the neck of a Democratic House member, and kicking Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, off her committees for social media posts calling for violence against Democrats, House leaders were not rushing to punish Ms. Boebert.

And Ms. Boebert, sensing political opportunity, was not about to back down.

“Rejecting an apology and hanging up on someone is cancel culture 101 and a pillar of the Democrat Party,” she said in her video statement.

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“I think whenever, even in our own caucus, our own members, if they go the wrong direction, I mean, it has to be called out. It has to be dealt with, particularly whenever it is breaching the civility, whenever it is crossing the line in terms of violence or increasing the divide in our country,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

And Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), one of the two Republicans who voted to rebuke Gosar this month, tweeted that Boebert is “TRASH.”

“An artist is anyone who is ahead of his time and behind on the rent” ~ Kinky Friedman

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“I want to see a Jew in the White House” an interview.
Kinky Friedman & The Texas Jewboys. “They Aint Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore”.Richard Samet “Kinky” Friedman (born November 1, 1944 is an American Texas Country singer, songwriter, novelist, humorist, politician and former columnist for Texas Monthly who styles himself in the mold of popular American satirists Will Rogers and Mark Twain.He was one of two independent candidates in the 2006 election for the office of Governor of Texas. Receiving 12.6% of the vote, Friedman placed fourth in the six-person race.One of his most famous numbers is “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore,” a song in which Kinky verbally and physically beats up a drunken white racist who berates blacks, Jews, Greeks, and Sigma Nus in a bar..

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Think Kink

By Ben Greenman

The New Yorker

Illustration by DANIEL HERTZBERG
Illustration by DANIEL HERTZBERG

It’s a good time to be Kinky. Prodigious at chess as a child in the fifties, persistently irreverent as a country artist in the seventies, an author of a series of popular detective novels beginning in the eighties, a gubernatorial candidate in Texas in 2006, Kinky Friedman (born Richard, but Kinky for a half century) is still making the most of his unerring satirical eye, disregard for political correctness, and dedication to his craft(s). A play based on Friedman’s life recently opened in Houston—it was created by the writer-director responsible for “Always . . . Patsy Cline”—and Willie Nelson will release a tribute album of Kinky covers later this year. On May 9th, Friedman will appear at Highline Ballroom for the Springtime for Kinky tour, which celebrates both his writing and his music; he’ll sign recent books and play classic songs of high quality and poor taste like “Sold American,” “The Ballad of Charles Whitman,” “They Ain’t Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore,” and, if the stars are aligned, “Ol’ Ben Lucas,” a heartwarming ode to rhinotillexomania. ♦

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Lone Star

Kinky Friedman on the campaign trail.

By Dan Halpern

THE NEW YORKER

Here are a few lessons from modern American music. First, he not busy being born is busy dying. Second, you can’t hang a man for killing a woman who is trying to steal your horse. And, third, you come to see what you want to see; you come to see, but you never come to know.

These are good lessons. Bob Dylan provided the first, Willie Nelson the second. The third belongs to Kinky Friedman, who, in the nineteen-seventies, travelled around the country with his country-and-Western band—Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys—annoying audiences with a series of goading, satirical songs with titles like “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore” and “Asshole from El Paso.” In the eighties, after the band broke up, Kinky reinvented himself as a mystery novelist. In the past twenty years, he has written seventeen mysteries starring a detective named Kinky Friedman—a Jewish cowboy from Texas who has quit a singing career for a life of sleuthing and one-liners in New York City. Today, Dylan and Nelson, whose onstage thrones in the great concert hall of musical divinity were installed decades ago, seem to intend to ride their tour buses forever. Kinky, who never learned to sit still much, has grown tired of his second career—this year, at the age of sixty, he announced that his most recent mystery will be his last—and has sought out a third. He intends to be the governor of Texas.

At nine o’clock on a bright May morning, near the start of his first real campaign swing, the candidate was sitting in the shabby ground-floor restaurant of the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Houston, wondering what to have for breakfast. “The decisions that kill me are the little ones,” Kinky told me later. “Wardrobe kills me. I have two outfits. I have my Waylon Jennings vest, which is this booger here that Waylon gave me, and I have my preaching coat, and every morning it takes me half the goddam day to figure which one I’m going to wear.” On this occasion, he had gone with the vest—the preaching coat is usually reserved for more formal occasions—a slightly weather-beaten black leather number, worn over a black shirt and jeans, topped off with his customary black Stetson and the first of eight or ten cigars (Montecristo No. 2s) that he smokes each day. “The Governor has decided on pancakes!” he barked, finally. “Jewford, are there pancakes at this buffet? Do you see any kind of pancakes anywhere?”

“Pancakes for the Governor! The Governor will have pancakes!” Little Jewford shouted, and promptly did nothing about it. Little Jewford—who was born Jeff Shelby—was one of the original Jewboys, a conservatory-trained pianist who played keyboards, accordion, clavieta, toy trumpet, and kazoo. In this new road show he acts as Kinky’s driver, all-around bodyman, and voice of reason—or, often, a sort of profound unreason. They have known each other for almost fifty years, since they were children, and they play off each other in a continuous Marx Brothers-style high vaudeville—Kinky does Groucho, Jewford does both Chico and Harpo. Kinky, who has never been married, often introduces Jewford to crowds as “very possibly the next First Lady of the state of Texas”; when asked about it, Jewford tends to shrug and say things like “I need a gig.”

Kinky went off to look for breakfast in another part of the restaurant. Much as he has a set of different voices—a soft, ruminative tone for conversation, a booming, exaggeratedly countrified delivery when he’s playing the role of bullhorn preacher—Kinky has a few different walks. Now he put on the full cowboy strut, shoulders back and hands at hips: the cowboy hunting breakfast. He soon found the buffet and pancakes, but no syrup. “The Governor needs syrup!” Kinky said. “Is there any syrup for the Governor?”

Eventually, a waiter turned up with the syrup. He couldn’t stop grinning, and he insisted on addressing Kinky deferentially as Governor, which made the candidate a little nervous. He liked making the joke himself, but the waiter really seemed to mean it. Kinky’s problem, he has said, is that he considers himself a serious soul who has never been taken seriously. But you might say that his problem is more that he’s always taken seriously for the wrong things, at the wrong times. He’s taken literally when he sings an entirely silly anti-women’s-liberation song that’s meant as satire (“Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed”); he’s not taken seriously when he sings a sober, elegiac country song about the Holocaust (“Ride ‘Em Jewboy”). At breakfast, he was just having fun with the idea of being governor-self-mockery as self-importance-and the waiter took it straight; later that day, he would be annoyed by reporters who insinuated that he was just faking a campaign for the hell of it. But in the restaurant he relaxed after a moment and smiled at the waiter, shook his hand, thanked him for the syrup, and told him he was a good Texan. Then he started in on the pancakes, pronouncing, “The Governor is happy.” After another bite, he added, “Well, maybe happy is going a little far. But the Governor has syrup. So that’s something.”

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GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY ~ NYT

Nov. 24, 2021

Credit…Nicole Craine for The New York Times
Charles M. Blow

By Charles M. Blow

Opinion Columnist

All three defendants in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery were found guilty of murder.

Arbery was jogging through a South Georgia neighborhood. The men formed a posse that became what has been described as a “lynch mob.” They stalked Arbery, hunted him down, insisted on detaining him, and then one of the men — Travis McMichael — blasted him three times with a shotgun.

It was caught on video, ironically by one of the men now convicted of the murder.

The guilty verdicts landed oddly for me. This was the right decision, the way it should have gone. There was an impulse to celebrate the victory, but it felt a bit like celebrating a mother caring for her children or respecting a spouse.

If you are humane, this is what you do, not because there is a need for fanfare, but because it is the right and honorable way to behave.

But that’s just it: Our justice system is so racially biased, so often allowing vigilantes and police officers to kill Black people with impunity, that simply having the system not perform in that way becomes extraordinary.

I want to applaud possibility.

I want to clap and shout and dance because I need to be assured that while the racism that ails America may be chronic and metastatic, it needn’t be unfailing and terminal.

I, like many Black people and many people of all races and ethnicities who value justice and equity, needed to be reminded that the lives of Black people are valued in this country — at least on occasion.

We have seen so many cases in which those lives appeared not to matter. Trayvon. Tamir. Eric. Breonna. There are so many names over so many years. The drumbeat of injustice is unrelenting. At a certain point, against your own best efforts, your senses begin to grow numb. The spirit and the mind and the body move to protect themselves from the trauma.

You become conditioned to Black pain. You adjust to its ubiquity.

That is not to say that each case doesn’t destroy a little piece of you, that you don’t grieve each loss and protest each injustice, but rather that psychic survival becomes an act of self-regulation.

And in that vein, the verdicts in this case are a welcome respite.

That doesn’t mean that this case wasn’t without its own issues of inequality and elusive justice.

The police initially did not charge the men and they remained free men for more than two months until the video was made public. The former prosecutor in the case has been indicted on charges that she sought to shield the men from prosecution.

And when the jury was chosen, it was composed of 11 white people and only one person of color.

But in the end, justice still prevailed. The system that has given so many killers of Black men a pass said that in this case, you can’t hunt and corner a man like an animal and take his life.

Of course none of this will change the fact that Arbery was murdered. Nothing can bring him back. Nothing can ease the ache in his mother’s heart. But at least the pain was not compounded the way it was in other cases.

I dare not say that this one case teaches us much about the American justice system. I dare not say that it demonstrates a trend or a shift. There is simply too much evidence to the contrary.

I will only say that a shooting star that streaks across the night sky, that disrupts the darkness, is worthy of being noticed and appreciated. It doesn’t alter the night. It doesn’t convert it into day. It comes without warning, a phenomenon onto itself, not a herald for others to follow.

That is how I will view the verdict in this case: I will simply appreciate it.

I will pray that it provides hope for the scores of other families out there suffering as Arbery’s family is, that it is possible that justice will also be achieved in their cases, that at least for a precious few families, the system works in their favor.

Ahmaud Arbery was a person, a man, a human being with a future and a family. With the blasts of a shotgun, his murderers destroyed all that. They stole from him. They stole from the people who loved him. They stole from the world.

Wednesday’s verdict goes a bit of the way in setting that right.