Discussion thread

June 25, 2021 • 10:00 am

I’m back from downtown! As a senior, I got to go to the head of the line, which stretched two blocks, and I was in and out in 15 minutes. (A friend of mine, not a senior, waited four hours in line the other day). Illinois has rigorous requirements to get a “Real ID” driver’s license, including presenting a passport or similar government ID, a driver’s license, utility bills, bank statements (to show your mailing address), a social security card, and a mortgage or rental agreement. But I had ’em all.

Nevertheless, let’s go ahead with this discussion:

The news is a bit thin today, though the collapse of the Florida high-rise condo dominates it.  But there’s not much to discuss about that tragedy; 99 people are still missing as of this morning.  I’ll leave this thread open and see of readers can forge some kind of coherent discussion.

You needn’t discuss only one topic, but some comments should refer to others.  Lots of stuff to talk about: How is Biden doing? Are you happy with his immigration policy? Will the filibuster eventually disappear? Do you think the Supreme Court has been ruling more favorably for liberals than you expected? Will Trump make a comeback? Why is there still no First Cat? Did Biden really achieve bipartisanship with his new infrastructure deal?

But you can ignore those suggestions. Let’s see what’s on readers’ minds. You can also beef about stuff if you wish.

180 thoughts on “Discussion thread

    1. It’s not bias. Mitch McConnell famously said:

      “The era of bipartisanship is over”

      “One-hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration.”

      1. Except it’s not true. Take the for-profit medical system, the for-profit prisons and the world’s highest incarceration rates and above all, the eternal warfare and “regime change” projects in countries most Americans can’t name. These are broad, robust, consistent and bipartisan — and you are not supposed to talk about it. The attention is supposed to go towards (artificially) divisive topics, precisely so that politicians can get the bipartisan things done. As the USA is allegedly a democracy, we must assume Americans broadly agree with such politics (though research, and polls suggest otherwise).

          1. They are current, and ongoing. For instance,

            “President Trump’s Pentagon budget was already outrageous. President Biden just outdid it,” Win Without War advocacy director Erica Fein said in a statement Thursday night. “Following a year of deadly proof that throwing money at the Pentagon does not keep us safe from modern day threats, it is unconscionable to not only extend Trump’s spending spree, but to add to it.”


    2. I agree with Paul, I don’t think your view is biased. On more than one occasion, Republicans in Oregon have stymied state gun control measures by leaving the state so that meetings are inquorate – the Dems have a supermajority, but apparently any means for the GOP to thwart democracy will do.

  1. I had a similar experience getting my Real ID here in California. It’s shown on my driver’s license as a golden silhouette of the bear from the CA flag with a white star inside.

    1. I got mine last summer in WA – and had to do a few things first. I didn’t have a copy of my birth certificate – so I had to get ahold of Louisiana. The process for ordering a new one was pleasantly slick. It arrived by air two days later (after answering some tricky personal questions – who actually remembers all the street names they have lived on??). I have an expired passport, so I brought that too. The first appointment I forgot to bring a utility bill, so I was sent away. This was in the height of lockdown so I couldn’t just come back, I had to schedule out another appointment. I went ahead and just had them renew my regular DL since I was there. It never arrived in the mail. The next time, they also wanted my W2. I was able to email it to the very helpful DMV employee who was able to print it. Finally, the new, enhanced ID arrived! I don’t have a copy of my SS card either, and I need to get that sorted so that I can get a new passport.

      1. I did get a replacement birth certificate a few years ago, for retirement investments use. And I have a regular low-security DL. But apart from those, I would be pretty lacking for documents. I have never had a passport — what else counts as government ID? And my utility bills, like almost all bills, are handled paperlessly by now.

    2. I had to prove I was still me to New Zealand, remotely, from Canada but they have a web site set up that allowed me to take a video of me making various head movements so the government could compare it with my exiting documents and make sure it is still me. Of course, I had deleted access to the site from my google authenticator for some reason and text wouldn’t work into North America, so I ended up phoning them twice to get it all straightened out but I use this to renew my NZ passport quite successfully. Beats having to travel to NZ. I don’t think they do these services at the High Commission in Ottawa anymore.

      1. Glad you were able to navigate the process. The “head movements” part is interesting. I’m not looking forward to the hassle of international travel. Hopefully, it will get easier.

  2. I recently saw an item which said some spiders can and do kill snakes. I wonder if one of the arachnophil or herpatologists can give some information on this. Please make the info relatively simple.

    1. I’m guessing the snakes must be pretty small. In our area we have tiny Ring-necked snakes small enough that it seems plausible a large spider could kill them. At a glance the smaller ones could be mistaken for an earthworm.

      Huh, looks like I was wrong. This article, These spiders take down snakes hundreds of times their size, says spiders preying on snakes is a fairly common thing on all continents except Antarctica.

      And the part I’m dead wrong about, the most common culprit in the wild are spiders in the widow family, like the black widow, comprising about half of reported snake kills. Tiny spiders. And their average snake kill is 30 times their own weight, but kills up to 355 times the spider’s weight have been recorded!

      1. In hindsight I’m not surprised about the widows. An extraordinarily powerful venom or sting is an adaptation to prevent counter-attack or escape, so it makes sense that you’d find it in carnivores that attack much bigger or more robust prey than themselves. Jellyfish is another example that springs to mind.

      2. Widows have an interesting kind of web, which uses a series of ‘drop lines’ of exceptionally strong web that reach the ground. So a ground critter will bump into the drop lines, and the widows comes down from above. The strength of their web means they can impede the escape of prey many times their size.

          1. Indeed. Although as an arachnophobe who also has no love of snakes, I’m not sure which outcome I was rooting for. (On a rational level, I know that they provide vital ecosystems services – on a personal level, I can’t help thinking, “Couldn’t the last snake die after being poisoned as a result of consuming the last spider?” Or vice versa – I’m not picky!)

            For related reasons, I won’t be visiting Australia any time soon – although I’ll be putting it down to minimised my carbon footprint…!

  3. “How is Biden doing?”

    Well, he still doesn’t have a cat, and yesterday he used the word “Latinx” seriously (also, I notice that Firefox’s spellcheck considers “Latinx” a word). So…F- from me. Mostly because of the cat, or rather lack of one.

    1. Orwell would have had something to say about the word “Latinx”. As I understand it, the sudden need to replace “Latino” with another word did not come from the Hispanic community at large. Rather, it was the pet project of a few, mainly white, “elites” to fix a complete non-problem.

      Therefore, the term “Latinx” embodies everything I hate about the Elect (to use John McWhorter’s term for these rather useless people).

      1. I’ve always wondered, though not enough to research it apparently, what is so bad about the word Latino that it needed to be replaced with Latinx? I get womxn, it gets rid of the odious “man,” but I don’t get Latinx. Is “o” a masculine suffix?

          1. Yup. In Spanish, a group of 99 women and a single man would be described using the masculine form of nouns and adjectives. I’ve no idea if Spanish-speaking women view that as “problematic” though.

          2. So then, “o” is masculine and “a” is feminine, thanks. So just like with “womxn” it’s about getting rid of the masculine reference.

            1. Yes the masculine and feminine ending….they just need some sort of neuter plural. The X seems annoying. I’m glad that we say “they” now a lot in English to be gender non specific. Yeah yeah it’s the plural usually but other languages have adapted and reused words like German “sie” and Sie.

              1. McWhorter’s podcast, Lexicon Valley, has discusses this whole gender thing a few times. Old English used to have three genders, if I remember correctly, but according to him, because adults (Viking invaders) are bad at learning languages, things get simplified (like my claims here, I’m probably screwing it up) and they eventuality them, but yea, we had a neuter form at one time. His “happy valley” is really worth listening to, even if you’re not a budding linguist, but you better like show tunes and corny old songs!

        1. Yes. Words referring to women end in an a. So Latina. That’s why I refuse to use the word Latino to include women as well as men.

      2. You are correct! In fact, 99% of Latinos find the word ridiculous (if they’ve even been exposed to it at all), as the letter X makes the sound of an H in Spanish. It’s literally impossible for it to be a word in Spanish. Or really in English, for that matter, though at least in English it’s obvious how it’s to be pronounced.

        Obviously, some eager young Woke person on Biden’s team told him that this is the way good progressives are supposed to refer to Latino people now, and Biden just went along with it. I’m sure he had little to no idea what the hell it even means or is supposed to represent. On the other hand, a big part of a President’s responsibility is to surround him/herself with good advisors, so…

        1. I’ve also seen the written form “Latin@”, which more accurately incorporates an “o” and “a” symbol, but is equally impossible to pronounce in spoken language.

          1. Well, that’s perfect. In Pittsburghese, sentences with a collection of objects frequently end in “and that” in lieu of “and so forth”, which comes out as “an’ ‘at”, now usually written n@ or N @. Latin@ becomes Latin’at, which could be seen as equivalent to Latinish – an umbrella term for anyone in that direction,

        2. I wonder if the woke realize that there a many languages with “gendered” words, beyond the Romance languages, or if they realize that you’d have to change damn near every word to neuter a language that does use “gender”. Or do they realize that there are languages that have a totally different language for women and a another for men, or that it’s not their damn language so it’s not their damn business! I doubt they put much (any) thought into it. Why think when you can just react and feel righteous about your opinion? What I find truly interesting is that at work we had a three-hour you are all racist training by a black woman and a gay woman who both used latinx, yet I have not heard even one of our Spanish speaking coworkers use it.
          How long before my bosses demand we start cleansing English of its gender words like dxe a deer a femxle deer? It all sounds like bxllshit to me…

        3. Which is actually pretty funny because the English speakers are the ones telling the Spanish speakers how they are going to alter their language to accommodate something the Spanish speakers don’t even care about and they do so in a way that only makes sense to English speakers. So it’s kind of perpetuating bias that they are trying to prevent (though a different one). I find a lot of this woke stuff incredibly ethnocentric and apparently the very serious woke are too serious to recognize irony.

          1. Theyre even perpetuating the old chestnut of the white saviors coming to the rescue of the unenlightened “others.”

          2. As much as the woke people seem to hate concepts like the “White man’s burden” and the legacies of places like the colonial schools in Canada and elsewhere, they do seem awfully preoccupied with fixing everyone.
            The Latin thing is particularly absurd to me, because the majority of them consider themselves to be White. Spanish people, like Italians and Greeks, may tend to have somewhat darker features than Northern Europeans, but they are White folks.
            Sure, there are a lot of Spanish-speaking people in places like Honduras who have primarily indigenous heritage. However, it seems like the woke folks want to stick a label on them, and use the same one the use for Desi Arnaz and Guillermo del Toro.

            In fact, it seems like they want to put a label on everyone, whether they want one or not. I think we could resurrect Julius Streicher, and even he would find their obsession with race a little ridiculous.

            1. On this we agree. They think they are giving respect to these groups by insisting that the rest of us follow their silly rules but they aren’t really. Why should a latino/latina feel respect when referred to by a name they never use and foisted on them by people largely outside their group? If gender equity causes their language to change, let it happen naturally. In general, reality drives language, not the other way around.

              1. We have some neighbors, who are the family my ancestors bought our ranch from. They had incredibly vast holdings, and still have a big place.
                Anyway, the patriarch of that family has expressed pretty strong opinions about being classified this way. They are Spanish, and were granted the land when it was Spain. They are a European family, continue to hold strong ties and family there, and travel there regularly. They have retained their European/Spanish identity for centuries, to an extent that the majority of White woke scolds could not even comprehend.
                Are they Hispanic? Sure. In a literal sense, they were subjects of the Roman province of Hispania Tarraconensis, which also makes them Latin. But they have much less in common with a family of peasants from Central America than they do with the House of Bourbon.

                Lots of languages have gender rules that do not always make sense, even to native speakers. Sometimes those rules are a pain to learn or remember, but who would have imagined that a class of people would emerge who not only take all those language rules personally, but claim to be terribly offended by them, on behalf of designated groups?

                My personal observation is that the Hispanic and Native American members of my family are by far the most conservative, with the possible exception of my wife’s Dad, who survived years in a Chinese prison camp.
                I predict that rising numbers of Hispanic Americans will lead to new political parties that serve their various interests, rather than massive migration to the democrats, or the republicans for that matter.

      3. As I understand it, the sudden need to replace “Latino” with another word did not come from the Hispanic community at large. Rather, it was the pet project of a few, mainly white, “elites” to fix a complete non-problem.

        I’ve heard otherwise, that it began to be used by Brazilian academics and was picked up from there. I think here in the US some people joined in, and others don’t like it. I’ll do what I do when I’m talking to a indigenous person and just ask them what they prefer.

          1. Good question – not being a Spanish or Portuguese speaker – maybe someone can weigh in – is ‘Latino’ universal across both of those languages?

          1. My chosen personal personal identity is that of Tsar of the Russian Empire, and I thus require that people address me at all times as “Ваше Императорское Величество “. Their failure to do so is clearly a microaggression against the Russianx community, which suffers harm and offense from this invisible implicit bias and systemic Latin alphabetism.

          2. Yeah, I thought everyone knew that “a Brazilian” is what they do at a waxing studio — or, if you’re Dubya, the number that comes after a trillion.

  4. Responses:
    Not bad; no, but I expect more changes; eventually is a long time, but not soon; yes; no; not very relevant; I think so, but wait until the votes happen.

    Just kidding above.

    The missing went up to 159 in Florida then 3 bodies were found. I suspect most bodies will never be recovered from the tons of concrete.

    It is important to determine what caused this catastrophic collapse. Then there must be a determination of what other structures that builder and the subcontractors were involved in 40 years ago and since. The building had just scheduled a repair of it’s structure, so it was known that there were problems.

    1. Of course the first suspicion should be that a sinkhole had developed below the building. This is a familiar problem in Florida, with massive developments on sandy bedding that is infiltrated from below with moving water.

      1. These puzzle me as a geologist who has danced on the top of more than a few sinkholes-in-progress while looking for entrances into cave systems which we know are below. Either the Floridan ones progress immensely more rapidly than in the rest of the world, or someone is less than diligent about doing their ground stability investigations before starting construction.
        There was some airborne footage of the site in the (brief) coverage here, which showed a sector of a circular arc of collapse to the side of the main debris cone. That certainly looks like a sinkhole collapse. We weren’t shown enough of the debris cone to give meaningful estimates of how much has gone down the hole.

        How corrupt is the planning process in Florida? (As corrupt as the world of “The Producers”? , which has just started on the tube here.)

  5. Between the seemingly willfully blind on the Right and the mob of equally illogical extreme Left, I just want to withdraw and coast quietly along until I die.

    1. I get the feeling this is how most people feel. The vast majority of my friends and acquaintances are people who have never voted for anyone but Democrats (including me), and many who would call themselves “progressive” rather than “liberal,” but almost everyone I know is just tired of the BS and the fact that everything must be a political act now and there’s never ever any middle ground on any issue.

      Aside: what do I mean by “everything must be a political act now”? I mean that, according to the Woke, every action you take in a given day must be furthering the causes of anti-racism, anti-this, pro-that, whatever, and according to the Right, everything has to be about “taking back our country” from the evil shadow cabal that’s stolen it. Of course, the former is more prevalent in our day-to-day lives because it’s being peddled by corporations as well. Even Lexus is now running commercials in which they claim that buying one of their luxury sedans is an act of anti-racism. It’s just insanity. Most people, regardless of race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and political affiliation just want to get on with their damn lives and stop hearing about politics and how terrible literally everything is (whether it’s that we’re living in a dictatorship where democracy has been usurped by the evil Democrat Conspiracy (TM) that stole the Presidential election, or we’re living in a racist/sexist/transphobic/white supremacist hellscape) all day, every day.

      1. “Everything must be a political act now.”

        I think it was Catrice Jackson who said “If you don’t have an antiracism plan, then you’re planning to be a racist.”

        Her web site catriceologydotcom is impressive in its awfulness.

        1. There are four ways to support her financially — her Amazon Wish List is for Premier Protein shakes.

      2. You simply must see the new Mastercard “True Name®” transgendered commercial. Virtue signaling for something that isn’t even a problem, as credit card companies don’t care what name you put on a card, and automated card readers don’t care either.

    2. Totally agree with you, Lew. The really sad part for me lately is every time I hear of the death of someone I know my first thought is lucky them.

  6. My guess is that the GOP will find some reason to come out against the infrastructure bill. Short of supporting military efforts against aliens from the 3rd planet out from Rigel, they will resist giving Biden any wins at all. What say the rest of you?

    1. I think they’re too afraid of the electoral consequences of an unnatural disaster like a bridge collapse to deep-six an infrastructure bill completely.

      I think they’re also afraid to let Democrats claim all the credit for the jobs an infrastructure bill would create in their home states.

      1. I hope you’re right though the GOP have lately been touting the benefits of Dem bills back home when, in fact, they voted against them. They are so craven, and their base is so uninformed, that they can have their cake and eat it too.

    2. Rigel isn’t a good place to have your home planet. It has been around for 7-10 million years already, and it’s estimated lifetime is on the low side of 7 million years. We won’t need sunglasses when (not if) it goes off. But for several months nobody will care much about the Moon being full or new.

      There was an interesting paper on Arxiv a couple of days ago which estimated that habitable planet-years around red dwarf stars should out number habitable planet-years around F-G-K dwarves (Sol) about 100 to one. So … why isn’t our star a red dwarf? Damn that anthropic principle!

      1. Red dwarves have a downside. They are more active than our Sun, throwing off chunks at inconvenient times. Some theorists speculate that life may have trouble getting started in such an environment.

        I chose Rigel because it’s a good sci-fi sounding name.

        1. Rigel comes from Arabic ‘rijl’, meaning ‘foot’ or ‘leg’, as it is the left leg of Orion.

        2. Oh, the Arabs produced a lot of the good names.
          As I recall (I only skimmed that paper before deciding it wasn’t worth a detailed read-through) the authors did consider “M-dwarves not being good places to live around” as one of the 5 scenarios which would explain their version of the Fermi Paradox.

  7. How is Biden? Querulous. That’s the impression I get after watching him deal with any question at a press conference that requires him to think on his feet. Those of us with older relatives who are in some state of noticeable mental decline will recognize this. My beloved uncle, who has some form of dementia, can no longer participate in many of the conversations at our family gatherings. He gets so agitated now when anyone contradicts him (even gently), because he no longer has the horse power to joust like he used to. So he lashes out emotionally.

    That’s what I’m seeing in Biden more and more, and I just hope his minders are able to help him muddle through his term in office.

    1. I don’t agree with this assessment. I’m more inclined to think he has more of a “get off my lawn” attitude. I think he’s sick of the bullshit in Washington, the games the GOP now plays and he’s old and doesn’t have the patience for pettiness. He’s deliberate as well, and just doesn’t spout out the first thing that comes into his head like Trump did. But we won’t ever get to see Trump answer tough questions or have to “think on his feet” because he only talks to sycophants.

  8. As we have been invited to beef about stuff…

    You will recall that in April this year the American Humanist Association withdrew their Humanist of the Year Award from Richard Dawkins. The issue was covered on this blog at the time:

    The Godless Spellchecker defends Dawkins against transphobia
    April 21, 2021 etc.

    As a member of the Center For Inquiry where Richard is a board member, I have been trying for some weeks to get the organisation to comment on the AHA’s decision, but they won’t. Apparently staff are not allowed to comment and, thus far, the board will not comment – to me, anyway.

    Does anyone have any thoughts or information on this? Do you think the CFI are running scared of criticism they might receive if they back Dawkins, or are they just being sensible and trying not to ‘fan the flames’?

    1. I think it’s wise to ignore this as an organisation, and not start what would have looked like a secular org vs secular org conflict. Though fanning the flames nowadays is a great social media strategy.

      The AHA has severely damaged its reputation mostly inadvertendly, because it drew attention to the many “humanists of the year” that have become questionable. And they all got to keep their awards! Alice Walker and her glowing admiration of David Icke is but one example. Suddenly, it looked like Dawkins dodged a bullet by being removed from such company.

      I found it comical at a time and think that the American secular “movement” has mostly pissed off its international support. An aspect that appears have gone unnoticed. It’s apparent to me that US crit-race theory inspired humbug alienated English speakers from other countries first.

      1. It’s a fair comment that they wouldn’t wish to be seen getting embroiled in secular org infighting.

        However – as an international supporter of the American secular “movement” – I still find it sad that they can’t stand up for one of their own, and say that they disagree with the AHA’s decision.

    2. Given how eager people are to pile up on a Transgressor and how sensitive their feelings are, the CFI saying and doing nothing to condemn Richard Dawkins might qualify as both ringing support and literal violence.

      1. “Literal violence.”

        Whenever I read phrases like that I now hear them pronounced in my head as “littrally” by the Rob Lowe character on “Parks & Recreation”.

        1. I –littrally– think Rob Lowe was just fantastic on that show! –Litrally– the best. –Litrally– so in love with his handsome eyes and amazing body…

          I mean, um, Rashida Jones.

          Anyway, you have to put the dashes on either side because Lowe delivered it with that pause that made it even better. It made him seem even more excited about the most mundane things.

      1. An interesting idea— if I hide my birth certificate, and declare myself no longer alive, am I exempted from following such silliness?

    1. I am no paleoanthropologist, but I will add my two cents. That headline is certainly exaggerated. Human fossils are rare, so pretty much every new find changes the picture. But I wouldn’t count this as a dramatic shift in understanding. Studies attempting to reconstruct ancient introgression events do report mystery or ghost populations, so it is no surprise that there was more walking about than neanderthals, denisovians and “anatomically modern humans”.

      1. Yes, from what I understand, data from relevant DNA studies shows at least 1 other as of yet unidentified subspecies that has left evidence of interbreeding in our DNA on par with that for Denisovans. And that’s at least several years old.

    2. Yes, saw this on the BBC website as well. Haven’t read the paper yet, which happens to be in a Journal I’ve never heard of (The Innovation), but if the description in the news article is correct, I do think it is a major discovery.

      Quoting from the BBC article:

      Prof Marta Mirazon Lahr, from the University of Cambridge, believes that Dragon Man was, in fact, a Denisovan.

      “The Denisovans are this fascinating mystery population from the past. There is a suggestion (from DNA evidence) that the jawbone found in the Tibetan Plateau might be a Denisovan,” she said. “And now because the jawbone from Tibet and Dragon Man look like each other – now we might actually have the first face of the Denisovan.”

    3. If this discovery works out (and I haven’t read any of the technical work on it), it’ll take the number of known simultaneous human-like species on the planet 200kyr ago from 3 to 4, with a high probability that there are species that we don’t know about.
      Sorry, I forgot a couple. So up from 5 to 7.

  9. You can also beef about stuff if you wish.

    Speaking of beeves, in a roundabout way – I brought home a Big Green Egg yesterday and I’m quite excited. Any fans around here? Tips? Suggestions?

      1. According to its wiki (and I absolutely love that it has a wiki):

        The shape of the Big Green Egg is designed to contain the heat by using two draft doors, one at the bottom and another at the top. The bottom draft door slides horizontally creating more or less air flow. This works in conjunction with the top draft door, that swivels left and right, creating more or less updraft, and in turn adjusting the temperature used in the cook. The Big Green Egg is manufactured from ceramics designed to reflect heat and this allows temperatures of up to 650 °C (1,200 °F) to be reached

        So- just a fancy charcoal grill. But – I’ve had my current grill for ages and do a fair amount of grilling and figured it was time for an upgrade. The diehards in the Big Green Egg forum sold me. When I was looking at the different sizes in the store I made a joke about how this one was big enough for a ‘large baby’ – the lady did not seem amused.

        1. I can see why the baby joke didn’t go over well. I made a similar joke as a teenager out on one of my first dates. I guess I was nervous and not thinking straight. It didn’t go that well either. 😉

          1. “[N]ot thinking straight” might or might not go down well on a date, depending on the circumstances! (My apologies in advance for lowering the tone of this thread…)

          2. When I make a morbid joke on a date and the other person gets offended, I take it as a sign that we wouldn’t get along very well long term. A lot of my humor in day-to-day life is morbid or intentionally offensive in that sort of Ricky Gervais way (where he’s saying something because the joke is that it’s offensive, not that he actually believes the offensive thing). Also, I love Ricky Gervais. Basically if there was a female version of Ricky Gervais, I would probably marry her if I could. Have a pint, make a joke about babies getting cancer, and shout “cheers!” 🙂

              1. There you go! I think one of the most important elements of a successful relationship is a shared sense of humor.

                (I accidentally typed “sharted sense of humor” at first, which made me giggle just a bit. Wow, what lady wouldn’t want a piece of this brilliance over here?!?)

        2. made a joke about how this one was big enough for a ‘large baby’

          Baby blue whale, baby titanosaur, or just a baby elephant?

    1. I don’t own one, can’t bring myself to spend that much, but a good friend has had the XL size one for about a year now and likes it so much he just bought another. I’ve thoroughly inspected them, helped him cook stuff on his, and I must say they are very impressive. Excellent performance in everything from grilling to smoking. But the price! $1,700 for the XL size.

      Meanwhile, I’ve been doing my smoking for several years now on a cheap cabinet smoker that I picked up at a Black Friday door kicker sale at Home Depot for $99. And it’s done a fine job, considering. But it’s falling apart, you have to tend it darn near constantly and it uses lots of fuel because it’s made of thin sheet metal that doesn’t hold heat at all. Compared to his green egg that will last forever, can maintain temperature when smoking for hours (I’ve witnessed 6-7 hours personally) without having to add fuel or tend it all, and holds heat so well that the amount of fuel it takes to do that is less than a quarter of what I use. This all has to do with good venting design to allow good control of the fire and a body comprised of about a metric ton of ceramic. Not to mention the airtight lid.

      1. I was working with a similar set up as you describe for smoking meats. The metal finally rusted through and that was what precipitated this ‘investment’. When pondering the cost, I was taken back to when I purchased my large Le Creuset braising pan. I think it was just short of $400 back then, and I was substantially poorer, but went ahead and bit the bullet. I’ve never regretted that purchase and use it almost every day, and hope to continue for decades to come. I got the medium BGE (which was a much more affordable $699), which should be plenty for my small family of three.

      2. About 25 years ago, we bought a custom grill/smoker from Pitts and Spitts in Houston for my Dad, who has a brisket obsession.
        It has proven to be absolutely first rate, and the decades of use and sitting outside have not had any noticeable negative effects. It is built like a tank, and largely of heavy stainless steel.
        If anyone is interested, I was taught to use a mixture of mesquite, locust, and white oak.

    2. I have a Large one and I love it. It makes the best carne asada because of the robust charcoal smoke it gives off while slow cooking. I also love slow cooking ribs in it and it makes a damn good beer-can chicken. It does take a while to figure out the best way to maintain a constant temperature for many hours. You have to fiddle with both the vent at the bottom and at the top and the adjustments can be very minor but make a big difference. It also has some “must-have” accessories like the heat deflector for indirect cooking and the “rEGGulator” that is a better venting system for the top of the egg. I also have the ceramic holder for beer-can chicken. I like to reference Steve Raichlen- if you google his name and big green egg, you’ll find a lot of articles/reviews/tips/recipes etc. I’ve learned a lot from him.

      I also have a “Cookshack” smoker which is an electric wood smoker with a digital controller and meat probe. It’s extremely easy to use and very low maintenance compared to smoking in the egg. Two nights ago I smoked some sockeye over alder and it came out perfect. But my go-to outdoor cooking device is still my gas grill/rotisserie. It’s quick, clean and much easier since you don’t have to wait for the charcoal to heat up, or regulate the temperature, plus the flavor is clean when doing mild flavored food like fish/shellfish and veggies. But doing red meat on the egg is superior imo.

  10. Has anyone else been “attending” the Virtual Evolution 2021 Conference this week? Or have you participated in any conferences that went online because of the pandemic? I find online conferences better than nothing, but it’s certainly hard to immerse myself the way I would at an in-person conference.

  11. Hey, I have a question that might be provocative.
    Is democracy really all that it’s cut out to be? Why not favor a benign dictatorship from a ruling class that is beholden to science and humanism?

    1. Because even the most benign dictators die and inevitably get replaced by a less-than-benevolent dictators. They are also relatively easily overthrown as they aren’t supported by democratic processes.

    2. To see the wisdom in this, let’s play a game. You will play the legislature and decide what powers to give to the dictator (or dictatorial class). I will play the executive and decide how the dictator uses them. (Psssst…I really don’t like you and will use them against you.) Then if you want we can switch parts and play again, but that won’t be much of a game because I don’t plan on giving you any dictatorial powers.

      Hopefully this illustrates the problem. Everyone who dabbles with dictatorship either implicitly or explicitly assumes the dictator will agree with their point of view. But in reality, you don’t get to choose that. You only have to look at the last president to see how foolish that assumption is.

      1. Yes and you could run this through a Game Theory simulation and see how long it takes for everything to go to crap.

    3. “Why not favor a benign dictatorship from a ruling class …?”

      AKA Plato’s Republic.

      Wrong then. Wrong now. Wrong forever.

      Homo Sapiens, one at a time as well as every member, must live by thinking. There’s no going back 2.4 million years when all we did was sit in trees and eat twigs, leaves and fruit all day, all by instinct. No. Homo, for better or worse [s/], is a creature of cognitive conceptual consciousness, which must be driven by volition, and guided by reason.

      Any element of coercion on man is murder. So, no rulers. Hands off. Do not attempt to force a mind.

        1. It wasn’t until The Enlightenment and Age of Reason that anyone could grasp the concept of political freedom, individual rights, property rights, and small government to protect the rights of sovereign citizens. AKA: the United States of America

          And it took another 89 years to resolve the contradiction of slavery, and another half century to address women as full citizens.

          But instead of continuing on that purification, people keep giving away freedom in exchange for (imaginary) security of a “ruler” or a “democratic socialist rule of the people.”

          1. What freedoms have people in the US actually given away in exchange for “a ‘democratic socialist rule of the people’”?

            Are you referring to the Social Security Act, Medicare, Medicaid, the 40-hour work week, free public K-12 education, and child-labor laws?

              1. The voting on that bill in the House of Representatives in May of 1938 also bears noting. The Monthly Labor Review reports: “…the House passed the bill by a 314–97 margin, with 256 Democrats, 46 Republicans, and12 independents in favor; 56 Democrats and 41 Republicans opposed.” So, the Republicans were divided over
                a major New Deal measure, with a small majority of them favoring it. The GOP has changed rather markedly since then.

              2. That was back in the days when the GOP still had a moderate wing, and even a liberal wing (particularly among the now-extinct Northeastern Establishment Brahmin class) — and in the pre-Civil Rights Act of 1964 days when the old New-Deal coalition included the conservative, segregationist southern Democrats.

            1. This is the worst thing:
              Private money becomes illegal. FedGov issues fiat money, gold standard destroyed, fiat backed by the promise to tax my grandchildren (even that is now being recognized as insufficient). Add: deliberate inflation, deficit spending, regulation 30-feet thick, direct taxation of income to the point of expropriation. More than anything else, this secured the replacement of the original nation into a social democracy of collectivism. When money is enslaved, all else falls like straw in the wind.

              Social Security? Instead of Americans saving hard money and insuring themselves, we now have legalized involuntary servitude of one generation to another, paid off with air money. This thing, I will admit, is the shrewdest toxic destroyer they came up with … outside of the rape of money in the above paragraph.

              You can throw in the victimizing of the populace under the coercive welfare state, and disastrous ‘education’ that can’t teach children to read or multiply.

              These are not ‘loss of freedom’ issues? Try opting out. It is against the law.

              1. You are scared of way different things than I am. You would prefer that we all give our money to private insurance companies? I prefer our government provide the services and protections that pretty much go along with the definition of the word. I have no idea where you get the idea that private money is going to become illegal. We are a capitalist country born of other capitalist countries. The only ones who suggest we might turn our back on capitalism are those on the Right that like to scare people to achieve their political ends. They do have a long tradition of doing that.

              2. @Ken Kukec

                Just because it sounds paranoid (to a certain cohort) does not mean it is an illusion.

                Have you had any deep conversations with people younger than 30 about enraged (or utterly depressed) about the burden the Keynes Project has gifted them?

    4. I believe that was the position of the neo-reactionary theorist of the so-called “Dark Enlightenment” who wrote under the pen name Mencius Moldbug.” You can find many of his musings collected at his archived bl*g Unqualified Reservations.

      I think he’s fulla shit, but, at least for a while, I used to get a kick of sorts outta reading some of his stuff.

      1. Oh man, I read so much of his stuff because I found it both unbearably smug and unbearably stupid, but also somehow compelling, in part because I know he had(s) many followers and because he did say something smart here and there. If brevity is the soul of wit, he must be the most humorless person on Earth. If humility is part of what makes a great philosopher king, he’d be just the worst ruler. And his speeches would go on for ages. And his laws would make today’s overload of lawyers seem like a shallow pool desperate for tens of thousands more just to interpret his laborious decrees.

        We’d all like to live under a perfect philosopher king or a ruling class of such people. The reason we have democracies is because there is zero chance you’ll ever end up with a long line of great philosopher kings/ruling classes. One could argue that the longest line of good dictators (in the modern sense, not the Roman definition) were the “five good emperors” who ruled during the Pax Romana, and that’s the best we could get out of several thousand years of monarchist/dictatorial/aristocratic/etc. rule across hundreds of different societies. The statistics don’t make the prospects of any system where one or a few people have full control look very appealing. Sometimes it works out, as it has been in Singapore lately, but it always comes to an end, and that end is usually long and ghastly.

        1. Yep, taciturn, he ain’t.

          “Moldbug” has a fairly vivid writing style, but it forfeits its meager charms in rather short order — though the diminishing returns didn’t stop me from plowing through more than I should have, I’ll admit.

  12. Derek Chauvin, murderer of George Floyd, is to be sentenced today. Prosecutors are asking for 30 years, less than the 40 years maximum, but his defense is asking for probation and no jail time at all. Thirty years seems closer to the mark, IMHO.

  13. I would guess the folks down in Florida could use some better building codes but that is just a guess. With republicans in charge it’s not likely. I would recommend all those currently living in high rise condos might want to consider some other living conditions closer to the ground. Just because this is the first does not mean it will be the last.

    Biden is doing okay and it seems that finally the DOJ is getting around to the republican voter mess. I think they had to hire a bunch more attorneys as the workload is huge. Maybe 500 cases in the insurrection alone and now all this voter rights business. So now there will be two big bills to pass with one being with both parties. I think Biden has kind of tricked the republicans but whatever. They need to get the bills passed and get moving.

    1. Maybe we should wait to find out what happened first? Since we are aware that we live on a sand bar, and because we deal with annual hurricanes, we don’t tend to neglect building codes. This is clearly something unusual, and I would expect that there is probably a confluence of causes, which may or may not include human negligence.

      1. I’ve heard the top theory is that it was already known that the ground on which it was built was sinking. I guess they didn’t know what damage it was doing. If I were a resident in any of the similar buildings in that area, I would take a little vacation while they sort it out.

        1. I’ve heard the sub-top hypothesis (which sounds pretty plausible) that the salty water somehow penetrated the concrete, rusting the steel reinforcement of the concrete. The rusting steel would expand and crack the concrete, allowing for even more salty water to come in, extending the process and weakening the structure fatally.

          1. Coming out this morning: an engineer warned (the city?) of problems a couple of years ago, claiming the concrete slab on which it was built wasn’t sloped properly.

      2. We will definitely have to wait and see but I do imagine that stronger building codes will be top of the list. It’s a natural thing to demand in the wake of such a tragedy as people try to lay blame on someone somewhere. I’ve seen the news stating that the building had been sinking, sand and karst sinkholes are common. Quaternary Holocene sediments over Pleistocene Miami Limestone…lots to go wrong especially adding in sea water and hurricanes. There are known hazards but known ways to minimize them, but nothing’s perfect and we humans are always loathe to abandon sites even in the face of clear dangers (building in floodplains, high fire risk areas, below sea level, on top of faults) when it makes sense to just move. And of course I also saw someone has already files a massive lawsuit…

        1. Clearly there’s heaps to be upset about, complain about, even as we crawl out from under the shadow of COVID and the orange one. My mental health is a wreck (though it was already heavily dented) and I know I’m not alone. So, setting the steam pile that is politics and modern life aside…

          What are you doing that makes you happy these days? What brings you joy, even madcap laughs like Major Kong riding the bomb? What gets you out of bed in the morning, other than your bladder?

            1. No dark reading?
              Either in the sense of “Lovecraft was an optimist” (I ordered such a book a couple of days ago), or in the sense of “teach yourself Braille”.

          1. Why, Turdpress, why? Why make my stand-alone comment made at the bottom of the list show up here under my earlier comment and with no edit feature?

            1. What brings me great joy and makes me leap laughing out of bed in the morning?

              I imagine that stronger building codes would be at the top of the list.

          2. What gets you out of bed in the morning, other than your bladder?

            Actually, these days, my bladder frequently gets me up once in the middle of the night, too. So there’s THAT to add to our list of complaints. 🙂

        2. … I do imagine that stronger building codes will be top of the list. It’s a natural thing to demand in the wake of such a tragedy …

          That was certainly the case down here in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew tore up the neighborhoods in south Dade County slapped up under the old, lax building code.

    2. The jurisdiction the collapsed building is in has some of the strictest building codes in the nation, many of which are used as models or by direct reference by jurisdictions and architects around the country. Of course, that wasn’t the case 40 years ago when the building was built.

    1. These problems all stem from SCOTUS’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder. That case was naught but right-wing virtue signaling by Chief Justice Roberts, reaching out to invalidate the preclearance provisions of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — despite that section’s having been recently reenacted with overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress — because he (and four other conservative justices) felt the states that were subject to the preclearance provisions should no longer be burdened with the stigma of their past discrimination.

      No sooner was Roberts’s signature dry on the majority opinion than those very same states began enacting brand-new rounds of voter suppression measures. None of the hundreds of voter-suppression bills now passed or pending in dozens of states would have likely satisfied the Justice Department’s former preclearance standards. Shelby County will go down as one of the worst SCOTUS decisions of its generation, a blight on the Roberts Court’s reputation. I suspect that even John Roberts now realizes this.

      1. Yes, that was a terrible decision. You may be right about Roberts’ virtue signaling though he’s always seemed like a somewhat even-handed justice if but a bit conservative for my tastes. I’ve always imagined that he’s lived a life so cloistered that he really had no idea the extent of racism in this country. We know that many high-ranking whites like to think of it as something from the past, though some may be pretending. Perhaps Roberts would like a do-over but it seems unlikely he’ll get that chance. Looking on the bright side, perhaps we’ll get some federal laws that deal with voting rights. Probably not.

        1. … he [Roberts]’s always seemed like a somewhat even-handed justice if but a bit conservative for my tastes.

          Which is why I’m crediting him with the self-awareness to understand that Shelby County was a horrible decision.

            1. Yes, having three new Trump appointees on the SCOTUS bench, giving conservatives a solid 6-3 majority, makes reversing Shelby County a near impossibility — making it all the more imperative that congress pass new voting-rights legislation, the senate filibuster be damned.

      1. UK figures are only for the adult population. We’ve achieved 60%, but the spread is in younger age groups who aren’t fully vaccinated – and there is no decision yet about offering the vaccine to under-18s.

            1. For clarity, Peter Hitchens is neither late nor lamented – although his views may be lamentable…

          1. Tucker Carlson, (eye-roll) could have guessed.
            Although outside, especially if it is windy, masks are not that important, to equate it with child abuse is beyond ridiculous. Moreover, it is unconscionable and dangerous: it downplays the evils of real child abuse.

    1. I’ll probably butcher the actual definition, but in my state we allow undocumented people to have drivers’ licenses – and so the idea is that with a WA state DL, you shouldn’t be allowed to fly (because you might not be a citizen?). So, we get fancier, harder to get IDs to cross the border to Canada & fly.

    2. Good question. It was an act passed in 2005, to make state driver’s licenses meet certain requirements to be accepted as a federal ID, if I understand the bureaucratese language correctly. I may be wrong but I think it was supposed to be some sort of anti-terrorist thing. Not all states accepted the act, at least initially. I guess I don’t have one, but missouri didn’t fully implement it until 2019 so whatever. I can’t afford to go anywhere anyway.

    1. Apart from Contact & Trace in the UK, although it seems that they don’t do much of either of those two things according to the news. Still, what’s £36 billion nowadays…?

  14. What’s great about Biden from an outsiders perspective is the world doesn’t revolve around his tweets or crazy statements to Fox. There was hardly a day that went by during the Trump years where President Headline wasn’t in the news for saying something outrageous. I don’t have to actively avoid reading news now – I’m back to passively avoiding it.

    1. It’s also an administration I’m not afraid of. I was actually afraid of Trump’s authoritarian regime and all the harm his cronies were causing and/or wanted to cause. That was a stressful 4-years; he and his cult still remain a threat, but at least I can relax for a while.

      1. It’s going to be worse when he’s elected President in 24/25. My neighbor says he won’t be but I think he’s got quite a following.

        1. Still on the cards as far as I can see. Trump 2024, that is.
          A small chance that it won’t be the same candidate as Trump 2020, but I think he’ll go for it again. How else is he going to get his name into the history books as the last elected President of the United States?

        2. I don’t think Trump will win in 2024. He may not even run. He will still want to be the kingmaker. I suspect he realizes its the ideal position for him. Nothing to do but spout lies, pronounce his “truths”, drag those that he perceives as enemies through the mud, and make money off the grift. All of his favorite things without the risk of losing. The GOP will continue their non-constructive, non-platform ways as he showed them how to do. They may very well be able to amp up the hatred of Biden, Dems, and the Left sufficiently to get their candidates installed, especially if they are able to hogtie the Biden admin after the 2022 election.

          1. Trump won’t run, it’s too much work for little reward. (All those pesky roolz you’re expected to follow.) But Donnie J running on the promise that daddy would be in charge of [fill in the blank]? Who knows?

  15. What are readers’ predictions on what will happen to Carl Nassib, now that he’s the first active player in the NFL to come out? I’m happy he did it, but wonder, will he be shunned by other players/coaches? Will he be traded? His coach, Jon Grudin said: “It’s 2021 and he’s a Raider. If he’s happy, I’m happy.” Will Grudin continue to support him? Will he get big endorsements? Will this cause other NFL players who are gay to come out? I thought this was an important story, and historic, but it seemed like just a blip in the media. Maybe that’s a good thing?

    1. The NFL has been supportive, haven’t they? Certainly he’s been supported in the media. I’m not sure about endorsements but it seems likely he’ll be judged on his playing abilities. I don’t see his situation being like Colin Kaepernick’s. Being gay is not really part of the culture wars any more.

      1. Yes, the NFL has been supportive and most of the media, though there were some snarky comments made by some sports writers. There is also a photo of him next to a friend/fan? wearing a Trump t-shirt, so he’s gotten some shit for that, though there is no other indication he’s a Trump supporter. Obviously, his past will now be scrutinized. I don’t think he’ll be treated like Kaepernick either. It seems the new culture war against the LGBTQ community is now targeted at trans people, esp. trans kids.

  16. Why is there still no First Cat?

    There is a First Cat in every household in the world with at least one cat.

  17. It’s ten years since elevatorgate this summer. What has been utterly fascinating to me how “Skeptics” (so-called) cannot get simple facts straight. Whether you read any retelling in magazines from Salon to Buzzfeed, KnowYourMeme, RationalWiki or even Wikipedia — nobody seems to be able to understand the most basic facts.

    I was reminded by this through a clip on Joe Rogan’s, one of the biggest podcasts discussing also Elevatorgate

    How do I know everybody is wrong about it? It’s simple. There is a clear papertrail. Everyone can agree that it was somehow about Dawkins’ “Dear Muslima” comment, and a lift.

    Going backwards from Dear Muslima: it appeared under a blog post by PZ Myers titled “Always Name Names” and it was a response to blogging neighbour ERV. The discussion was about whether it is okay to bring an online feud to an offline conference, i.e. whether it’s okay to name and accuse someone from a stage with a much smaller name. ERV didn’t like it, and PZ Myers of course did.


    That name was Stef McGraw, accused by Watson to parrot misogynistic talk. It was suggested that she, and “members in the audience right now” have something to do with online harassment. Further, Watson alleged that atheist men believe they have a right to sexually assault women. She also mentions “rape victims” being laughed down.

    This happened at a CFI conference in the first third of Watson’s talk. You can see it on YouTube.

    “The Religious Right vs. Every Woman on Earth, CFI Leadership Conference 2011”
    2__ youtube.com/watch?v=aqzE16UsNW4&t=900s

    Watson’s YouTube presence was small and this discussion was an esoteric affair between her and some (female) fans, who at the time responded with videos, using a then-feature of YouTube. They argued about why there are fewer women in atheism/scepticism, and whether this had to do with inappropriate/creepy lift behaviour or even sexual assault in the so-called (US) “movement”. One of those fans was McGraw, who was also involved in “movement atheism”. Because McGraw was a fan, she attended the conference where Watson accused her from the podium.

    Another step back, this discussion started as Watson made a video about her experiences at the Dublin conference in 2011. Someone joined in the lift and asked her over to his room for a coffee, of course, international code to show your etchings, or stamp collection. She was trying to justify her behaviour. The creepy bloke in the lift happened just in time to make her point.

    There was an all-women panel to discuss the question of why there are fewer women in atheism already, but Watson wasn’t scheduled for that panel, even though she created a skeptic blog network for a female audience. Feeling left out, she went off topic on a different panel later to comment on the “women in atheism” panel, whilst sitting next to Dawkins, and also critising an apparent friend of his (Paula Kirby was from the British delegation, too).

    Hence, she retold the lift incident in the video, that happened just that evening, to justify why she went off topic there. This led to the feud with McGraw, then the severe CFI accusations to which bloggers commented, and under which Dawkins then made his comment. After that, Watson called for a boycott of Dawkins on her blog, which again was denied happened by PZ Myers.

    I understand there were confusions because the CFI talk video came online later, so that people, looking to learn what this feud was about came across the first “guys don’t do that” video, and that enabled the proto-woke faction to retcon everything, and why today most sources are wrong.

  18. Briefly it must be said that this is a great day for fairness and a bad day for republicans and there will be many more. Knowledgeable political comment has not. been a strong point for many at this web site but possibly there will soon be some light shed on this matter. The state of Georgia will be soon known as the great voting suppression of the 2020 election. I count maybe seven lawsuits now against this racist state of the south and this includes the DOJ as well. Additionally it looks like the law is about to finally take some action against Tump and company. If anyone was hoping for a Trump comeback I think they better look somewhere else. It is hard for such a person to have a voice without Facebook and Twitter, political or otherwise and even harder to run a campaign from prison which is likely in his future. Being a Trump lawyer is apparently a good way to end your career.

    1. I don’t think Real ID has anything to do with foreign tourists coming to the US, just helping US citizens returning home to get through the gates more quickly at the airport. We’ll see if it helps.

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