Saturday: Hili dialogue

January 14, 2023 • 6:45 am

Good morning on CaturSaturday, January 14, 2023. It’s shabbos for Jewish cats like Hili, and National Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day. Get yours piled high at the famous Harold’s New York Deli in Edison, New Jersey, comme ça:

Look at that puppy!!!! There’s also a bread bar and a pickle bar to properly subdivide that mountain of meat!  If you’re heading north on I-95, stop there.

It’s also Ratification Day (the Treaty of Paris, ending the Revolutionary War, was ratified on this day in 1794), Caesarean Section Day, National Dress Up Your Pet DayFeast of the Ass (from Medieval Christianity and celebrating all the donkey-related tales in the Bible), World Logic Day, and the Sidereal winter solstice, “celebrated in South and Southeast Asian cultures and marking the transition of the Sun to Capricorn, and the first day of the six months Uttarayana period. 

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the January 14 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*What’s going to be the first real legislative fight in Congress? That is, discounting all the upcoming Republican investigations spawned by pure hatred for President Biden. No, not immigration, and not guns. It’s likely to involve the national debt limit.

The Biden administration said Friday it must begin taking “extraordinary measures” next week to prevent the U.S. government from breaching the debt ceiling, setting the stage for an urgent fiscal showdown with congressional Republicans as soon as this summer.

In a letter to lawmakers, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said the administration would act starting on Jan. 19 to reprioritize federal funds, or else the U.S. government would not be able to continue borrowing to pay its existing bills — an event that she said could cause “irreparable harm to the U.S. economy.”

The emergency moves ultimately could give Democrats and Republicans until at least early June to adopt a law that would raise or suspend the country’s borrowing cap beyond its current level of $31.4 trillion. But they also stand to touch off fierce debate on Capitol Hill, where GOP lawmakers — now in control of the House — already have pledged to seize on the critical fiscal deadline to extract spending cuts from the Biden administration

“The American people recognize the danger posed by out-of-control deficit spending and demand Congress do everything in its power to get our fiscal house in order,” said Rep. Jason T. Smith (R-Mo.), the new chairman of the tax-focused House Ways and Means Committee, in a statement.

With the clock ticking, however, the White House on Friday expressed an early yet adamant refusal to haggle with Republicans over what a top official described as a simple task of governance — the ability of the country to fulfill its own financial obligations.

Striking a defiant tone at the White House podium, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stressed to reporters: “We will not be doing any negotiation over the debt ceiling.”

They’d better, because the House controls the financing, and the House is majority Republican. It wouldn’t take many GOP defectors, though, to create a majority with the Democrats. Perhaps the government will again go out of business for a while.

*In his weekly Substack piece, “Why the right is losing the young,” Andrew Sullivan is bothered by the failure of the younger generation to move rightwards as it ages, as other generations have before. Some of it, he says, is due to “woke brainwashing,” but a lot to the failure of the Right to address questions important to young people:

The woke, however misguided, are addressing the inevitable cultural and social challenges of a majority-minority generation; and the socialists have long been addressing the soaring inequality that neoliberalism has created. Meanwhile, the right has too often ducked these substantive issues or rested on cheap culture-war populism as a diversionary response. I don’t believe that the young are inherently as left as they currently are. It’s just that the right hasn’t offered them an appealing enough alternative that is actually relevant to them.

That doesn’t mean cringe pandering. It means smarter policies. Some obvious options: encourage much more house-building with YIMBY-style deregulation; expand access to childcare for young, struggling families; tout entrepreneurial and scientific innovation to tackle climate change; expand maternity and paternity leave; redistribute wealth from the super-rich to working Americans to stabilize society and prevent capitalism from undoing itself; and, above all, celebrate a diverse society — and the unique individuals and interactions that make it so dynamic and life-giving.

Diversity is a fact — which is why white nationalism is both repellent and a dead end. How we adapt to diversity, however, is a choice. In an ever-more complex mix, do we resort to policing language, censoring and canceling, and a new, elaborate regime of active and supposedly benign race and sex discrimination? Or do we unwind the racial and gender obsessions, stop discriminating, encourage live-and-let-live toleration, and allow a free society to sort these things out, without top-down engineering.

Technically, the right supports something like the latter. But the emphasis is always on the negative against the other side, rarely on the positive. And the tone is awful, full of resistance, resentment and fear.

Think of the way Republican leaders greeted the Respect for Marriage Act: a majority of Republicans support it; it’s the law of the land anyway; it’s a way to demonstrate to the next generation that you get them. And yet the GOP, with some important exceptions, couldn’t do it. And if they voted for it, they were defensive, scared of the Christianist right. What a fantastically missed opportunity.

Ditto race and trans issues. You can note that it is absolutely right to keep the appalling moral iniquity of slavery and segregation in the front of our collective consciousness; and it is simply true that African-Americans bear a burden from the past that is unique in its scale and depth. It’s also true that old systems endure in unintended ways that we need to be more aware of. Don’t be lured into minimizing this. It shouldn’t be minimized. But then take the Obama position: look how far we’ve come, and don’t define America by this original sin because it is so much more than that. And then pivot to what can actually be done now: better and more policing; better and affordable childcare; encouraging stable two-parent families.

His solution is for the Right to offer something like this, combined with mockery of wokeness. His offering:

The left wants you to succeed because you’re black or Hispanic or gay or transgender — but that reduces you to a single part of your identity, and does so forever. We want you to succeed as an individual whatever color or creed or sex or gender you are. We want to treasure all Americans — black, brown, white, gay, straight, immigrant, native-born — for the unique individuals they are, the character they show, the hard work they do, and remove any obstacles to their success.

But that won’t appeal to young people steeped in identity politics. It’s a nice try, but Sullivan will be an old man (and I’ll be dead) before wokeness disappears—if it ever does.

*The sensible Tom Nichols at The Atlantic draws a lesson from the Hamline University/Muhammad Drawings fracas: “Academic freedom is not a matter of opinion,” with the subtitle “Students should not decide a college’s curriculum.” He rips apart the self-serving statement of Hamline President Fayneese Miller, which you can find here (scroll down):

Miller then lists the impeccably liberal credentials of Hamline as a school, none of which have anything to do with this case. After all of this throat clearing, she gets to the real questions she thinks should have been raised about academic freedom.

First, does your defense of academic freedom infringe upon the rights of students in violation of the very principles you defend? Second, does the claim that academic freedom is sacrosanct, and owes no debt to the traditions, beliefs, and views of students, comprise a privileged reaction?

This makes no sense. The “rights” of students were not jeopardized, and no curriculum owes a “debt” to any student’s “traditions, beliefs, and views.” (Indeed, if you don’t want your traditions, beliefs, or views challenged, then don’t come to a university, at least not to study anything in the humanities or the social sciences.) Miller’s view, it seems, is that academic freedom really only means as much freedom as your most sensitive students can stand, an irresponsible position that puts the university, the classroom, and the careers of scholars in the hands of students who are inexperienced in the subject matter, new to academic life, and, often, still in the throes of adolescence.

This, as I have written elsewhere, is contrary to the very notion of teaching itself. (It is also not anything close to the bedrock 1940 statement on the matter from the American Association of University Professors.) The goal of the university is to create educated and reasoning adults, not to shelter children against the pain of learning that the world is a complicated place. Classes are not a restaurant meal that must be served to students’ specifications; they are not a stand-up act that must make students laugh but never offend them. Miller is leaving the door open for future curricular challenges.

. . .Noting the school’s traditional Methodist mission that includes doing “all the good you can,” Miller adds, “To do all the good you can means, in part, minimizing harm.” Again, this is risible: The most effective way to avoid harm would be to walk into the classroom and ask the students what they’d like to talk about, let them vote on it, and give a veto to anyone who might be offended by the class’s choice.

Academic freedom is not an open invitation to be a jerk. It is not a license for faculty to harass students or to impose their will on them. But if all it means is that professors keep their jobs only at the sufferance of students, then it means nothing at all.

If anybody deserves firing here, it’s President Miller. What a clueless dork!

*Nelllie Bowles once again has her Friday news summary, this time called “TGIF: Planes, trains, and gastric bypass for kids.” Three items:

→ The GOP keeps trying to abolish the IRS: This is, I guess, going to be a major Republican effort now. House Republicans are voting on a bill to abolish the IRS and eliminate the national personal and corporate income tax. The bill would also abolish the death, gift and payroll taxes. This is happening thanks to the growing power of the right-wing Freedom Caucus.

Nothing will come of the effort. But no one likes the IRS, and I guess it feels good to say I voted to end those jerks, your boat is a deductible business expense in my heart. Like any good American, I would like lower taxes. But I also like roads and running water and our military.

→ George Santos should definitely resign: The Republican congressman from New York who fabricated his entire resume is just . . . not resigning. Sure, he lied about all those properties, his education, family, a 9/11 connection, Jewish heritage, and probably his own name, but his plan seems to be: keep on keeping on. And get in an elevator as quickly as humanly possible.

Some House Republicans are calling for him to resign. But not enough. Weirdly, Santos said he would resign if 142,000 people asked him to. More than 142,000 of you read TGIF every week, so what I’m saying is we could really accomplish something together.

And some citizen science I meant to post about:

→ A random man decoded the earliest human writing: Ben Bacon, a furniture conservator in London, has cracked the meaning behind 20,000-year-old cave drawing symbols. He realized the little dots and lines drawn around animals indicated lunar cycles. The symbols communicated when different animals reproduced. Now he and a group of experts published these findings in Cambridge University Press. He’s called himself “effectively a person off the street.” Congrats to Ben for finding the earliest human writing, and to you for perusing the latest!

*This NYT article supports Coyne’s Fourth Law; to wit: All “wholesome snacks” eventually turn into confections. This holds for flavored waters, which eventually become soda as flavoring and then sweetness sneaks in; and it holds for granola bars, which eventually became coated with chocolate. Now, according to the article “Are Protein Bars Good for You?” (subtitle: “Or are they just glorified candy bars?”), the answer to the first question is “no” and the second question is “yes”. Protein bars are gussied up candy bars with a veneer of health.

Manufacturers of these products would have you believe that they can improve your health and your workout. The website for Clif Bar shows people hurling kettlebells or racing through the rain; Gatorade describes its protein bar as “scientifically designed for athletes.” Others seem to brand themselves under the squishy umbrella of wellness. Their marketing features photos and videos of serene women writing in journals, with tips for preventing burnout on the side.

Despite the advertising, though, nutrition experts say that protein bars aren’t all that healthy.

“You can put ‘keto’ or ‘protein’ on a candy bar and sell it, and people don’t even question it,” said Janet Chrzan, an adjunct assistant professor of nutritional anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.

. . .Protein is likely to fill you up more than simple carbs will, Dr. Rimm said. That may be because protein helps our bodies release hormones that keep hunger at bay.

But many protein bars are also full of sugar. A chocolate chip Clif Bar, for example, contains 16 grams of added sugars, more than what’s in a serving of Thin Mints. A Gatorade protein bar in the flavor chocolate chip contains 28 grams of added sugars, twice the amount in a Dunkin’ Donuts chocolate frosted doughnut with sprinkles.

“By and large, they’re highly processed, high in sugar and salt — kind of a ‘Frankenfood,’” Dr. Cutting-Jones said. Dr. Rimm agreed: Many protein bars are really just “candy bars with a lot more protein,” he said.

That said, they may have their uses, so the article says. They may, for example, provide protein for amino-acid-starved vegans. If you’re not a vegan, don’t eat them unless you’re craving a candy bar.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is being a Jewish cat again, and I can empathize with her anxiety:

Hili: I’m worried.
A: Why?
Hili: There is a reason for it every day.
In Polish:
Hili: Martwię się.
Ja: Czym?
Hili: Codziennie jest jakiś powód.

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

From Jean, a monument in New York’s Central Park to Hans Christian Andersen. WITH DUCK! It honors his story “The Ugly Duckling”, which is really about a baby swan (cygnet):

The sculpture was sponsored by the Danish American Women’s Association and was first unveiled in 1955 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Andersen’s birthday. Both Danish and American schoolchildren helped raise the $75,000 needed to build the piece. To this day it continues to attract children who enjoy sitting in the writer’s lap. In 1973 the bronze cygnet was stolen, later recovered, and secured. Since 1956 the statue has served as a backdrop for children’s reading events, the best known of these storytellers is author Diane Wolkstein, who has spearheaded the summer reading program at the statue since 1966.

From Divy, an energized cat (cartoon by Scott Metzger):

A d*g cartoon from the late Danny Shanahan:

Titania finally cottoned on to the Stanford “the word ‘field’ is racist” story:

Tweeted by Masih, a tweet containing an eight-minute PBS report on Iran’s crackdown on protestors, often executing them after sham trials. But the protestors persist; sadly, their numbers are waning. The report is well worth watching.

From Simon, who calls this “hypothesis testing on the hoof”. I think someone did this experiment in Africa a while ago, and I wrote about it. It’s pretty clear now that not only do stripes deter biting flies, but that was at least one form of selection promoting the evolution of stripes in zebras:

 

From Malcolm, a Ukrainian tank stops for ducks (around 1:25). The Google translation is “the tank goes on business.”

From the Auschwitz memorial, a boy gassed upon arrival. He was eleven.

Tweets from Matthew. The first one is his own, but what is that bee doing?

The fossilized Crawl to Death of a Jurassic crinoid:

Although this looks like one savvy gazelle, one commenter notes that the gazelle might have passed out from having the cheetah’s jaws around its neck, and then recovered and fled. I hope it was okay.

30 thoughts on “Saturday: Hili dialogue

  1. On this day:
    1784 – American Revolutionary War: Ratification Day, United States – Congress ratifies the Treaty of Paris with Great Britain.

    1911 – Roald Amundsen’s South Pole expedition makes landfall on the eastern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf.

    1952 – NBC’s long-running morning news program Today debuts, with host Dave Garroway.

    1967 – Counterculture of the 1960s: The Human Be-In takes place in San Francisco, California’s Golden Gate Park, launching the Summer of Love.

    1973 – Elvis Presley’s concert Aloha from Hawaii is broadcast live via satellite, and sets the record as the most watched broadcast by an individual entertainer in television history.

    Births:
    83 BC – Mark Antony, Roman general and politician (d. 30 BCE).

    1741 – Benedict Arnold, American-British general (d. 1801).

    1875 – Albert Schweitzer, French-German physician and philosopher, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1965).

    1886 – Hugh Lofting, English author and poet, created Doctor Dolittle (d. 1947).

    1926 – Warren Mitchell, English actor and screenwriter (d. 2015). [Best known for playing the character Alf Garnett (the part Archie Bunker in the US was based on).]

    1927 – Zuzana Růžičková, Czech harpsichord player (d. 2017). [The first harpsichordist to record Johann Sebastian Bach’s complete works for keyboard. She survived the Terezin, Auschwitz, and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps and was one of the children looked after by Fredy Hirsch. Růžičková later credited Hirsch with her survival and helped establish a memorial to him.]

    1934 – Richard Briers, English actor (d. 2013).

    1941 – Faye Dunaway, American actress and producer.

    1948 – T Bone Burnett, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer.

    1969 – Dave Grohl, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and drummer.

    Tired and shagged out following a prolonged squawk:
    1874 – Johann Philipp Reis, German physicist and academic, invented the Reis telephone (b. 1834).

    1898 – Lewis Carroll, English novelist, poet, and mathematician (b. 1832).

    1920 – John Francis Dodge, American businessman, co-founded the Dodge Automobile Company (b. 1864).

    1957 – Humphrey Bogart, American actor (b. 1899).

    1977 – Anaïs Nin, French-American essayist and memoirist (b. 1903).

    1978 – Harold Abrahams, English sprinter, lawyer, and journalist (b. 1899).

    2016 – Alan Rickman, English actor (b. 1946).

  2. [ Andrew Sullivan’s clear, precise writing ]

    I think an element missing in this area is that any given person does not have to be friends – as in “besties”, “BFF”s, or other 21st c. terms – with every single person living or dead.

    It is true that our social mission should be to find and keep our friends. But we don’t have to _make_everyone_ “kiss and make up”.

    … damn, for a moment, I thought I was going to solve it with one run-on sentence and one follow-up sentence!

  3. Andrew Sullivan is wrong on at least two counts.

    First, the Right is losing young people because they (the Right) are so dripping with hate. I work with younger people, and I listen to them discuss the world. They are TIRED of the hatred directed at nearly everybody. That is not going to change, either.

    Also, the Right absolutely does NOT want to see people succeed. People like Sullivan say that because it sounds better than telling the truth – that they really want people to be as off-balance as possible. Their attitude is undermining in so many ways. They want people to be afraid – of other people, of losing their already precarious jobs, of sticking up for themselves.

    The younger people I know want to see problems solved. I have never heard any “wokeness” out of any of them. A lot of that seems to be an artifact of academia, and most of the kids I know are not in school, but out in the world working. They want to contribute; they want to be treated well; they want to have their good-faith behavior acknowledged; they want to be paid what they are worth. They are not interested in being saturated in right-wing venom.

    I live in a red area of a blue state, and I have a business in which I hear people talking. It is very clear where the divisions are.

    L

    1. That is encouraging, but :

      “They are TIRED of the hatred directed at nearly everybody.”

      It really matters what “hatred” means. Is is really “hate”? Is one person’s “tough love” another’s “hate”?

      1. Just one example: A customer made a comment about another customer, which was overheard by a staff member, who reported it to us. The first customer said about the second, an immigrant, that he just came here to freeload.

        Unbeknownst to the perp, that particular customer is a relative of mine, and I know my relative’s full history, what brought him here, his education and work history, and details that would stagger the imagination of anyone who knows about them. The first (white, Trump voter) customer’s assumptions, which were made because my relative is Hispanic, could not be farther from the truth.

        “Tough love”? Get real.

        L

        1. Your anecdote is illustrative of why Sullivan is living in fantasyland. Despite the good intentions of his suggestions, the current Republican Party wants no part of them. It is largely a tribe that sees that its dominance of American society is rapidly diminishing. Its fear of change is so great that it has devolved into a fascistic organization. Becoming more desperate every day, it utilizes every political trick to retain power. Stoking the culture wars is their primary strategy. The Woke is a godsend for them. If it didn’t exist, the Party strategists would invent it. The last thing Republican politicians want is for the Woke to disappear. It couldn’t find a better enemy. The Republican Party would be screwed if there were no Woke for it to rail against. The only way Sullivan’s suggestions could come to pass would be a massive defeat at the polls of the Republican Party with a new and saner one emerging from the ashes. This may come to pass in the long-term as its adherents age and die, but such an event doesn’t seem imminent.

        2. Your customer was engaging in a stereotype, which is a heuristic that helps decide quickly on the basis of incomplete information what to do or think when confronted with a novel situation, like suddenly meeting another unknown human on the savannah: “Friend or foe?” or hearing, “Cleanup in Aisle 5.”
          People who are stereotyped have been taught to consider the process racist but that is simply an opinion about it. We have assigned negative social and sometimes legal connotations to it but that doesn’t change the propensity to use stereotyping if it “works” more often than not, even to evade laws against it if possible.

          If all Hispanic-looking immigrants were known to have entered America legally after screening by a fair process that predicted they would be able to work productively, instead of being connived in to ensure a Democratic majority forever, the heuristic value of the stereotype would evaporate. Immigrants are tolerated in Canada because most, other than refugees and an increasing number of bogus asylum claimants, go through exactly such a process. 1% of our population come in every year. The asylum claimants are assumed to be freeloaders, even by people who otherwise support immigration. Most are found to be unfounded when they eventually get hearings and are sent home if we can find them. The sine qua non for support for immigration in a welfare state is that the common agreement that most immigrants aren’t freeloaders, even if we don’t much like their customs and attitudes. Lose that and the barbed wire goes up.

          Your defence of your relative as an exception to your customer’s stereotype does not fully answer. If you had simply said he was working legally in America and supporting his family, that would have done it: he is not a freeloader. Your actual defence sounds more like the reflexive defence of a relative, which is the oldest form of tribal stereotyping. For example, “what brought him here” is irrelevant to whether he is now a freeloader or not.

          And you, too, stereotyped your customer, even calling him a perp, which implies he committed a crime.

          1. I’d be willing to bet that my relative paid more in taxes than his denigrator, over the course of their working lives.

            My customer perpetrated an unfounded accusation. I implied nothing beyond that.

            L

          2. “Your customer was engaging in a stereotype”

            Yes, and the folks who reach most readily for ethnic stereotypes tend to be on the right.

            “If all Hispanic-looking immigrants were known to have entered America legally”

            It’s likely that the majority of Hispanic-looking immigrants have entered America legally. So someone who looks at a Hispanic-looking immigrant and decides he’s a freeloader is making a bigoted assumption. And a stupid one, because Hispanics work very hard in crummy jobs that “real” Americans avoid. The folks who break their backs doing janitorial work or picking fruit are hardly freeloading, except in the eyes of the blind and bigoted.

            1. I would agree only that white people who reach for ethnic stereotypes tend to be on the Right, unless the victim of the stereotype is Jewish. On what part of the political spectrum, pray tell if you know, are Black people who reach for ethnic stereotypes or engage in actual murderous violence against Asians, Jews, and yes, even Hispanics when they are fighting over the same “resources”* (i.e. welfare benefits or drug turf.) Maybe you don’t know enough Black people to ask them such sensitive questions, fair enough. I won’t stereotype them by assuming they vote Democrat. But I’m going to bet that the Democratic Party won’t kick them out of bed for eating crackers. Because it cheerfully engages in racial stereotyping.

              I’m aware of the role that legal and illegal immigration plays in getting America’s dirty jobs done as well as building valuable businesses, which is doubtless why immigration reform is so hard to get a handle on. The issue is that the United States seems to have lost control over the supply. They seem to be coming whether you have work for them or not. You like loaded terms like “bigoted” and “stupid” more than I do, so I won’t engage.
              —————
              * This is the expression used by Harvard President-appointee Claudine Gay in analyzing violence between Blacks and Hispanics in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

    2. Wasn’t it Mark Twain who joked that “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years”?

      For me, the opposite effect with Andrew Sullivan. I used to think he was smart, now I am not so sure. Young people are not moving right, so he suggests policies that the right, in my lifetime, have never supported. The Republican Party has hitched its wagon to the religious right, and Christian Nationalism is their vision for the future.

    3. I don’t agree. The Left is dripping with hate too, it’s just that they hate people for different reasons and it’s probably the reasons that cause young people to lean away from the right.

    4. Sullivan might be not so much wrong as strategic. He knows that part of his audience is people on the Right and you can’t persuade anyone to change by condemning them as unfixable. Instead, you have to appeal to the common ground which, in this case, is the fact that on the whole the people on the Right think “dripping with hate” and “not wanting people to succeed” are bad things. They see those as characteristics of the Left. That’s actually encouraging because it’s not hard to imagine a hypothetical political group which explicitly and proudly admitted that’s exactly what they stand for — which would be worse, and harder to persuade.

      Everyone thinks they’re in the reasonable middle ground. Implicitly praise them for being so and they might concede just a little bit more ground than otherwise.

    5. Can we parse this, Sullivan as quoted by Jerry? To stay focused I’m going to stick to one point:

      The left wants you to succeed because you’re black or Hispanic or gay or transgender — but that reduces you to a single part of your identity, and does so forever. We want you to succeed as an individual whatever color or creed or sex or gender you are. We want to treasure all Americans — black, brown, white, gay, straight, immigrant, native-born — for the unique individuals they are, the character they show, the hard work they do, and remove any obstacles to their success.

      Note how Sullivan’s idealized Rightist benediction soft-pedals the reference to transgender that the Leftist prescription includes. Gay is OK, “gender” is vague and OK, but trans is not. Because fundamentally it isn’t: it’s a lie. If young people can’t abide the Right because it takes positions that that uphold basic truths and freedom, and vote progressive-Left as a result, then they’d better bend over and grab their ankles because they are going to get the consequences of that choice good and hard.

      Is it hate to say that self-announced gender identity should not trump other “natural” rights*, and that children should not be castrated? The mob, which included at least one self-proclaimed neo-nazi, that shut down the meeting in Montréal certainly thinks so. That is what the woke Left is advocating. Enjoy the ride, young folks.
      —————-
      * It is the trans ideology that they ought to prevail always in these conflicts just because they are trans that causes the problems. No one says trans people should not be allowed to vote, or that they should pay higher taxes or be subject to arbitrary imprisonment or violence by the state. It’s their claim that they are the sex they claim to be instead of the one they really are where all the problems come. Hence the insistence that even sex isn’t binary.

  4. The necessity to raise the national debt limit is an issue that most people understand hazily at best. For most of American history it was raised with barely a whimper from either party. Now, however, it is the tool for the radical right Republican House to blackmail the nation. If the limit is not raised, the country will not be able to pay its debts. The limit has nothing to do with future liabilities; it has everything to do with debts already incurred. Among other things, social security and medicare may not be able to pay the full benefits they owe to beneficiaries. Debts to foreign bondholders may not be able to be paid. In other words, the full faith and credit of the United States will no longer exist, sparking an international economic meltdown.

    But, the radical Republicans do not care about any of this. They say they want to cut government spending, although this is only a concern for them under Democratic administrations. I do not think they are bluffing. “Rule or Ruin” is their credo. The only hope is there are enough semi-sane Republicans to unite with Democrats to raise the debt limit. But, I would not bet the ranch on this. The only permanent solution is to eliminate the need for legislation to raise the debt ceiling. The Democrats should have done this when they had the chance. But, they didn’t and now a crisis of extraordinary proportions is pending. The car is heading towards the cliff, the brakes don’t work, and the passengers close their eyes and somehow believe the car won’t go over it.

    1. Republicans are now ultraconservative in the worst possible way. They’ve essentially gone over the edge from confused libertarianism, to Nazism, to anarchism. Trump exacerbated an already dominant thread in GOP culture. I could be wrong.

  5. “Ben Bacon, a furniture conservator in London, has cracked the meaning behind 20,000-year-old cave drawing symbols. He realized the little dots and lines drawn around animals indicated lunar cycles.”

    This is reminiscent of Michael Ventris’s achievement in decoding Linear B. Ventris had studied ancient Greek as a teenage schoolboy, and showed a remarkable ability to learn new languages, but had no formal training in philology. He was an architect by profession.

    1. As written by Auntie, yes, it sounds like a paean to Ventris and Linear B. RTFpaper, and it’s a very different thing. The claim that the paper’s writers is much more restrained :

      We may not be convinced that the Upper Palaeolithic sequences and associated symbols can be described as written language, given that they do not represent grammatical syntax, but they certainly functioned in the same way as proto-cuneiform. We may not describe them as ‘administrative documents’ as would a Sumerologist (e.g. Van de Mieroop 1999, 13), but that is exactly what they were, record-keeping of animal behaviour in systematic units of time and incorporating at least one verb.
      (emphases in original; “Discussion” section.)

      It’s an interesting paper. Very thought provoking. My first though was that the number of symbols (3 or 4, depending on how you read “counting”) is very different to Linear B (a syllabary with about 100 symbols for different syllables). But thinking from there to some “esoteric” programming languages (specifically Whitespace), that doesn’t necessarily mean that complex statements can’t be made with small symbol sets. (I think Whitespace is Turing-complete ; but it also requires writer and reader to agree on what a memory stack is, as well as what pushing and popping the stack mean.)
      To misquote Voltaire, I apologise for the length of this comment. I did not have time to write a shorter one.
      In a typical attack of “Small World” syndrome, I suspect I’ve been playing Go against one of the authors of Whitespace for over 20 years, and not known it. Words will be had.

  6. Related to the Mohammad picture fracas, I saw a tweet last night saying that it didn’t matter that the professor issued trigger warns, as trigger warnings merely indicate that you intend to do harm!

    Regarding Santos, Democrats in the New York legislature introduced a bill called, “Stopping Another Non Truthful Office Seeker Act” or the Santos Act. “The bill would also establish a penalty of a $100,000 fine, one-year imprisonment or both if someone lied about their credentials.” The piece I saw first about it had a picture of Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren.

  7. 2cents: people generally become more conservative as they age b/c they accumulate wealth and want to protect it – thus lower taxes, smaller govt. etc.. They want to “conserve” what they spent their life working toward (pursuit of happiness/security); and want to pass that (property/wealth/reputation) on to their children (legacy). That “American Dream” story is disappearing for more and more young people. Because they can’t get into the property/real estate/ wealth accumulation market. They feel robbed of the future by “Selfish Boomers”. Of course, those fortunate enough to have Boomer parents who DID secure wealth might change their tune when they inherit that wealth/property.
    Anyway, it’s a mess. And there is plenty of fear, uncertainty, guilt, obligation, and doubt on all sides to engender finger pointing of blame (hurt, jealousy and envy).
    PS – love the Lassie cartoon.

    1. That’s the Republicans’ dilemma: if they want more folks on the right, they need to spread more wealth around, and that’s a fundamentally left-wing idea. Instead the Republicans are spending their efforts in trying to destroy the IRS, coddle tax cheats, give out corporate welfare, etc. They have the mentality of the aristocracy prior to the French revolution.

      1. Your characterization of Rightist tax policy as “coddling tax cheats” and “corporate welfare” are familiar canards among Leftist partisans but are just slogans. The top quintile carries the country. Be thankful you have enough rich people that they can do that. You want to take even more from them?

        Republicans cannot “spread more wealth around” because that is anathema to the concept of merit and enjoying the fruits of one’s labour, beyond what is necessary to defend the nation from bandits and invaders. Once the tribunes of the non-taxpaying, non-property-owning poor are able vote majorities to loot the productive class, the republic collapses. (In both Canada and the United States, roughly half of tax filers pay no income tax, or pay less tax than they receive in benefits, so we are both pretty close to that tipping point now.)

        Evolving democracies managed this risk by restricting the suffrage to male property-owners, as the United States did until the mid-19th century, long after the French aristocracy had been destroyed. Most other countries put it off until after the 1914-1918 War. The conscription of millions of non-voters had threatened to lead to “me-too” Bolshevism when peace came. The rise of the Welfare State was a direct consequence. There is no going back. You can’t disenfranchise people who can vote against the proposal.

        So the fundamental strategy of all rightist parties representing people with property and income obtained from work has to be suppression of voter turnout among the looting classes. Couple this with appropriate religious propaganda to get people who are just getting by to vote against what Leftist demagogues try to tell them are their best interests. “Vote for us. We’ll give you free money from the rich.” There is no other course toward self-preservation. It is not so much an aristocratic outlook as a need for minority rule in a political economy of majority without skin in the game.

  8. Cool that the tank stopped for the ducks. I was impressed at how smoothly the engine ran. I want one of those!

    My favorite example of a food turning into a confection is one that began about 55 years ago. At my age 10 or so, the milkman delivered a container of yogurt to our house along with our usual milk. The yogurt was a sample, to introduce yogurt to customers. I had never seen yogurt before. Anyway, it was peach yogurt. I remember that distinctly. The contents comprised tart yogurt on top with chunks of peach at the bottom. It was delicious.

    Today’s peach yogurt is invariably yogurt with heavily sweetened peach compote. It’s rare to find yogurt with cut fruit anymore. With the exception of “plain” yogurt, which is still mercifully available, all the rest has become a dessert.

    And don’t even get me started on coffee. A latte has, of course, become a 600-calorie milkshake. I’d rather go to McDonalds. I don’t know what they are made of, but McDonalds’ shakes are delicious.

  9. Nellie Bowles must be incredibly wealthy. The income tax elimination would be accompanied by an ~ 30% national consumption tax which would regressively raise the tax burden for most of us.

  10. I started to address the assertions made here that most of my neighbors and relatives are “dripping with hate”, and trending towards Nazism.
    I wrote a comment, deleted it, wrote and deleted yet again. It is hard to rebut such malicious stereotyping, but I will make one point that often. People often use such language against others when they are working themselves up to take action against them.

    But I really wanted to go back to the gas stove issue. It does appear that the primary study relied on for the ban recommendation did their analysis after sealing up the room with plastic, and without using ventilation.

    https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.1c04707

    That does not seem like a realistic test. Another issue is emissions from cooking oils. I cannot find the study now, but I do remember one concluding that such emissions were a larger hazard than those from the stoves themselves. Having a regular electric cook top would seem to make that worse, as they tend to offer less precise temperature control.

    It seems like the real solution is ventilation, which should not shock anyone.

  11. Re: George Santos: he definitely should resign. However, does memory correctly serve me that a few years ago some legislator somewhere made an effort, however feeble, to get a law passed to make it illegal to lie during a political campaign, to no avail? Would that have otherwise made it easier to dispense with Santos?

    Will the media soon enlighten us about what other politicians have similarly fibbed?

    In one article about Santos, the NY Times emphasized that Santos had omitted “odd jobs” in his resume. Apparently odd jobs are beneath what the Times views as one’s (and by implication the Time’s) proper station.

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