Friday: Hili dialogue

January 20, 2023 • 6:45 am

Greetings on Friday, January 20, 2023, and “National Cheese Lover’s Day.” And again with the apostrophe that implies that the day is celebrating only a single lover of cheese.The best cheese I ever had? A three-year-old Comté cheese I bought in the weekly market in Dijon, France. A visiting American cheese lover agreed with me that it was the finest piece of solidified milk he’d ever had. It was so aged that it was almost granular, but oy!, what a flavor!

It’s also National Buttercrunch Day, Take A Walk Outdoors Day, and Penguin Awareness Day.  Here are some penguins I photographed in Antarctica:

Finally, in the U.S. it’s Inauguration Day for new Presidents, described as being “held every four years in odd-numbered years immediately following years divisible by 4, except for the public ceremony when January 20 falls on Sunday (the public ceremony is held the following day; however, the terms of offices still begin on the 20th) (United States of America, not a federal holiday for all government employees but only for those working in the Capital region).”  We have two years to go, and I hope we aren’t inaugurating a Republican.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the January 20 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Obituaries first. I’ll be brief: David Crosby, whom you’ll know if you know anything about rock music, died yesterday at 81. The cause was not revealed, but he hasn’t been in good shape for a long time.

The death came as a surprise to those who followed his very active Twitter account, which he’d kept tweeting on as recently as Wednesday. One of Crosby’s final tweets the day before he died was to make a typically jocular comment about heaven: “I heard the place is overrated… cloudy.”

Here’s that tweet:

From the NYT obit:

Mr. Crosby’s drug abuse may have exacerbated his medical problems, including a long battle with hepatitis C, which necessitated a liver transplant in 1994. He also suffered from type 2 diabetes and, in 2014, had to cancel a tour to endure a cardiac catheterization and angiogram.

If you saw the 2018 documentary about Crosby, “David Crosby: Remember My Name,” you’ll see that he was irascible and had a hard time getting along with people, including his bandmates. He recognized that he could be a jerk and was widely disliked. Nevertheless, Graham Nash paid him a postmortem tribute:

Former CSNY partner Graham Nash, who had been estranged from Crosby in recent years as their group went its separate ways, paid tribute on his social media. “It is with a deep and profound sadness that I learned that my friend David Crosby has passed,” Nash wrote. “I know people tend to focus on how volatile our relationship has been at times, but what has always mattered to David and me more than anything was the pure joy of the music we created together, the sound we discovered with one another, and the deep friendship we shared over all these many long years.

“David was fearless in life and in music,” Nash continued. “He leaves behind a tremendous void as far as sheer personality and talent in this world. He spoke his mind, his heart, and his passion through his beautiful music and leaves an incredible legacy. These are the things that matter most. My heart is truly with his wife, Jan, his son, Django, and all of the people he has touched in this world.”

A trailer from that movie, which is well worth seeing:

And the music. Here’s an older CS&N singing an appropriate farewell song, “Wasted on the Way”. They still had the harmony.

RIP, Mr. Crosby:

*America hit its debt limit yesterday,  but as I’m not much of an economist, I’m not sure what that means. I know that if the limit is not raised, the credit of the U.S. government will drop, and sometimes the government shuts down. But what’s the problem if our credit is downgraded? Readers can help me understand this. Anyway, here’s the skinny:

 The United States hit its debt limit on Thursday, prompting the Treasury Department to begin using a series of accounting maneuvers to ensure the federal government can keep paying its bills ahead of what’s expected to be a protracted fight over whether to increase the borrowing cap.

In a letter to Congress, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said the government would begin using what is known as extraordinary measures to prevent the nation from breaching its statutory debt limit and asked lawmakers to raise or suspend the cap so that the government could continue meeting its financial obligations.

“The period of time that extraordinary measures may last is subject to considerable uncertainty, including the challenges of forecasting the payments and receipts of the U.S. government months into the future,” Ms. Yellen said. “I respectfully urge Congress to act promptly to protect the full faith and credit of the United States.”

The milestone of reaching the $31.4 trillion debt cap is a product of decades of tax cuts and increased government spending by both Republicans and Democrats. But at a moment of heightened partisanship and divided government, it is also a warning of the entrenched battles that are set to dominate Washington, and that could end in economic shock.

What I don’t understand is that they keep raising the debt limit over and over, and nothing bad ever seems to happen. So what’s the issue? At any rate, Republicans, who now control the House, have vowed not to allow an increase in the debt limit unless Biden makes deep cuts in federal spending. Biden, on the other hand, says he won’t do that, and simply wants the Congress to raise the limit to his specifications.

*Jacinda Ardern has resigned as Prime Minister of New Zealand, assuring that she won’t be up for the scheduled election for her job later this year. There are a number of factors involved, one of which was her decision to further empower the Māori (the Washington Post implies, completely mistakenly, that it was partly due to sexism, when another Post article blames it on her handling of the Covid crisis; and her approval rating was down to 29%. As Nellie Bowles writes in her weekly TGIF, the Post is losing the plot.

“I have given my absolute all,” Ardern, 42, said at an emotional news conference. “I know what this job takes, and I know that I no longer have enough in the tank to do it justice. It’s that simple.”

The unexpected announcement — which stunned supporters and political insiders — signaled an abrupt end to the five-year tenure of a prime minister whose empathetic brand of governance during several crises elevated her to the global stage, even as her popularity recently began to slip behind the main conservative opposition at home.

Ardern said she would step down by Feb. 7. Lawmakers representing her ruling center-left Labour Party will vote Sunday on a new leader, who will lead the party to a national election Oct. 14.

. . .Ardern won praise for her calm stewardship of the Pacific nation through a number of major events, including the coronavirus pandemic, a volcanic eruption and the 2019 Christchurch terrorist attack. She spearheaded legislation to ban military-style semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles just six days after the attack, in which more than 50 people were killed.

She also acted quickly to close her country’s borders in March 2020. That decision, coupled with stringent quarantine requirements for returning New Zealanders and snap lockdowns, kept her country largely covid-free until early last year. It helped her secure a rare landslide reelection in 2020. That year, the Atlantic magazine described her as possibly the “most effective leader on the planet.”

More recently, however, local sentiment toward her administration has soured as the island nation emerges from a long period of pandemic isolation. In March, anti-government protests outside Parliament turned violent when demonstrators hurled bricks and set fire to their tents. Dozens were arrested. Personal threats against Ardern nearly tripled in recent years, according to police, and the prime minister at times was a target of misogynistic abuse.

Ardern’s plans to tax agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, revise the country’s water system and give more power to Maori groups also served to consolidate the opposition, Curtin said.

*According to the WaPo, both Alex Baldwin and the “armorer” on the set of the movie “Rust” will be charged with involuntary manslaughter. As you may recall, Baldwin fired a gun containing a live round that was supposed to hold a blank, and it killed the cinematographer and wounded the director. I can understand negligence on the part of the armorer, whose job it was to make sure no live ammunition was used, but Baldwin was just given the gun to fire. I guess it was his responsibility to check, too, but could he tell live ammo from a blank (I have no idea what blanks look like):

New Mexico prosecutors on Thursday announced plans to charge actor Alec Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed with two counts each of involuntary manslaughter in the 2021 fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the film “Rust.” A third worker on the set, first assistant director David Halls, signed a plea deal for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.

. . . “If any one of these three people […] had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today,” special prosecutor Andrea Reeb added. “The evidence clearly shows a pattern of criminal disregard for safety on the ‘Rust’ film set.”

. . .Prosecutors stated that they will file the criminal charges at the end of the month. If convicted, Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed could face up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine per charge — or even stiffer punishments based on what a jury decides.

Baldwin’s attorney, Luke Nikas, said in a statement Thursday that the decision to pursue charges “distorts Halyna Hutchins’ tragic death,” calling it “a terrible miscarriage of justice.”

“Mr. Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun — or anywhere on the movie set,” Nikas said. “He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds.”

That’s what I would have thought, but the D.A. decided that the case was worth pursuing.  A bit more:

According to prosecutors, one definition of involuntary manslaughter charge implies underlying negligence and includes the misdemeanor charge of negligent use of a firearm. A second type “requires proof that there was more than simple negligence involved in a death” and tacks on a penalty referred to as a “firearm enhancement.”

Each involuntary manslaughter charge carries a possible sentence of up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. The firearm enhancement is punishable by a mandatory five years in jail.

I still don’t understand why Baldwin was charged, but we have lawyers reading this, so one of them please explain it in the comments.

*The Atlantic’s Graeme Wood gives his take on the Hamline University/Muhammad painting controversy  He’s on the side of the fired instructor, as all right-thinking people should be:

It turns out that Muslims have different views on this matter and many others, and that the fatwa from the president of a Methodist college in St. Paul, Minnesota, has somehow sided with the most intolerant element of the American Muslim spectrum.[Hamline President} Miller invited a Muslim speaker to campus who compared the professor’s art-history class to a pro-Nazi or pro-child-molester class, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Then he suggested that a Muslim might want to kill her, and that these murderous feelings deserved recognition. “You’ve seen what happened in the horrible tragedies of Charlie Hebdo,” Jaylani Hussein warned the faculty and students of Hamline. “Muslims revere our Prophet in a meaningful way, and regardless of whatever you are teaching, you have to respect them.” (Hussein runs a local chapter of CAIR, which distanced itself from his comments—perhaps because “American-Islamic relations” are not improved by reminding people to watch what they say, because some Muslims might want to kill them.)

Miller is deferring to the most fragile Muslims. She must think Muslims have skulls like crepe paper, and brains that can be bruised by a light gust of academic inquiry. Such people exist, and her student may be one. But most Muslims—including some who would object strenuously to a depiction of the Prophet—navigate the world without the shelter offered by the Hamline administration. The Muslims I know generally realize that the world is full of insults and challenges, and that education requires willingness to live with them and learn from them. Miller wants to make this resilient Muslim majority, and everyone else, hostage to their most brittle and blubbering brothers and sisters. If any Hamline students really need this kind of protection, I suggest they enroll at a university in Kabul.

That’s good strong writing!

*Bari Weiss’s site The Free Press features an article, “America’s Police Exodus,” about the decline of America’s police forces by journalist and filmmaker Leighton Woodhouse. He gives the depressing statistics, which will hearten the “defund the police/ACAB” crowd, and then says this:

A big part of what’s prompting police to leave America’s big cities is the perception the public has turned against them. A 2020 poll showed that only seven percent of police officers would advise their kids to go into law enforcement. Eighty-three percent of those who wouldn’t recommend it cited “lack of respect for the profession.”

“Suddenly, everyone is telling us how to do our jobs. They’re saying we’re biased, racist, only want to hurt black and brown communities,” said McCray, who is black. “These officers worked in these communities, were invested in these communities. Suddenly, people who don’t know us are saying you’re this, you’re that.”

The statistics say that most people want more cops, not fewer.

In August 2022, President Biden announced his Safer America Plan in response to rising crime. Among other things, it includes plans to hire 100,000 more police officers. That upset the ACLU, which disparaged the plan as “more criminalization and incarceration,” and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which asserted—without providing evidence—that adding police officers would only victimize black people.

Peter Moskos, the former Baltimore police officer now teaching at John Jay College, was mystified by progressives who insist that the single greatest threat faced by black Americans is systemic racism. “Congratulations!” said Moskos, who has called for legalizing drugs in response to the drug war’s ineffectiveness and its disproportionate impact on young black men. “You’ve increased the black murder rate. You’re giving blacks worse policing through this transfer of cops—and doing it smugly in the name of racial justice.”

*Finally, my favorite singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell was awarded the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song by the Library of Congress. (h/t Steve)

Joni Mitchell is this year’s winner of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song from the Library of Congress. Since the lifetime achievement award was established in 2007, it has gone exclusively to A-list celebrities such as Paul McCartney, Garth Brooks, Stevie Wonder and Lionel Richie.

Mitchell is the third woman to be recognized, after Carole King in 2013 and Gloria Estefan (in tandem with her husband Emilio) in 2019.

. . . “Joni Mitchell’s music and artistry have left a distinct impression on American culture and internationally, crossing from folk music with a distinctive voice whose songs will stay with us for the ages,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden in a statement. “Joni Mitchell’s music has so many artists and music lovers all singing her tunes. We are honored to present the Gershwin Prize to this musical genius.”

WHAT? Lionel Richie got the award before Joni? Seriously?What kind of tin-eared people are making these decisions?

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili has her weather eye peeled:

Hili: An owl sat on the bough.
A: So what?
Hili: Interesting; where does she see mice in our garden?

In Polish:

Hili: Sowa usiadła na gałęzi.
Ja: I co z tego?
Hili: Ciekawe, gdzie ona widzi myszy w naszym ogrodzie?


A Gary Larson Far Side cartoon from Facebook. I’d never seen this one before, and I think it’s hilarious. Why did he stop making cartoons? He was the best!

From Bruce. Are you old enough to remember these?

From Kurt, posted on Facebook. Maybe these people are vegans?

From Masih, a woman asserts her right to dress as she wants, sans hijab. It’s women like her who kicked off the protests. A man defends her rights against two theocratic jerks:

From Barry, a helpful otter:

From Malcolm, a mother and her joey:

From Ziya Tong (“Earthling”), who now has a Mastodon account (I have to take screenshots as I can’t embed Mastodon’s “toots”):

From the Auschwitz Memorial, a man gassed upon arrival. He was 45.

Tweets from Matthew. First, a showboating goalkeeper who nearly loses the ball. Pick it up, dumbass!

Cutest duck tweet ever, and look at the mug!

A happy horse kicks up its heels. Be sure to watch the video:

55 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue

  1. Today is a birthday for a number of famous people, many of them entertainers:

    George Burns (1896 – 9 March 1996)
    Jackson DeForest Kelley (1920 – 11 June 1999) Doctor “Bones” McCoy on Star Trek
    Patricia Neal (1926 – 8 August 2010) Actress, wife of writer Roald Dahl
    Arthur “Arte” Stanton Johnson (1929 – 3 July 2019) Laugh-In’s German soldier and Dirty Old Man
    Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin (1930)
    Tom Baker (1934) – the fourth Doctor
    Bill Maher (1956)

    People who passed on this day:

    Alan Freed (15 December 1921 – 1965) Disk jockey credited with coining the phrase “Rock and Roll”
    Audrey Hepburn (4 May 1929 – 1993)
    Edgar Froese (6 June 1944 – 2015) Musician, founding member of Tangerine Dream

    Oh, yes – today is also the birthday of WEIT reader E.A. Blair (1957)

    1. Happy birthday! And thanks for doing today’s lists.

      Today is also the anniversary of the inaugurations of the youngest and oldest US presidents (and also of the first black president and VP.)

      1. Thank you. I was born on President Eisenhower’s second inaugural day. Every four years, I’m served a turkey for my borthday and they put the turkey in the White House. My 2017 birthday was not a happy one.

  2. But what’s the problem if our credit is downgraded.

    The interest rate on the government borrowing then increases. That means they then need to borrow even more money to pay the increased interest …

    What I don’t understand is that they keep raising the debt limit over and over, and nothing bad ever seems to happen. So what’s the issue?

    It’s not an issue provided the economy overall grows faster (or at least at the same rate) as the increase in the debt. Then the debt-to-GDP ratio (which is what matters) is under control.

    If the debt gets too big compared to GDP then lenders start to think that they won’t get repaid, so then demand extortionate rates of interest or stop lending completely. The government could, of course, simply print money to pay the debt with that, but then that would be highly inflationary (so all existing money would be worth less).

    So far, the increase in the US national debt has been tolerated because people reckon that the overall US economy is strong enough that the government is solvent and will keep meeting debt repayments, and not default.

    1. The bigger question for me is why America even has a debt ceiling. Denmark is the only other country that has one (at least Western country). And an even better question: why is the debt ceiling only a problem when Democrats are in control? When Republicans are in control, the debt skyrockets every time without a peep, and the debt ceiling is raised with barely a peep. When Democrats gain control the debt-limit sky-is-falling tropes begin. And guess who has always managed to lower the debt over the past decades (when this became political)? Democrats. Republicans are the ones who spend like drunk sailors without paying for their spending. All the money Democrats propose is paid for (higher taxes on the rich/corporations for instance). Not so with Republicans. If anyone’s interested, it’s basically the “two Santa Clauses theory.”

  3. Defaulting on the payment of the national debt would be dire, creating worldwide economic chaos. Time Magazine explains:

    “The U.S. has never defaulted for failing to raise the debt limit in time, which means the consequences are unpredictable, but economists agree they would be dire. Were the U.S. to actually default, Treasury securities, widely considered to be among the most reliable investments in the world, would no longer be regarded as such, leading investors to demand higher interest rates to loan money to the US government. Those rates would carry over to consumers preparing to take on mortgages, car loans, or credit card debt. Stock prices would likely plummet, causing retirement savings to evaporate. Those consequences would almost certainly trigger a recession. While many analysts were already predicting a recession this year as the Federal Reserve grapples with record-high inflation, a recession set off by a U.S. default could be considerably more severe.”

    In addition to the economic chaos that would ensure worldwide by a default, the United States would be viewed as untrustworthy, its moral stature would be diminished. The country would be viewed as another deadbeat banana republic. A default would harm real people. And all of this is unnecessary.

    Are there any actions that Biden could take to prevent a default if the Republicans in the House refuse to raise the debt limit? Several solutions have been proposed. I favor the one that asserts that any refusal to raise the limit is unconstitutional based on the 14th amendment, which states in section 4: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.” The 14th amendment was passed in the aftermath of the Civil War and this particular clause was inserted to acknowledge that although the United States government repudiated any debt incurred by the Confederacy, the debt of the United States would be paid.

    Jamelle Bouie is a history buff. In an NYT column, he presents a cogent argument for Biden to invoke the 14th amendment.

    My hope is that Biden will ignore the Republican blackmail and order the Treasury Department to continue to pay the debt. The Republicans will then take Biden to court, hoping that the Supreme Court will overrule Biden’s decision. It would be interesting to see how the so-called right-wing originalists attempt to get around the plain language of the Constitution. But, maybe we’ll be surprised and they will do the right thing. However, I doubt that Biden has the chutzpah to invoke the 14th. Instead, unfortunately, he will attempt to “negotiate” with the Republicans to reach some sort of deal. This means the Republican blackmail will pay off.

    1. There is about zero chance we will default on the public debt. The national debt as defined by the Treasury Department consists only of issued securities = Treasury Notes, Bonds, etc. [The Department considers public debt and national debt to be synonymous.] It does not include unpaid bills. The likelihood that the Federal Government’s cash flow would be inadequate to cover bond redemptions and interest as they come due is, as I said, near zero. Thus I don’t think failing to pay other obligations as they come due calls the debt into question, despite the arguments presented by Bouie. And thus I think that Standard & Poors should not have reduced the credit rating. I think the “faithfully execute the laws” argument is much stronger than the 14th Amendment argument, but given the current Supreme Court, I think Biden would probably lose there no matter what.

  4. Well, I am no lawyer, and State laws don’t allow for generalizations, but Baldwin was charged with involuntary manslaughter, which sounds like he unintentionally caused the death of someone. That sounds right. Of course, in the gun world you are taught never to point a gun at another person, whether you think it is loaded or not (unless using it in self-defense). Baldwin, though, didn’t just point the gun, he pulled the trigger, which is stupid.

    1. No, in this context it is not stupid. Rather it is quite frequently required of actors by the director. And because that is the case SOP gun handling and safety on movie sets is very different from “the gun world.” The proud members of “the gun world” do generally ignore the explanations of what the movie industry SOP is, and continue to insist that an actor should never point a gun at someone and pull the trigger and should always check to see if the gun is loaded before doing anything with it, Even though the former is commonly exactly what is required of them by the director and the latter is forbidden by the SOP rules they are required to follow, and for good reason.

      It may be, or not, that Baldwin does legitimately have some liability in this specific case, for example in his capacity as a producer for not doing his part to see that established good standards were being maintained on set because it appears that there were plenty of warning signs that they weren’t. But in general, an actor pointing a gun, identified to them as safe, at another person and pulling the trigger would not be liable for anything that happened because of that, as long as they had followed the rules by not doing anything to the weapon except holding it, pointing it and pulling the trigger. The armorer would be liable, or any unauthorized person who messed with the gun between the armorer and the actor.

      1. My experience is limited to stage acting, so take it for what it’s worth. In the cases where I have had to handle a prop gun I was always instructed to never point it directly at someone. You position yourself so that it looks like you’re pointing it at the other person but you are actually aiming off to one side or the other. This is my experience even in cases where I was using a gun that was clearly unable to actually fire a bullet.

        1. Read what industry experts have to say about how firearms are used and regulated in the movie making business. Don’t take my word for it.

          I have done just that, many sources, and it is quite different than what you experienced in stage acting. The rules and SOP are quite detailed and rigid.

          And, again according to industry experts not me, pointing a weapon at people and “firing” it is not in uncommon at all in movie making. Perhaps it shouldn’t be, perhaps directors are given to much authority, but that’s the way the industry currently is, and that’s not the fault of the actor that pulls the trigger.

          1. I should think it possible to frame ‘shots’ (oops!) so the gun is NOT pointing directly at the person. Otherwise, use an imitation firearm.

            Funny how they prosecute him, while so many deliberate shootings seem to be ignored? Do I mean police? … well, from my imperfect view outside the US, that sometimes seems to be the case.

            1. That’s a nasty slur against American law enforcement, Dom. No shooting or lethal use of force by police anywhere in the United States is ignored. A hue and cry is raised every time it happens, particularly if the guy shot is black. Officers are cleared of wrongdoing perhaps more often than you are used to in the UK, but then yours don’t have to shoot as many as the Americans do, so your denominator is smaller.

              American police know that black people they stop, particularly in cars, are likely to be armed, high, twitchy, guilty of something, and possessed of a sense of grievance. Black activists deliver the propaganda in black neighourhoods that the police will murder them at the first opportunity and so they must be prepared to shoot first. Up against that culture, any suspicious move by a suspect is likely to be met with instant lethal force. Even The Economist understands this.

              Alex Baldwin is white. The system can dwell on this shooting and cheerfully imprison him knowing that it will make the “over-incarceration” statistics look better during the time he is inside.

            2. There have been a few questionable shootings but most of the high-profile ones were found justified and rightly so. Out of millions of uneventful police interactions with the public it seems unfair to make such an assertion. Most unjustified shootings were punished and yes some slipped through the cracks but these are very rare, comparatively. I am not American and thought a bit like you a while ago until I read the DOJ report into the Michael Brown shooting. A proper investigation showed that Brown brought it on himself and the whole ‘hands up don’t shoot’ was a lie.
              Since then I have looked more closely at what actually happens in police incidents and they come out looking pretty good despite the relentless anti cop propaganda.

          2. . . . that’s the way the industry currently is, and that’s not the fault of the actor that pulls the trigger.

            We’ll see if the judge agrees with you and the industry on that last point, Darrelle. It will be interesting to hear how the judge charges the jury as to whether or not the movie-making world of make-believe operates somehow outside the criminal law.

            As I see it, to find guilt the jury just has to decide if Baldwin fired the fatal shot. They don’t have to decide about malice or intent because he is not, apparently, being charged with murder or voluntary manslaughter. (We have only manslaughter in Canada. All homicide that is not murder or excusable is manslaughter. So forgive me if I use the term, “voluntary manslaughter” incorrectly.) It is also not up to the jury to decide if the state law on homicide ought to have exemptions for actors following a director’s instructions as per usual industry practice. That is the judge’s job to decide if it does. If the judge says it doesn’t, and tells the jury their finding of fact is simply to determine if Baldwin fired the fatal shot as if it had happened among any other friends playing with guns, they have to bring a guilty verdict, (assuming they are satisfied that he did.)

            “I didn’t know the gun was loaded when I pointed it at a human being and pulled the trigger” is not a very convincing defense on this side of the fourth wall — the best it gets you is manslaughter instead of murder. I wonder how it will play on the other side.

            1. There is a difference between “I didn’t know the gun was loaded” and “I was told the gun was not loaded by the armourer”.

              I looked up the New Mexico definition of involuntary manslaughter

              Involuntary manslaughter consists of manslaughter committed in the commission of an unlawful act not amounting to felony, or in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death in an unlawful manner or without due caution and circumspection.

              Clearly somebody acted without due caution and circumspection, but Alec Baldwin – in his capacity as the actor who pulled the trigger – might have a defence if the expectation in the industry was that the gun would have been ensured to be safe by the armourer. I don’t know if it will fly, because I’m not a lawyer, or the jury in this case.

              1. Well, that’s why we have juries, Jaimie. It’ll be a tough case. I’m glad to see that a charge that fits the alleged facts is about to be laid. It shows the prosecution/investigating side of justice at work. In criminal cases, though, it’s not the expectation in the movie industry that counts. It’s the expectation of the State of New Mexico.

                Many commenters have assumed that the only issue is whether Baldwin was negligent in firing the revolver. Did he meet the standard of “due caution and circumspection” by relying on the licensed armourer?* If he did, he should be acquitted, they say.

                But note from your helpful citation that New Mexico law has two clauses: any commission of an unlawful (but non-felonious act) or failure to use due caution and circumspection in the commission of a lawful act. (Emphasis added.) Pointing a firearm is already an unlawful act under the first clause. The issue of negligence, for conviction under the second clause, need not be an issue at the trial at all, unless the prosecution wants to nail him two ways from Sunday.

                The “I didn’t know the gun was loaded” defence in accidental shootings usually fails because pointing a firearm at someone is already an offence, even if you didn’t pull the trigger, whether it turned out to be loaded or not. It’s extra careless if you did pull the trigger of a loaded pointed gun, sure. But you’re already guilty of deliberately pointing the gun in the first place. The death that results cannot be less than manslaughter if the jury is satisfied that you did indeed point the firearm. Pointing is worse than carelessness.

                You can, perhaps, delegate the responsibility for safety to someone who contractually takes it on (though not in professional settings) but you can’t delegate the criminal responsibility for illegal acts that you perform yourself. (Of course, if New Mexico sets out the conditions under which you can legally point a firearm at a person, and a movie set is one of them, then I yield.)

                * I note that the People of New Mexico do not seem to be charging the armourer. She is the one to whom Baldwin would, under the putative defence you offer under the second clause, have successfully delegated his obligation for due caution and circumspection.

          3. I haven’t checked recently but did do a bit of research a while ago and many commenters stated that it was not usual to point the gun at the other person. That camera angles and general cinematic inertia leads one to believe the gun was so pointed.
            Since then I have watched a number of western shoot outs and have noticed many quite pronounced non pointing events. Just today in fact I watched Clint Eastwood not point his gun directly at another actor in A Few Dollars More. Followed by Val Kilmer not aiming at Johny Ringo in Tombstone.
            That’s just today, totally coincidentally.
            I will research a bit more but for now I disagree with your position.

            1. There is also a shooting in House of Games in which the gun is clearly not pointed at the victim. The camera angle doesn’t even try to hide it. I won’t give more details so as not to ruin it for those who haven’t seen it. The shooter is also, I think, a double who perhaps knew more about firearms than the actor who was cast as the shooter.

              I think it’s also the case that in the Rust shooting, the camera wasn’t actually filming a live shot. They were working with various ways to play the scene — a “cross draw” I believe — and darned if the gun didn’t just go off.

      2. I think too that is about the direction this will go. The current charge against Baldwin is probably necessary, but a weighing of factors should minimize the sentence given to him. Still, this is presumably going to a jury trial and you can’t be sure what they will do.

    2. Baldwin was also, I believe, the producer of the film, so he had some responsibility for the hiring of the “experts” and the overall safety culture of the set.
      Plus, he has made a number of public claims about the incident that easily proven false.

      Generally, actors cannot be expected to have the sort of specific knowledge to tell if a gun is loaded with dummy rounds, blanks, or live rounds. The way to accomplish the goal of keeping the set safe while the actors pretend to be soldiers or old west gunfighters is that an expert armorer ensures that strict rules are followed that keep everyone safe.

      One cool detail from the Man with No Name films, was that you could tell whether a gun was going to be fired in a scene by the type of pistols the actors carried. The historically accurate pistols were black powder, and they used those when possible. However, the blanks used in those guns used a piece of wood or cardboard in place of a bullet, to allow enough pressure to be generated for a realistic “bang”.
      That little piece of wadding can be dangerous at close range.
      So they used guns converted to fire cartridges in the shooting scenes. Cartridge blanks are crimped, so nothing but gas comes out of the gun. Even that could be dangerous at some ranges, so the armorer needed to make sure that tricks of perspective were used to make close up firing look realistic but was accomplished safely.

      1. Any blank can be lethal at point-blank, right? That’s how Brandon Lee died…pretending to kill himself with a blank-loaded gun to his temple. Talk about irony.

        1. That is absolutely true, at least for conventional blanks. There is a lot of hot and rapidly expanding gas that needs to go somewhere.
          To be a little more specific, revolvers and bolt action rifle blanks are designed to make a loud noise, and a bit of flash from the muzzle. Since they do not need to push a projectile to speed, those blanks tend to use a finer, hotter powder than would be used in a regular round for that gun. Like a firecracker.
          Semiauto blanks need to generate enough pressure to cycle the action. This is often achieved by putting a little diaphragm at the muzzle, which only lets a small proportion of the pressure out through the muzzle.
          Machine guns can be rigged to “fire” with propane.

          There are also blanks in circulation that are actually designed to propel a muzzle mounted grenade, weighing 500g or so. Those should not be confused with the ones designed to just make a loud noise.

        2. That is not what happened to Brandon Lee.
          He was hit by some residual from a prior event with the gun fired by another actor.

          1. Thanks for pointing that out. I just looked up the details of Lee’s death. It does further illustrate the need to have vigilant and expert firearms supervision on set.

        3. What happened with Brandon Lee is that the gun had been used with dummy rounds in for a previous shot. The dummy rounds had been made by removing the powder but not the primer from live ammunition. The reason such rounds were used is because, with a revolver, in close up, it is easy to tell if it is loaded with blanks, because you can see the pointy end of all the cartridges except the one behind the barrel.

          Anyway, somebody fired the gun with one of the dummy rounds in and the primer explosion was enough to push the round into the barrel. Then they swapped the dummy rounds for blanks and firing the first blank propelled the dummy round stuck in the barrel out of it and into Brandon Lee.

  5. That Iranian woman doesn’t mince her words, she completely verbally pawned that would be “morality enforcer”. You could see him shrinking like Grendel in the film version of Beowulf.
    That kind of motivation, morale, ardor and courage, revives my small (admittedly small) hope that a popular uprising and an overthrow of the Ayatollahs is not unimaginable.
    The Iranian women -and many men too- are obviously ‘gatvol’ (a strong term in Afrikaans, but adopted by many other language speakers here, indicating one is completely, mightily, irrecupably fed up), especially in urban areas and among the ‘middle class’.

  6. Republicans, who now control the House, have vowed not to allow an increase in the debt limit unless Biden makes deep cuts in federal spending.
    He could start by cutting the Trump 1 trillion tax freebies for the wealthy.
    Since Reagan’s ‘Voodoo Economics’ (btw, a term coined by papa Bush) Republicans increased the debt, Democrats reduced it or at least bent the curve.

    1. Actually that’s not how taxation is supposed to work. Just because someone has a lot of money doesn’t mean the looting class gets to take as much of it as it wants. It is true that you shouldn’t spend what you don’t have, but you have to start with some limits on what you can take.

      1. Taxation is decided by the government in power of any nation, whether democratic or autocratic, subject to its legal system. This means that a government can impose a much higher tax rate on the rich, perfectly legally. There is no universal law of nature on how taxation is supposed to work. Taxation, as all governmental decisions, has a political component.

        In the U.S., back in the 1950s the highest marginal tax rate was 91%. Now it is 37%. I guess the “looters” are being kept at bay.

        1. Ah yes, the old 91% marginal tax rate. Have to say these 1944 tax instructions are a model of clarity and simple language. Even I can understand them from Reference 34,,tax%20years%201965%20through%201981.

          Let’s look at who would have paid that 91% top rate. It applied to net income over $200,000 in 1944 dollars, equivalent to $3.3 million today, after which the taxpayer had already paid $157,000 on the first 200k. The marginal surtax rate rose progressively. It was, for example, 38% (to pick a value congruent with the top U.S. rate today) on income between $10,000 and $12,000, about $165,000 today. So it’s safe to say that very few taxpayers paid marginal rates of anywhere near 91%, given that the median income was about $2500 a year back then. Capital gains were taxed at 25% flat rate at the time and dividends not at all, so it can be assumed that most business owners and investors contrived to be so paid. The high earners had to stay one step ahead of the looters even then.

          Leave aside taxation philosophy, and what FDR was hoping to achieve by confiscating 91% of the last dollar of someone’s income. Certainly no one would work for income taxed at that rate. Perhaps bondholders (“coupon clippers”) were receiving enormous sums of passive income for no work and there was, after all, a war on with debt that had to be repaid by somebody. Or it was only a theoretical rate for political purposes that no one actually paid. Certainly there are people today who make much more than $3 million dollars, but you can bet there wouldn’t be if they paid 91% of their income over that, or even 88% of their raise from $1 million to $3.3 million (bringing 1944 numbers to today.)

          BTW, the U.S. and most other countries don’t tax “the rich”. They tax income. You can only tax it if someone receives it. If a rich person can contrive not to earn any taxable income that year, the government doesn’t get a cent of it. Which is what people are incented to do when marginal rates are high enough, regardless of the rectitude of trying to get it.

          1. Good summary, but some countries do have a wealth tax. I think that it is bad idea, for several reasons: too difficult to implement properly, encourages spending money as soon as it comes in rather than saving it, investing it, etc., relatively easy to dodge. In general I’m a fan of high-tax countries, but the wealth tax is a really bad idea. Best is to make sure that everyone pays what they should. Also, all types of income should be taxed the same.

            1. Phillip, the first question I always ask of people who are fans of “high-tax countries” is, what is (or would be) your own personal tax obligation in such a country? If you pay little tax yourself in a country where other people pay much more, then you are a freeloader. This epithet applies even if you are so poor that no reasonable person would expect you to pay any income tax at all. If you want to live much better than you can afford on the backs of the better off, no high-tax country will let you move in from somewhere else no matter how much you admire its tax policies. That’s why European socialist paradises are so xenophobic. I’m also suspicious of the bona fides of people who say they are fans of high-tax countries but live in low-tax ones. If you are a high taxpayer living in a high-tax country, then bless your heart.

              Dividends ought to be taxed at a lower rate because the corporation that paid them has already paid tax on its profits. The dividend (unlike wages) is paid with after-tax dollars. Taxing them in the recipient’s hands at the same rate as ordinary income means double taxation. If you want to tax dividends fully as income then you should get rid of the corporate income tax on profits.

              The right way to tax capital gains has been argued about for many decades. Very generally, you can’t tax capital gains more in your own country than other countries do, else you will have capital flight especially if non-resident citizens don’t pay income tax, as is the case for nearly every country in the world except the U.S. This is especially true for wealthy Canadian citizens who are also citizens of foreign low-tax countries. They can simply move “back home”, realize their capital gains taxed at the rate their own country levies, (which could be zero), and then move back to Canada a couple of years later.

              The only rule for taxation is, as always, to pluck the maximum number of feathers with the minimum of squawking. But first you have to catch the goose.

  7. The thing that I find many people overlook is that religious rules only apply to members of that religion. So just because (some) Muslims mustn’t make images of Mohammed, doesn’t mean non-Muslim’s have to abide by that. I’m an atheist, so I don’t have to worry about fish on Fridays, whether or not to eat pork, taking the lords name in vain, the 10 Commandments (except where prohibited by the laws of the country I’m in), etc. I wish more people would point this out in public.

    1. [R]eligious rules only apply to members of that religion. […] I’m an atheist, so I don’t have to worry….

      Except if the religion actively promotes destructive attacks on its Apostates, Enemies, Blasphemers, Unbelievers, etc. etc. For example, it could be risky to insult the idolised alleged revelator of Scientology by saying “Piss on Elron” or “Pee be upon him”.

  8. WHAT? Lionel Richie got the award before Joni? Seriously? What kind of tin-eared people are making these decisions?

    You’ll be happy she got inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame before Lionel, by 26 years! Mitchell- 1997, Richie- 2023.

    I was sad to hear about Jacinda Ardern. I thought she was doing a terrific job in the early years, though she did mess up with the Maori woke shenanigans. Hopefully this doesn’t usher in a hard right government in New Zealand. I wonder what Heather Hastie thinks? 🤔

  9. The best cheese I ever had?

    Just by coincidence, I noticed a cheese I’d never seen before on the shelf at the supermarket : “Camemzola”, which sounds like some horrible offspring of an advertising manager’s brain, a Camembert and a gorgonzola. Well, I like Camembert, and it was very obviously a “blue veined” cheese which is also a double-plus good in my book. Regardless of the potential encouragement of deranged advertising managers, I grabbed a bit. Then went back for more. It’s really nice. Recommended.
    Occasionally, advertising managers have worthwhile ideas. This one will probably be burned at the stake for this – “bringing the industry into good repute”, or some heinous sin like that.

  10. Nit: the goalkeeper couldn’t pick it up because it was passed back to him by a team mate. This rule was implemented several years ago, with the aim of increasing goals per game – which it did.

  11. Just curious as to what the PH icon represents in iya Tong (“Earthling”),displayed on her Mastodon account. I don’t participate in social media sites so wonder what I am missing.

  12. I think Alec Baldwin is being charged in his role as the film’s producer rather than the one who was pulling the trigger.

  13. Please ignore this comment. I’m just trying to figure out why I couldn’t comment earlier. Every time I tried, I got an “Invalid security token” error message. It may have to do with my signature line.


    p.s. Yes, it’s the signature line. I have traditionally signed my comments using the Greek lower-case beta character (my user name is actually the abbreviated name for the star beta Persei). Apparently I can no longer use the HTML code for a lower-case Greek beta character. Bummer.

    βPer <– but it works if I do it from the comment edit function. Grrr.

Leave a Reply