Welcome to the tail end o’ the week: Friday, February 17, 2023: Café au Lait Day, a drink never to be ordered after noon in France (politesse requires espresso only).
It’s also National Indian Pudding Day (one of PCC[E]’s very favorite desserts, but hard to come by in restaurants), National Cabbage Day, National Public Science Day, World Human Spirit Day, and the Christian feast day of Fintan of Clonenagh, head of an Irish monastery and one of three patron saints of county Laois. There’s a tree in his honor:
This tree, an Acer pseudoplatanus, was planted in the late 18th or early 19th century at the site of the Early Christian monastic site of Clonenagh. The tree is dedicated to St. Fintan and it became custom to insert coins into the tree from which the tree suffered and was believed to be dead until the tree started to recover with some new shoots.” (Heritage Tree Database, Tree Council of Ireland)
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the February 17 Wikipedia page.
*I’m not sure if this portentous report by the NYT means that Trump may get indicted, but somebody seems to be in trouble in Georgia for perjury connected with attempts to overturn the last Presidential election. A grand jury has been investigating whether Trump & Co. interfered in the state’s voting in that election. Make what you will of this:
A court on Thursday released portions of a report by a special grand jury investigating whether Donald J. Trump and his allies interfered in the presidential election in Georgia in an attempt to overturn the 2020 result. The released portions — just five pages of text — do not delve into the grand jury’s conclusions or say whether they recommended indictments related to election interference.
But the jurors said they believed that “one or more” unnamed witnesses who testified in the inquiry may have committed perjury and should face indictment. They also found “that no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election that could result in overturning that election,” rejecting arguments made by Mr. Trump and his supporters.
Here are the details:
The publicly released portion of the report does not mention the names of anyone that the jurors think should or should not be indicted. Nor does it mention, beyond potential perjury, which Georgia laws the jurors believe may have been violated. Read the released portions of the report here.
Although Georgia law requires the release of a special grand jury’s final report, a judge decided to disclose only a small portion on Thursday. Here’s why.
The grand jury’s recommendations are now in the hands of Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis, who has been a prosecutor for nearly two decades. Read more about her.
During a hearing last month, Ms. Willis said that decisions on whether to seek indictments were “imminent,” although she has not specified what that means. Her office is known to have informed nearly 20 people that they could face charges. Read about them here.
A central element of the investigation is the call by Mr. Trump on Jan. 2, 2021, during which he told Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, that he needed to “find” 11,780 votes — the number he needed to overcome Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s lead in the state. Listen to highlights of that call.
Here’s the highlight of that call from Trump. It’s certainly mendacious and manipulative, but I’m not sure what the perjury is unless he testified later (which I don’t think he did) that he didn’t say this. If he didn’t testify, then he couldn’t be the perjurer, could he?
But then there’s a NYT op-ed today by three people: “It’s time to prepare for a possible Trump indictment.” Here’s a bit about the d.a.
If she does indict Mr. Trump, the two likely paths that she might take focus on the fake electoral slates and Mr. Trump’s call to Mr. Raffensperger. One is a narrower case that would likely take weeks to try; the other is a broader case that would likely take months.
I’m guessing there will be no charges.
Anyway, remember this? (You can hear it at the link.):
TRUMP: But the ballots are corrupt. And you’re going to find that they are — which is totally illegal, it is more illegal for you than it is for them because, you know what they did and you’re not reporting it. That’s a criminal — that’s a criminal offense. And you can’t let that happen. That’s a big risk to you and to Ryan, your lawyer. And that’s a big risk. But they are shredding ballots, in my opinion, based on what I’ve heard. And they are removing machinery and they’re moving it as fast as they can, both of which are criminal finds. And you can’t let it happen and you are letting it happen. You know, I mean, I’m notifying you that you’re letting it happen. So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state.
*Another day, another mass shooting. This one was in a shopping mall in El Paso, Texas, and “only” one person was killed, while three were wounded.
El Paso police said hours after the gunfire that two people had been taken into custody, though details of what led the shooting remained unclear.
Interim police chief Peter Pacillas said that Cielo Vista Mall was still considered a crime scene, and that it would remain locked down until authorities had completed their investigation.
Pacillas stressed that the danger had passed.
“There is no more danger. I want to repeat that: There is no more danger to the public,” Pacillas said.
The shooting happened in a busy shopping area and across a large parking lot from a Walmart where 23 people were killed in a racist attack targeting Hispanic people in 2019. El Paso — with a largely Latino population of about 700,000 people — sits on the U.S. border with Mexico, where residents of both countries cross frequently.
This seems to happen at least once a week these days, and America is so inured to it, and in love with guns, that it’s going to keep happening.
*After some days pondering the shooting down of three small aerial objects after the Chinese spy balloon was downed, it now looks like the government, spooked, shot down three innocuous objects.
The result was an unusual and often surreal few days, as Biden was essentially confronted with deciding whether to shoot down three mysterious objects, leaving a baffled public. The government avoided explicitly calling them unidentified flying objects — UFOs — or unidentified aerial phenomena, a similar term that also evokes jokes about alien life. More than once, the administration felt it had to explicitly clarify there was no evidence the objects were extraterrestrial.
“I just wanted to make sure we address this from the White House. I know there have been questions and concerns about this, but there is no indication of aliens or extraterrestrial activity with these recent takedowns,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday. “It was important for us to say that from here, because we’ve been hearing a lot about it.”
LOL! But if they weren’t spy balloons or aliens, what were these objects?
. . . It now appears possible, even likely, that the mysterious objects — described variously as “car-sized,” “cylindrical” and “octagonal” — had entirely mundane origins. In remarks on Thursday, Biden said there is no evidence to suggest the three served nefarious purposes.
“Nothing right now suggests they were related to China’s spy balloon program or that they were surveillance vehicles from any other country,” Biden said. “The intelligence community’s current assessment is that these three objects were most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation or research institutions studying weather or conducting other scientific research.”
Well, okay. Although it cost several million dollars to shoot down those objects, I can understand completely that Biden wanted to err on the side of public safety. And I presume that radar and other detection methods have been adjusted so we’re not shooting down people’s private balloons. But I’m really eager to see what they’ll find out after analyzing the real spy Luftballon.
*News about gun regulation from reader Ken:
In New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen (2022), SCOTUS held, in an opinion by Clarence Thomas, that the New York State concealed-carry law violates the Second Amendment because it requires applicants to show a “special need” to carry a concealed firearm, rather than requiring the State to bear the burden of establishing why the applicant should be denied a concealed-carry permit. The Bruen case was written in broad language that pro-gun-rights activists have read as an invitation to challenge additional gun-restriction laws. These cases are now percolating in the lower federal courts, including challenges to the federal felon-in-possession statute, a crime punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment, as applied to defendants whose prior conviction was for a non-violent felony offense.One of the cases raising this issue, Range v. Attorney General, has made its way to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. In Range, the three-judge panel that initially heard the case upheld the defendant’s felon-in-possession conviction against a Second Amendment challenge. In federal appellate practice, the party on the losing end of a panel opinion can file a “petition for rehearing en banc” — a request to have the case reheard by all the judges on active status in that circuit. When a party files such a petition, if at least one judge on the court requests it, a vote of all the judges on active status is taken. If a majority of the judges vote to rehear the case, the original panel opinion is vacated, the parties are directed to submit supplemental briefs, and the case is reset for oral argument before all the judges. That is the status of the Range case in the Third Circuit; all the judges sitting en banc heard oral argument in the case yesterday. Expect a final decision in the next few weeks.N.B: When rehearing en banc is granted, it generally means that the decision by the initial three-judge panel is going to be reversed. (After all, if the majority of the judges on active status think the initial three-judge panel got the outcome right, there’s no reason to grant rehearing.) In the Range case, this would mean that the Third Circuit is prepared to invalidate, on Second Amendment grounds, the federal felon-in-possession statute as applied to persons previously convicted of nonviolent crimes. Nevertheless, there’s reason to think that may not happen here. It could be that, since there are so many cases raising challenges to gun-restriction laws wending their way through the courts, the Third Circuit granted rehearing en banc merely to provide some clarity on the issue to the federal trial courts that have to decide these cases on a day-to-day basis.
McWhorter’s view is that the original A.P. class pushed the “progressive” take, imbued with Critical Race Theory, as if it were a truth not to be questioned, rather than containing issues that could be debated.
I’d like to make clear that I disapprove of the vast majority of DeSantis’s culture warrior agenda, a ham-handed set of plans designed to stir up a G.O.P. base in thrall to unreflective figures such as Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene. If DeSantis runs for president, he will not get my vote.
However, even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and in terms of how we tell the story of Black America, the board did the right thing, whether because of DeSantis’s threat or for more high-minded reasons. The take that I saw in the course’s original draft depicted the history of Black America over the past several decades as an unbroken stream of left protest against a seemingly unchanging racist hegemon. There is certainly drama in the procession. The Black Panthers, the Black arts movement, Black studies departments, Black Lives Matter. Incarceration, reparations and Black struggle. Amiri Baraka, Molefi Kete Asante, Manning Marable (all notably left-leaning writers). But Black history has been ever so much more than protest and professional pessimism; note how hard it is to imagine any other group of people whose history is written with this flavor so dominant.’
This is not education but advocacy. And in no sense does racism mean that the difference has no meaning. The key issue is the difference between opinions that are considered and debated and opinions that are mostly uncontested and perhaps considered uncontestable — essentially opinions that are treated as if they were facts.
A bit more:
Certain takes on race are thought of by an influential portion of progressive Americans — Black, white and otherwise — as incarnations of social justice. To them, our nation remains an incomplete project that will remain mired in denial until these ways of seeing race are universally accepted and determine the bulk of public policy. These issues include ones in the earlier version of the A.P. course, such as the idea that Black people may be owed reparations and that one of the most accurate lenses through which to view America is through the lens of intersectionality.
McWhorter argues, correctly, that one can debate these issues (as well as “standpoint epistemology”, another feature of the curriculum), but they were not presented as debatable (or any critics of them cited) in the version of the course that DeSantis banned.
. . . To pretend that where Blackness is concerned, certain views must be treated as truth despite intelligent and sustained critique is to give in to the illogic of standpoint epistemology: “That which rubs me the wrong way is indisputably immoral.”
And the ending. I’ll compare the email I got with the published column, just to see if anything was changed. Nope; it’s the same. I’ll presume there was a glitch and not a squabble.
There are certainly conservatives who think discussion of racism should be entirely barred from public life. This is, on its face, blinkered, ignorant and pathetic. But to pretend that controversial views on race from the left are truth incarnate is being dishonest about race as well. It sacrifices logic out of a quiet terror of being called racist (or, if Black, self-hating). How that is progressive or even civil in a real way is unclear to me. In being honest enough to push past the agitprop, I hate having to say that in this case, DeSantis, of all people, was probably right.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is warm but can see outside, where it’s windy and cold:
Hili: There is a different world on the other side of the window.A: What do you have in mind?Hili: A pleasure to look at it from behind the curtain
Hili: Za szybą jest inny świat.Ja: Co masz na myśli?Hili: Przyjemność patrzenia zza firanki.
From America’s Cultural Decline into Idiocy:
From Cole & Marmalade:
via Thomas, a cartoon from The Far Side by Gary Larson:
From Masih. The tweet ends. . . This is a regime that arrests and even executed people for singing, drinking, showing too much hair, dancing, showing love.
This Iranian teacher is from the town of Ghaem Shahr. She has been fired from her job for “publishing a music video with her students”
She is seen singing a love song with her students in this video.
This is the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is a regime pic.twitter.com/URRCzrn7Fz… https://t.co/2XnVAiQ0q2
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) February 16, 2023
There has been an inexplicable rise in female crime in recent years.
Come on sisters, we’re better than this. pic.twitter.com/EZgkOCjsgK
— Titania McGrath (@TitaniaMcGrath) February 15, 2023
From Simon. The Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office is tooting his own horn again:
12 years ago today I was appointed Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office and moved into Downing Street. I’ve already outlasted four Prime Ministers and have been in charge here longer than Thatcher, Blair, Churchill and Disraeli. pic.twitter.com/Qax54F5eqr
— Larry the Cat (@Number10cat) February 15, 2023
From Dom: One of the many ways to mate:
Male Damaeidae mites deposit sperm capsules on stalks for females to collect. Presumably, this is a female doing just that.#Acari #MiteMonday pic.twitter.com/xsxRVWAjjx
— Tim Jonas (@TimothyJonas) February 13, 2023
— Darwin (@DLgodlessbitch) February 15, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial, an infant gassed at five months of age:
17 February 1944 | A Hungarian Jewish girl, Juliska Revesz, was born in Pecs.
In July 1944 she was deported to #Auschwitz and murdered in a gas chamber. She was 5 months old. pic.twitter.com/mhvKfWiHLl
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) February 17, 2023
And from the striking Professor Cobb. Look at this bird of paradise trying to entice a female. What’s she looking for?
Amazing example of sexual selection: A male magnificent bird-of-paradise attempts to seduce a female with his elaborate mating display. pic.twitter.com/EnpL9WltMH
— Steve Stewart-Williams (@SteveStuWill) February 16, 2023
Crikey! Sound up, please:
few things have made me happier than seeing DICK VAN DYKE appear on television still singing and dancing at age 97 ❤️❤️❤️ pic.twitter.com/qXcJxJ8dir
— Robyn (@niksusnybor) February 16, 2023
Matthew’s own tweet, showing why I always say that the Brits don’t understand sandwiches:
The meeting of glorious English cuisine and the finest UK marketing bullshit. https://t.co/6aJAyueJGf
— Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) February 16, 2023
29 thoughts on “Friday: Hili dialogue”
On this day:
1801 – United States presidential election: A tie in the Electoral College between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr is resolved when Jefferson is elected President of the United States and Burr Vice President by the United States House of Representatives.
1863 – A group of citizens of Geneva found an International Committee for Relief to the Wounded, which later became known as the International Committee of the Red Cross.
1867 – The first ship passes through the Suez Canal.
1949 – Chaim Weizmann begins his term as the first President of Israel.
1959 – Project Vanguard: Vanguard 2: The first weather satellite is launched to measure cloud-cover distribution.
1964 – In Wesberry v. Sanders the Supreme Court of the United States rules that congressional districts have to be approximately equal in population.
1980 – First winter ascent of Mount Everest by Krzysztof Wielicki and Leszek Cichy.
2011 – Arab Spring: Libyan protests against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime begin.
1864 – Banjo Paterson, Australian journalist, author, and poet (d. 1941).
1888 – Otto Stern, German-American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1969).
1890 – Ronald Fisher, English-Australian statistician, biologist, and geneticist (d. 1962).
1920 – Annie Castor, American disability and communication disorder advocate (d. 2020).
1930 – Ruth Rendell, English author (d. 2015).
1934 – Sir Alan Bates, English actor (d. 2003).
1934 – Barry Humphries (Dame Edna Everage), Australian comedian, actor, and author. [Dad had a memorable taxi ride around London with Humphries in character as (the then Auntie) Edna during the filming of The Adventures of Barry McKenzie.]
1972 – Billie Joe Armstrong, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, actor, and producer.
1972 – Taylor Hawkins, American singer-songwriter and drummer (d. 2022).
1991 – Ed Sheeran, English singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer.
Took their final curtain call:
1600 – Giordano Bruno, Italian mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher (b. 1548).
1673 – Molière, French actor and playwright (b. 1622).
1909 – Geronimo, American tribal leader (b. 1829).
1982 – Thelonious Monk, American pianist and composer (b. 1917).
2013 – Richard Briers, English actor (b. 1934).
2021 – Rush Limbaugh, American talk show host and author (b. 1951).
When I was in college (or “at university” as you Brits say) in the early ’70s, there was a film club that would show movies in an auditorium every week. Admission was cheap (four bits, I think). They showed a lot of classics. Among the annual staples were the films Alan Bates starred in in the mid to late ’60s — Zorba the Greek, Georgy Girl, Far from the Madding Crowd, and Women in Love (with its famous nude wrestling scene between Mr. Bates and Oliver Reed). But far and away the crowd favorite was King of Hearts. In four years at uni, I don’t think I missed it once.
When Alan Bates played Petruchio in an RSC production of The Taming of the Shrew in the early ’70s he broke the fourth wall to tell some chattering theatre goers to “Shut up or fuck off!” It caused much pearl clutching, but there were no further interruptions from the audience. His actions divided the Company for days, although they talked about little else IIRC. Katherina was played by Sue Fleetwood, sister of Mick – I remember meeting her at a backstage event as a twelve-year -old, so “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” goes well!
This balloon thing is a fiasco. (This seems an appropriate time to revive a word coined by W.E. Johns: “Balloonatic.”) If you want to talk about the risk of war with China, the feckless behavior of our government is likely to be a major factor in China’s deciding how far it can go. Domestically, it seems that the first impulse of the Biden Administration is to lie, presumably to hide the fact that, whatever it is, they weren’t paying attention. This may stem from the fact that Biden is making “equity” his central goal: https://www.whitehouse.gov/equity/.
Well, here in Missouruh, the governor and the republican politicians were foaming at the mouth over Biden not shooting the first balloon down soon enough, now, they’re pissed because he shot the others down, as well as denying that tRump’s administration either didn’t know or didn’t care about Chinese balloons flying over the US during his term. This is, it appears to me, simply “playing politics”, as they say, and very much like the republican attacks on Obama any time he spoke with anyone from Cuba or Iran, while praising tRump for his bromance with Putin and Kim Jong Un. I don’t see the equity obsession (one I do not support in its current extreme attitude) as the issue, rather, it’s real-time decisions that the other side always thinks they could have done better even when they didn’t when they had their chance.
Regardless of the merits of DeSantis’s attack on the original A.P. Black Studies course, it has been useful for him to solidify his support of the far-right culture warriors. It would not surprise me that if within the next few months he takes the next step and we see him revive the Lost Cause ideology and advocates that it be mandated to be taught in Florida public schools as an alternative to virtually how all historians of the Civil War era teach it. The Lost Cause ideology is the equivalent of creationism. The main tenets of Lost Cause ideology are these.
1. Slavery wasn’t a bad institution. Masters were kindly. They raised inferior Black people from their natural level of barbarism.
2. Northern fanatics caused the South to secede for reasons other than a disdain for slavery. Secession was completely legal and constitutional since the Constitution was nothing more than a compact between sovereign states. The South didn’t secede to protect slavery, but did so out of concern for constitutional principles that the Republicans were trampling upon.
3. The South lost the war solely because of overwhelming northern resources (there is a partial truth to this), but no cause was more noble than the South’s fighting for its independence.
4. Reconstruction after the war was an attempt by radical Republicans to impose Black rule on the good white folks of the South.
5. The end of Reconstruction and the transition to the Jim Crow era was a return to the natural and proper social order.
The Lost Cause ideology plays perfectly into the delusions of far-right white America. DeSantis will articulate what many extremist Americans want to believe. DeSantis is a master of stoking the culture wars. Should he decide to run for president, he will make a formidable challenger to Trump for the support of Republican voters..
This is an absurd claim. In fact, so absurd that I bet you $50 that within six months we will NOT see DeSantis propose these. To give you an advantage, I’ll say if he proposes three or more of these to be taught in public schools, I’ll owe you $50.
Although I do not bet, I will say that my comment is the result of reading another column in today’s NYT by Henry Louis Gates, Jr in which he discusses a 1920s Lost Cause zealot named Mildred Lewis Rutherford who dedicated her life to policing textbooks that did not reflect her view of the Civil War. Gates says this about DeSantis:
“Is it fair to see Governor DeSantis’s attempts to police the contents of the College Board’s AP curriculum in African American Studies in classrooms in Florida solely as little more than a contemporary version of Mildred Rutherford’s Lost Cause textbook campaign? No. But the governor would do well to consider the company that he is keeping. And let’s just say that he, no expert in African American history, seems to be gleefully embarked on an effort to censor scholarship about the complexities of the Black past with a determination reminiscent of Rutherford’s. While most certainly not embracing her cause, Mr. DeSantis is complicitous in perpetuating her agenda.”
Gates seems to be saying that while DeSantis has not fully embraced the Lost Cause ideology he is sort of Lost Cause adjacent. I am saying that it would not surprise if DeSantis takes the next step and advocates for it. Of course, he won’t use the phrase “Lost Cause,” but will say that there are alternative ways to understanding the Civil War era. Schools should teach the controversy. He’ll be stealing from the creationist playbook. Lost cause ideology dominated American education for at least the first half of the 20th century and has never totally died out. Today, we see it often disguised as honoring southern heritage. In an age of extreme polarization, it would not be surprising to see a politician revive Lost Cause ideology as a means of winning the votes of a key constituency. But, we will see.
Six months from now I want you to post a comment detailing how much of your prediction came true.
It’s odd that people who are so sure about what will happen are unwilling to take money for being right!
That “work free drug place” sign “From America’s Cultural Decline into Idiocy” is actually from America’s Cultural Decline into hilarity as it’s clearly marked “Spoof” on the Amazon page selling them.
Related to the McWhorter piece referenced by Jerry is the latest post by Khalid and Snyder. While their opinion has affinity with McWhorter’s, they don’t let DeSantis off so easily as McWhorter seems to.
Pretty scary. The plan is to remove faculty from curricular and hiring decisions. If they keep making progress it won’t be long before university professors at Florida state colleges will be on par with public grade school teachers.
The tweet by Rufo, responding to Pinker, is sorta cute too.
People worried, rightly IMO, about the damage wokeness is doing to higher education should be at least as worried about what DeSantis and Rufo are attempting to do in Florida. Professors will lose the protections of tenure, lose any control over their curriculums and any say in who is hired to work in their departments.
It seems that DeSantis’s modus operandi is to force the teachers of Florida to flee the state. From his censoring speech with the “don’t say gay” law to messing with tenure and curriculums, it seems pretty clear he is anti-education unless it’s whitewashed or something…I actually don’t know what he’s trying to do, but the results seem pretty easy to predict.
I actually just did a googly for “are teachers leaving the state of Florida” and these were some recent article headlines:
Florida’s teachers are leaving in droves – Orlando Sentinel
Guest opinion: Why top teachers are quitting in Florida
Even before the Covid pandemic, 40 percent of Florida’s new teachers left the classroom within their first five years in the profession, state records show. This is 15 to 20 percent above the national average, depending on the year.
Why are Palm Beach County public school teachers leaving…
At the same time, I know a lot of states are having problems retaining teachers, but Florida seems to be a stand-out.
In better news on gun control, the concept of “Second Amendment gun sanctuaries” was ruled out by the Oregon state court of appeals: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/feb/16/oregon-second-amendment-sanctuary-decision
In bad news, the gun violence archive keeps tabs on mass shootings in the US. 72 so far in the 48 days of 2023. And, of course, mass shooting deaths are a small portion of total gun deaths.
Yeah, Jerry wrote above in regards to the latest mass shooting: This seems to happen at least once a week these days.
I thought to myself, I think there’s one every day…and now you point out there’s approx. 1.5 a day! Crikey, this country is sick.
Agreed absolutely! My sister is an activist with Moms Demand Action in Oregon, so will be pleased about the court decision there.
That site is blocked for me, for whatever reason. Mother Jones lists 141 mass shootings since 1982.
Perhaps they define the term differently.
I’m puzzled why the NYT never allows comments for John McWhorter’s columns.
I wondered for a while if they felt his opinions and subject matter would make for a too combustible comment section.
But that can’t be it. They’ve allowed comments on plenty of more risky pieces.
Speaking of which, the NYT just published an opinion column “In Defence Of J.K. Rowling” in which the author called out the overreaction and bad faith name calling to Rowling’s position.
I was pleasantly surprised by the huge comment section. While the article clearly went over the heads of some wokish contributors, by far the vast majority of comments where in support of the article and Rowling “glad something had the guts to say what I’ve been thinking about this.”
The NYT’s comment policy is a little opaque, but they rarely allow comments on op-eds by their non-staff columnists. McWhorter is not a staff columnist, so he doesn’t get a comment section.
As for the comments on the JK Rowling defense, I’m not at all surprised. The comments almost always hew much less woke than Twitter, or even the NYT editorial position.
The first balloon was a CCP spy balloon, which the US apparently had identified and started tracking since it was launched from Hainan island. I am among those who believe that if the policy is to shoot such objects down, we should not wait until they have finished their intelligence gathering and had time to transmit the results back to China.
At least one of the balloons shot down afterwards were Ham radio hobbyist balloons, including one identified as K9YO. These are legal, conforming to international regulations on size, weight and payload. Their payloads typically look like this-
They transmit position, altitude, and some limited weather data. K9YO had circumnavigated the earth seven times before it was shot down.
That such balloons are out there is no secret, certainly not to people tasked with identifying and tracking airborne objects.
They are generally associated with a particular club or hobbyist, who will usually have a website with tracking info.
The question I wonder about is why the US and Canada would spend millions of dollars shooting down objects that any random 12 year old radio hobbyist could identify in a few minutes with a web search. And why would anyone shoot a missile at something they have not identified? KAL 007, Iran Air 655, UIA752, MH17, and others come to mind as examples of why.
Question, as you have proven to be knowledgeable about this sort of thing. As far as intelligence gathering, what can a balloon “see” that a spy satellite can’t? I’m sure China, like every other superpower on Earth, has multiple spy satellites that orbit above the US, so why the need for a balloon?
First, there is cost. Launching a satellite into orbit is an expensive undertaking. Since launching a spysat is not very different than launching an ICBM, it will certainly attract attention. Giant balloons get noticed most of the time as well, but do not elicit the same sorts of reaction.
Distance matters as well. If you look at an image from Google Earth that is sourced from satellite imagery, that comes from satellites orbiting at around 400 miles (643 km). A spy satellite is more likely to be at an altitude of 100 miles (160 km). The balloon is working at less than 1/5 the distance of the spysat. More like 15 miles (24 km).
When the U2 spyplane piloted by Gary Powers was shot down in 1960, it was flying at altitudes more or less aligning with the modern spy balloons.
Obviously, there are a bunch of disadvantages to using balloons. Chief among them is control. At most, a balloon has some ability to change altitude, which would allow it to seek favorable air currents.
It is more practical for China to launch balloons to surveil targets in the Western Pacific, which may have been the case here. But if you do get one over the right spot, it could potentially yield very good images, and capture radio traffic and other digital information.
The above consists of ballpark estimates, to give a general idea of the relative differences in altitude. Exceptions will exist, but if anyone notices any serious errors, please correct me.
Thanks, Max. You make a lot of sense here, which I was hoping for. Food for thought is always a welcome cliché for me. Cost! duh.
Insidious ETs? If so, they may be what we collectively need.
Sadly, what humankind may need to brutally endure in order to survive the very-long-term from ourselves is an even greater, non-humanoid nemesis than our own politics and perceptions of differences — especially those involving race — against which we could all unite, defend, attack and defeat, then greatly celebrate.
A humanicidal, multi-tentacled extraterrestrial invader, like that from the 1996 movie Independence Day, should do the trick. During this much-needed human allegiance, we’d be forced to work closely side-by-side together and witness just how humanly similar we are to each other.
I’ve been informed, however, that one or more human parties might actually attempt to forge an allegiance with the ETs to better their own chances for survival, thus indicating that our deficient human condition may be even worse than I had originally thought.
Still, maybe some five or more decades later when all traces of the nightmarish ET invasion are gone, we will inevitably revert to those same politics to which we humans seem so collectively hopelessly prone — including those of scale: the intercontinental, international, national, provincial or state, regional and municipal — and so forth we slide downwards.
Brit’s don’t understand sandwiches? Three words [well, two words and an ampersand] Marks & Spencer. That’s where I get my daily lunch-time sandwich. Huge selection. All delicious. Available on every UK High Street. We did invent the sandwich after all.
I went into M&S once to get a sandwich, and. like all British sandwiches, it had a paucity of filling. A Brit may have invented the sandwich, but they still haven’t learned to GROW them!
A Briton, Lord Montagu, may have invented the sandwich as we know it, but it was an American, Chic Young, who invented Dagwood.
At least the British, unlike the Germans, understand that a sandwich is not eaten with a fork and knife.