Wednesday: Hili dialogue

February 22, 2023 • 6:45 am

Welcome to a Hump Day (“Дзень гарба” in Belarusian): Wednesday, February 22, 2023: National Cook a Sweet Potato Day! (They microwave well.)

It’s also National Margarita Day, George Washington’s Birthday, Ash Wednesday, Be Humble Day, National Wildlife Day, Walking the Dog DayCrime Victims Day in Europe, and, in Japan, National Cat Day, described in Wikipedia below:

In Japan, National Cat Day is celebrated on February 22, as the date resembles the words “nyan nyan nyan” (meow meow meow). The date was decided on this date in a poll between cat-keepers by the Executive Cat Day Committee in 1978. It is celebrated with people posing with photographs of themselves with their pet cats, and businesses selling cat-themed cuisine.

I tried “meow” on my Google translate app, but “February 22” didn’t sound much like “nyan” (which sounds like “nee-ah” in Japanese).

Here’s a video from 2015 on National Cat Day in Japan. The YouTube notes:

Cat lovers from all over Japan gathered in Tokyo to celebrate Cat Day and commemorate the 10th anniversary of the feline festival. Twenty pets selected from more than 150 entries around the world, vied for the coveted title of “Number One Cat in Japan.” The Executive Cat Day Committee also awarded a prize for an owner-pet pair that demonstrated the best bonding between human and animal in their relationship. The ‘Ichiban’ prize went to two cats named Kin-San and Gin-San, after a pair of plucky 103 year old twins whose popularity has swept Japan in recent years. They were judged to be the most unique cats of the year because of their eye colour. Kin’s eyes are golden while Gin’s are silver. The contest also featured a cat that survived the Kobe Earthquake last year.

Note the awarding of the Ichiban Prize (Number One Cat) to the “103 year old” white twin cats:

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the February 22 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

*Putin’s army is attacking Ukraine hard, vows victory, and just pulled out of our only nuclear arms-control agreement with Russia. As things head up, Biden gave a speech yesterday in Poland pledging strong support for Ukraine, though of course there’s always room for interpretation of what “support” means. From the AP:

 President Joe Biden on Tuesday warned of “hard and bitter days ahead” as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nears the one-year mark, but vowed that no matter what, the United States and allies “will not waver” in supporting the Ukrainians.

A day after his surprise visit to Kyiv, Biden used a strongly worded address in neighboring Poland to praise allies in Europe for stepping up over the past year and to send a clear message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that “NATO will not be divided, and we will not tire.”

“One year ago, the world was bracing for the fall of Kyiv,” Biden said before a crowd of thousands outside Warsaw’s Royal Castle. “I can report: Kyiv stands strong. Kyiv stands proud. It stands tall and, most important, it stands free.”

With Russia and Ukraine each preparing spring offensives, Biden insisted there will be no backing down from what he’s portrayed as a global struggle between democracy and autocracy — though polling suggests American support for ongoing military assistance appears to be softening.

“Democracies of the world will stand guard over freedom today, tomorrow and forever,” Biden declared. The U.S. and allies will “have Ukraine’s back.”

Three more things:

Despite his criticisms of Putin, Biden did not mention the START suspension during his speech. And the Russian Foreign Ministry later said that, despite Putin’s announcement, it would continue abiding by the treaty’s caps.

. . . and:

The administration on Sunday said it has new intelligence suggesting that China, which has generally remained on the sidelines of the conflict, is now considering sending Moscow lethal aid. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it could become a “serious problem” if Beijing follows through.

and from the Washington Post we hear that Biden echoed what Kamala Harris said last week:

“Autocrats only understand one word: no,” Biden said. He used the speech to accuse Russia of crimes against humanity, such as “targeting civilians with death,” using rape as “a weapon of war,” stealing Ukrainian children, and targeting train stations, maternity wards, hospitals, schools and orphanages.

I don’t know how US intelligence can discern what China is intending to do, but I’m sure that there must be some mole somewhere, or some interception of discussion, that has led to this claim. If China gets into it, things will get much worse, not to mention what they’re intending to do about Taiwan.

*Kai Bird has an extremely positive take on Jimmy Carter’s presidency. In fact, I can’t find anything about Carter’s actions in the White House that Bird takes issue with:

His presidency is remembered, simplistically, as a failure, yet it was more consequential than most recall. He delivered the Camp David peace accords between Egypt and Israel, the SALT II arms control agreement, normalization of diplomatic and trade relations with China and immigration reform. He made the principle of human rights a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy, planting the seeds for the unraveling of the Cold War in Eastern Europe and Russia.

He deregulated the airline industry, paving the way for middle-class Americans to fly for the first time in large numbers, and he regulated natural gas, laying the groundwork for our current energy independence. He worked to require seatbelts or airbags, which would go on to save 9,000 American lives each year. He inaugurated the nation’s investment in research on solar energy and was one of the first presidents to warn us about the dangers of climate change. He rammed through the Alaska Land Act, tripling the size of the nation’s protected wilderness areas. His deregulation of the home-brewing industry opened the door to America’s thriving boutique beer industry. He appointed more African Americans, Hispanics and women to the federal bench, substantially increasing their numbers.

But some of his controversial decisions, at home and abroad, were just as consequential. He took Egypt off the battlefield for Israel, but he always insisted that Israel was also obligated to suspend building new settlements in the West Bank and allow the Palestinians a measure of self-rule. Over the decades, he would argue that the settlements had become a roadblock to a two-state solution and a peaceful resolution of the conflict. He was not afraid to warn everyone that Israel was taking a wrong turn on the road to apartheid. Sadly, some critics injudiciously concluded that he was being anti-Israel or worse.

In the aftermath of the Iranian revolution, Mr. Carter rightly resisted for many months the lobbying of Henry Kissinger, David Rockefeller and his own national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, to give the deposed shah political asylum. Mr. Carter feared that to do so would inflame Iranian passions and endanger our embassy in Tehran. He was right. Just days after he reluctantly acceded and the shah checked into a New York hospital, our embassy was seized. The 444-day hostage crisis severely wounded his presidency.

As for his failure to win a second term, Bird says even that was good, as it allowed him to found the Carter Center, dedicated to solving the world’s hard problems. Why was he defeated? Bird says this:

The majority of the country rejected him as a president way ahead of his time: too much of a Georgian Yankee for the New South and too much of an outlier populist for the North. If the election in 1976 offered hope for a healing of the racial divide, his defeat signaled that the country was reverting to a conservative era of harsh partisanship. It was a tragic narrative familiar to any Southerner.

*While the news keeps telling us that Saudi Arabia is getting more and more liberal and democratic, here’s some news showing that it’s cracking down harder than ever on dissent at the same time that it’s creating social improvements:

“The scope of oppression really is unprecedented,” said Hala Aldosari, a women’s rights activist who left Saudi Arabia in 2014 for a postdoctoral fellowship in the United States and said she never felt safe enough to return.

Since then, Prince Mohammed has rendered the conservative Islamic kingdom nearly unrecognizable, setting in motion seismic changes — some of which activists like Ms. Aldosari spent years campaigning for.

He launched an ambitious plan to diversify the oil-dependent economy and ended a slew of religious and social restrictions that many Saudis found suffocating. Women, barred from driving until 2018, now work as Amazon delivery driverschief executives and ambassadors. Music, once effectively prohibited in public, thumps inside dimly lit restaurants where young couples flirt. The gender segregation that shaped public life for decades has dissolved.

At the same time, the modest space for political discourse has shriveled.

. . . Since 2017, the Saudi authorities have arrested hundreds of public figures across the political spectrum, including Snapchat influencers, religious clerics, billionaires and several of the prince’s own cousins. The killing in 2018 of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in Istanbul, prompting international outrage, was the most dramatic example of a broader crackdown that has continued to deepen since his death.

Particularly harsh sentences are handed out for dissenting views on Twitter. Here’s one of them:

The authorities have paid special attention to Twitter, which is widely used in the kingdom.

Noura al-Qahtani, who ran an anonymous Twitter account, was among several people put on trial last year in relation to social media activity. On her account, where she had roughly 600 followers, she called for anti-government protests, criticized some social liberalization measures and wrote that Prince Mohammed was “not good enough to be a prince.”

After a court found her guilty of “challenging the faith and justice of the king and the crown prince” and “supporting the ideology of people who strive to disturb public order,” among other charges, she was sentenced to 13 years in prison. On appeal, she pleaded for mercy, saying that she was nearly 50 and had five children to take care of, according to a copy of her verdict. Instead, the panel of judges lengthened her sentence to 45 years in prison.

This is the only country I know of that is giving people more freedom socially but less freedom of speech. The leaders must be very, very afraid of criticism and dissent, which means that they’re fearing for their own dynasty.

*Florida has banned gender-affirming care for kids, and “prohibited puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, as well as surgical procedures, for new patients under age 18.” I’m not sure what they’ve done about non-medical therapeutic treatment, but I can’t say I’m opposed to using drugs and surgery until a person is 18 (I could probably live with 16). But NPR, while damning the Florida decision, is pretending that there is no downside to hormones and puberty blockers, despite evidence that puberty blockers can have negative effects, and of course hormones can sterilize you.

While medical treatment has made a postive difference for many kids who suffered from gender dysphoria, NPR is making dubious statements about their side effects, which erodes the idea of “informed consent”. For example:

Dozens of leading U.S. medical groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the Endocrine Society, endorse gender-affirming care as time-tested, effective, medically necessary, and potentially life-saving.

. . .Pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Kristin Dayton, who runs the Youth Gender Program at the University of Florida in Gainesville, disputes claims that gender-affirming care is risky or experimental.

“There is tons of evidence to back my assertion that this is safe and healthy for children,” she says. “It’s pretty offensive to me, because I pride myself in being someone who always follows the evidence, does the right thing for my patients.”

This flies in the face of the facts, which is that there is enough evidence that puberty blockers may have dangerous side effects that some eEuropean countries do indeed consider them experimental, and will not administer them except in clinical trials. As for hormones, yes, of course they have “unsafe” side effects. For people considering transitioning, the net effect of hormone treatment seems to be positive (although there are “desisters”), but NPR mentions none of the unpleasant side effects that must be weighed when considering transitioning. NPR has produced a one-sided piece that is, in fact, dangerous.

*There’s an op-ed in the NYT by Brian Riedel of the (conservative) Manhattan Institute: “Biden’s promises on Social Security and Medicare have no basis in reality“.  Riedel may in fact be right that keeping those programs as is, without changes to “new” oldsters, may cause serious fiscal damages to the US:

In his State of the Union speech this month, President Biden pledged to block any reductions in scheduled Social Security and Medicare benefits. He also promised that any tax increases would be limited to families that earn more than $400,000 — roughly the top-earning 2 percent of American families.

Together, these promises are almost certainly economically impossible.

Over the next three decades, the Social Security system is scheduled to pay benefits $21 trillion greater than its trust fund will collect in payroll taxes and related revenues. The Medicare system is projected to run a $48 trillion shortfall. These deficits are projected to, in turn, produce $47 trillion in interest payments to the national debt. That is a combined shortfall of $116 trillion, according to data from the Congressional Budget Office. (To inflation-adjust these figures, trim by roughly one-third.)

These unsustainable figures result from demographics, rising health care costs and program design. The ratio of workers supporting each retiree, which was about 5:1 back in 1960, will fall to just over 2:1 by the next decade. People who live until age 90, a fast-growing group, will spend one-third of their adult life collecting Social Security and Medicare benefits. Today’s typical retiring couple will receive Medicare benefits three times as large as their lifetime contributions to the system, and also will come out ahead on Social Security (adjusted into present value), according to the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution.

The president’s implication that full benefits can be paid without raising taxes for 98 percent of families has no basis in mathematical reality.

I think we all know that it’s likely these promises will entail large tax increases for everyone. Ridel’s solution is to “pare back the benefits,” not on those who are getting them now, but by increasing the age of getting Medicare and Social Security, and by reducing the amount of benefits that wealthy seniors get. Needless to say, this will not be popular. But neither will substantial tax increases.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili and Kulka are squabbling again:

Hili: You are a trespasser.
Kulka: Get used to it.
In Polish:
Hili: Jesteś intruzem.
Kulka: Przyzwyczaj się wreszcie.


From Doc Bill:

From Barry:

From Facebook: Good thing nobody was sitting on the throne!

God finally tweeted on Mastodon!

From Masih: Jamshid Sharmahd is almost certainly not guilty of spying and plotting an attack on a mosque. He was, as they planned to do with Masih, kidnapped by Iranian gents and taken back from Dubai for being a dissident:

Original tweet from Dom, which I retweeted:

From Roz: goats scarfing down a wheelbarrow full of tomatoes!

From the Auschwitz Memorial: a young woman dead at 19:

Tweets from Dr. Cobb. First, the admirable Jimmy Carter:

Hydrozoan needs to synch up:

Contagious laughter:

47 thoughts on “Wednesday: Hili dialogue

  1. On this day:
    1632 – Ferdinando II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, the dedicatee, receives the first printed copy of Galileo’s Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.

    1797 – The last Invasion of Britain begins near Fishguard, Wales.

    1856 – The United States Republican Party opens its first national convention in Pittsburgh.

    1879 – In Utica, New York, Frank Woolworth opens the first of many of five-and-dime Woolworth stores.

    1943 – World War II: Members of the White Rose resistance, Sophie Scholl, Hans Scholl, and Christoph Probst are executed in Nazi Germany.

    1958 – Following a plebiscite in both countries the previous day, Egypt and Syria join to form the United Arab Republic.

    1983 – The notorious Broadway flop Moose Murders opens and closes on the same night at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre.

    2006 – At least six men stage Britain’s biggest robbery, stealing £53m (about $92.5 million or €78 million) from a Securitas depot in Tonbridge, Kent.

    2014 – President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine is impeached by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine by a vote of 328–0, fulfilling a major goal of the Euromaidan rebellion.

    1732 – George Washington, American general and politician, 1st President of the United States (d. 1799).

    1788 – Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher and author (d. 1860).

    1857 – Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, English general, co-founded The Scout Association (d. 1941).

    1857 – Heinrich Hertz, German physicist, philosopher, and academic (d. 1894).

    1882 – Eric Gill, English sculptor and illustrator (d. 1940). [A monster who committed incest with numerous relatives and even had sex with the family dog…]

    1900 – Luis Buñuel, Spanish-Mexican director and producer (d. 1983).

    1908 – John Mills, English actor (d. 2005).

    1918 – Robert Wadlow, American man, the tallest person in recorded history (d. 1940).

    1926 – Kenneth Williams, English actor and screenwriter (d. 1988).

    1944 – Mick Green, English rock & roll guitarist (d. 2010).

    1944 – Robert Kardashian, American lawyer and businessman (d. 2003).

    1953 – Nigel Planer, English actor and screenwriter.

    1962 – Steve Irwin, Australian zoologist and television host (d. 2006).

    Took up playing the harp:
    1875 – Charles Lyell, Scottish geologist (b. 1797).

    1987 – Andy Warhol, American painter and photographer (b. 1928).

    2002 – Chuck Jones, American animator, producer, and screenwriter (b. 1912).

    1. Coincidentally, yesterday one of my sons asked me what would happen if someone got stung by a sting ray. I gave him Steve Irwin as an example of the worst that could happen. Crikey!

  2. This is the only country I know of that is giving people more freedom socially but less freedom of speech.

    Also Scotland? Also the rest of the UK?

    While medical treatment has made a postive difference for many kids who suffered from gender dysphoria, …

    It may be true that some kids have benefited, but we do not know that on average kids benefit. That is, there is no good evidence that gender-dysphoric kids given medical intervention will then be happier when aged 25 than if they didn’t undergo medical intervention. There is no medical trial showing that. (I’m open to correction if anyone knows better.)

    … there is enough evidence that puberty blockers may have dangerous side effects that some European countries do indeed consider them experimental …

    It’s important to realise that it is not just side effects that make them experimental and controversial, it’s more that no-one has established that the primary effects actually benefit such kids. Indeed, there is evidence that gender dysphoria usually resolves, if kids are just left to grow up, and they’ll then be happier as adults than if they had transitioned medically.

    Thus we shouldn’t by default go along with activist speak and call it “gender-affirming care”, we should call it the more neutral “gender-related medical interventions”.

    1. In the latest widely publicized study in NEJM, youth getting hormone therapy had alarmingly high suicide rates; females getting testosterone showed some small improvements in mental health (because testosterone has antidepressant effects on many people) but males getting estrogen did not; all the improvements were very small; and the authors of the study memory-holed most of their observations and data, including the most important variables they said they would study (suicidality, self-harming behaviour, even gender dysphoria!). Presumably those data were not analyzed or even reported because they showed patterns not consistent with the gender-affirming care model.

      1. That’s really good, Mike (and Jesse—I subscribed!). Can’t believe the NEJM would publish this rubbish. They used to be so keen to debunk widely adopted therapies whose advocates claimed that control groups for their self-evidently life-saving therapies were unethical.

        By your leave, the one measure that improved most convincingly deserves a look because it is used in other studies of gender therapy. (Singal has details near the end.)

        You ask an adolescent girl, “Does it make you unhappy that people call you a girl?”
        She answers yes, indicating gender dysphoria and gets testosterone.
        Six months later in follow-up because she is now a boy she is asked, “Does it make you unhappy that people call you a boy?”

        Of course she replies No, because that’s what she wanted to become. So there is a self-fulfilling prophecy: mental health over-all may not have improved—and didn’t, in this study—all that has happened is she now has hair on her face. But since this was a straightforward drug effect on body hair, there is no psychological triumph here.

        Note that if she had had other kind of treatment intended to reduce her psychologic distress about being a girl, then you would ask her in follow-up if she was (still) distressed about being seen as a girl. If she said No to that question, the treatment would have worked (or she had got better on her own, more likely) but that in Canada would be illegal conversion therapy.

        This bias in the measurement instrument is important in interpreting all these studies touting the benefits of gender affirmation. Kudos to Singal and others for nailing it.

        1. Ha yes it’s like the study (I’m going to forget which one) that Singal has also debunked in which the authors use a questionnaire that assesses distress over appearance of breasts (in females) before and after double mastectomy. Authors have used this tool to “show” that this kind of gender-affirming care has mental health benefits: removing breasts from females reduces their discomfort about having breasts. QED.

        2. Hmm I came back and now think my comment sounds callous. Wanted to say I think these kids being treated in gender clinics deserve a lot of compassion from me and others, and deserve help if they ask for it from physicians and psychologists. My disdain is for the researchers who game the methods to measure something that fits their political goals, not for the girls and boys who experience this kind of gender dysphoria. Sorry if I sounded like a jerk.

  3. Perhaps it is a coincidence, but Paul Krugman at the NYT responds to Riedel (without naming him) in regard to the future of social security and Medicare. He argues that it is quite likely that these two programs can be sustained with relatively minor tweaks. I have no idea whom to believe since I’m not an economist that has studied this issue. Both persons are looking into the future and from their visions of it draw certain conclusions. As in most things, predicting the future is fraught with peril, in economic matters even more so. The only thing I can say with certainty is that at least one of them will be terribly wrong.

    Interestingly, both columns were published in the NYT, which gives credence to its claim that it publishes differing viewpoints on various issues.

      1. While I sympathize with this view, there is a reason why this is so. As far as I can tell, understanding the processes in physics does not affect physics itself. Whereas understanding the economic landscape, can affect that landscape, especially by those wishing to exploit their understanding.

    1. Krugman hasn’t had a good record as far as economic predictions in…decades? It’s widely agreed that social security in particular cannot continue at its current pace without either very significant tax increases or very significant cuts in benefits. This has been known for many, many years, and you can find this simple information in sources as unbiased as the CRS. Just read the third paragraph of their 2020 report here for the simple version:

    2. In other words, as much as Krugman might hate to admit it, Republicans are correct that reform of some kind is needed, unless we want our country to incur so much debt that, should an inevitable depression occur, we may default on our obligations. Krugman’s whole bag is just “my economic mind has divined that whatever Republicans said this week is definitely wrong.”

    3. If it’s any consolation, all rich countries, and even a few not-yet-rich-and-probably-never-will-be countries like China are facing a pension crunch for exactly the same reasons. Too many old people and too few younger workers willing to give money to old strangers who aren’t their own parents. But the old people vote their self-interest and because their interests are concentrated—more money is all they care about because they won’t live to see climate change or Social Justice—, and because there are so many of them until we baby boomers die off, that they can outvote and out-manoeuvre the young people. So the electorally sound strategy is indeed to raise taxes on everyone who earns $1 more than the top 10% or so of retired baby boomers, “whatever it takes” to keep the gravy train running. That number of taxpayers is too small to defeat at the ballot box a large tax hike. It will take lobbying or other undemocratic action from business interests to keep that from happening but the young workers will be grateful. A glut of old people with only short time horizons is not healthy for the social fabric. especially if they all live into their 90s.

      A Canadian Prime Minister tried to cut Old Age Security 40 years ago. He barely escaped with his testicles before rescinding the plan. A later government did make sensible reforms in time to accomplish the same thing with stealth and as a result it is not pensions that will bankrupt us but rather single-payer tax-funded health care. It may be too late for America because you may have let your Social Security Ponzi scheme run too long up the slope of exponential growth. I gather that’s what the controversy is about the best way to try to drag it back down.

      But really no one knows what to do. Canada hopes to keep the number of workers high through immigration but it’s a treadmill. They don’t have any more children than the native-born do. Yours probably won’t, either, if they have to support them with their own earnings, which is the only kind of children who are useful.

      We baby boomers have cast a long shadow.

    1. Yep, when I heard Kai Bird mention that in passing in an interview, I bought his book to learn the details. The whole book is great.

  4. What I find fascinating in regard to Saudi Arabia are the huge society transforming projects they are working on, especially the 110-mile long wall-city. This modern archology, called The Line, is planned to house nine million people (approx. 1/4 of the Saudi population), and it doesn’t sound like you get a choice about whether or not you’ll live there. It’s two walls (buildings) with a green space in between that will have a total width of 660 feet. (As some have point out out, at 1,600 feet tall, there will only be a fraction of a day when sunlight will hit the “green” space.) It will have a population density of 260,000 per square kilometer. It sounds like a despot’s wet dream and an absolute dystopian nightmare waiting to happen.

    1. The whole project sounds like an authoritarian nightmare:

      Aside from the merits of the projected city, there was also scrutiny of the actions of the Saudi government in pursuing the project. In October 2022, Shadli, Ibrahim, and Ataullah al-Huwaiti, of the Howeitat tribe, were sentenced to death when they refused to vacate their village as part of the NEOM megaproject. Shadli al-Huwaiti was the brother of Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti, who was shot dead by security forces in April 2020 in his home in Al-Khariba, in the part of Tabuk province earmarked for NEOM, after he posted videos on social media opposing the displacement of local residents to make way for the project.,_Saudi_Arabia#Reception

      1. As Heather pointed out years ago, her site sadly apears moribund now, there is not much difference between Saud and IS ‘justice’.

    2. It’s two walls (buildings) with a green space in between that will have a total width of 660 feet. (As some have point out out, at 1,600 feet tall, there will only be a fraction of a day when sunlight will hit the “green” space.)

      Having done manual labour under the Arabian Sun … that doesn’t sound so bad to me.
      But checking that Wiki site … it’s oriented almost E-W. So … the N side of the line will be in permanent (daytime) sunlight, and the S side will shade the entire area between the buildings. The match to average solar altitude is close enough that it’s unlikely to be accidental. Their design is to hide from the Sun. Which I can appreciate.
      Integrating public transport into a city’s design from day one is obviously a good thing. Under the Arabian sun, having any tarmac exposed in a city is going to seriously increase everyone’s air conditioning costs, car user or not. At 200 k.people /, you’re going to be within walking distance of pretty much all regular services (food, clothing, “consumables”, entertainment), so the need for mechanised transport is going to be pretty marginal. We had a fuss recently over a “15 minute city” concept, which seems to be a protest against cities trying to reduce the impact of cars on people.
      1600ft (well, their website says 500m, even in the en-US localised version) tall for residential buildings? 50-odd stories. That’s going to mean a significant percentage of each floor’s area is occupied by elevators. Just from that point of view, they’re probably going to need whole stories devoted to day-to-day shopping, to reduce the vertical traffic. Which would imply more “occasional” shopping outlets would go for frontage on the “garden strip”, not on the “consumables” floors.
      The digital surveillance aspects of the city – well, that’s Saudis being Saudis. It’s not as if anyone going there has ever had any expectation of personal freedom (well, nobody I know who has seriously considered going there). And that’s the society they want to promote. They would have to pay me to get me to go there – but that applies to the whole of the Arabian Peninsula, not specifically this building site. Having visited their website, I’m probably going to be bombarded with investment literature for the remainder of eternity. It’s a terribly poorly put-together website though – I hope their architects and engineers are better than their website designers. Any actual designs for the structures … I can’t find.
      The most difficult thing I can think of is that if they build the whole strip at once, then it’s going to take decades to populate fully. But they claim “breaking ground” along the whole strip. I’d build the first (coastal) section and get that populated first, and then extend the buildings at the inland end until … either they hit sufficiently mountainous terrain or reach the limits of their desalination plumbing. According to several year old Google satellite imagery, the construction camps are at the Red Sea end – which is how I’d go about the job too. Assuming they’re planning to recycle water on-site, with desalination for initial charge and top-up, I wonder what their sewage processing plans are like.
      There’s some interesting hints of E-W trending dyking in the satellite photography of the area – obviously related to the Red Sea rifting. Which makes me wonder about the area’s earthquake record. (Another quake in Turkey, a day and a bit ago ; probably an aftershock, but I haven’t checked. Bad for the displaced and rescue workers, but hardly unexpected.) Again, they have a terrible website, so that question isn’t going to get answered. I’ll consider it in setting a price for going there.
      What nobody has mentioned (in the discussion that I’ve seen) is that the site is across the Red Sea from the Egyptian holiday resort of Sharm El Sheikh – is that part of the market KSA are trying to get into?

  5. I’m with you on the confusion about the national cat day and pronunciation. The 22nd of February would be pronounce ni gatsu nijyuu ni, and I can’t really see the kanji or the hiragana looking very much like nyan nyan nyan. Oh, well.

  6. “I don’t know how US intelligence can discern what China is intending to do, but I’m sure that there must be some mole somewhere, or some interception of discussion, that has led to this claim.”

    Regardless of any intelligence or lack thereof, I think this is just the US making a public declaration in diplomatic lingo to China: “don’t get involved.” It’s the strongest warning they can give without directly threatening them.

  7. I would suppose mostly analysis of transport, production lines, where certain people travel, boring stuff like that, rather than lots of inside information.

    If they do support Russia with weapons, I suggest a boycott of all the (mostly crap) we import from there, only to throw away later.

    1. Boycotting Chinese products wouldn’t just cause massive, crippling supply chain issues that would make those during COVID look like a snow day, but would practically destroy our economy from the lack of trade. It’s not something that can even be contemplated. They’re not a country like Russia, where just about the only thing we’re “boycotting” is fuel that can ultimately be extracted from many other places and resources.

    2. All the materials needed for the emergency decarbonization transition to avert climate catastrophe come from China or are produced abroad by Chinese monopolies. There is not time, we are told, to try to tool up to mine and make this stuff in friendly countries. A lot of this kit doesn’t last very long—it is Chinese after all—so you have to keep a continuous supply line going. You can’t just “Green Up” once with windmills and solar panels and call the job done for good.

      1. If only we invested in what is by far the most realistic and effective means of producing energy while reducing climate change and environmental degradation: nuclear power. Too bad the supposed “environmentalists” poisoned the minds of nearly the entire population to the idea for decades before and for decades to come. This crisis has such a simple solution, and we refuse to engage with it. Instead, we continue to invest in low-output, high-land requirement, inefficient, and not yet technologically scalable alternatives like solar and wind.

        1. Agree. I should have put in my usual good word for nuclear power which doesn’t come from China. I don’t know if the small modular reactor (300 MW) under construction at one of Ontario’s nuclear power sites will be able to follow load hour to hour. The big CANDUs can’t so we still need gas turbines no matter what.

          Even if nuclear is more expensive than gas, you can argue on the basis of frugality that since uranium has no peaceful use other than electricity but gas is good for heat and as a feedstock for fertilizer and a lot of other things, we should get most of our electricity from nuclear as long as it lasts.

          Wind and solar are cheaper than nuclear only if the cost of intermittency is paid by Someone Else.

          I was being ironic in that those who want weather-dependent electricity and electric cars are necessarily in bed with China, so no talk of silly boycotts.

  8. The majority of the country rejected him [Jimmy Carter] as a president way ahead of his time: too much of a Georgian Yankee for the New South and too much of an outlier populist for the North …

    I think there’s a much more straightforward explanation for the election results — the burnt up and wrecked helicopters left behind at the Desert One staging area. Operation Eagle Claw succeeds, Carter wins the ’80 election going away.

    1. You are probably right, Ken. As a foreigner I thought the same thing at the time.. As a failure, it just seemed like more “Carter America”. As a success it would have been, “See, he knew what he was doing all along but just couldn’t share everything with the public”. He would have got the benefit of the doubt even on other issues not related to the hostages, at least long enough to get re-elected.

      And wasn’t there some suggestion that Iran only wanted to keep the hostages till after the election anyway, just to spite Carter? I’m not saying candidate Reagan colluded with Iran, just that the Iranians were happy to hand a diplomatic “victory” to the new President, not to the old one.

      I was much impressed by President Biden’s visit to Kyiv for similar reasons. There was a good piece in The Atlantic . It doesn’t matter if American popular support is waning for continued military assistance to Ukraine. The public’s attention span is short. Biden doesn’t have to face the voters for another year, longer if he has no primary opponents. Right now it doesn’t matter what the public thinks. And is it the end of the world for Joe Biden the man if he doesn’t get re-elected? I think Jimmy Carter said he’d rather be right than President. This might be Joe Biden’s chance to be right. He’ll get a Profile in Courage if nothing else. (Joe! Woke is forgiven!)

      1. I was in college in 1980 and this was the first election we had voted in. There was a widespread feeling that Carter was a nice guy, but a weakling. The fact that Iranians attacked a US Embassy and held Americans hostage for over a year made not only Carter, but the country look powerless. We feared that Carter’s attempts to look like a regular guy–carrying his own luggage onto planes, for example–caused other countries to lose respect for him–and us. People didn’t want a nice guy, they wanted a PRESIDENT. Enter Reagan, stage right. If the rescue mission had succeeded, Carter would probably have been reelected.

  9. “Lighting came through the ceiling vent and struck the toilet.”

    Sure it did. More like the homeowner ordered the triple bean-burrito special.

  10. I think Jimmy Carter is the only President I can say I know with near-absolute certainty is a truly good human being who truly cares about other human beings. He never once showed any concern for his own prestige, status, or wealth. All he ever wanted to do was help not just Americans, but all of humanity. Truly a great man, regardless of whether he was a great President.

  11. China, which has generally remained on the sidelines of the conflict, is now considering sending Moscow lethal aid.

    That’s going to make life very uncomfortable for the legal representatives of the NRA and the like, who will have to defend China’s supply of arms to Russia, using the NRA’s oft-repeated assertions that “guns don’t kill people”, and “bullets don’t kill people”, but “people kill people/”. If the government bans “lethal aid” and describes it in material terms, then the NRA are going to have to fight the … State Department(?) on that.
    Personally, I hate popcorn ; but I’d put up with the stuff to watch that one play out.

    1. Krugman loves to take whatever Democrats are arguing (or the position against what Republicans are arguing) and then work backwards from that conclusion to find the evidence to support it. This is one of his flimsiest pieces, and that’s saying a lot for Krugman. I might be liberal and vote for Democrats, but I can’t support someone who will always find a way to back the Democratic Party line, regardless of whether the Party is right.

      First, he conflates social security and Medicare throughout the piece, even when he’s presenting data that would only be relevant to Medicare costs. He acts as if everything he’s saying applies to all “benefits,” but any reader with a modest amount of brainpower can spot what he’s doing. Second, he bases his conclusion not on data or on the countless studies saying he’s wrong, but on his extrapolations through Krugman-colored glasses. He believes healthcare costs rising relative to GDP will continue to slow (note that this means they will *still continue to rise*, just at a slower rate). He believes healthcare costs will continue to be stymied by Obamacare (the idea that this has happened in the first place is questionable). He says people will stop living longer every year. He says demography just won’t make much of a difference. He says we’ll surely have enough people paying payroll taxes to continue funding these benefits as they currently are, but doesn’t say how.

      Read this link from the Congressional Research Service regarding the untenability of our current system, *especially for the people who are currently paying for it*, rather than the people who are currently benefitting from it:

      Krugman and the Dems clearly think they can kick this can down the road long enough that they can avoid losing the over-65 vote until the baby boomers die off. I find that doubtful, but goodness knows they’ll try. Why try to fix something broken and risk making an unpopular (but correct) choice when you can remain popular by just passing the buck to future generations?

    2. Sorry, edit butunn no worky rite nowz…

      I also find risible Krugman’s central claim that people who think social security is a looming crisis are really just suffering from a mass delusion based on outdated studies and media coverage. As if the demographics have somehow magically gotten better, or healthcare costs have dropped precipitously, or the payroll tax has been increased by 50%, or there has been a sudden influx of tens of millions of young workers, or that *there haven’t still been tons of studies every single year telling us he’s wrong*.

  12. At present “support” to Ukraine means GLSDB’s (‘cheap’, ‘smart’ and with nearly double the range of the Gimlers), modern tanks and planes, accompanied by training (including mechanics) and sufficient spares and ammo.
    Those planes maybe Gripens (as a plane as such the best option, but there are far too few of them), F16s or Typhoons. If there are not many manpads (they can take a lot of flak, but manpads appear deadly, even for the rugged A10’s) A10’s would make sense. If operatig more or less freely they could easily have annihilated the Russian convoy between Mariopol and Melitopol, which is just out of reach of the Gimlers.
    Although I appreciate the careful dance the Biden admin has been playing, carefully increasing aid, circumventng any ‘red lines’ Putin might have posed, now (or rather a month or 2 ago,) is the moment.

  13. I agree that Carter is not only the best ex-President but also one of the best Presidents. He did some good stuff. He is remembered as a failure. One reason is that he didn’t have a majority in Congress. That’s not really his fault. People put the blame for failure on him, but it’s really an artefact of the system. Also, one reason he wasn’t re-elected was the hostage crisis in Iran. Reagan promised to send in the troops, and they were released shortly before he won.

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