Welcome to Thursday, May 25, 2023, a good day because it’s National Wine Day. Drink some today: it’s good for you (assuming that you abide by the Federal Alcoholic Intake Regulations). Perhaps you are lucky enough to have this, which I would kill for ($700/bottle):
Here’s a nice tap number with Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth. The bandleader is Xavier Cugat, and Shorty George was a real person. I particularly like the sequence of steps from 3:37-3:42.
Hayworth was a fantastic dancer, but nobody ever made it look easier than Astaire. He was the greatest.
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the May 25 Wikipedia page.
- Tina Turner passed away yesterday at age 83 after a long illness. I was never a big fan, but many readers were, and they’re invited to weigh in below with their remembrances.
- The NYT finally published an obituary of Robert Zimmer, ex-President of the University of Chicago, who died Tuesday of what the paper says was “glioblastoma multiforme, a virulent form of brain cancer.” (I wrote about him yesterday, emphasizing his concern with the Botany Pond mallards.) It’s a decent but not outstanding obituary, but does end with this:
According to Mr. Stephens, Mr. Zimmer balked at the notion that unfettered free speech would jeopardize the cause of inclusion because it might upset, among others, some of the people who were seeking to be included.
“Inclusion into what?” Mr. Zimmer had wondered in a speech that year. “An inferior and less challenging education? One that fails to prepare students for the challenge of different ideas and the evaluation of their own assumptions? A world in which their feelings take precedence over other matters that need to be confronted?”
For Mr. Zimmer, the mathematician, that kind of education wouldn’t count.
*The endless, tiring discussions between Biden and the Republicans over the debt ceiling continues; it now appears to have come down to two strategies: the Democrats’ “freeze” or the Republicans’ “cut”:
Reining in government spending has become the central focus of negotiations over raising the debt ceiling, with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) under pressure from conservatives to secure deep cuts, while the White House has offered a spending freeze.
GOP negotiators have said that any deal with Democrats must result in lower discretionary spending next year than this year, calling it a critical step in starting to address the country’s growing debt, which now stands at $31.4 trillion.
“You have to spend less than you spent last year. That’s not that difficult to do,” McCarthy told reporters Wednesday, while adding that he is hoping to make progress in talks. A top negotiator, Rep. Garret Graves (R., La.), said the administration “thinks they can continue in the future on the same [spending] trajectory. And we’ve made it clear that that’s a nonstarter.”
Democrats say the GOP demand to cut spending is unreasonable, particularly after the White House has signaled it could agree to freeze discretionary spending next year and increase spending by 1% in fiscal year 2025.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D., N.Y.) noted a freeze on spending was a position many in his party “might even be uncomfortable with.” But he said House Republicans rejected that “because they want to impose draconian cuts.”
Well, we have a week left. The problem is that I don’t know what would happen if they eliminated the debt ceiling completely, something Biden has pondered. From what little I know, the debt ceiling has been raised before without catastrophic circumstances. The catastrophes are supposed to occur only when the ceiling is hit and the government is forced to default.
*From reader Ken:
Did you see the piece in WaPo about school book bannings? The paper reviewed over a thousand book banning requests in 153 school districts across 37 states and found that 60% of the book banning requests had come from just 11 people.
Here’s what the article says:
The Post requested copies of all book challenges filed in the 2021-2022 school year with the 153 school districts that Tasslyn Magnusson, a researcher employed by free expression advocacy group PEN America, tracked as receiving formal requests to remove books last school year. In total, officials in more than 100 of those school systems, which are spread across 37 states, provided 1,065 complaints totaling 2,506 pages.
The Post analyzed the complaints to determine who was challenging the books, what kinds of books drew objections and why. Nearly half of filings — 43 percent — targeted titles with LGBTQ characters or themes, while 36 percent targeted titles featuring characters of color or dealing with issues of race and racism. The top reason people challenged books was “sexual” content; 61 percent of challenges referenced this concern.
And the perps:
The majority of the 1,000-plus book challenges analyzed by The Post were filed by just 11 people.
Each of these people brought 10 or more challenges against books in their school district; one man filed 92 challenges. Together, these serial filers constituted 6 percent of all book challengers — but were responsible for 60 percent of all filings.
LOCK ‘EM UP!
Here are the top reasons books were pulled in 2021-2022 (LGBTQ books seem to be the main target):
*In his op-ed “The DeSantis delusion,” NYT writer Frank Bruni argues that while DeSantis is marketing himself as an alternative to Trump, Republican voters don’t want that. (But maybe centrists leaning right do!):
But do Republican voters want an alternative to Trump at all? The polls don’t say so. According to the current Real Clear Politics average of such surveys, Trump’s support is above 55 percent — which puts him more than 35 percentage points ahead of DeSantis. Mike Pence, in third place, is roughly another 15 percentage points behind DeSantis.
There’s an argument that Trump’s legal troubles will at some point catch up to him. Please. He’s already been indicted in one case and been found liable for sexual abuse and defamation in another, and his supporters know full well about his exposure in Georgia and elsewhere. The genius of his shameless shtick — that the system is rigged, that everyone who targets him is an unscrupulous political hack and that he’s a martyr, his torture a symbol of the contempt to which his supporters are also subjected — lies in its boundless application and timeless utility. It has worked for him to this point. Why would that stop anytime soon?
But if, between now and the Iowa caucuses, Republican voters do somehow develop an appetite for an entree less beefy and hammy than Trump, would DeSantis necessarily be that Filet-O-Fish? The many Republicans joining the hunt for the party’s nomination clearly aren’t convinced. Despite DeSantis’s braggartly talk about being the only credible presidential candidate beyond Biden and Trump, the number of contenders keeps expanding.
The other Republican wannabe candidates face the same situation:
Most of these candidates are in a pickle similar to DeSantis’s. It’s what makes the whole contest so borderline incoherent. Implicitly and explicitly, they’re sending the message that Republicans would be better served by a nominee other than Trump, but they’re saying that to a party so entirely transformed by him and so wholly in thrall to his populist rants, autocratic impulses, rightward lunges and all-purpose rage that they’re loath to establish too much separation from him. They’re trying to beat him without alienating his enormous base of support by beating up on him. The circus of him has them walking tightropes of their own.
So what do Republicans want? Don’t ask me; I’m not a Republican!
*Hallelujah! (If that’s the right word.) The Texas legislature, poised to pass a bill mandating the posting of the Ten Commandments in every secondary-school classroom, failed to pass the bill. But the fight isn’t yet over:
. . . Texas’s biennial legislative session is short, chaotic and packed, anda midnight deadline passed without a vote on the Ten Commandments bill, meaning the measure is dead for the session. But several other measures promoting religion in public spaces still have a shot at passage before the regular legislative session is scheduled to end May 29.
Here’s the arrantly ignorant mindset behind this clearly unconstitutional bills:
“There is absolutely no separation of God and government, and that’s what these bills are about. That has been confused; it’s not real,” said Texas state Sen. Mayes Middleton (R), who co-sponsored or authored three of the religion bills. “When prayer was taken out of schools, things went downhill — discipline, mental health. It’s something I heard a lot on porches when I was campaigning. It’s something I’ve thought about for a long time.”
. . . Josh Houston, who has advocatedat the Capitol for progressive and minority religious groups since 2005, said the kinds of bills passing chambers this year would have gone nowhere in the past in Texas. Even though religious expressions in public places in Texas are common, he said, there was an understanding that public employees represent the government and that legally the government shouldn’t impose religion.
But now the theocracy—Christian nationalism—is ascendant, and only Ceiling Cat knows how Texas will violate the Constitution. The scary thing is that if bills like this pass and are challenged, there’s good reason to think that the hyperconservative Supreme Court will uphold them. That’s why they’d best be defeated at the State level, as you can’t challenge a defeated law.
*This has been reported in several places, but here’s the NYT’s report on an amazing advance in medical technology: “A paralyzed man can walk naturally again with brain and spine implants.”
In a study published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, researchers in Switzerland described implants that provided a “digital bridge” between Mr. Oskam’s brain and his spinal cord, bypassing injured sections. The discovery allowed Mr. [Gert-Jan] Oskam, 40, to stand, walk and ascend a steep ramp with only the assistance of a walker. More than a year after the implant was inserted, he has retained these abilities and has actually showed signs of neurological recovery, walking with crutches even when the implant was switched off.
“We’ve captured the thoughts of Gert-Jan, and translated these thoughts into a stimulation of the spinal cord to re-establish voluntary movement,” Grégoire Courtine, a spinal cord specialist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne, who helped lead the research, said at the press briefing.
In the new study, the brain-spine interface, as the researchers called it, took advantage of an artificial intelligence thought decoder to read Mr. Oskam’s intentions — detectable as electrical signals in his brain — and match them to muscle movements. The etiology of natural movement, from thought to intention to action, was preserved. The only addition, as Dr. Courtine described it, was the digital bridge spanning the injured parts of the spine.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili still hasn’t completely warmed to Szaron:
Szaron: Is there room for me here?Hili: We have a big garden, we don’t have to crowd together.
Szaron: Czy jest tu jeszcze miejsce dla mnie?Hili: Mamy duży ogród, nie musimy się tłoczyć.
From The Cat House on the Kings; this is who calls you about your car warranty:
From Science Humor:
From Now That’s Wild:
Masih is interviewed on MSNBC about Iran’s increasing number of executions–all protestors against the regime:
Thanks to @NicolleDWallace and @MSNBC for giving me the opportunity to echo the voice of Iranian innocent protesters who are on the death row. Islamic Republic is planning to execute a 22 year old mam who protested the murder of #MahsaAmini. Be our voice.
— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) May 24, 2023
From Bob Zimmer’s wife, announcing his death:
My beloved husband and the former president of the University of Chicago, Bob Zimmer, passed away this morning after a three year struggle with GBM. I am shattered, but so grateful for our time together.
— Dr. Shadi Bartsch (@ShadiBartsch) May 24, 2023
A tweet about Bob’s death from Barack Obama (h/t Simon):
Michelle and I were saddened to learn about the passing of Bob Zimmer, the 13th President of the University of Chicago.
Bob was a visionary leader and one the most influential university presidents in the country. During his time at the University of Chicago, he built upon its… pic.twitter.com/F0C1o9UzKg
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) May 23, 2023
From Luana, and yes, this is real (Luana notes, “Prof was fired. She was adjunct. There goes the academic freedom to attack people with knives… “). An excerpt:
The manic Manhattan college professor who threatened a Post reporter with a machete has been fired, the school said Tuesday — as it emerged she is suing the NYPD for allegedly abusing her during the 2020 George Floyd protests.
Shellyne Rodriguez was sacked by Hunter College just hours after the adjunct professor was caught on camera holding the blade to the veteran reporter’s neck while threatening to “chop” him up outside her Bronx apartment.
— New York Post (@nypost) May 24, 2023
From Barry. I’m not sure this is a woodpecker, but it has found some fine nesting material:
From the Auschwitz Memorial, a 13-year-old boy, gassed on arrival:
25 May 1931 | A Czech Jewish boy, Ivo Rubin, was born in Prague.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) May 25, 2023
Tweets from Professor Cobb. First, Sir Martin Wagstaffe?
Did you know @MisterSlang has an online Dictionary of Slang which allows you to search by meaning, history and usage? I've just discovered 17th century words for penis included:
Sir Martin Wagstaffe
Pleasure pivot, and
— Anna Mazzola (is writing) (@Anna_Mazz) May 22, 2023
Matthew says, “This is Florida. Among the books is The Encyclopaedia of Mammals.”
Holy shit, they’re not even trying to hide it anymore that they’re actively trying to hide information on Nazism and Hitler, as well as the basically the existence of any non-white person in history pic.twitter.com/WahN5CXSm1
— millie bobby valentine (@lvamsgatthebeep) May 22, 2023
A moggy at the bar:
— CindyLouMayFlowers (@cindynorth1) May 23, 2023